Deafening silence from US Jewish groups shows new Israeli government is a gift to anti-Zionists

Itamar Ben-Gvir signs coalition agreement with Benjamin Netanyahu (Twitter)

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  December 29, 2022

Today is a historic day. Israel swore in the most explicitly rightwing, racist government in its history; and the deafening silence from some leading U.S. Jewish groups shows that the government is a gift to anti-Zionism.

Centrist US Zionist organizations are clearly upset that Benjamin Netanyahu went ahead with this coalition despite warnings. The Anti-Defamation League has said nothing about the new government so far today. Its new head Jonathan Greenblatt, a tireless defender of Israel against the left, is silent (and would rather talk about the threat to LGBTQ rights in the U.S.). Ted Deutch, the new CEO of the American Jewish Committee who got his job by putting down Rashida Tlaib on the House floor for daring to use the word “apartheid”, has also been quiet. As has the American Jewish Committee.

That’s amazing. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Washington issued a neutral statement— there’s a new government.

The silence reflects the fact that many Jewish leaders implored Netanyahu not to go ahead with the government, which includes fascistic and racist/messianic convicted criminals, because it would damage U.S.-Jewish relations and provide ammunition to anti-Zionists. Netanyahu did so anyway, so as to pass anti-judicial legislation that will save him from corruption charges. The American Jewish leaders are “terrified” over his indifference.

Yes rightwing organizations have welcomed the new government, but not with a lot of enthusiasm. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a lame welcome. AIPAC has not issued its own statement, though it thanked the U.S. ambassador Tom Nides for his craven statement congratulating Netanyahu and saying: “Here’s to the rock solid U.S.-Israel relationship and unbreakable ties.”

As Youssef Munayyer points out, Nides and the State Department have had nothing to say about the new Israeli government’s declared commitment in the name of the “rights” of the “Jewish people” to further ethnic cleansing of portions of the West Bank (While Ron Skolnik writes that Nides is tone-deaf).

It is clear from this reception that the new Israeli government is going to make life difficult for pro-Israel Jewish groups. In our country, they are largely aligned with the Democratic Party and stand for civil rights and democracy, and in opposition to racism, homophobia, and white nationalism. Meanwhile, Israel continues to trash those values. The new government is openly committed to the colonization of the West Bank and destruction of Palestinian rights.

Democratic Majority for Israel is doing damage control today, trying to present Netanyahu as pro-gay-rights.

And even Alan Dershowitz told i24 News that the new coalition “will make it far more difficult for me to defend Israel” in international forums (though he said the government was a “work in progress” and evidence of democracy at work).

Liberal Zionists are seizing on the swearing-in, to press the Biden administration to distance itself from Israeli policies.

J Street issued a statement calling on the Biden administration to act against an extreme government that threatens Israel’s “democratic values.” “Now is the time for the US government, and friends and allies of Israel, to speak out – and prepare to take action to keep this radical coalition in check,” it wrote. (“Hilarious the people who think that up until today Israel was a ‘democracy’ but now that’s in ‘danger,’” Ali Abunimah comments.)

J Street also issued a fundraising letter whose top line is opposition to the new government’s commitment to further colonization of the West Bank. “His new right-wing coalition government has made settlement expansion and cementing the occupation a top priority.”

Americans for Peace Now is organizing a protest at the Israeli embassy for January 2, of “the most extreme right-wing and hardline in Israel’s history” that will only further annexation of the West Bank. APN says that “thousands” in Israel will be demonstrating against the new government tomorrow (That’s a rather hopeful statement. A rally against the new government in Haifa on December 24 was meager, from the looks of it. I attended a Peace Now protest in West Jerusalem in October that was paltry).

Israel was warned about Jewish protests of its new government during a meeting between an Israeli diplomat and leading U.S. Jewish organizations in Washington 3 weeks ago. Reportedly, main line Zionist organizations such as the Jewish Federations, Conference of Presidents and National Council of Jewish Women, told an Israeli envoy that there will be big trouble in the U.S. Israel relationship if Netanyahu builds his coalition with the religious right:

One of the participants even warned the Israeli diplomats that they should expect protests outside the Israeli embassy if some of the policies being advocated by Netanyahu’s coalition members are put in place. “And not only American Jews who are like very left-wing. Mainstream American Jews will protest,” one of the executives warned. “I think that really caught them off-guard and there were head nods to that sentiment.”

The new government credits everything that anti-Zionists have said about Zionist racism, long before now; and gives a great boost to that movement.

Munayyer highlighted Netanyahu’s colonialist declaration in Hebrew today of his new government’s principles:

“The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop settlement in all parts of the Land of Israel – in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, Judea and Samaria.”

Munayyer wrote:

“Say it in English so your Apartheid apologist buddies over here can understand it.”

The leading Jewish anti-Zionist group leaped on the new Israeli government today to catalyze Jewish support for democracy in Israel and Palestine. Judith Butler writes for Jewish Voice for Peace that “the political conflicts at Jewish dinner tables across the diaspora are a sure sign that the consensus on the ‘democratic’ character of the State of Israel has broken apart.”

The new government in Israel has proved to be the most shamelessly racist in its history. Yes, but racism has been there from the beginning, a founding credo… Of course, it is good that we are shocked by Israeli racism, now increasingly shameless, for the world should not be this way. And yet, many of us are coming late to this sense of shock and outrage. It is time to act now, knowing that it has been time to act for a very long time!

Oh and here’s an outlier: Aaron David Miller is doing damage control for Israel, saying that 75 years after the U.S. was founded, our politics and borders were still up in the air. “Israel’s evolution is far from over” (Yes it might even become a democracy someday).

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