Five months ago, I wrote a piece for Middle East Eye on Israel’s parliamentary elections in which I argued that those elections change absolutely nothing for us Palestinians, the indigenous population of this land. And today, Israelis went to the polling stations again in what seems to be a repeat of what happened in April. Still, Israelis do no know who their next Prime Minister is going to be.
But we Palestinians are certain that he will be a white, Ashkenazi male committed to the Zionist consensus prevalent these days across party lines regardless of the domestic agenda. Whether it is Benny Gantz, a war criminal by all means, or Benjamin Netanyahu, or any other leader, the new Israeli prime minister will not accept an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, and/or the return of Palestinian refuges scattered in refugee camps in neighboring countries, and/or Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem, and/or eviction of Israeli, Jewish settlers from Israeli colonies in the West Bank. Almost all political parties competed in the elections are Zionist, with the exception of the Joint Arab List.
The competition this election was between politicians who have boasted over the years about who has killed more Palestinians. Benny Gantz has bragged of “[sending] parts of Gaza to the stone age” after “destroying 6,231 targets”. Netanyahu has celebrated the racist nature of the state of Israel: “Israel isn’t a state of its citizens…Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people—and it alone!” Add to these 19th Century nationalistic attitudes Avigdor Liberman’s blatant call for the ethnic cleansing of Israeli Palestinians and his defense of “chopping of” with an ax the heads of those “Arabs” who are against Israel. And Naftali Bennet’s bragging about “killing lots of Arabs!” One gets a clearer picture of where Israel is heading from these quotes.
There is nothing for us Palestinians to celebrate. The oppressed blacks of South Africa did not get excited when the apartheid regime held elections in which they were not allowed to vote. Neither did they want to show a “preference.” For them, PW Botha or Eugène Terre Blanche, or even the leaders of the Liberal Party, were all the same as long as apartheid remained intact. Similarly, what needs to be challenged in apartheid Israel is the multi-tiered system of oppression that characterizes it as a settler-colony that is founded on the ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians. Not a single Israeli party is ideologically capable of doing that; i.e. raising the necessary questions about equality, return of Palestinian refugees, and taking their leaders (who happen to be the winners in the elections) to the Hague. Even the Joint List at one point, was prepared to flirt with war criminal Benny Gantz in order to bring down another war criminal, Netanyahu, as if that would mean anything to the besieged and slaughtered Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank!
What would make sense to us, 12 million Palestinians, living in the West Bank and Gaza, and those living in the Diaspora, in addition to 1.6 second class citizens of Israel, is a de-Zionization of the state of Israel as a start, and a commitment to the immediate implementation of international law, from the withdrawal of troops from the West Bank and Gaza, to allowing refugees to return to the villages and towns from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948. In sum, only secular democracy under the rule of law and in which ALL citizens are treated equally regardless of ethnic and religious origin is what should be celebrated. Anything short of that is a recycling of 19th century ethnic nationalism disguised in slogans that mean absolutely nothing to us Palestinians.