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Luiz Gandelman
(He/Him) Unapologetically Jewish, Latino, Israeli, Zionist, and Liberal.

Israel: It’s Time For A Wake Up Call

Likud Head MK Benjamin Netanyahu surrounded by MKs after a vote for the new Knesset speaker at the assembly hall of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu is surrounded by MKs after a vote for the new Knesset speaker on December 13, 2022. At bottom right is Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The most recent election in Israel is bad news for millions around the world, but it is anything but shocking. Benjamin Netanyahu and his cult-like following, alongside a mildly chaotic opposition, made this election a somewhat smooth one for Bibi. While Bibi’s being in power for too long, as well as his corruption charges and disregard for the rule of law are concerning to say the least, they are not the most terrifying part of this new government. Bibi’s re-election means all his ideas and policy have returned, but this time they have brought an even bigger monster with them: Israel’s ultra-hard-right.

Consisting of parties like Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit, and United Torah Judaism, Netanyahu’s coalition has been described as Israel’s furthest right yet. While there is not necessarily something inherently wrong with being right wing, that is the case with these parties. Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of Religious Zionism, has openly called for outlawing Gay marriage and been an outspoken opponent to LGBTQ+ Rights in Israel. These men are part of a coalition dubbed “Theocratic” by many, and even touted as showing “signs of fascism”, according to former Prime Minister Ehud Barak. This has caused outrage all around the world, and especially in Israel, with hundreds of thousands of Israelis protesting all around the country. This government is not just terrifying for Palestinians and Israeli minorities, but rather for everyone. The policies promoted by this government, and the views held by its ministers, all promote harmful developments that are thrusting the State of Israel, a progressive and melting-pot-style nation, backwards.

President Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yasir Arafat at the signing ceremony for the Oslo Accord, September 13, 1993. (William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

The closest Israel has ever come to reaching a lasting peace deal with the Palestinians was the Oslo Accords of 1993, brokered by American President Bill Clinton, and signed by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Despite all his peacemaking plans, Yitzhak Rabin’s peace-oriented progress was shut down promptly by his assassination at the hands of Yigal Amir. Amir’s assassination was not the first attempt, however. Rabin dealt with numerous attempts and countless threats, including from none other than Itamar Ben Gvir.

Ben Gvir was part of a movement named Kahane Hai, or Kach,  a political movement started by Meir Kahane, a far-right Rabbi. This movement‘s ideas consisted of expelling all Arabs from Israel, establishing a full theocracy, forcing Orthodox law on all Israelis, and annexing the subsequently Arab-free West Bank and Gaza Strip. Due to all of this extremist and seditionist ideology, it is no shock that Kach was forcefully dissolved by the Israeli government and barred from the Knesset. As a matter of fact, a handful of countries, including Israel, recognized Kach as a terrorist organization. Israel finally banned Kach in 1994, doing so under a law that Netanyahu and Ben Gvir plan to abolish. That same year, however, Kach committed its worst attack yet. Baruch Goldstein, a Kahanist West Bank Settler, opened fire inside the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. This attack killed 29 Palestinians and injured 150. Despite receiving condemnations from virtually everyone, Goldstein received support from none other than Itamar Ben Gvir, who had a photograph of him in his home and referred to him in a video as a “Tzadik”. As. a matter of fact, since Kach is barred from serving in the Knesset, many of its politically oriented members have had to take another route, and that route is often Itamar Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit, where they are welcomed with open arms by a former member of their very own ranks.

The photo of mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein hung in the home of Otzma Yehudit chairman Itamar Ben Gvir. (Screen capture/Channel 13)

Bezalel Smotrich, leader of Religious Zionism, may not be as radical as Itamar Ben Gvir, but he is no angel. Smotrich had previously been arrested by the Shin Bet out of fear of nationalistic terrorist activities. Smotrich has previously called himself “A proud homophobe”, and has served as a lead organizer of efforts against Israel’s LGBT parades, calling them “Worse than Bestiality”. Like Ben Gvir, he opposes Reform and Conservative Judaism and wants full Halakhic rule over Israeli society. Both politicians also support annexation of Palestinian Territories, primarily the West Bank. Other problematic figures in Netanyahu’s government include Shas leader Aryeh Deri, known for insider trading, tax offenses, and taking bribes while in office, and Avi Maoz, known for being “proudly homophobic” and opposing Aliyah by Jews who are not considered Religious enough by his standards. What all of these men have in common, however, is racist beliefs and hatred of Arabs, a hatred that doesn’t limit itself to Palestinians, and even includes 2 Million Israeli Arabs, who Itamar Ben Gvir believes should be expelled from Israel. Ben Gvir has already began enacting these radical policies, doing so by ordering police to tear down Palestinian flags. While the context of the flag is up for debate, this is a raw violation of Free Political Speech, something that should worry every single Israeli.

Never before has Israel veered so close to becoming undemocratic as with this government. Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the current government, who is currently in his 15th year of being Prime Minister, is under investigation by Israel’s courts for corruption scandals. Despite this investigation, he not only was allowed to run for Prime Minister, but won. While Israel’s Attorney general, Gali Baharav-Miara, has spoken about this and is considering declaring Netanyahu unfit for office (at the time of writing), Netanyahu faces essentially no consequences for his actions, and is even considering overriding Israel’s Supreme Court. In a move supported by his coalition lackeys, he plans to pass legislation that will heavily weaken Israel’s courts, giving himself more power than them. The primary purpose of this: absolve himself from corruption charges.

While the topic of right versus left is a contentious topic everywhere in the world, rarely does it turn into courts being scrapped and leaders of a democratic state being able to grow a blind cult following. This pattern has been seen prior, with former American President Donald Trump not being held accountable for starting an insurrection, and the primary reason for it being his cult-like following among American Republicans, including those in Congress. Netanyahu’s coalition follows the same pattern, and his heroic status among the ever-increasing Israeli far-right are serious causes for alarm, and should concern anyone who wishes to see democracy thrive or who wishes to see the State of Israel thrive, especially Israeli Jews, as we are the ones with the most power to currently do something about this and ensure that Netanyahu is held accountable by courts does not remain in power the next time elections roll around.

Israelis protest against Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu on May 24, 2020 in Jerusalem, Israel. Amir Levy/Getty Images
About the Author
Luiz Gandelman is an 18 year old student originally from São Paulo, Brazil, who lives in Miami, Florida. He is involved with multiple Jewish and secular youth groups and political organizations. Luiz is a big basketball and Star Wars fan and an avid scuba diver. He is also a fan of geography, politics, history, and anything of the sort. Most importantly, he is a proud Jew.
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