Air Date 2/10/2022
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we shall take a look at the recent rise in tensions in the wake of Israel electing what may be their most right wing government to date. Literal fascists are now in the governing coalition. Violence is rising and reforms are being considered to effectively remove judicial review from the governing process, all the US continues to give its support.
Clips today are from All In with Chris Hayes, Against the Grain, Democracy Now!, The Current, and Global Dispatches, with additional members-only clips from Alex Wagner Tonight and Against the Grain.
A look at the violence and unrest in the West Bank - All In with Chris Hayes - Air Date 2-2-23
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: I follow news in Israel and Palestinian Territory very closely. And it seems to me from the people that I read and respect across really the ideological spectrum, a real sense of intense, acute tension, crisis. Do you feel that way?
PETER BEINART: Yes, absolutely. One of the things we know across the [00:01:00] world is that violence comes from despair. And you now have among Palestinians the deepest kind of despair.
Palestinians in the West Bank have lived for over 50 years without the most basic of rights. This is the kind of truth telling that the Biden administration won't do.
The truth is that in the West Bank is apartheid. Jews have citizenship, the right to vote, the right to free movement, the right to be citizens of the country in which they live. Palestinians have none of those things. And there's no prospect -- there was a time when there was at least a dim prospect -- there's no prospect right now, and that's very volatile.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: That seems to be, the point about the status of Palestinian people in the West Bank, right? The idea that it was an interim way station on the way to the two-state solution, which is going to be the ultimate destination of the road. That's one thing. The idea that this is it, this is what it's gonna be, which ostensibly the Netanyahu government, others say, no, we're still going, we're still committed to the two-state solution, but it just doesn't seem like anyone [00:02:00] believes that, even there, I feel like.
RULA JEBREAL: But Bibi Netanyahu has been saying that to the western world. This is his propaganda. He's using the two-state solution as a cover. Yeah, there's a two states, but defacto, he said it on CNN, and he's saying to the Israeli and to his far-right coalition, Jewish supremacy is the law of the land. They approved in 2018 basically nation-state law, which suggests that only Jews are entitled to self-determination. All the others are basically entitled to subjugation, control, oppression, et cetera.
And you are seeing this far-right government, I mean we're talking about the last period, this government was sworn in a month ago, and in one month you have 35 Palestinian dead. You have people chanting genocidal chants in the streets of Jerusalem led by politicians. You have a member of this government who are indicted on terrorism, and these are the people who are in [00:03:00] charge of the security apparatus telling Palestinians on a daily basis, you have no place here. And our mandate is Jewish supremacy at every cost, even if it means more demolition, more hate, more violence. And Palestinians are looking around and thinking, who is going ever to protect us? The United States is defending democracy in Ukraine and overseas, but telling the world there's one exception. And that's the Palestinians.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: I will say of course, because everything on this conflict story is that there were people in the streets chanting their cheers after this Palestinian murdered 16 people in a synagogue.
RULA JEBREAL: But that's what happened when you dehumanize people, Chris. What Peter is talking about is when Palestinians signed, in 1993, the Oslo agreement, not only they acknowledged that Israel will retain 78% of the territories, and they will retain 22%, whatever, but what they've seen during this period, they had 60 settlements then; they have 200 settlements now and 600,000 settlers and Israel has no [00:04:00] intention to ever withdraw or give them dignity or life or social, just anything.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: What seems to me in terms of marking the apex, right? We had the Oslo period, then we had the second intifada, then we've had the sort of post-second intifada ostensible oslo period where there is still the Palestinian Authority. It has under treaty control, security control of the West Bank. There's a withdrawal from Gaza. But this is now, it seems to me that chapter feels like it's coming to an end, both because of the nature of Israeli politics as much as anything else.
PETER BEINART: Absolutely. It's just that people are not willing to be honest about the choices we now face.
There is now one state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan. Israel controls all of it. There is nothing temporary about Israeli control of the West Bank. The choices are about the character of that state. Will it be a state based on what the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, calls Jewish supremacy?
The principle that this is a state owned by Jews and Palestinians will either be [00:05:00] non-citizens or they will be second class citizens, in which case Israel will be the shining model for every ethnonationalist leader from India to Brazil, to France, to Italy, to the United States, that you can do this and you can get away with it and it will work.
Or will it be a place that struggles for what we want in United States: equality under the law for all people, irrespective of religion, race.
RULA JEBREAL: But this is why it's jarring, Chris, because when this Democratic administration that was voted by 84 million Americans, rejecting that model of authoritarianism, Trumpism, fascism, ethnonationalism. And people voted for that model. They turn around and their foreign policy is basically saying, we will continue to bankroll/sponsor that model of religious, a project of religious ethno -- project of exclusion and purity.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: But the argument that viewers are yelling at the television right now and that the government would say, is that --
PETER BEINART: Including some of my own family!
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Sure. That it is different. Yes, it's different. Like the Zionist project is different. [00:06:00] Jews are different. They have faced a special form of persecution. Yes, it is different. This is the argument.
PETER BEINART: Nobody needs to tell me that. My grandmother, whose family fled from country to country, told me that my entire life.
But the truth is, if you believe in the principle of liberal democracy, of equality under the law, that principle has served Jews very well. Why are we Jews thriving in the United States? Because of the principle of equality under the law. And if you make an exception for Israel, because we've had this terrible history, the exception does not stay in Israel.
RULA JEBREAL: But also it's the most powerful military nuclear power in the Middle East, Chris. And the idea that the only way you could feel safe is when people, millions of people on their knees, your slaves, you are subjugating them. Not only does it make sense, it actually appealed to fascists around the world that -- wait one second: if they can do this to their minority, let's do it to Jews worldwide.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Another thing that I think is very hard to talk about is the degree to which [00:07:00] this sort of illiberalism, authoritarianism, this sort, and Ben-Gvir, like the parts of the Israeli government that are now part of the government. People from Brett Stevens to Jerry Nadler, who's incredibly supportive of the Israeli government, almost no matter what, have been very critical of, are very worried about that these folks and these parties represent something anathema to liberalism. You have polling in Haaretz that people don't like the new judicial reforms that have been proposed by this government, right? This is corrosive to whatever is left or still a flame in Israeli liberalism.
PETER BEINART: What we have to avoid is only becoming outraged when Israel becomes less of a liberal democracy for Jews, right? Because that itself is a form of Jewish supremacy. The point is that Israel has to be a liberal democracy; Israel/Palestine for everybody, and the people who have the least rights tonight, right now, are the Palestinians who are not even citizens. So this movement that is happening has to include them at the center.
Israel and the Progressives - Against the Grain - Air Date 1-25-23
SASHA LILLEY - HOST, AGAINST THE GRAIN: I wanted to ask you if the attempt to [00:08:00] project the kind of values that Western liberals may grab onto as positives and reason to support the state of Israel, if that self-projection by Israel has been a conscious attempt by the state and those who work for the Israeli state to appeal to precisely those sorts of supporters around the world.
