Middle East Monitor / January 3, 2023
American Jewish leaders are right to be worried. As Benjamin Netanyahu peels away at the façade that has maintained support for the occupation state within liberal Jewish constituencies in the US and elsewhere, they are discovering that their democratic image of Israel is but a figment of their imagination. Any remaining doubt about Israel’s identity was erased last week when Netanyahu declared that the preservation of Jewish supremacy will be state policy.
“The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu at the head of the most extreme right-wing Israeli government ever. “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,” he added in a series of tweets which outlined his policy priorities.
According to the Palestinian legal centre Adalah, Netanyahu’s declaration went further than the 2018 Jewish National State Law, which defines self-determination as unique to the Jewish people within the “State of Israel”. Critics slammed the law as racist, because it denied the 20 per cent of Israel’s population who aren’t Jews the same rights as those granted to Jews. By declaring that the guiding principle of the new government is the preservation of Jewish supremacy in every inch of historic Palestine — “the Land of Israel [Erez Israel]” — including territories which are supposed to become a future Palestinian state, an Israeli prime minister has for the first time announced publicly that state policy in Israel will pursue the vision of Jewish extremists like the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. Although seen as a religious fanatic, the views of the founder of the proscribed terror group the Jewish Defence League (JDL) have become mainstream in Israeli politics.
Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu’s announcement provoked a backlash. Several Jewish leaders in the US warned Israeli officials that racist and extremist steps taken by the far-right government would greatly harm support for Israel from American Jews. Representatives of several mainstream US Jewish organizations which are said to be the “backbone of the pro-Israel community in the US” attended the meeting at which the warning was issued.
Jewish Voice Peace, a left-leaning US organization, outlined the ramifications of Netanyahu’s announcement. “The new Israeli government is making Jewish supremacy official,” the group said on Twitter. “This means increasing Israel’s displacement, harm and possible expulsion of Palestinians. More land theft, greater restriction of movement, increased imprisonment, and more surveillance and censorship.”
JVL described the shift as a “brazen and horrifying effort to ensure the state of Israel protects Jews exclusively” and accused the new Israeli government of entrenching forms of settler colonialism and Jewish supremacy. “The Israeli government’s commitment to and reliance on settler colonialism has been evident since its beginning,” it continued, while labelling Netanyahu’s remarks as the “clearest iteration” of Israel’s practice of the crime of apartheid.
American academic Marc Lamont Hill, the author of Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics, also reacted to Netanyahu’s comments. The former CNN commentator was fired in 2018 for a speech at the UN where he called for justice and equality in historic Palestine. “We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea,” said Lamont Hill. Predictably, his comments were denounced as anti-Semitic by Israel and supporters of the apartheid state who called for him to be fired from his job at Temple University in Philadelphia where he is professor of media studies.
“In these remarks, Netanyahu is declaring ALL areas of historic Palestine to be Israel including the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” added Lamont Hill. He shared Netanyahu’s tweet while also appearing to compare reactions to the Israeli prime minister’s remarks with his comments at the UN about establishing justice between the river and the sea. “He’s claiming everything from the Jordan RIVER to the Mediterranean SEA. Is this a call to genocide? Is this a clear cry to eliminate Palestinians?” asked Professor Lamont Hill.
He explained that his point about using the slogan “from the river to the sea” — a chant often heard at pro-Palestine rallies — was not a call for violence and remains, in fact, the opposite of what Netanyahu is calling for. It’s hard to dispute Lamont Hill’s claim. Israel was founded on the ethnic cleansing of three-quarters of the Palestinian population of Palestine and has maintained its domination of the territory through a brutal military occupation and violence. Indeed, the ethnic cleansing has never stopped. Further entrenchment and expansion of the same racist regime that subjugates non-Jews will only be feasible through yet more state terrorism and state-sponsored violence.
“I call for justice in all regions of historic Palestine,” said the academic as he refuted the claim by one of his pro-Israel Twitter followers that the chant is anti-Semitic. In clarification, he said that he was pointing out how the same people who accused him of anti-Semitism are now silent when Netanyahu makes the same territorial statement in favour of Jewish supremacy.
Mark Lamont Hill is right to expose the double standards. No Western government or pro-Israel lobby group, including those which push the “two-state solution” — which Netanyahu’s plan will kill forever — has said anything about the expansion of a regime of Jewish supremacy over every inch of historic Palestine. As my fellow MEMO columnist Yvonne Ridley argued at the time in Lamont Hill’s defence, the pro-Israel lobby’s ongoing efforts to weaponize anti-Semitism were dealt a major blow when Temple University resisted pressure to sack the professor. They and the many Western governments subsidizing the apartheid regime of Israel have now suffered another blow. They have nowhere to hide from the hypocrisy of their unquestioning support for the occupation state.
Nasim Ahmed is a political analyst