by Ran HaCohen
March 03, 2017
Antiwar.com

For decades, much of the political struggle within Israel could be traced back to the fundamental conflict anchored in its Janus-faced self-definition – coined in the 1980s and legally formalized in 1992 – as a “Jewish and democratic” state. While centrist politicians have always emphasized the harmony of these two sets of values, the political wings have stressed their conflicts, with the left wing demanding to enhance democratic values against the Jewish values promoted predominantly by the right. This conflict has now ended in a clear, though somewhat unexpected result: celebrating 50 years of Occupation, Israel has become neither democratic, nor Jewish.

“The Only Democracy in the Middle East”?

Israel’s vanishing democracy stands out even while the entire world is drifting away from democratic values. Netanyahu’s coalition government is systematically emptying the country’s democracy, passing a new law every other day aimed at intimidating and silencing any dissent voice.

Thus, whereas the right-wing enjoys major donations from abroad – from Sheldon Adelson to American evangelists to Jared Kushner – left-wing NGOs in Israel are being singled out and delegitimized, in a Putin-like manner, by a series of laws for “being financed by foreign governments”, and their activity is progressively hampered.

A moderate left-wing NGOs like Breaking the Silence (former Israeli soldiers who talk critically about their occupation experience) is denied access to schools, with an art gallery closed after hosting an evening with it.

If several years ago it was radical Noam Chomsky who was not allowed to enter the West Bank, now a law prohibiting entry of all BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) supporters is coming up. Recently, even the vice president of a liberal Zionist Jewish-American organization that donates millions to Israel was detained at Ben-Gurion airport, undergoing hours of a humiliating interrogation with insinuations of “disloyalty”.

Much more than leftists, government-directed violence and incitement is aimed at the 21% Palestinian minority in Israel, as can be seen in the recent incident in Umm al-Hiran, a Bedouin village in the South. Its inhabitants – Arab-Israeli citizens, some of them serving in the army – had been moved to that location sixty years ago by Israel, that now decided to dump them at yet another location in order to construct a Jewish suburb on the village ruins. Arriving to demolish the village armed to the teeth, Israeli forces claimed an ISIS-inspired resident accelerated his car towards the forces, killing one policeman, and consequently shot dead. This story – reminiscent of the terror attacks in Berlin and Nice – was immediately propagated by police and cabinet ministers in an outrageous campaign of incitement smeared all over the media and social media.

By now, however, pressed by NGOs and remnants of the critical journalism, investigation has revealed that the Bedouin car driver, an admired 50-year-old schoolteacher, had no affinity whatsoever to any Islamist radicalism, no intention to commit any attack, and was just leaving the village with some of his belongings after telling his wife (herself a PhD college professor) he didn’t wish to witness the demolition of his home. He was first shot in his right knee by the police, consequently lost control of his car on the steep slope, and was finally left bleeding to death in his car, while police were preventing medical assistance that could have saved his life.

This is the typical treat Netanyahu’s government is giving its Arab citizens: discrimination, ruthless violence, incitement and fake accusations. Remember how Netanyahu portrayed Israeli Palestinians as “heading to the polling stations in droves, taken in buses by Left-wing NGOs” in the last elections, how by the same token he passed a law to impeach elected Knesset members, and so on.

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