SAREE MAKDISI: I mean, partly, yeah. The more recent versions of this kind of thing, for example, there was a very explicit project of so-called pink washing in the 2000s that was a very, very clearly thought-through strategy on the part of the state and the advocates of the state in the West to repackage Israel and claim that it is a paradise of gay rights compared to the alleged monstrosity of all the Arab countries allegedly hostile to gay rights and so on and so forth. I quote them in the book, they're very clear about, Well, this will align us with gay rights in the West, and gay rights seem to be good liberal kind of topic, and so [00:09:00] therefore it's very, you know, very canny, very strategic. That's a recent project and it actually didn't work, I'd argue.
But if you go back to the 1950s and 60s, there was a much, they're more subtle kind of attempts. There's part of what's important here is that it's important to remember that support for the Zionist project and for the state of Israel was always stronger on the left, typically in Europe and in the US, than on the right, initially, for all kinds of reasons, right?
So there's this sense of Israel is this wonderful little socialist paradise where you can go to kibbutz and you can, you know, wear Birkenstocks and eat granola and listen to poems of thus and such, or read the novels of Amos Oz or whatever, bask in this beautiful socialist paradise, that had a lot of appeal for people on the left in Europe and in the US through the sixties and seventies.
And that's sort of like this kind of, you might say, an almost organic attempt to kind of, to connect these two cultures of liberal quasi-socialism and so forth. But of course, what gets covered up is, Well, yeah, but whose land are these kibbutzes built on? [00:10:00] Who pays the price for this kind of affirmation of wonderful socialist values, et cetera? Who's excluded from them? Who's, what forms of denial are in play to transact this affirmation of wonderful socialist sitting around the campfire and singing songs, and that kind of thing? And that's of course what's at stake in the project as well.
So sometimes it's more explicit, sometimes it's more formulaic, sometimes it's more strategically thought-through, sometimes it just happens more organically. But however it happens, what's always at stake is a denial of what the Zionist project in Palestine is and people who are socialists, who, you know, who should, I think, in principle, should, ought to believe in human equality, shouldn't consciously support a system that is premised on inequality and injustice and a lack of sharing the resources of the land, for example. Those are all antithetical to the principles of socialism as I understand them. The book by the end says, we're in a different moment now where, and we can see this happening all around us, support for the Israeli project is shifting [00:11:00] rapidly from the left, or liberals if you want to use that language in America, to the right. Right? And it's more aligned these days with anti-immigrant rights and sort of militarism and the use of drones and this kind of thing. It's the ethos is shifting entirely. It's like a 180 degree turn, which is remarkable because I think it's disaffiliating from its pool of support in the West and shifting to another kind of area of support on the far right that may not be nearly as stable as the other one was for, you know, basically 70 years.
SASHA LILLEY - HOST, AGAINST THE GRAIN: A few minutes ago you mentioned this phrase, that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, frequently brought up in defense of Israel, and yet, of course, it's a contradictory term because of course, a state for one group is by definition exclusionary. What has been the power of this term for those beyond the borders of Israel?
SAREE MAKDISI: Well, the power of the term, it's quite remarkable. It's[00:12:00] something that, like, in the US in particular, it gets affirmed by politicians pretty much across the spectrum, right? To sort of, we believe in the value of a Jewish and democratic state, and it gets repeated again and again and again, like almost like a magic spell. Like, if you just keep saying it, something magical is gonna happen by the sheer fact of repeating that particular phrase. And as you point out, Sasha, if you pause and think, but hang on, how can a state be simultaneously exclusive (it's a Jewish state) and inclusive (it's a democratic state)? It can't, obviously the answer is it can't be. A state can either be inclusive or it can be exclusive. It can't be both simultaneously. So there's an obvious oxymoron at the very, in the slogan itself, but nobody pauses to think about the oxymoron. They just reaffirm the value of, the wonderful value, or the supposedly wonderful value of a Jewish and democratic state. And what that affirmation does is it makes all of the contradictions and oxymorons and so forth, disappear. And, well, what are those contradictions? How, you know, what, how does this state function for its [00:13:00] citizens who are not Jewish, for example, which is about 20% of the population of the state within its pre '67 borders? And of course half or more than half of the population of the state, of the territory over which the state exerts power, meaning when you include the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and so on, the roughly equal populations of Jews and non-Jews there. And what happens is, well, I mean obviously it's apartheid. The historical affirmation of the value of a Jewish and democratic state as a kind of liberal principle, it held sway all through the 1980s and 90s and on, you know, on pretty much to our own time, except that in the past several, really like the past three or four or five years maybe, and in particular since this most recent Israeli government took office, it's been very, very clear that this state is not interested in democracy and that the literally government ministers and so forth are themselves saying, We're not interested in democracy, we're interested in these other [00:14:00] kinds of values.
But in a nutshell, the affirmation of a Jewish and Democratic state covers up the flip side of that, the other side of that same coin, which is of course an apartheid state. And we could talk about the details of how Israeli apartheid functions inside the 60s, the pre-'67 borders and outside those borders, and it kind of crosses the borders and a great, there's been several recent studies about Israeli apartheid, so this is hardly an original claim any longer, but yeah, that's part of what's going on.
SASHA LILLEY - HOST, AGAINST THE GRAIN: Why don't you say a little more about that and how what functions on the ground in Israel and the Occupied Territories aligns with a definition of apartheid.
SAREE MAKDISI: The basic premise of apartheid. And it's not, again, it's not a term that we should just use wantonly or as a kind of emotional accusation. The term is defined precisely in the Apartheid Convention, which has the status of international law. So you can look up what the definition of apartheid is, and it basically is a system of government [00:15:00] that discriminates according to various kinds of criteria, including religion and national origin and there's a whole, you can go look at the details of the text if you're interested in the details. But basically what it means is a systematically discriminatory state. Now, if you look at what's been happening since 1967 in the territories that Israel captured in the 1967 war, meaning East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, it's very, very clear that there's a very rigid distinction between the Jewish and non-Jewish populations of those territories. For example, the Jewish settlers in, let's say, the West Bank or East Jerusalem, are subject to Israeli civil law. They're guaranteed the protections of Israeli civil law, whereas Palestinian residents in exactly the same territory are subject to Israeli military law. So there's like literally two different systems of law for two different populations inhabiting the same territory. There's different housing, there's different road systems, different schooling systems. I mean 100% segregation between the Jewish and non-Jewish population of the Occupied Territories. [00:16:00] In the Occupied Territories it's a total no-brainer. It's very, very obvious what's happening. President Carter said it in his book in 2006, I think it was, to outrage, which we can come back to, but it's very obvious.
