Israel’s Right-Wing Government Represents the Judaization of Zionism – Mondoweiss 3/31/23


Early Zionism sought to reform the “Ghetto Jew” into the secular Zionist militant. But now the new Israeli government not only wants to push society to the right, but to dismantle its secularism as well.

For three long months, thousands of Israelis have been going out at least twice a week to demonstrate against their new and extreme government. The sights on our screens are unprecedented — huge gatherings in the main cities, main roads blocked, the official premier residence under siege, thousands blocking the road to the airport every time Netanyahu is on his way to another capital, and every Thursday is now a National Disruption Day with most major systems either grinding to a halt or barely functioning.

To make it even more difficult for Netanyahu and his unruly fascists on the Zionist right, some European countries, and even the US, have become more vocal about their disaffection. Is this Israel’s version of the color revolutions?

It is clear that most Israelis are against the so-called Judicial Reform, which the demonstrators call the judicial coup. Even some Likud voters — not the most well-behaved crowd at the best of times — have been deeply shaken by the ferocity of the changes. As long as the changes were mainly concerning the occupied territory and the more than six and a half million Palestinians living in historic Palestine, most Israelis would have backed their government as they have done so often before; but this government is clearly different — in its intentions, actions, tone, and especially its openness about its objectives. And for the first time, it is also focused on dramatically changing the life of Israeli Jews, not just of its Palestinian subjects living under a militarized apartheid regime.

Those changes are breathtaking — too many to enumerate here — and highly invested in changing not only the style of government, but the very nature of Jewish identity. Now, let us remember that the Zionist movement was, since its inception, a project of massive social engineering and identity transformation — of converting the Ghetto Jew to the New Jew of settler-colonial militarism — expansionist, arrogant, and exclusionary in character.

That militarism reflected itself in Israel’s development into a warring state with a massive Military Industrial Complex, becoming the security state par excellence. The fact that the IDF and the Shabak and the whole deep state have come out against the judicial overhaul is evidence of how fundamental the inner conflict has become — not one over the nature of the occupation and its settlement project in Palestine, but over its public presentation, between the old elite and the new one. Either way, it is clear evidence of the centrality of the army in this militarized settler state.

Past governments, including those headed by Netanyahu, preferred a combination of denial and obfuscation, of covering up and hiding behind obvious smoke screens, avoiding clearly stating their political aims in Palestine. It allowed Israel to publicly maintain the fantasy of the “only democracy in the Middle East.” And the ruse worked.

But after 75 years of denying its own agency in the terrible catastrophe it inflicted upon the Palestinians, the Israeli regime is now embracing its Zionist origins  – openly discussing its intention of controlling the whole of Palestine through an exclusive Jewish apartheid state, with thinly-veiled plans for the expulsion of as many Palestinians as it can get away with.

None of this was a serious enough reason to start protesting against Netanyahu for most Israeli Jews, who accept the occupation and its iniquities without a second thought. But this government also announced its intention to remove extant secular legislation, practically transforming Israel into a Jewish Halachic state — a variant of the Sharia state.

The intention to “religionize” Israeli society (Hadatha in Hebrew) has been jarring to the part of Israeli society that still sees itself as mainly secular, in defiance of reality and statistics. More than 50% of Israelis describe themselves as religious, or Masorti, a less restrictive form of Judaism. Meanwhile, the percentage of ultra-orthodox Jews has increased exponentially, with a significantly higher birth rate than other Israelis. The statistics are clear: Israel is safely on its way to becoming a Jewish version of the Islamic Republic. While historical Zionism was a mainly secular movement, this changed a while ago through the social engineering of a new Jewish Identity, much like the Zionism of the Yeshuv sought to remake the “Ghetto Jew” into a secular Zionist pioneer. …

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