Yes ‘Jewish Power’ party is fascistic, but its rise was inevitable

An Otzma Yehudit campaign billboard showing party chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir (David Cohen - Flash90)

Jonathan Ofir

Mondoweiss  /  March 25, 2021

With over 90% of the votes counted after Israel’s Tuesday elections, Jewish Power, the party of followers of the late Jewish-fascist rabbi Meir Kahane, has helped get six seats for its bloc, Religious Zionism– well over the threshold of four (3.25% of all legitimate votes). It is now clear that Itamar Ben Gvir, the Kahanist who keeps a poster of Baruch Goldstein, the 1994 Hebron massacre perpetrator, in his living room, will enter the Israeli parliament, Knesset.

James Zogby and other commentators have compared Jewish Power, to the KKK or neo-Nazis.

Prime Minister Netanyahu in fact worked hard to forge the Religious Zionism bloc so as to not lose these votes on his right side. He recently enraged ultra-orthodox leaders by urging voters to back Religious Zionism in order to secure their entry into the Knesset, reassuring them that the two traditional ultra-orthodox parties (Shas and United Torah Judaism) are doing fine. It looks like Shas got 9 seats, UTJ 7.

James Zogby, who was himself threatened by Kahane’s terrorist Jewish Defense League, operating in USA, in 1970’s, reflects in his piece in The Nation:

“Imagine if Donald Trump had brokered a formal agreement with the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazis in exchange for their electoral support. That’s the equivalent of what Netanyahu is doing, again”.

A long history

Meir Kahane’s Kach party entered the Knesset in 1984 with a single seat (then, the electoral threshold was only 1%). At the point, there was no law to bar a contender on the basis of racism. Following Kahane’s success, a law was passed, which was then applied against him in 1988, to keep him out of the Knesset.

In 1994, Kahane disciple Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Muslim Palestinian worshippers at the Al Ibrahimi Mosque in Al-Khalil (Hebron). Following the massacre, Kach was declared a terrorist organization. Yet its ideology continued to flourish, and its representatives have been fighting to gain renewed power and official representation.

This fight has been aided by Prime Minister Netanyahu himself.

In 2019, Netanyahu lobbied hard for a Kahanist union of the kind we now see. This was in advance of the April elections (the first of what has turned out to be four elections in the past two years). At that time, Jewish Power got in under a bloc called the Union of Right-Wing Parties. But Jewish Power leader Michael Ben Ari was barred from entering the parliament for racism. Ben Ari was number 5 on the total slate, and Ben Gvir was number 8, and after the barring of Ben Ari, Ben Gvir went up to 7. The Union received 5 seats, and Ben Gvir petitioned to go up to the 5th spot to replace Ben Ari, but that was rejected.

Those elections failed to produce a viable governing majority, and new elections were held in September. Jewish Power tried to run alone twice, but failed to get any viable representation. Until now.

A major Kahanist representation

Itamar Ben Gvir is number 3 on the Religious Zionism slate, so he is guaranteed a spot. Netanyahu has tried to cool the flames, since the Kahanist movement has for so long been officially considered beyond the pale, even within right-wing circles. In response to concerns that Ben Gvir may become an actual minister, Netanyahu said that he would merely be part of the coalition, yet not receive a portfolio.

Whether or not Netanyhu’s plans for a thin majority may work out (there seems to currently be a deadlock of blocs, once again, shortly after early exit polls suggested a Likud win), whether or not the Kahanists will currently sit in government, is perhaps of somewhat lesser importance.

The significance of what has happened is that they have found their way into the fold of official Israeli politics and representation, once again.

In the sixth place on Religious Zionism, is Avi Maoz, the chair of a faction called NOAM. This is a rabidly religious-conservative faction which is vociferously anti-LGBTQ. The name NOAM is an acronym for “A Normal Nation In Our Land” (Am Normali Beartzenu in Hebrew). The “not normal” are of course not just LGBTQ, but also non-Jews, as well as Jews of other than orthodox persuasions.

Since Religious Zionism appears to have gotten 6 seats, Maoz, too, is likely to be a member of the Israeli Knesset.

Jewish Power party platform

The message of Jewish Power taunts the left, saying: “Stop the occupation!” But when they say this, they don’t mean the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli army – no, it’s the other way around:

The State of Israel is being conquered – step by step; and we are stepping back – and losing it!

For Jewish Power, Israel is playing too nice with the ‘Arabs.’ They include actual Israeli citizens, not even the occupied ones. These are by nature a “demographic problem”:

The demographic problem and Israeli Arab nationalism are dragging the government into efforts to buy the Arabs’ loyalty with offers of excessive benefits.

