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The Knesset Opposition Is Digging Its Own Grave

June 11, 2023

“Whomever opposes the proposal - opposes Zionism,” said the new Visionary of the State, Itamar Ben-Gvir, ahead of the government debate on his party’s proposal to enact a law according to which, “Zionism is a guiding value in the government’s actions,” which received the misleading nickname “Zionism law.”

38 years after that unfortunate United Nations resolution that defined Zionism as racism, Itamar Ben-Gvir is leading the Israeli government toward turning Zionism into an excuse for racism. He gives a seemingly patriotic name to the intensification of a policy of discrimination against Israel’s Arab and Druze citizens, using this name to incite against anyone who threatens to reveal the ugly and racist truth hidden behind it.

How absurd: the least Zionist government in the history of the State of Israel, dominated by ultra-Orthodox and Messianic extremists who would never have signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and oppose it with all their might and all their actions, is using Zionism to justify racism.

This proposal is part of a legislative frenzy primarily intending to strengthen Jewish supremacy - meaning the discrimination and delegitimization of Arab society. These bills will always be called by patriotic names, which will make it difficult for the centrists to object.

One example is a proposal submitted by the coalition whip, Member of Knesset Ofir Katz, which would make it possible to disqualify an MK from running due to “support of terrorism.” Sounds good, right? However, when the the details are understood, it is clear that, according to this proposal, any post, any statement that does not align with the Jewish “consensus,” would be grounds for disqualification - and if that MK is a party representative, the party would also be disqualified from running for Knesset election. Of course, there is no chance that this law would be applied to Jews such as Ben-Gvir, who idolizes the murderer Baruch Goldstein.

This bill has yet to come up for a vote, but other proposals have. One of them, by MK Almog Cohen from Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength), criminalizing the raising of the Palestinian flag in a group more thanthree people and punishable by imprisonment, was accepted two weeks ago by a large majority of 54 supporters to 16 who opposed. Apart from the representatives of the Arab factions and the Labor Party, only three members of Yesh Atid (Boaz Toporovsky, Ram Ben Barak and Vladimir Beliak) voted against the proposal - while the absolute majority of their faction and all of the members of the National Unity Party were absent, and the members of Yisrael Beiteinu supported it. It is worth noting that the State of Israel is a signatory on agreements with the Palestinian Authority, agreements which were signed under the Israeli and Palestinian flags - and has been benefitting from security cooperation with the PA, saving the lives of many Israelis over the years.

Photograph by Yosi Zamir via Shatil Stock

Yet despite all of this, afraid that they might be tarnished by a leftist stain, the majority of the opposition members fled the plenum during the debate on the law, without understanding that the law is a central and integral part of the right wing’s strategic plan to delegitimize Arab society and its representatives, and thus to fortify its own rule and ward off any realistic chance of replacement.

It is important to recognize that the endless sectoral gifts the Likud Party has been showering on its partners, with the goal of preserving the coalition, are destroying the economy, are already costing the party in public support, and will continue to do so in the future. As is the way of regimes shifting towards dictatorship, it is likely that this coalition will also look for ways to ensure its continuity, despite the weakening support, and the way to do so is via the delegitimization of the Arab society, which makes up r 21% of Israeli citizens, as well as its elected representatives.

Hence, as time goes on, we will see more and more legislation that mainly aims to criminalize Arab politics. It starts with waving the Palestinian flag, will continue with outlawing organizations, and will also reach the criminalization of expression. Everything will become criminal, illegal, terror-supporting, and then the supplementary legislation will arrive, which will seek to disqualify all of those suspected of such conduct, or of being members of those supposedly “illegal” organizations from the political campaigns. Thus, under the auspices of a regime coup, even a partial one. One which will cast fear on the Supreme Court and change its composition, even if ever so slightly, which will set restrictions on repealing legislation and more, the right wing’s strategic goal will have been achieved - the disqualification of most, if not all, of the Arab parties. All of this will take place at the same time as the deepening alienation of the Arab society from the state, which will be achieved by worsening the discrimination, along with the government’s unfathomable indifference to the loss of human life in the Arab society. The ultimate goal is to make a growing part of the Arab society to simply refrain from voting.

Therefore, those who think that the victims of this legislation are solely the Arab citizens, are gravely mistaken, as the result will be the victory of the racist right wing and with it, the guarantee of governance by the Likud and its partners. If the opposition does not realize this, and continues cooperating with the coalition’s anti-Arab legislation, it will dig its own grave as well as the chance of changing the regime. As long as the members of the opposition are afraid to oppose suggestions which bear patriotic names, but which also bear dictatorial intentions, they will assist the coalition in cornering them time and time again.

The public protest against the regime coup is as important as it gets, but if the opposition members fear confronting the racist bills, that result will be that while their voters are protesting out in the streets, they will assist legislation designed to perpetuate the Likud’s governance, along with its ultra-Orthodox, extremist partners.


Nadav Tamir is the CEO in Israel of the American pro-Israeli lobby J Street, a former diplomat in the Israeli missions in Washington and Boston, and a past political adviser to the president of the country. He is also a contributor of USA for Israeli Democracy.


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