Israel's Government of Psychopaths
The hateful backgrounds and ideologies of the current Israeli cabinet
It’s hard to defend the indefensible. It’s a little easier if you pretend it’s something other than what it is.
Over the past few days, there have been a number of people who have looked at everything going on in the world and decided that the most productive thing to do is scold supporters of Palestine over the language they use to describe the actions of the Israeli government. Their contention is that it is improper to even insinuate that Netanyahu and his war cabinet are engaging in anything other than warfare and warfare alone. There can be disagreements over tactics, strategy, and Jewish Israeli politics, of course—hardly any of these bellyachers would call themselves Likudniks. But larger questions about what the Israeli government is engaged in, and what its ultimate intentions may be, are out of the question. We must simply assume that everything they are doing comes from a pure-hearted desire for safety and leave it at that.
This is a very curious presumption. You can only really believe in it if you also believe that history started sometime earlier this month, and that all of the figures currently running the country burst out of thin air around then. In such a world, it might be reasonable to give the Israeli government the benefit of the doubt. However, we do not live in such a world. The people making up the Israeli government are real human beings, with long careers in politics, and many, many, many statements on Palestine. So, to help, I have gone over the political backgrounds and beliefs of the current top members and parties of the Israeli government. All of the information comes from their own statements, past actions, and Israeli political reporting. I hope it proves useful for you if you find yourself in a discussion with those who are acting as if we have no frame of reference for what the country is currently doing.
Party: Otzma Yehudit
Major Player: Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir
To start, we have the single most unfortunate fact for hasbarists assigned with selling Zionism to the world’s many progressive Jews. This fact is the existence and relevance of Itamar Ben-Gvir, current Israeli Minister of National Security and head of Otzma Yehudit (lit. “Jewish Power”).
If Ben-Gvir did not actually exist, any description of him would come across as a crude, over-the-top parody of Zionism. Currently running the ministry that once singled him out as a “good candidate for detention,” Ben-Gvir has dedicated his entire life to anti-Arab racism. Starting as a teenager, he moved around between several organizations that advocated for the ethnic cleansing of Arabs until settling on Kach, a fascist political party led by the convicted Israeli-American terrorist Meir Kahane. Kach, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, and Israel itself, disavowed democracy and called for Israel to turn into a theocratic ethnostate. In their world, all of Palestine and Jordan, along with parts of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, were to be annexed by the Jewish state. Arabs who came under Israeli control would either flee or be enslaved. All territory under Israeli control would be opened up for Jewish settlement. Marriage and sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews would be banned. The army would be given shoot-to-kill orders against anyone who attempted to resist this regime.
Because of how extreme this all is, you may be wondering if I’m exaggerating things. I’m not. All you have to do to see where Kahane and his followers stood is to look at the laws he proposed while in the Israeli parliament, such as:
“Non-Jews in the State of Israel will be without any national rights and without any part in political proceedings in the State of Israel. A non-Jew will not be able to be appointed to any position of authority and will not be able to vote in elections to the Knesset or to any other state and public body.”
“Non-Jews will be obliged to assume duties, taxes and slavery. If he does not agree to slavery and taxes, he will be forcibly deported.”
“A non-Jew will not live within the jurisdiction of the city of Jerusalem.”
“A non-Jew who has a marital relationship with a Jew is liable to 50 years in prison. A Jewish prostitute or a Jewish male who has an affair with a non-Jewish male is sentenced to five years in prison.”
Ben-Gvir served as this party’s youth coordinator.
Today, Kach no longer exists. The party faced a mortal blow with Kahane’s 1990 assassination and was officially banned in Israel in 1994 after party supporter Baruch Goldstein went on a shooting spree and murdered 29 people in a Hebron mosque. But Itamar Ben-Gvir has carried on its legacy ever since, both in word and deed. According to The New Yorker, he has been convicted of criminal charges at least eight times, including but not limited to support for a terrorist organization and incitement to racism. His criminal record is so long that a court reportedly once had to change the ink in their Xerox when printing it out. In his speeches, Ben-Gvir refers Kahane as nothing less than a saint; as for Goldstein, the terrorist mass murderer, Ben-Gvir hung a gigantic mural of him in his living room for almost the entirety of his adult life, only taking it down recently when fellow ultra-right settlers said it was bad optics. He still refers to both as “martyrs” to this day, even in speeches given in his capacity as National Security Minister.
Ben-Gvir first came to public attention in Israel in the mid-1990s as a hardline activist against then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Oslo accords, and peace with Palestinians as a concept. And as the Israeli right’s rhetoric towards the Prime Minister and his policies became increasingly violent, Ben-Gvir was right in the middle of it, seemingly either closely associated with or directly engaged in attempts to physically harm Rabin. On live TV in 1995, Ben-Gvir was first introduced to the Israeli public brandishing a Cadillac emblem that had been ripped off of Rabin’s car. Speaking to reporters, he declared that, “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him, too.”
Rabin would be assassinated by a right-wing extremist five weeks later.
Also in 1995, Ben-Gvir was recorded dressed as Goldstein during the celebration of Purim. He declared to an interviewer that Goldstein was his “hero.” From his neck, he wore a placard bearing the inscription “Blessed is the man who opens fire.”
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