When you cross the border into pre-'67 Israel, things are more subtle. There still is essentially total exclusion and total separation of the two populations, but it's done much more subtly than, let's say, the Apartheid state in South Africa did it. So, for example, in South African Apartheid, there would be laws saying specifically, you know, blacks have to live in this area and whites have to live in this area, and and it is, it was spelled out very explicitly. Inside pre-'67 Israel there aren't exactly any such official or legal pronunciations. But what there are instead are a series of, a combination of formal and informal mechanisms that make sure that Jews and non-Jews, by and large, can't live in the same space. There are some exceptions that, they're very small in the so-called [00:17:00] mixed cities, but even then there's extreme forms of segregation. So there really, by and large, there's total separation. So for example, most of the land of the state is state-owned land, and if you are somebody who's not Jewish and you want to rent or lease or, you can't buy, but rent or lease land that's owned by the state, you are not able to do so because you're not Jewish.
Where somebody who is Jewish, who's not a citizen of the state, for example, even obviously if they are citizens, this also works, but even for non-citizens, they have access to land because it's held in the name of the Jewish people by, for example, the Jewish National Fund, for instance, among other institutions. They have access to this land even though they're not citizens of the state. So here you have a state in which people who are not citizens have more access to land resources than people who are citizens strictly on the basis of national identity or religion, or however you wanna define the distinction there. But the point is, there's a structural form of discrimination.
And we can go up and down through the whole system. So when a new citizen is born, for [00:18:00] example, in the Israeli state, they are entered into the population registery and somebody who is Jewish is entered as what the state calls a Jewish national, and somebody who's not Jewish is entered as, there's a whole bunch of other nationalities, but the point is they're not Jewish, and that's really what matters because in Israeli law, there's a distinction between nationality, which is something that only Jews can have, and citizenship, which is something that's more open, but the various rights that the state accords tend to go on nationality rather than mere citizenship as such. And so for example, there's, as I said, housing is largely segregated. The educational systems are largely segregated. There are two different educational systems for Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of the state. I'm talking about the state within its '67 borders. As I said, in the West Bank it's more obvious, but inside the state, too, there's totally discriminatory educational systems that seperate and treat and invest in the education of Jewish versus non-Jewish citizens in totally different ways. The [00:19:00] state invests, for example, three or four times as much in educating a Jewish citizen as it does a non-Jewish citizen, and so on and so on and so on.
Diana Buttu & Gideon Levy: Israel's New Far-Right Gov't Entrenches Apartheid System with US Support - Democracy Now! - Air Date 1-5-23
DIANA BUTTU: Itamar Ben-Gvir is a disciple, he’s a follower, of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was a man who believed that Palestinians should be ethnically cleansed from their homeland. And Itamar Ben-Gvir has espoused the exact same views as Meir Kahane and continues to espouse these same views. He’s talked very openly about his support for Baruch Goldstein.
And his visit, his latest visit, to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is not just a visit, it’s an attempt to show that there will forever be Israeli sovereignty on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and he’s trying to incite violence. Not only is he trying to incite violence, he has long believed that the Al-Aqsa Mosque should disappear, and in its place the Temple Mount be recreated. So, his policies have always been that of inciting to violence, inciting to hatred, [00:20:00] and although he was only convicted once, he has been indicted more than 50 times.
The fact that he is allowed to be a minister in this government just shows how much it is that the international community is allowing fascism to reign, and that they’re effectively doing nothing. All that we have heard since this visit and since he’s become minister is that the world supports the status quo, but it is that status quo that has led to people like Itamar Ben-Gvir being able to become minister and their actions being normalized. I fear that what he intends to do is to create more and more and more violence as a pretext to, "once and for all", as he put it, showing Palestinians who the masters of the house are. Those are his words, not mine.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Gideon Levy, could you also respond to Ben-Gvir’s appointment as national security minister and, in particular, his appointment to this post?[00:21:00]
GIDEON LEVY: Benjamin Netanyahu had to create a government. He is leading the biggest party. And he decided this time to go with the most extreme right-wingers. The problem is not this. The question is why those right-wingers are so popular in Israel. And here we face a reality which is well known for a long time, the Israeli society is a very right-wing, nationalistic and, part of it, racist society. We have to face this. That’s the main problem, not if Ben-Gvir is minister or is not. The problem is: Who are we facing when we speak about Israel?
And in many ways, I see also a positive side to the results of the last elections. By tearing all the masks, now we see reality. Now it’s not the umbrella of the Zionist left, who speaks so nicely [00:22:00] and does almost the same like the right-wingers. Now we face the extreme racism in its most pure expression. Those people don’t deny their racism. Those people say very clearly that Jewish supremacy means that only Jews have rights in this land. And I hope that both some parts of Israeli society and, above all, the international community will finally draw the conclusions.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Gideon Levy, that’s exactly right that these far-right parties have received this kind of support, almost 11% in this election, but that’s much higher than in the past. So, could you explain why you think these far-right, hard-line, extremist parties are more popular now in Israel than they’ve been in the past?
GIDEON LEVY: It’s [00:23:00] almost inevitable. If you continue with the occupation, supported by the Zionist left — not only supported but led by the Zionist left — and if this reality of an apartheid state continues, it calls for extremism. It calls for telling the truth. It calls for telling — for tearing the mask and saying, “We aim to be an apartheid state. The occupation is not temporary; the occupation is here to stay. And if it is here to stay, it means we are an apartheid state, and we are even not ashamed of it.” After 56 years of occupation, you can’t expect anything but this radical movement, while the Zionist left never tried to separate itself from the occupation, never tried seriously to [00:24:00] put an end to it. So, if there is no other force in the Israeli power, let’s go for the extreme. This makes a lot of sense.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Diana, could you also talk about that, the shift in the Israeli polity further to the right, and the role, indeed, that the left has played? You wrote a recent piece headlined Israel’s So-Called Left Has Aided the Far Right’s Rise.
DIANA BUTTU: Yes. Gideon is exactly right. Look, there’s been a so-called left inside Israel for quite some time, but this so-called left is — I say “so-called” because that’s exactly what it is, so-called — they self-proclaim as left-wing, but this is a left wing that has never stood up against the occupation. It’s a left wing that has supported the various attacks on the Gaza Strip. It’s a left wing that has supported the siege and blockade on the Gaza Strip. It’s a left wing that has supported the enactment [00:25:00] of racist legislation, even in the past couple of years. And so, when you’re an Israeli voter who sees that the options are between this so-called left wing, which has supported the exact same things as the right wing has, then, of course, it’s natural that they’re going to vote for this fascist right.
The big problem has been that we’ve never seen that Israelis have paid a price for their electoral choices. It’s always been that Palestinians pay the price. And with this new government, it’s going to be Palestinians once again, but even more than in the past. Unlike previous Israeli governments where there were other issues that they may have been focused on, this current government, this new government, is myopically and only focused on making life miserable for Palestinians. They don’t have any other political platform, other than to try to ethnically cleanse Palestinians. This is why we’ve seen, since the beginning of this year, that Israel has killed at least one Palestinian per day. And this is why we’re seeing the [00:26:00] plans to completely ethnically cleanse the Palestinian town of Masafer Yatta. It’s because this government has put in its crosshairs Palestinians. And given that there’s nobody in the international community that’s stopping them, it’s going to continue full steam ahead.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let me ask you about Masafer Yatta, near Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, the southern part. Israel’s military has begun demolishing homes, water supplies, olive orchards. This week, Israeli armored vehicles accompanied demolition crews as they razed homes and farms in two villages. Last year, the Israeli High Court of Justice approving the home demolitions, which will uproot more than a thousand people, leading to the U.S. congressmember, who happens to be Palestinian American, Rashida Tlaib, tweeting, “Not even one week into 2023, new far-right apartheid government is moving to ethnically cleanse entire communities — which would displace more than 1,000 [00:27:00] Palestinian residents, including 500 children. All with American backing, bulldozers, and bullets.”
Talk about the U.S. support at this point for Israel. You have President Biden congratulating Netanyahu on his return to power, saying he looks forward to working with an old friend for decades, adding, “the United States will continue to support the two-state solution and to oppose policies that endanger its viability or contradict our mutual interests and values.” Can you talk about what you feel — and I’d also like to get Gideon’s response to this — the U.S. should be doing now?
DIANA BUTTU: Look, the U.S. is way behind in the times. And if they still think that there’s something left of a two-state solution, then it’s only in their dreams that they’re seeing it, because we certainly don’t see it on the ground. Instead what we have seen is that Israel has been allowed to do whatever it wants when it [00:28:00] comes to killing Palestinians, when it comes to stealing Palestinian land, when it comes to ethnic cleansing. When it comes to crossing the red lines that are enshrined in international law, Israel is allowed to get away with it, and not only get away with it, but continues to receive support and financial support from the United States, as well. This isn’t just a question of statements, but they’re also getting financial support from the United States. And as we look around the world and we ask ourselves, “We’re now in the year 2023, and they’re still talking about a two-state solution, a two-state solution that died more than two decades ago?” And yet they’ve done absolutely nothing on the ground to make sure that two-state solution comes to fruition. Instead, all that they have done is to facilitate Israel’s process of slowly ethnically cleansing Palestinians.
One of the new members of this new government is a man named Smotrich, who came out just last year, in 2021, [00:29:00] and said that the only reason that Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, like me, are still allowed to exist is because the job wasn’t finished in 1948, thereby basically telling us that our time here is short.
What the U.S. has instead done is, instead of giving them a red light and scaling back and decolonizing and pushing for Israel to end its occupation, end its apartheid, it’s pretty much served as a mask for Israel to continue to do whatever it wants to do. And this is why we’re in this situation now. It’s we’ve seen that the world is doing nothing. We see that the Israelis, as a result, don’t have to pay a price. And so, once again, it’s going to be Palestinians that pay the price for Israel’s electoral choices.
Protests in Israel over proposed judicial reform Part 1 - The Current - Air Date 1-19-23
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: Briefly explain what has been proposed when it comes, as I mentioned, to the reformation of the judiciary in Israel.
DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN: What we're seeing is what is being considered a first stage of a far-reaching plan [00:30:00] to restrain the authorities of the judiciary in ways that will make it unable, essentially, to provide a check on government power and on the legislature by essentially constraining anything like judicial review of government actions and legislation. And also it's in some ways reforms that are intended to extend as much political control as possible over the Israeli judiciary, both through putting more politicians on the committees that would appoint judges, essentially giving politicians near total control over the appointment of justices, especially Supreme Court justices, but also by making reforms to turn the government legal advisors to ministries into loyalist political positions.
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: When you take a look at the suite of reforms that are proposed, what concerns you the most about this?
DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN: The flagship reform is essentially demolishing judicial review. I mean, this is being presented as something, the Netanyahu government has presented as something that will restore the balance of powers, but the way I see it, there is really no [00:31:00] judicial review left after these reforms if they were to pass in their current form. Now, their current form is not one form. We have the proposals of the Justice Minister. We have the proposals for the actual draft legislation being developed as we speak by the head of the Israeli Constitution Committee, and these are very extreme.
They have a much higher threshold for how the judges can actually rule to strike down legislation that violates constitutional principles, but more importantly, even if the Supreme Court does strike down legislation, the Knesset can almost automatically override the judicial review of legislation with a majority of 61 out of 120 parliamentary seats, which any governing coalition has. So pretty much any executive power, the coalition... remember, there's not a clear separation between the Israeli executive and legislature because we are governed by coalitions that control a majority of the legislature.
Essentially, the government can overrule any Supreme Court ruling that not only guts judicial review, [00:32:00] but it essentially makes Israel's only quasi constitutional protections in two particular basic laws, practically an empty shell.
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: We saw, as I mentioned, protests on the streets—80,000 people protesting—but many Israelis voted for the MPs that are part of this government that would be moving these reforms forward. Do you think that the proposals represent the views, broadly, of Israelis?
DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN: Well, I wanna point out that if we're, if you're starting with a question about public opinion, the fact is no, because the tracking polling by the Israel Democracy Institute for the last more than 10 years since 2010, has shown remarkable stability of a majority, 55% on average since 2010, who support a question that very explicitly defines what judicial review is as the ability of the court to strike down legislation that is deemed to harm human rights. But in fact, in the most recent poll release just last week, it went up to 57%. Now that's at about 7% more Israelis who support judicial review than who [00:33:00] voted for the parties in Netanyahu's coalition. He only got about 50% of the vote. The reason any democracy has constitutional principles, is that the majority of people have their say in elections, and in between elections we have to have rules of the game.
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: What is Prime Minister Netanyahu's history in dealing with the judiciary?
DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN: Well, this is a very interesting question. He comes from a party that traditionally has been an incredible supporter of judicial independence in Israeli history. The forerunners of his party the Likud, were people who were very nationalist and right wing in terms of Israeli Arab issues and territorial issues, but they were extremely committed to the independent judiciary on the importance of the law on individual rights, human rights, civil rights, civil liberties. These are things that the Likud traditionally stood for, and for a long time, Netanyahu seemed perfectly at ease with that, but I think he has very demonstrably and quite sharply changed since he himself has fallen under investigation, particularly since it became clear in 2018 that he was [00:34:00] about to be indicted, and when he was eventually indicted in late 2019, really early 2020, and then of course his trials have opened his currently standing trial for three counts of corruption, he really jumped into, not only the criticism of the judiciary, but very much a deep state narrative, where the entire judiciary was somehow conspiring to take him down personally and to overthrow right wing governments, which really has so little basis in Israeli history that it's sad to see that the truth can be manipulated in that way. But nevertheless, he did advocate these positions once he himself was facing the power of the law.
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: You mentioned territorial issues. How do you see these changes that have been proposed affecting policies, particularly around settlements in the West
DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN: Bank?
Well, there's no question one of the reasons why I think many people are critical of these policies, and, disclosure, myself as well, is because I don't see these judicial reforms as reflecting a genuine intention on the part of their advocates to really improve the system of democratic governance in Israel.
I see them [00:35:00] as redesigning the system in order to advance specific policies, particularly, not exclusively, but particularly when it comes to the West Bank in Gaza. And I think the obvious one is that the government wants to be able to continue controlling of course, but extending sovereignty and building settlements.
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: From your perspective, if you look at at all of this, what is this ultimately about, do you think?
DAHLIA SCHEINDLIN: Largely about the annexation issue and expanding various forms of sovereignty over the West Bank and continuing effective control over Gaza. I do think it's also about creating a system of inequality inside Israel, between Jewish citizens and everybody else, which are primarily Palestinian citizens of Israel, because, again, various coalition partners have already expressed a desire to advance legislation or amend Israeli law in ways that legitimize discrimination. And again, the less judicial constraints you have, the more you can advance policies that give privileges to Jews that other citizens won't have.
"An Intolerable Situation": Rashid Khalidi & Orly Noy on Israeli Colonialism & Escalating Violence - Democracy Now! - Air Date 1-30-23
RASHID KHALIDI: There’s been a wave of Israeli military [00:36:00] attacks in the West Bank, largely focused on Jenin but also including Nablus and other localities all over the West Bank. Last year saw the highest number of fatalities in the West Bank in over 15 years. And this year, that record looks to be broken. We have over 30 people killed in the West Bank, about half of them women and children and other civilians, and some of them armed militants. So, this is part of an escalation that’s been going on even before this new extreme Israeli government took office. And I think it reflects the intensity of the colonization and more intense Israeli control that’s being exerted over the West Bank and occupied Arab East Jerusalem. It’s the response of people to an absolutely intolerable situation, the violence that we’re seeing. And then the Israeli government responds with further home [00:37:00] demolitions. Settlers respond with further attacks on Palestinian lives and property. So, we are seeing a situation that has been growing in intensity and in which the Israeli process of taking over, stealing land, taking it over for exclusive use by settlers, has pushed the Palestinians very close to the brink. Where this is going to go, nobody can say. But the pressure that’s being put on and the absence of any reaction from the international community, the Arab world, is terrifying, because nothing seems to be able to stop what, this move to completely incorporate the entire occupied, the entirety of the Occupited Territories into Israel.
AMY GOODMAN: And after the Jenin attack — and let’s remember that the well-known, the world-renowned Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed right outside the Jenin refugee [00:38:00] camp as the Israeli forces were engaging in raids. Talk about what happened the next day. Talk about the Palestinian gunman, the attack on the synagogue, and, interestingly, the difference between — I mean, all of this is terrorizing communities, but when the word “terror” is used, and “terrorist,” Professor Khalidi.
RASHID KHALIDI: Yeah, I lost the sound there for a minute. I think what you’re pointing to is the fact that the much more massive number of Palestinian casualties, most of them civilians, are never recognized as the result of Israeli terror, whether it’s settler violence or whether it’s the actions of the Israeli military or the border guards or the police. We are talking about a three-to-one, four-to-one, five-to-one ratio of civilian deaths — many, many more Palestinians killed. We are only told that what the Palestinians do is [00:39:00] “terror.” What the Israeli government does is in service of “security.” And again, this term “security” is one that is used as a bludgeon by Israel to justify not just the murder of civilians, not just attacks on localities like the Jenin refugee camp or the town of Jenin or the city of Nablus, but to justify the continued appropriation, expropriation, theft of Palestinian land for the building of exclusive Israeli — new Israeli settlements. All of this is justified in terms of security.
What it is, is colonization. Israel is systematically colonizing occupied Arab East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank. And in so doing, it is employing terror, terror wielded by Israeli settlers, armed Israeli thugs, and by the Israeli military, which invariably protects the settlers. And so, we are talking about use of a term as a bludgeon against the Palestinians in support of this [00:40:00] colonization process — one which the United States constantly refutes. We had President Biden talking about the attack on the worshipers outside the synagogue as an attack on civilization. This is the language of colonizers throughout history, in Ireland, in Kenya, in India, in Egypt. Anything that’s done by the occupied, by the colonized to resist is terrorism; what the state does is legal violence. And that’s the way in which this is always being framed, by Israel and by its supporters in the United States, including the U.S. government under President Biden.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Orly Noy, you’re in Jerusalem, not that far from where the attack took place. The Palestinian gunman killed seven Palestinians after the Jenin Israeli raid the day before. Talk about what happened there and about the mass protests this weekend.
ORLY NOY: [00:41:00] Yeah. Hi, Amy. I just want to point out that the shooting in the Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov in East Jerusalem did not occur in a synagogue. It occurred in a —
AMY GOODMAN: Outside.
ORLY NOY: — street where there happens to be, like many streets, a synagogue. And the Shabbat prayer had been long gone — long finished by the time of the shooting.
Also, with regard — referring to your question about terrorism, it is important to mention that the shooter’s grandfather was murdered by a Jewish settler in 1999, which — and he was never brought to justice. And his second cousin, a 17-year-old boy, was shot dead recently in the Shuafat refugee camp while he was [00:42:00] holding a toy gun. And later, Itamar Ben-Gvir actually granted the shooter, the policeman who shot dead this 17-year-old boy, with the certification of excellence.
The protests are not directly related to this new cycle of violence that we’ve been witnessing, but, of course, it’s very much related to the uprise of the most radical far-right government, with clear fascist elements, that we have right now in Israel. I think that there’s some general notion within the Jewish Israeli society that something very dramatic happened, but I think that we are still not seeing the soul searching that this radical shift was supposed to bring about.
Following the general discourse [00:43:00] in Israel, you might get the impression that an unidentified object from the sky just suddenly hit the so-called Jewish and democratic state and shifted it from its course, bringing us to the current situation, which is of course not the case. I think what we are seeing now, the rise of the fascist right in the government, is a very natural result, outcome, of the most fundamental nature of Zionism as it has been implemented in the so-called Jewish and democratic state.
If you take the last mass demonstration, for example, in the last Saturday after the shooting, when you have an ex-general standing on the stage admitting that the Supreme [00:44:00] Court is the only shield protecting him from bringing him to justice in the ICC — so there is a different understanding of what do Israeli Jews mean when they say, “We are demonstrating now to protect democracy.”
AMY GOODMAN: you also mentioned Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister, who awarded the soldier who killed the Palestinian. He himself — right? — was convicted in Israel of inciting racism and hatred against Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.
ORLY NOY: He was actually indicted with being a part of a terrorist organization, which is quite ironic because one of the main articles on their agenda is to exclude the [00:45:00] Palestinian Knesset members from the parliament because of so-called being supporters of terrorism. But, actually, the only parliament member right now in the Israeli Knesset that was indicted with supporting a terrorist organization is Itamar Ben-Gvir himself.
An Escalating Cycle of Violence in Israel and Palestine - Global Dispatches -- World News That Matters - Air Date 2-1-23
MARK LEON GOLDBERG - HOST, GLOBAL DISPATCHES: I am interested to learn if you can draw a connection, if there is a connection to be drawn in the first place, between attempts by this new right-wing government to subjugate the judicial independence of the Supreme Court and it's apparent increased willingness to engage in risky and deadly security operations in occupied territories.
DALIA HATUQA: I think this is a good point to mention that, as Netanyahu has been making these attempts to weaken the Supreme Court, he's [00:46:00] also upped the collective punishment of Palestinians. So just in the past week, Netanyahu, for example, said he would expedite gun permits for Israeli citizens, and Israeli police are also encouraging those with existing licenses to carry their guns. So effectively, he's giving the green light for all Israelis to basically inflict violence upon Palestinians with full impunity.
I mean, Israel's already armed to the teeth, and shooting at Palestinians is very common. It's not all uncommon to see Israeli settlers walking around, not just with handguns, but with assault rifles. Like you go to the mall or on the bus or on the train, in religious places, and you see all kinds of people carrying weapons.
And the thing is, we've already had a really deadly year. 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in 16 [00:47:00] years, according to the United Nations. And among those killed, you probably know, is Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. She was both a Palestinian and an American citizen, and we still have not had any justice carried out for her death.
And also part of the punitive measures against Palestinians, I believe Netanyahu has also said that the homes of suspected assailants will be sealed ahead of demolition. Usually it happens after the fact. And also there are lots of consequences for families of attackers, which have nothing to do with it, and that's why even Israeli human rights groups have called these basically acts of collective punishment, because he's also potentially looking at stripping families of assailants of citizenship rights and deporting them.
MARK LEON GOLDBERG - HOST, GLOBAL DISPATCHES: So in this current [00:48:00] escalatory cycle in which we find ourselves right now, what are you looking towards on the Palestinian side that will suggest to you how or if this situation might deteriorate further?
DALIA HATUQA: There has been a rise in the number of lone wolf attacks by Palestinians inside Israel. And this is a sign of frustration and a sign of a younger Palestinian generation that wants to take revenge. For example, one of the men who carried out an attack in the last couple of days, his grandfather was killed by an Israeli settler two decades ago. And these things keep on happening. And with more bloodshed comes more bloodshed, and there is no security solution to [00:49:00] this.
I believe this is also what's led to the emergence over the last year of several armed groups in the West Bank. Again, they're lone wolf groups because they're not under the direct control of the direct Palestinian factions such as Fatah, Hamas, or anyone else. And the members of these new groups, maybe the most famous of them is the Lion's Den.
MARK LEON GOLDBERG - HOST, GLOBAL DISPATCHES: I think the Lion's Den is a very useful example of the trend that you are describing here. So can you remind listeners who may not have heard of them, who they are and why their emergence is indicative of broader trends?
DALIA HATUQA: So basically they're a group that was based in Nablus, and the reason I say "was," is because Israeli forces went in there and either killed all of them or took some of them into prison. These groups are notably young. They have [00:50:00] not been under, as I mentioned, the direct control of traditional Palestinian factions. Many of them have affiliations with the traditional factions, but they've decided to go their own way and take the fight to the Israelis. These new groups speak to a wider issue, which is the increasing irrelevance of the elderly politicians who have dominated Palestinian political life for decades, and that includes the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, who is 87 right now. He's unpopular and he has no natural successor. And also as I mentioned earlier, it speaks to the popularity of more lone wolf attacks, which make it harder for Israel's security establishment to take care of the issue, so to speak.
And for these new groups, the objective is not to calm things, but to end the occupation. They believe that the only way to push back against [00:51:00] Israel's armed occupation is to themselves also be armed.
But as far as your larger question, I don't see a way out right now, to be honest with you. The occupation has looked even more entrenched now that we have more far right groups growing stronger in the Israeli government. Illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank -- they're already home to half a million people -- they're on the rise. And as I mentioned earlier, the Israeli government is set to legalize settler outposts that have been considered illegal under Israeli law. You've got thousands of Palestinians as prisoners. 800 of them are being held without trial. And then events like raids in Jenin bring the situation to a precipice. And any number of incidents could set off -- I don't want to call it a third uprising, we've had dozens of almost third uprisings in the past few years. But [00:52:00] I would say they could set off clashes or whatnot, and those include any changes that happen at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied east Jerusalem, which Israelis refer to as the Temple Mount, yet another Israeli war on Gaza, displacement of Palestinians in Jerusalem or the West Bank, or even a deadly Israeli raid into a Palestinian refugee camp. So any of these issues could set off something much larger and something that we can't control.
Protests in Israel over proposed judicial reform Part 2 - The Current - Air Date 1-19-23
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: You wrote that since the election, everyday Palestinians in the West Bank wake up with a "what now?" apprehension. What is life like in the West Bank right now?
DIANA BUTTU: It's terrifying. And it's terrifying because we know that every single day Israel is going to either kill a Palestinian, most of them have been children by the way, or that they're going to steal some Palestinian land, that they're [00:53:00] going to try to pass some legislation that is racist, that targets Palestinian citizens of Israel, or that they're going to build a new settlement or that they're going to demolish Palestinian homes or evict Palestinians from their homes.
This government has been in shape now, in place now for about three weeks, and in that three week time, each and every day, Israel has killed one Palestinian. And just within those three weeks we've seen that Israel has demolished four homes. They've raided Jenin numerous times. And we just know that tomorrow is going to be worse than any other day. We warn to the world, we told the world this is exactly what's going to happen.
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: And so what do you make of what you just heard from Eli Lipshitz who said in part that this response to the violence is Israel defending itself, that it's Israel protecting itself from terrorism?
DIANA BUTTU: This is always their way of blaming the victim. I wanna tell you the story about one of [00:54:00] the individuals who was killed just this past year in year 2022. One was a friend of mine and a fellow journalist as you know, named Shireen Abu Akleh who was shot in the back of the head, even though she was wearing a flack jacket and protective helmet.
Her killing was investigated by CNN, by AP, by NGOs, by the New York Times, you name it. It's probably the most investigated case, and yet here we are. She's been dead now for more than six months, we're entering to the eighth month, and there's still nobody who's ever been held to account.
And what they did when they killed Shireen, my friend, was that they blamed her for her own death, and that's what they do with every death. Another person who was killed was a 14 year old girl who was sitting on her rooftop playing with her kitten, and again, she was targeted. All of these killings, they are never investigated and nobody is ever held to account. And instead, we get spokespeople who just [00:55:00] briskly brush away their lives and somehow claim that all these people are terrorists. They're not. These are people who have lives, who want to live, who have families, who have people who love them, and who want to love and live. And yet what Israel does is that just demonizes everybody.
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: Is there at all the realistic possibility of a two-state solution at this point?
DIANA BUTTU: Absolutely not.
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: Absolutely not, is what you said.
DIANA BUTTU: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. And that ship sailed many, many, many years ago. And the reason that it sailed many, many years ago is because there has been a consistent government policy to build and expand settlements, even in the face of international condemnations.
MATT GALLOWAY - HOST, THE CURRENT: And so where does that leave you?
DIANA BUTTU: It leaves us fearful that tomorrow is going to be worse than today, and knowing that there really is no future for our children here. This is a government that's made it clear that they don't want us to be here. The same finance minister who indicated that he's a fascist homophobe [00:56:00] not too long ago, said that Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship are here by mistake, and the only reason that they're here by mistake is because the job wasn't finished in 1948, meaning the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. So we live in fear of that.
Republicans feign anti-Semitism standard to eject Rep. Omar from committee - Alex Wagner Tonight - Air Date 2-3-23
ALEX WAGNER - HOST, ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT: It was 2019, and newly-elected Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar responded to a tweet about the role of Israel in American politics with six words: "It's all about the Benjamins, baby." It was a reference to the 1997 Puff Daddy song, "It's all about the Benjamins" and the subtext was that donor money was responsible for the outsized role that supporting Israel plays in US politics.
The tweet played into age-old antisemitic stereotypes about Jewish people using money to control political leaders. Congresswoman Omar was immediately called out for the tweet and quickly issued an unequivocal apology.
But now, four years later, Kevin McCarthy and the Republican House are using that tweet as justification for their latest act of retribution. Today, [00:57:00] House Republicans voted along party lines to strip Congresswoman Omar of her committee assignment on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Their resolution specifically cited that four-year-old tweet as a central example of why the action was justified.
If you had just fallen from the sky, you might think that meant that the Republican Party had a zero tolerance policy for antisemitic tropes, like ones about Jewish people controlling politicians with their money. But anyone who has spent the last seven years on this planet, and has not just fallen from the sky, knows that that is not the case.
Take for instance, this tweet sent by Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, during the 2018 election: "We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to buy this election. Get out and vote Republican November 6th #MAGA". The people McCarthy is referencing here are George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Michael Bloomberg -- all Jewish billionaires who are regularly the subject of that same antisemitic trope about Jews controlling politicians.
Here's candidate Donald Trump [00:58:00] in 2015 speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition during a candidate forum:
DONALD TRUMP: I'm in a different position than the other candidates because I'm the one candidate -- I don't want any of your money. I don't want your money, therefore, you're probably not gonna support me. That's why you don't want to give me money, okay? But that's okay. You want to control your own politician. That's fine.
ALEX WAGNER - HOST, ALEX WAGNER TONIGHT: Donald Trump told a room full of Jewish Republicans that he thought they were using their money to control politicians.
Throughout his presidency, Trump regularly amplified anti-Semites on social media. He called Nazis who chanted "Jews will not replace us!" He called them "very fine people." Remember a few months ago when Trump invited antisemitic hiphop artist Ye, and a known white supremacist Holocaust denier to dine with him at his Florida home. Remember that?
McCarthy and Trump are, last we checked, Republicans. They're leaders of the party in fact.
And then there is Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Green, now an ally of Speaker McCarthy, who famously promoted an antisemitic [00:59:00] conspiracy theory that blamed Jewish space lasers for wildfires in California.
Both Congresswoman Green and Republican Congressman Paul Gosar attended events hosted by the very same Holocaust-denying white supremacist that Trump had over for dinner. But instead of punishing them as he did Ilhan Omar, Speaker McCarthy rewarded both Gosar and Green in this Congress by giving them back committee assignments that had previously been taken away.
It is clear then that today's vote on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was not about condemning antisemitism. She seems to have been sought out for different reasons. And today, Congresswoman Omar made clear that, despite the efforts to boot her out of power, she was not going anywhere.
REP. ILHAN OMAR: Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign [01:00:00] policy, or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced?... My leadership and voice will not be diminished. If I am not on this committee for one term, my voice will get louder and stronger and my leadership will be celebrated around the world as it has been.
So take your votes or not. I am here to stay and I am here to be a voice against harms around the world and advocate for a better world.
Israel and the Progressives Part 2 - KPFA - Against the Grain - Air Date 1-25-23
SASHA LILLEY - HOST, AGAINST THE GRAIN: You start the book, sorry, with a description of a hilltop on the west of Jerusalem, what it projects about the State of Israel, and what it conceals. Can you describe it for us?
SAREE MAKDISI: The hilltop on the west of Jerusalem is Yad Vashem, which is the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. It's the world's preeminent holocaust museum, a memorial as well. [01:01:00] And what's striking about it is that if you go out onto the, well, the compound first of all is woven into the landscape, which is obviously a very intentional and thought-through act. And it, if you go and look out over the landscape from the top of the center looking out to the, looking to the west, you'll see forests, some forestation, you'll see like a hillside, the valley, and then on the other side, another opposite hillside, is a rising hillside with trees on it. And if you look exceptionally carefully, especially if you have this question in mind, you'll see older houses, so there's a Israeli settlement that's built on that hillside that's, you know, ugly 1970s or whatever concrete, you know, not nothing remarkable about it, but if you look carefully, you'll see older, much older stone houses, you can see glimpses of them sort of through the trees. And those houses are the ruins or what's left [01:02:00] of the Palestinian Village of Deir Yasin, which was the site of one of the most notorious massacres that took place during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. So the book opens with this reflection of what it means that we have these two sites kind of facing each other, or one is, rather, one is facing the other, and one is all about commemoration and memorialization, and this should never happen again, and so on. Meaning the Holocaust. And the other one is about an attempt to render invisible, to cover up, to hide, to deny the existence of a sight of another massacre, obviously smaller, but nevertheless, a massacre of men, women, and children that took place in 1948 as a key moment in the project of eliminating the indigenous population of Palestine in order to create an exclusively Jewish state in what had been a multicultural, multi-religious, multi-linguistic national space.[01:03:00]
And yeah, so it's like the book begins with the irony of what it means that a sight of memory is face-to-face with a sight of whatever the exact opposite of memory is: neglect, disappearance, denial, rejection, overwriting, rendering impossible, rendering unthinkable. And so that's where the book begins, is that juxtaposition between a site, but not just a site, it's between a project of memory and memorialization as opposed to a project of disappearance.
Of course, Palestinians know all about Deir Yasin and they commemorate Deir Yasin, and you can still go and pick out, you know, like the ruins of the village cemetery. You can still find it. It's kind of, it's become something of a municipal garbage dump because it collects garbage there. Um, it's obviously, it's like almost all cemeteries, Muslim and Jewi..., Muslim and Christian cemeteries in Palestine, it's neglected and not tended to by the state, if not all together demolished, which is a whole other question which [01:04:00] we could talk about later, which is one of the most important Muslim cemeteries in Palestine that's subject to a particularly interesting project at the moment. So that juxtaposition is very striking to me.
SASHA LILLEY - HOST, AGAINST THE GRAIN: Your book Tolerance is a Wasteland raises the question of why liberals and progressives in the West, in Europe, and especially in the US support Israel without consideration of the violence that led to the state of Israel being formed and its continued existence. And in trying to probe that question, you talk about how memory is erased in a way that is particularly effective, which is that it's not just a question of outright denial of the history that has taken place, but the affirmation of something in its [01:05:00] place. And you write how we might think of affirmation and denial as sort of polar opposites from each other, but you argue that, in the case of Israel and it's projection to the rest of the world, its self projection, especially to a Western liberal audience, affirmation functions as a kind of denial. Can you tell us what you mean by that?
SAREE MAKDISI: Yeah, sure. So, and I can give a couple of examples to help make it less theoretical, less abstract, and more concrete. The question that the book opens with is, How can it be that people in the West, in the US and in Europe in particular, but especially the US, who think of themselves and who have long thought of themselves as progressive on essentially every other question on the political spectrum, you know, let's say abortion rights or the environment or gay rights or taxation or whatever, name whatever the issue is, and it's remarkable that a lot of people, not everybody, but a lot of people who are consistently liberal or on the [01:06:00] left on most questions on the political spectrum, when it comes to the question of Palestine, many of them support the Zionist state, a Zionist project in Palestine. And so it's always, you know, the slogan is people who are "progressive except on Palestine", PEP. But the question is, how can it be that somebody who is a good liberal Western subject, who believes in equal rights and you know, the separation of church and state and so on and so on, and not, you know, doesn't believe in violence, et cetera, how can they reconcile their liberal values with their support for a state that was born out of a project of ethnic cleansing and exists to this day, not only on continued ethnic cleansing, but on a system of stark racial apartheid, occupation, bulldozing people's homes, shooting children, and so on and so forth. How do you reconcile these two impossible, this contradictory pair or set of affinities? And so one mechanism, of course, is for people who are good Western liberal subjects is simply to deny what's happening in Palestine, what's been happening for the [01:07:00] past 75 years, and just say, Well, no, it doesn't happen and I repress it and I don't think about it, and so forth. And of course, yeah, it's possible to do that up to a certain point. But Palestine is constantly in the news and it's hard to kind of escape even sort of out of the corner of your eye a sense of what's actually happening there. So just brute denial by itself doesn't really work all that well. So what these subjects are given instead of just, you know, crude denial is something to affirm that also enacts denial, right? So a positive value to affirm, the affirmation of which also helps transact the kind of denial that we're talking about. And so, let me give an example. So again, so this isn't so abstract.
The example, one example I have in mind, it's the first chapter of the book, concerns the fate of the Palestinian villages that were demolished during and after the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. So as the Zionist militants and militias cleanse Palestine of almost all 90% of its native [01:08:00] Palestinian inhabitants in 1948, afterwards, there were obviously these people left behind, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of villages where they had lived for, you know, as long as anybody can remember. And, uh, what happened was that this new putatively Jewish state had to get rid of these ruins. So they systematically bulldozed the villages and, you know, just literally wiped them from the surface of the earth insofar as they could. But of course that just leaves the landscape of ruin, which isn't exactly appealing to a Western audience, for example.
And so what they did is they planted over the ruins of these villages with forests. So they planted trees through much of what had been historical Palestine and in many cases, in fact it's not a coincidence that many of the most prominent forests planted by the Jewish state after the creation of the state in 1948, particularly in the 1950s, 60s, 70s continues to this day, we could talk about some ongoing examples if you want, but the, these forests were planted primarily over the ruins of Palestinian villages. And as you know, if [01:09:00] anybody knows anything about the question of Palestine, knows that Israel loudly pronounces itself, proclaims itself to the world as a mission to make the desert bloom and to make the desert green and how wonderful it is for planting all these wonderful trees and it raises money so that you can plant a tree there and you can have your little, you know, your name put on a ribbon around the tree and this kind of thing. And so now you can see where we're going, right? The trees are planted in order to cover up and deny the ruins of the villages of these people who have been expelled during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. It's very, very hard to get good liberal Western subjects to support ethnic cleansing, which is what that is, our own demolition. It's much easier to say, Hey, do you support the project of afforestation, planting forest where there's allegedly nothing but a barren landscape and of, Yeah, that sounds good. We can make the, you know, these days it's all about global warming and so forth, so we can contribute to help the environment and anyway, making the land green and planting and, you know, taking us back to the Garden of Eden, [01:10:00] all this kind of stuff.
It's very easy to get support for that. So people sign up for the support of greening the landscape. But what they're also signing up for is covering up the ruins of a human catastrophe. And the affirmation of the greening the landscape is the denial. It's the flip side, they're like two sides of the same coin, the denial of the Palestinian presence in Palestine, and of course, what happened to remove that presence, the violence that it took to get rid of the native population of the land and make it into this allegedly wonderful little democracy, which of course it isn't.
Final comments to wrap up
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today starting with Chris Hayes on All In, holding a discussion about the rising tension in Israel and the argument for them to adopt an open liberal democracy. Against the Grain discussed the conscious effort of Israel to appeal to the left over decades, but how their appeal is shifting toward the hard right. Democracy, Now! looked at the dynamics of the far right Israeli government and the so-called left that allowed it to take over. [01:11:00] The Current explained the proposed judicial reform measures that would effectively strip judicial review from the governing process. Democracy, Now! discussed the rising violence and how each side gets labeled in the process. Global Dispatches explained lone wolf attacks born out of desperation and decades of oppression. And The Current described day-to-day life for Palestinians and the fear they have living under the Israeli government.
That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Alex Wagner Tonight highlighting the hypocrisy of the GOP when condemning antisemitism. And Against the Grain telling a haunting story of the way the Israeli ritual of tree planting, often supported by foreign funds, has a double purpose of helping to hide demolished Palestinian villages.
To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship [01:12:00] membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information.
Now, as for me today, there was simply so much important material in the show that I let it run a bit long, so I'm just gonna let everything you've heard speak for itself and wrap up for the day.
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Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Dion Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show, and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio, Ben, Ken, and Brian, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting, and thanks to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing [01:13:00] gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, through our Patreon, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and, I would like to mention, often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. And if you want to continue the discussion, join our Discord community to discuss the show, the news, other shows or basically whatever you like. A link to join is in the show notes.
So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.