As Israeli government takes ‘bold’ extremist steps, some in U.S. call for sanctions

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  January 4, 2023

The new Israeli government’s defiant statements and actions further humiliating Palestinians and stripping them of rights are spurring calls for concrete measures against that government.

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet in an emergency session tomorrow at the urging of the United Arab Emirates, over the provocative visit of Israeli police minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem yesterday. That visit to the holy sites has drawn international outrage. Though Israeli officials are counting on the U.S. to block any resolution.

The U.S. government has been sharply critical of Ben-Gvir’s visit to the holy sites. But some in the U.S. are now calling for the withdrawal of U.S. military aid, and support for BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib did so in reference to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s declaration that Jews have the exclusive right to live wherever they want in the entire land.

The fact that our country continues to fund this kind of clear and direct statement to eliminate the existence of a whole people is shameful. Palestinian people deserve to live + thrive.

While the Institute for Middle East Understanding called out the new government’s policies as the crime of apartheid:

To this far-right, fascist regime, worsening Palestinian oppression is a shameless demonstration of political might…. Countless innocent Palestinians will be killed by the new Netanyahu government, with the support of the majority of the Israeli public that elected him…. This is apartheid.

Today Jewish Voice for Peace seized the moment and issued a clarion call for American Jews to support BDS. “We call on progressive American Jews to join us in demanding an end to U.S. military funding to Israel, and to actively participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement until Palestinians are free.”

Tallie Ben-Daniel, the managing director of JVP, said the new Israeli government has openly embraced apartheid.

“The horrifying actions of this new government, only five days in, prove exactly what Palestinians have been saying all along: Israel is an apartheid state, where Palestinians are treated as inferior. The dangerous escalations by the new Israeli government make clear that now is the time for action.”

While Beth Miller, the group’s political director, scored the Biden administration’s failure to take “concrete action.”

“The Biden Administration has enabled and paved the way for this extremist Israeli government by ensuring total impunity for Israel’s actions and actively fighting against any attempts to hold the Israeli government accountable for its human rights violations.

At a State Department briefing yesterday, reporters echoed that criticism in repeatedly asking Ned Price why State is doing nothing in response to Ben-Gvir visit beyond expressing “deep concern” and reaching out to Israeli officials. Matt Lee of AP:

[You said before] we are going to take actions and use our voice in a way as to reduce tensions. So what actions? it sounds like you’re using your voice to say something, meh, something negative, but certainly there are no – there’s no consequence, at least from the U.S. position. I’m not saying there should be, but there doesn’t seem to be one. So what actions are you going to take?

Price said the U.S. is helping Palestinians materially and trying to advance “the two-state solution”.

Israelis are clearly feeling the heat from the American critics.

Today on i24 News, Danny Danon, an Israeli parliament member and Netanyahu stalwart, blew off the international criticism. “People are trying to scare us from taking bold decisions.” He said the government has the “full support” of the Israeli people in its actions in support of Jewish colonies in the West Bank. And he said, “I believe the U.S. should stand with Israel” if the UN Security Council tries to pass a resolution against the government’s actions at the holy sites.

A Netanyahu minister for the diaspora, Amichai Chikli, today accused former PM and now opposition leader Yair Lapid of being the “spearhead of BDS.”

“He does not understand that when he tells the whole world that this is a ‘dark’ government, the world does not distinguish between the government and the state,” Chikli said.

“The spearhead of the BDS movement is actually Mr. Yair Lapid,” Chikli accused.

In an interview on the PBS News Hour, Shibley Telhami called on the Biden administration to take real action against the Israeli government.

The president has been very reluctant to criticize any Israeli policies, including ones that he know are violations of international norms, in part up until now has been in order to keep Netanyahu out…

Now he’s counting on [Netanyahu] to rein in people who are more extreme, far more extreme than he is.

And how are you going to do that by just making statements privately, if there are no costs to be paid? Do you really blame these far right extremists to assume that there will be no consequences for their action? I just don’t see it.

Jim Zogby on twitter references a report that Israel will forcibly remove more than 1000 Palestinian residents of 14 villages in occupied territories and also demanded action:

Here’s a test for the Biden Ad: They said they’d judge Israel by its deeds. Now Israel announces in advance that they’ll commit the crime of expulsion. If the US doesn’t forcefully act to stop it, the Biden Ad can be judged as complicit in Israel’s violation of human rights & law

The liberal Zionist community is also taking steps toward real action.

Hadar Susskind at Americans for Peace Now called on the world not to normalize the new Israeli government as it devours the West Bank. He said American Zionist organizations are now trying to return to business as usual but this must not be the case. Susskind said urged Americans “to call out for justice” and “demand equality”. But he did not say just what actions the U.S. should take.

De facto annexation is a part of [this government’s] platform. It is explicitly a chief goal of its members. The occupation is the rot at the core of this putrid government…. American apologists have done Israel tremendous damage over the years by participating, both actively and passively, in normalizing the occupation…

If you care about Israel and its future as a liberal democracy, if you care about peace and a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike, you must resist the efforts to normalize this government.

Many American Jewish leaders and organizations, as well as American elected officials, have over the years and up until now, described their jobs as “defending Israel” and have done so even when they admitted that they disagreed with a particular policy or action. It’s time to step out of that comfort zone.

J Street’s “alarmed” statement could be way stronger. But they too seem to be on the road toward actual action to sanction Israeli conduct. “Ben-Gvir’s action is just the latest evidence that the new far-right Israeli government intends to pursue dangerous and escalatory policies on a number of fronts… J Street will continue to urge the Biden Administration and Congress to stand up clearly for the key principles and commitments that this government threatens.”

Israelis are clearly concerned about the threat to legitimacy posed by the new government. The Israeli president Isaac Herzog, a liberal Zionist, warned on December 30: that Israelis should not be overly negative about the government or think about leaving Israel.

“No one has the privilege to act or talk as if ‘the country is doomed’ or to reach out for their passport,” Herzog said… “I know that for many, this period is challenging and not an easy one. But Israeli democracy is long-standing and stable.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-2006