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Bloodlands

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This (gift link) is a very sobering essay by Megan Stack, about the political situation in Israel in regard to the Palestinian question. The bottom line, per Stack, is that at least in regard to this question anything resembling a liberal let alone a left wing view in regard to Palestinian political autonomy basically doesn’t exist among Israeli Jews, and the pleasant fantasy clung to by so many liberal/left people in America that the problem is Netanyahu and his Likud party is simply that.

Instead, according to her analysis, the positions regarding Palestine among Israeli Jews (Israeli Arabs, who make up 20% of the country’s population, are increasingly marginalized legally and politically) run on a spectrum from the moderate or liberal position, which is perpetual managed apartheid, to the position on the right, which is something between ethnic cleansing and outright genocide:

But Israel’s slaughter in Gaza, the creeping famine, the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods — this, polling suggests, is the war the Israeli public wanted. A January survey found that 94 percent of Jewish Israelis said the force being used against Gaza was appropriate or even insufficient. In February, a poll found that most Jewish Israelis opposed food and medicine getting into Gaza. It was not Mr. Netanyahu alone but also his war cabinet members (including Benny Gantz, often invoked as the moderate alternative to Mr. Netanyahu) who unanimously rejected a Hamas deal to free Israeli hostages and, instead, began an assault on the city of Rafah, overflowing with displaced civilians.

“It’s so much easier to put everything on Netanyahu, because then you feel so good about yourself and Netanyahu is the darkness,” said Gideon Levy, an Israeli journalist who has documented Israel’s military occupation for decades. “But the darkness is everywhere.”

Analogies to the political situation in this country, where many a complacent centrist harbors the belief that the disappearance of Donald Trump would more or less magically mean the disappearance of the politics and culture that made him president, and may well make him president again, suggest themselves.

The October 7 terrorist attacks followed fifteen or so years during which the Palestinian problem had simply disappeared from the Jewish Israeli political consciousness: in survey after survey, no matter how many topics were raised, the Palestinian issue always came in last in terms of public concern. That complacent acceptance of the apartheid status quo has been replaced by something else, and that something else has nothing to do with any kind of lasting peaceful co-existence, let alone what has become the pure fantasy of a two-state solution. (I do wonder when old Middle East hands in this country are going to to acknowledge to themselves and/or the public that support for a two-state solution has become essentially non-existent among both Israelis and Palestinians).

There’s a reason Mr. Netanyahu keeps reminding everyone that he’s spent his career undermining Palestinian statehood: It’s a selling point. Mr. Gantz, who is more popular than Mr. Netanyahu and is often mentioned as a likely successor, is a centrist by Israeli standards — but he, too, has pushed back against international calls for a Palestinian state.

Daniel Levy describes the current divide among major Israeli politicians this way: Some believe in “managing the apartheid in a way that gives Palestinians more freedom — that’s [Yair] Lapid and maybe Gantz on some days,” while hard-liners like Mr. Smotrich and Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir “are really about getting rid of the Palestinians. Eradication. Displacement.”

The demographic and political reality is that “eradication” and “displacement” are vengeance fantasies. The Palestinian population has doubled since 1994, and has nowhere to go. There are apparently plenty of right wing Israelis who would like to literally murder the Palestinians out of existence, but that isn’t politically possible — the world’s indifference to Palestinian suffering doesn’t extend quite that far, and in 2024 genocides can’t be carried out even semi-covertly any more. Still, the longing for a final solution to the Palestinian question in Israel appears to be something that exists far beyond the extreme right wing fringe:

A handful of songs with lyrics calling for the annihilation of a dehumanized enemy have been circulated in Israel these past months, including “Launch,” a hip-hop glorification of the military promising “from kisses to guns, until Gaza is erased” and suggesting that the West Bank city of Jenin is under the “plague of the firstborn,” a reference to the biblical story in which God smites the eldest sons of Egypt. The smash hit “Harbu Darbu,” addressed to “you sons of Amalek,” promises “another X on the rifle, ’cause every dog will get what’s coming to him.”

“There is no forgiveness for swarms of rats,” another song goes. “They will die in their rat holes.”

Israeli shops hawk trendy products like a bumper sticker that reads, “Finish them,” and a pendant cut into the shape of Israel, with East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza seamlessly attached.

The fact is that genocidal fantasies now dominate both Israeli and Palestinian politics, although the ability to even begin to effectuate those fantasies remains highly asymmetrical. But as long as that’s the case, the pre-October 7 apartheid status quo is pretty much a best case scenario.

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