Receive latest posts
Great! Please check your inbox and click the confirmation link.
Sorry, something went wrong. Please try again.

Stop blaming Bibi and the far-right. It's Israel.

3 min read
An Israeli tank manoeuvres in sandy fields, near a fence with barbed wire
An Israeli tank manoeuvres in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Many people argue that Israeli atrocities against Palestinians reflect the ideology of Netanyahu & the far-right, and that we shouldn't blame Israel as a whole. So to clarify: ethnic cleansing has been going on since Israel's birth in 1948—regardless of who led the country.

During the civil war that led to the establishment of the state of Israel and 700,000 Palestinians refugees (Nakba), ethnic cleansing was ordered directly by Ben Gurion, Israel's founding father and a leader of the left-wing Mapai party.

It was also Ben Gurion who ordered the IDF to poison water wells and spread typhoid bacteria in Arab villages and cities—a clear act of biological warfare. Still not a far-right extremist: just the left-wing founding father of Israel.

For half a century, Israel has expanded settlements in the West Bank at a steady pace, no matter who was in power. On this graph, we literally cannot see any drop in the speed of expansion during left-wing (84-86, 92-96, 99-01) or centrist (06-09) prime ministers.

Bar graph by Vox on "settler population in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), showing constant growth between the early 1980s and the late 2010s

It's worth repeating: since Israel started building settlements in the West Bank, every single Israeli government—no matter its political inclination—expanded settlements. Netanyahu and the Israeli far-right are merely following in the footsteps of their predecessors.

The separation barrier in the West Bank took decades and many successive governments to build. The approval of the route (which effectively annexed huge amounts of Palestinian land) and the construction were done by centrist and "regular" right-wing governments.

The regime of apartheid in the West Bank (segregated roads, military checkpoints, separate judicial systems for Jews & Arabs, etc) was built over decades, by all Israeli successive governments. This chart by Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din shows the bureaucracy of a 50-year long occupation.

Organizational chart of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories

The isolation of Gaza was also in the making long before the far-right came to power. The first barrier was built in 1995, a full 12 years before Hamas took control of the strip. Israel started blockading Gaza as collective punishment in the 1990s.

After Netanyahu's 2015 re-election Yousef Munayyer said Bibi's win was good for Palestinians as he doesn't pretend to seek peace, prompting global pressure on Israel. But the Israeli left creates "a perception of change" without ever delivering.

Things have definitely worsened since the messianic far-right came to power: settler violence (with Israeli army protection) and land grabs are bolder and more intense than ever before. But ethnic cleansing was always there. It was just not as blatant.

As a Jew who lived in Israel & has plenty of Zionist friends & relatives, I understand why we want to blame Netanyahu and the Israeli far-right: we want to believe that Israel isn’t inherently bad; that the one and only "Jewish" state couldn't oppress another people.

We want to believe that the Jewish people isn't capable of it. We've suffered too much & for too long to reproduce onto others what was done onto us. We like to believe it's only a minority—Netanyahu and the far-right—so we can keep the idea of our beloved Israel untainted.

But hard historical facts don't lie: there is no specific government or political party that can be blamed. It is the state of Israel as a whole that has engaged, for the past 75 years, in ethnic cleansing, dispossession, and extreme violence against Palestinians.

Once we accept that it's not a government but Israel as a whole, we can start seeing that boycotts and sanctions aren't meant to threaten the Jewish people. They are necessary tools to pressure Israel to end the occupation.