But there can be no doubt that whoever sits in Israel’s new government, it will be racist, very violently racist, like all its predecessors.
It will continue to occupy and colonize Palestinian land in the West Bank. including Jerusalem, and kill Palestinians whether or not they resist.
It will continue to besiege Gaza and impose collective punishment on two million Palestinians caged there.
It will continue to treat Palestinian citizens of Israel as enemies of the state subject to dozens of discriminatory laws, whether or not it has the support of a few token Arab lawmakers.
It will continue to deny Palestinian refugees their right to return solely because they are not Jews.
Yet Senator Bernie Sanders barely waited for the ink to dry on the coalition agreement before rushing out to start whitewashing the government in waiting.“Well, it is a very strange coalition,” Sanders allowed in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.
“They have people on the left, people on the right, people in the middle. So we’ll see what happens in terms of that coalition.”
All that is true enough, but what Sanders said next is deeply troubling.
“But it is no great secret that I am not a great fan of Benjamin Netanyahu,” the senator added.
“I think over the years the coalition that he has put together has become more right-wing and in some cases part of that coalition is overtly racist,” Sanders added with remarkable caution.
“So I will not be mourning the departure of the prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu, and I hope that Israel will have a government that we will be better able to work with.”
According to Sanders, the problem in Israel can be reduced to one man: Benjamin Netanyahu.
As I’ve noted before, US Democrats who want to appear critical of Israel without confronting the racism inherent in its Zionist settler-colonial ideology, now focus their criticism on Netanyahu.
That’s the safe and acceptable way to criticize Israel.
It’s similar to how the Democratic Party’s faux “resistance” pretended that all of America’s problems started and ended with Donald Trump.
It is absurd and offensive for Sanders to suggest that anyone who purports to care about Palestinian rights would be “better able to work with” this coalition or any other.
It is ridiculous to make this claim when Bennett of all people is slated as prime minister.
“I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state,” he has said of the Palestinians. “No more illusions.”
A coalition of genocidal racists
Bennett – the son of American Jewish colonists from San Francisco – has always been willing to back up his extreme Jewish ethnonationalism with violence.
As a young officer, he was involved in Israel’s April 1996 massacre of more than 100 refugees sheltering at a UN base in southern Lebanon.
“I have killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there is no problem with that,” he bragged later.demanded that Israel shoot to kill any Palestinian escaping from Gaza – as many do driven by the desperate economic conditions and sky high unemployment caused by Israel’s siege.
“This is not a government that will disengage [from settlements], will not relinquish land, and also won’t be afraid to carry out military operations when needed,” Bennett said just days ago of the coalition he hopes to lead. “The political context won’t stop us.”
Ayelet Shaked, a senior member of Bennett’s Yamina party, is no less virulent and extreme in her racism.
In 2014, she notoriously promoted a call for genocide of the Palestinian people, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”
Another key figure in Bennett’s government-in-waiting is Benny Gantz, tipped to stay on as defense minister.
Gantz has now led two major massacres in Gaza, the one in 2014, when he was Israeli army chief of staff, and the one last month – a record of slaughter and destruction he brags about.
Bennett’s finance minister is set to be Avigdor Lieberman, a man with such a lengthy record of racism and incitement it would take a whole article just to scratch the surface.
And so on.
Liberal Zionist delusions
So on what basis could Sanders believe that a government populated by such figures would in any universe be an improvement on Netanyahu’s?
Perhaps Sanders still harbors the liberal Zionist delusion that Israel’s vestigial Zionist “left” – part of the coalition – will form some sort of moderating “peace camp.”
The problem is that Israel’s alleged peaceniks – figures like assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, late President Shimon Peres and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni – have typically been among its most prolific ethnic cleansers and war criminals.
If Sanders forgets that, Israel’s Zionist “left” is keen to remind him.
Sanders’ approach was “wrong,” Peretz claimed.
Making excuses for Sanders
I’ve noticed a tendency by many on the left to make excuses for Sanders, as if his repeated whitewashing of Israel is the foible of an affable uncle who means well.
After all, hasn’t he also said nice things about Palestinians and been critical of Israel’s attacks on Gaza?
Sadly, Sanders’ lip service does not live up to the hype.
During last month’s Israeli massacre in Gaza, Sanders announced he had placed a Senate hold on the sale of $735 million of American weapons to Israel.
As I documented recently, Sanders has long railed against any effective Palestinian resistance.
He condemns armed resistance and even opposes BDS – the nonviolent Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement modeled on the international campaign that helped end apartheid in South Africa.
And when he was recently asked to comment on how major human rights groups are now acknowledging that Israel commits the crime of apartheid, he refused to affirm their position.
Instead, he lectured that we should “tone down the rhetoric” about Israel’s crimes.
Tell “Uncle” Bernie
Linda Sarsour, a prominent Democratic Party activist, tweeted on 30 May that “You won’t see any Palestinians celebrating the replacement of Benjamin Netanyahu with Naftali Bennett, who is a racist right-wing hate monger.”
He may even be worse than Netanyahu, she added.Sarsour is absolutely right.
She responded to Sanders’ positive spin on the putative Bennett government with the question, “Who is gonna to tell Bernie?”Sarsour was a high-profile surrogate for Sanders during his 2020 presidential campaign, marketing him to Arab and Muslim American voters as “Amo” Bernie – Uncle Bernie.
Given her closeness to Sanders, I’ve suggested that Sarsour should tell him – clearly – to stop whitewashing the incoming racist government.
After Israel’s 2015 election, I wrote an article headlined “Why I’m relieved Netanyahu won.”
(That false marketing continues, incidentally, as Herzog has just been elected to Israel’s largely ceremonial presidency).Of course then, as now, I had no love for Netanyahu.
My argument was that the naked racism of Netanyahu strips away the opportunity for the so-called international community to hide its complicity with Israel’s ugly crimes behind the charade of a “peace process” or the facade of a coalition with “moderate” elements.
Sadly, that logic still applies – even with Naftali Bennett set to become prime minister.
If Netanyahu staying in office is the only way to stop Sanders and other supposed friends of Palestinians from whitewashing the horrific reality of Zionism, then so be it.
The “good” news, then, is that Netanyahu still has a week to torpedo the incoming coalition.