Israel’s government plans to set up a new, violent militia to unleash on Palestinians, under the control of far right “security” minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Ben-Gvir wants the new National Guard, owned by his ministry, to “restore governance” in Palestinian areas inside Israel’s borders.
He has talked repeatedly about ending “lawlessness” in the Negev desert, where Palestinian Bedouins have resisted state drives to evict them. And “sources close to him” have told Israeli media that the guard will seek to “restore governance” in cities such as Lydd and Ramle.
These are cities with large Palestinian populations, which now face attempts to drive them out by Israeli activists. They were also at the heart of a Palestinian uprising inside Israel’s borders in May 2021, during which protesters fought off racist Israeli gangs.
Ben-Gvir is a disciple of Meir Kahane, who led a terrorist movement for Israel to seize all Palestinian land permanently, segregate Arabs and deny them all political rights.
Until recently, he had a portrait on his living wall of Baruch Goldstein, who carried out a massacre of Palestinians in the West Bank in 1994.
During an election campaign last year, and since his appointment as minister, he’s made repeated visits to areas of Jerusalem that his supporters want to push Palestinians out of. In one campaign visit he pulled out a pistol and declared to his supporters “If they throw stones, shoot them.”
Now his party props up a right wing coalition government headed by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. And it seems likely his supporters will form part of the 2,000 strong National Guard.
Netanyahu promised Ben-Gvir the militia this week in exchange for allowing him to retreat over government reforms that have split the Israeli state.
Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir both want to push through changes that would give the government more power to do as it pleases without the courts interfering. They hope this will make it easier to bring in even more terrible repressive measures to use against Palestinians.
But a wave of protests and a general strike on Monday forced Netanyahu to pause the plans. He was only able to do so by paying Ben-Gvir off by granting him the militia.
Right wing supporters of the government have already attacked anti-government Israeli protesters and Palestinian passers-by on the street. Yet Palestinian citizens of Israel have—rightly—stayed away from the “pro-democracy movement.”
This is partly because the movement’s organisers have made an effort to keep demands for Palestinian liberation off the protests. They have driven out small groups of Israeli protesters who tried to turn up on demonstrations with Palestinian flags.
And prominent figures in the movement include former military leaders and reservists who speak proudly of how they fought to enforce the military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Underlying this is the fact that the movement aims to defend a pillar of Israel’s apartheid, military regime. Israel has long been in crisis because of its occupation of Palestine. No political force in Israel is willing to give up the occupation. But neither will they accept Palestinians as citizens, as they say this would undermine Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.
Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir’s answer is to unleash even more violent, repressive force against Palestinians to push them into ever smaller, marginalised scraps of land.
The government reforms will help them do that—but large sections of Israeli society and the state fear this will trash their ability to claim Israel is a “democratic” state. That claim has been central to defending and justifying Palestinian oppression.
Now, Israel’s crisis is pushing closer to a violent rupture, which Palestinians may well bear the brunt of. Yet the solution isn’t to defend Israel’s fake “democracy”—but to replace it through struggle with a single, democratic state in all of Palestine.
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