Thursday, March 19, 2015

Netanyahu's Racism, Israel's Racism

Benjamin Netanyahu's win in the Israel elections this week was secured in part, as is widely reported, by fear-mongering. This, of course, is not an unusual strategy, particularly in the modern world, where, we are told "terrorists" (however the term is, or is not defined) are lying in wait around every corner.  And yet, in this case, the danger Netanhayu warned about was not terror, whether practiced by ISIS, Iran, Al-Qaeda, or any other state or non-state actor that might appear on a  random list of useful enemies (all of whom serve to legitimize the increasing imperialist tendencies in the West.) No, this time the enemy was --voting. Voting, it turns out, is what must be opposed in elections. But, of course, not just any voting, but Arabs voting.  Said Netanyahu: "Arab voters are coming in droves to the ballot boxes. Left-wing NGOs bring them in buses."

His comments were predictably denounced as racist. Which of course is precisely what they were.     However, what the press generally did not acknowledge was the manner in which Netanyahu's comments reflected the underlying structure of Israel itself .  If an Israeli politician suddenly declares that the real existential threat to Israel is not "terror attacks" but, rather, Arabs who vote, this is not merely an expression of a disturbed and racist mind (even if it is partly that as well.) Israel is, as its most staunch supporters insist, intended to be a "Jewish state."  Indeed, according to the terms of political Zionism itself, the political project that came to be know as "Israel" was the creation of a Jewish State, no less than "England is English."    This sort of analogy, made by leaders of political Zionism, was, of course, made to sound unobjectionable.  After all, no one has objections to an English England, so why object to a Jewish Israel?

What this sort of analogy overlooks, however, and what every student of European history knows, is the violence out of which the historical entity known as the "nation-state" was born,  The unification of a "people" and  "state" can occur only when predicated on the exclusion of other peoples. And, of course, this is precisely what happened in the establishment of Israel.  For, as it happens, the land targeted for colonization by the political Zionist movement was (shockingly!) already inhabited. Historical Palestine was (it just so happens) Arab.  This was an obvious inconvenience for the movement.  Any non-Jew living in the land which Zionists intended to become the "Jewish state" would obviously be an "existential threat" to the project of political Zionism. Hence, although the indigenous population of historical Palestine is typically represented as somehow (and for unknown reasons) irredeemably constitutionally violent and backwards, and therefore some kind of "threat," it is in fact the case that their "threatening" nature to the project of a Jewish state lies simply in the fact that they are Arab and not Jewish.  That is, under this terribly tortured and Orwellian language, born of the practice of colonialism, the Arab now becomes a threat merely because he exists, and entirely irrespective of how violent or peaceful they are (that is, per the terms of the usual discourse, wherein the Arab is represented as some form of sub-human).  Hence, representing the indigenous Arab population as constitutionally incurably violent becomes nothing more than a convenient means of justifying the ongoing colonization, and of the continued practice of controlling, and expelling, the Palestinian Arab population.

Bibi's recent slip, by identifying Arabs as the threat merely because they are Arab -- merely because they may exercise their rights to chose their representative freely -- therefore was not solely a function of a racist mind. That would be a much easier thing to dismiss. It was, rather, a candid and straightforward expression of the reality of the underlying structure of Israel itself.

Any resistance to such a political structure is a just one. It's past time to support it.

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