This tactic is weakening us, they say:

The war of survival of the Jewish People in their land is being neutralized by the use of false and misleading terminology: Racism – Freedom of speech – Occupation – Democracy… and the rest of the lies used to promote victory for the enemy. Many in Israel choose to sleep on the job of preserving the Jewish State.

Thus, the answer of Jewish Power is to tackle this “demographic problem” head on, so that we may have TRUE PEACE (with no Palestinians):

We of Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) recognize the demographic problem and intend to tackle head on, with determination and power, the disaster that lies ahead. We commit ourselves to bring TRUE PEACE to our children. To cope with the challenges, not ignore them. To beat the enemy, not to surrender to them. To fight for a Jewish State and to win. This is the only state we have!

The means by which to achieve this “peace” is noted in three main sections:

  1. Aliya (exclusively Jewish immigration from other countries)
  2. Construction (settlement)
  3. Emigration (“transfer of the enemy”)

The first section is about a ramping up of the already existing Jewish immigration systems, including allocation of further resources.

The second section is about massive exclusively-Jewish settlement all over Israel, including the occupied Palestinian territories, which are termed by Jewish Power simply “Judea and Samaria”, and the Green Line is simply an illusion:  

Judea and Samaria: Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) will erase the illusion of the “green line” and advance the cause of settlement of all of Judea and Samaria in order to strengthen our hold on all of the territory of the Land of Israel.

The third section is about ethnic cleansing (“transfer”) of the “enemy”:

We of Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) are composing a detailed plan that will ensure a Jewish majority and a loyal civilian population, via emigration, transfer of the enemy, an exchange of populations and any other way that will help the enemy leave our country.

And who is to be defined as an enemy?

An enemy is whoever acts on, assists or supports an attack on the State of Israel, its security or the Jews in it, as well as all those who act against the values of the Jewish State, its national anthem or its symbols, regardless of their religion, race, gender or colour of ID card. This is in accordance with the Jewish principle: Whoever comes to kill you, at the very least – rise up and remove him.

This is a very broad sweep. An “attack” on the “values of the Jewish state” can be someone like me, for example, advocating against Zionism. What will happen to me? Jewish Power is providing a softened version of the Talmudic “whoever comes to kill you, rise and kill them first”. In this version, the pre-emptive “kill” is conveyed as “remove”. Not necessarily to kill, but to transfer and get them out of sight – a kind of “targeted civil elimination” (to borrow the mendacious term used by Likud minister Yisrael Katz when referring to leading BDS activists).

Jewish Power seem to be aware that they are speaking about ethnic cleansing in some way or form – yet they say it’s not as extreme as it sounds:

We are not talking about a Milosevic-style expulsion from Yugoslavia, or about what our enemies in the Middle East usually do, and not even about a Gush Katif-style ethnic cleansing.

Above, the explicit usage of the term “ethnic cleansing” is applied only in the case of the Israeli Jewish settlers who were moved from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Gush Katif. This, for Jewish Power, is the real ethnic cleansing – and we Jews are victims of it also now. But we shouldn’t be too sensitive or sentimental about what may happen to those “enemies”.

This project, of “transfer”, would be a major and central project for Jewish Power:

Our intent is to put this essential and vital project at the top of the State of Israel’s priority list, and to coordinate all efforts in which all operational arms of the State will participate – The Mossad, the Shabak, the police, the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund. The Prime Minister’s office will reactivate the Emigration Department, which had previously been in operation for many years. This department will coordinate the national effort to encourage emigration and to identify countries willing to absorb the emigres.

The Zionist vein

One does have to pause. I mean, this is fascistic. This is not even pretending to accept anything else but a volkish Jewish existence in Greater Israel.

And yet, there is something else that is frightening about it. It is ultra-Zionist. Many of these principles echo an essentially Zionist ideology. Yair Lapid, who is chair of the biggest party besides Likud, the centrist Yesh Atid, which appears to have won 17 seats, calls Jewish Power “racists”, and he has warned that if Netanyahu gets a right-wing coalition, he will turn Israel into an “illiberal democracy.” Lapid elaborates: “Not a dictatorship,” but “an in-between, a hybrid, anywhere between Hungary and Turkey.”

Lapid is the more left-leaning of the various right-and-center leaders who oppose Netanyahu. But what is Lapid’s own principle? He has stated this clearly:

“My principle says maximum Jews on maximum land with maximum security and with minimum Palestinians”.

It is with such statements, from such people, that one begins to understand how overtly fascistic parties such as Jewish Power manage to bubble up and thrive in the Israeli Zionist society. People are shocked – Shocked! – to see this happen. And yet it is a vein that is promoted by Israel’s centrally ultra-nationalist state ideology of Zionism.  

Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark