A major crisis has engulfed the country of Israel. It erupted in response to moves by the government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and dominated by Jewish fundamentalist and other Jewish fascists, to disempower the Israeli Supreme Court. The Zionist state of Israel has always been illegitimate, built on the blood, bones, land and homes of the Palestinian people, and an enforcer of western, especially U.S., imperialism. And now, fascists in power in Israel and their base in Israeli society are hell-bent on removing what they see as an intolerable obstacle to radically tearing up the norms that have cohered Israeli society since its inception.
Powerful forces in the Israeli political, economic, and military establishments have condemned this move in the most explicit terms. The chief justice of Israel's Supreme Court called the proposed changes a "fatal blow to democracy." Israel's attorney general said it would give the government "almost unrestrained power" and "weaken constitutional protection over ... human rights." Isaac Herzog, Israel’s President (a ceremonial but significant position in Israel), is warning that “Israel is in the throes of a profound crisis. Anyone who thinks that a real civil war, of human life, is a line that we will not reach has no idea. The abyss is within touching distance.”
And hundreds of thousands of Israelis (overwhelmingly Jewish people) have been engaged in determined protest against these moves.
The crisis in Israel, accurately understood, exposes the irreconcilability of a profound contradiction at the core of that country: the attempt to define Israel as both a democratic state and a Jewish state built literally on the blood and bones of the Palestinian people.
And importantly, although beyond the scope of this article, the intense conflict within Israeli society is erupting in the larger context of rapidly intensifying economic and military global and regional challenges to Israel’s longtime sponsor, U.S. capitalism-imperialism. Israel plays a uniquely tightly interwoven role in relation to this intensifying conflict. Escalating challenges to U.S. domination globally (from Russia and China) and in the Middle East (from Iran and aligned forces) are creating stresses, strains and conflict in the “special relationship” between Israel and the U.S.
Jewish Fascists Target the Supreme Court
The event that triggered the current crisis is a move by Netanyahu to fundamentally disempower the Israeli Supreme Court. Netanyahu himself is facing criminal charges of corruption. But whatever Netanyahu’s personal opportunist agenda, he stands as the front man for a coalition hell-bent on disempowering Israel’s Supreme Court.
For decades, the Israeli Supreme Court has served to arbitrate intense conflicts between secular and Jewish fundamentalist agendas in Israeli society. Concessions to diversity and enlightenment for Jewish Israelis have been largely made through rulings by Israel’s Supreme Court. Those include limited mandates for secular education; formal legal equality for women (within a highly misogynist society); a measure of gay rights; and defined legal status for “civil unions” that exist in unequal parallel to religious marriages.
To be clear, the Israeli Supreme Court, as it has been, is an institution enforcing Zionist oppression of the Palestinian people (and other minorities in Israel). While imposing very occasional and limited constraints on extralegal seizure of Palestinian property, it has allowed the systematic expansion of legal seizures of Palestinian homes throughout the West Bank, rubber-stamping the seizure of Palestinian homes and farms and businesses under the most illegitimate pretexts. It has enabled systematic terror against Palestinian villages, and the building of a massive wall that serves to encircle and isolate Palestinians in the West Bank in what are effectively not-very-low security prisons. Israel’s Supreme Court rulings have legalized dehumanizing and degrading checkpoints that Palestinians are subject to while overtly entitling Jewish Israelis’ freedom to pass through these checkpoints unhindered. It has upheld the routine kidnapping by authorities of Palestinians without formal criminal charges, including children, and their detention and torture for years. (See the “Legal Status” section of the Human Rights Watch report “A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution”).
On July 8, 2021, Israel’s Supreme Court, rejected challenges to something called the Basic Law: Israel—The Nation State of the Jewish People. That law, passed in 2018, broke major new ground in explicitly declaring Israel a Jewish state, with no ambiguity as to whether it was a state with anything like equal rights for all people, or even all citizens. That law declares: “The exercise of the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People.”
And yet, for all that, the Jewish fundamentalists find the Supreme Court, in its long-existing form and role, to be intolerable! For the Jewish fascists, any concessions or even optics of concessions to diversity, formal legal equality for women, LGBT rights and minimal and highly truncated integration of Palestinians into Israeli economics, culture and politics are suicidal to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
The changes in law proposed by the Netanyahu coalition would mandate that only a unanimous decision of all 15 justices on the Israeli Supreme Court could strike down legislation. This would instantly enable Netanyahu’s one-vote majority in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, (they hold 61 seats, the opposition holds 60) to pass even more extreme legislation without meaningful legal review.
Key Government Figure Blurts Out Genocidal Agenda
The agenda of the Jewish fascists is exemplified by statements and actions by Bezalel Smotrich, a powerful top official in the Netanyahu government. Smotrich has called for the imposition of Jewish religious law (as interpreted by fundamentalist fascists) as the law of the land. In case the implications aren’t clear, he was recently recorded describing himself, without irony, as a “fascist homophobe.”
And Smotrich told Palestinian and other non-Jewish members of Israel’s parliament: “[I]t’s a mistake that [Israel’s first Prime Minister David] Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job and didn’t throw you out in 1948.” (See the special issue of Revolution on Israel for the story of the terrorist, murderous expulsion of the Palestinian people from Israel in the Nakba—catastrophe—by Zionists in 1948). Other leading Jewish fascists have demanded laws against the marriage of Jews and Palestinians (in the tradition of and influenced by laws that outlawed marriage between Black and white people in much of the U.S. for most of its history).
These Jewish fascists in power are deeply and openly connected to the “settlements” in the illegally occupied West Bank of Palestine that are essentially bases for continuous terrorist attacks on Palestinians. Smotrich himself instigated a 17-hour reign of destruction, terror and death on February 26 against the Palestinian village of Huwwara, calling for it to be “wiped out.” First, he “liked” a tweet by a local Israeli official that called for people “to wipe out the village of Huwara today.” When asked why, he told a reporter, “Because I think the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do it.” (See previous coverage at revcom.us: A Rabid, Racist, Israeli Regime Escalates Terror Against Palestinians, and State-Sponsored Settler Terror and Death Against Palestinians in Huwwara: An Israeli Kristallnacht).
Opposition to Netanyahu and Mass Outrage
As this article is being posted, huge clashes are taking place between police and anti-Netanyahu protesters. On and off for three weeks now protesters have shut down Israel’s Highway 20 (the Ayalon Highway). That major freeway connects Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest (and most diverse, cosmopolitan) city with major cities to the north and south along Israel’s coastline. The impact is analogous to protests shutting down I-95 on the East Coast in and out of New York City or I-5 in and out of LA on the West Coast.
Of particular note has been the role of army reservists in protests. Much of Israel’s military power relies on civilian reservists who are called up as needed, allowing the country to mobilize a vastly disproportionately large army compared to the country’s relatively small Jewish population. To put it concisely: Israel can’t wage wars like the ones it periodically wages against the Palestinian people and other countries in the region without reliable reservists. The newspaper Haaretz reported that “In recent weeks, as opposition to the government and the judicial overhaul intensified, a growing number of reservists—from the elite fighter pilot squad to members of intelligence units, military doctors and general reservists—have been threatening they will refuse to report to duty in protest of the current Netanyahu government’s attempts to undermine democratic rule in Israel.” (See box: “The Israeli Army Is a Genocidal Machine of Torture and Death”).
Overwhelmingly, even where they raise specific legitimate demands (for secular education, legal rights for women and LGBT people, and against some of the most egregious assaults on Palestinians), the protests are straightjacketed by the terms of upholding a Zionist state when the very “logic” and immorality of Zionism have brought things to this point.
The current crisis in Israel, and in particular the intersection of the fascist and theocratic assault on basic rights for Jewish Israelis with the ferocious escalation of genocidal terror against Palestinians is provoking soul-searching among sections of Jewish people in Israel, and Jewish people around the world including the U.S. It should serve as evidence, for those with the integrity and courage to confront this, that the Zionist state of Israel is not in the interests of the vast majority of not only the oppressed Palestinian people in Israel but the Jewish people there as well.
This is a moment when this provocative challenge from Bob Avakian needs to be injected into societal discourse on Israel:
The rulers of this country (both the Republi-fascist and Democratic Party factions) brag about their “special relationship” with Israel. That means people in this country have a special responsibility to expose and oppose Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, Zionism, and the U.S. sponsorship of the Zionist regime.
But that’s not all. Revolutions happen, generally, country by country. But the need and basis for revolution is ultimately defined by what is going on in the world as a whole. An actual revolution in the U.S. would be a global game-changing event. That revolution would sever forever the “special relationship” between the U.S. and allied and client regimes around the world, including Israel. And it would pose a whole other model of how the world could be that would set new terms for people everywhere.
The Israeli Army Is a Genocidal Machine of Torture and Death
The Israeli military establishment in general, as it is, has sharp contradictions with the Jewish fundamentalist fascists. Most fundamentalists refuse to serve in the Israeli army. This is not because they oppose the mission of the Israeli army. Nor are they pacifists (in fact large numbers of them are organized into violent paramilitary fascist “settler” gangs that carry out constant and increasing violence against Palestinians).
But Jewish fundamentalists, like their Islamic and Christian “brethren,” will not interact with women in any form resembling acknowledging women as equals. Women are subject to the draft in Israel and some 40 percent of the Israeli military is made up of women in various roles. And openly gay men serve in the Israeli army. Both of these things are seen as an abomination by the fundamentalists. The refusal, on the part of most Jewish fundamentalists, to serve in the military (they are routinely given exemptions on religious grounds, and requirements that they “serve” in civilian activities are routinely ignored) is a problem for the formal military, and a source of great resentment on the part of more secular or liberal Jews.
The involvement of members of the military, and statements by high military officials supporting some of the demands of anti-Netanyahu protests, have been widely greeted by protesters. An editorial in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz noted (unfortunately with too much accuracy) that all political trends in Israel see the Israeli military “as an institution that unifies all sectors of society, a symbol borne out of the collective ashes of the Holocaust and its cautionary message that Jews must be able to defend themselves.”
In reality, the Israeli army is the main force imposing conditions of suffering and death on the Palestinian people, and increasingly facilitating settler terror. And operatives of different branches of the Israeli military have carried out thousands of assassinations of Palestinians and others around the world.
Here are just two examples that demonstrate the actual nature and role of the Israeli military around the world, from one year, 1982:
- Under the direction of the U.S., in 1982 and 1983 the Christian fundamentalist butcher Ríos Montt imposed a reign of genocidal terror against indigenous communities in Guatemala. This was characterized by beheadings, mass rape, slaughter of pregnant women, and the abduction of Mayan children who were sold or given as slaves to functionaries of the fascist Guatemalan regime. The New York Times reported that at that time, Israel was the “principal supplier of arms” to U.S. aligned brutal oppressive regimes carrying out widespread war crimes in crushing popular-based oppositional guerrilla movements in Central America including not only Guatemala but Honduras and El Salvador. And the Times noted that when [then] Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. prompted Israel to do more in Guatemala, “By all accounts, Israel needed no prompting.”
- In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. During the period when Israeli military forces controlled much of Lebanon, they surrounded and sealed off the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut while their Lebanese allies massacred between 750 and 3,500 people. Israeli military and allied forces were to occupy southern Lebanon for 18 years.
And Israel maintains a nuclear force of at least 100 weapons with which it terrorizes the region, including posing an ongoing threat to Iran.
The Israeli military cannot be a force for positive change, let alone the necessary overthrow of Zionism in Israel. It is a machine of oppression, terror, torture and death.