Israel: Just another crackpot regime in the Middle East

Israel: Just another crackpot regime in the Middle East
Comment: Israel claims to be the only democracy in the region, but its institutional racism demonstrates the state's tangential grasp on reality, writes Tristan Dunning.
6 min read
10 Mar, 2016
Binyamin Netanyahu has presided over the growth of outright racist views in Israel [Getty]

Latest polls from Israel, that bastion of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, have revealed that almost half of Israeli Jews believe in ethnically cleansing Arabs from the Jewish state.

Although this is unsurprising in itself, given that Israel's founding entailed the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinian Arabs in 1947 and 1948, it does, however, put another nail in the coffin of Israel's supposed membership of the democratic, "civilised" and "enlightened" West. 

Even if we ignore Israel's ongoing excesses in "mowing the lawn" in the Gaza Strip - that is, the periodic and deliberate use of disproportionate force aimed at flattening everything in sight - and the military occupation of the West Bank, the ongoing actions and statements of the political elite have highlighted the increasing divergence between acceptable societal norms in Israel and the West.

Lest we think that this recent poll is an outlier, below we examine a short rollcall of some of the more eyebrow-raising antics of Israel in recent years, ranging from humorously crackpot to morally repugnant.

Starting with the light-hearted, leaked memos recently revealed the fears of Agricultural Minister Uri Ariel, that neutering Jerusalem's burgeoning population of stray cats would contradict God's commandment to "go forth and multiply". 

His solution? To deport either all of the male cats or all of the female cats to a country willing to take them. 

I admit that when I first read this I thought it was a joke, or a clever parody lampooning a country which has frequently used deportation and population transfer as a tool of statecraft, whether the deportees be Palestinians, or African refugees shipped out in exchange for arms

To be fair, Ariel did propose a second solution: "We use the money [for spaying] to research ways to prevent stray animals from reproducing, for example a spray or powder that would stop the males from smelling the females."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's 2012 appearance at the UN, brandishing a picture of a cartoon bomb denouncing nuclear talks with Iran would be similarly humorous if Bibi's decades-long obsession with the Islamic Republic didn't have the capacity to trigger World War III. 

Netanyahu insisted Iran was on the verge of developing
a nuclear bomb, contrary to the opinion of the world's
intelligence community [Getty]

This episode lent further credence to the late Tony Judt's 2006 observation that Israel is akin to a petulant adolescent who refuses to grow up.  

Insouciant at being on the wrong side of history vis-à-vis the successful resolution of the Iranian nuclear stand-off in early 2016, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon declared: "In Syria, if the choice is between Iran and the Islamic State, I choose the Islamic State."

A UN report in 2014 asserting that Israel aided and abetted Nusra Front cadres - the official al-Qaeda franchise in Syria - seems to suggest that this position is somewhat more than rhetorical.

Rewind to 2006, when Dov Weiglass, a senior aide to then Prime Minister Ehud Barak, candidly explained that the siege of Gaza was "like meeting a dietician".

"We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not starve to death," he said."

In 2009, US Secretary of State John Kerry was not the only one flabbergasted to discover that pasta and coriander were on the list of "dangerous" items prohibited by the siege on the Gaza Strip, home to more than 1.5 million people.

It keeps going

In 2013, Israel arguably even engaged in genocide when it injected Ethiopian Jews with contraceptives without their knowledge or consent. According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the imposition of measures to prevent the reproduction of a target group constitutes one aspect of genocide.

During the 2014 assault on Gaza, Netanyahu repugnantly complained that "telegenically dead" Palestinians undermined Israel's image abroad. Tel Aviv's ironically titled justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, also chimed in, likening Palestinian children to "little snakes" whose mothers should be subject to collective punishment. 

Morchedai Kedar opined that the only way to deter suicide bombers was to rape their mothers and sisters

Similarly, in 2015, Tzipi Hovetely, the deputy foreign minister - again, oxymoronically, Israel's "top diplomat" - essentially informed a UN conference that Palestinian children wanted to become engineers in order to engage in terrorism. 

Not to be outdone by the political establishment in the realm of repellent public remarks, Israel's Ivory Tower has weighed in, too.

In 2014, academic Morchedai Kedar opined that the only way to deter suicide bombers was to rape their mothers and sisters in retaliation.


Facing imminent defeat in Israel's March 2015 elections, Netanyahu resorted to race-baiting, warning Israeli Jews that Arabs were voting "in droves" and declaring that no Palestinian state would be established during his tenure. 

Responding to his racist rabble-rousing, the Israeli public rallied to his side in order to snatch electoral victory from the jaws of defeat. The United States was not amused, at least regarding the statehood comments, which Washington saw as deliberately undermining a peace process to which it had been committed for years.

In August 2015, Bibi clumsily tried to capitalise on global Islamic State-induced hysteria declaring that "ISIS is Hamas and Hamas is ISIS", only to be shot down by that stronghold of geopolitical nuance, the US State Department.

Netanyahu's subsequent statements that Palestinians - and Grand Mufti Amin Hajj al-Husseini in particular - were responsible for the Holocaust even earned him a rare rebuke from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In a bizarre pantomime, the German government explained in no uncertain terms that Germany was responsible for the Holocaust, not Palestinians.

Yet another diplomatic faux pas cropped up in early 2016, when Netanyahu accused the unequivocally placid UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, of inciting terrorism.

And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only do the stupefying antics of Israel's political elite demonstrate their tangential grasp on reality, but they also illuminate the increasing divergence between acceptable societal norms in Israel and the West.

Not only are Tel Aviv's norms undeniably racist and discriminatory, they are increasingly visible in the era of mass communications and social media. Indeed, no less than Israeli President Reuven Rivlin - a former MP for the right-wing Likud to boot - declared in 2015 that "Israel is a sick society with an illness that demands treatment" to rescue it from its racist proclivities.

As Rivlen has noted in recent days, the latest polls should "act as a wake-up call" - not only in Israel, but rather in illustrating to the world the true nature of the regime ruling over the Holy Land.

Dr Tristan Dunning is an adjunct research fellow in the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at the University in Queensland in Australia.

He is the author of Hamas, Jihad and Popular Legitimacy: Reinterpreting Resistance in Palestine published in Routledge's Critical Studies on Terrorism in February 2016.

Follow him on Twitter: @trisdunning

Opinions in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.