17 November 2017

Meet Avi Gabbay, Israeli Labour's Racist New Leader

According to the Jewish Labour Movement's 'Sister Party 'Settlements represent the ‘beautiful face of Zionism’
“The beautiful face of Zionism”- protecting settlements  from the natives. A checkpoint in the Jordan Valley, which “must remain” under Israeli state control; photo on January 2, 2014 by Uri Lenz/Flash90
Officially both the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel are in favour of a 2 State Solution.  However it is axiomatic that a genuine Palestinian state can’t come into existence whilst the Zionist settlement blocks are in existence. 

The present Israeli cabinet’ viewpoint is explained well in Ben White’s excellent new pamphlet Israeli incitement, rejectionism & anti-Palestinian racism.  As Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan explained:
I think all the members of the cabinet oppose a Palestinian state, and the prime minister first among them.
Indeed he is.  Or as the religious nut Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Tsipi Hotoveli explained :

“We need to return to the basic truth of our rights to this country,” she said. “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that.”

However it is not only Likud that opposes a 2 State Solution.  So too does the Israeli Labour Party.  Its position of no withdrawal of the settlements means that there cannot be a Palestinian state.  Of course it still hypocritically pretends that there can be a Palestinian state but what it is really talking about is a Bantustan or a series of Bantustans, the model that was first pioneered in Apartheid South Africa.

The reason why LFI and JLM parade their 'support' of a 2 State Solution (whilst opposing any criticism whatsoever of Israel's military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza) is because they know there will never be a 2 state solution.  Any genuine supporter of such a solution would, as a precondition oppose the Military Occupation and demand the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory.  They would oppose the military courts, the use of torture, administrative detention, the checkpoints and the theft of Palestinian land. 

The JLM and LFI do none of these things.

As Uri Avnery explains, the Israeli Labour Party, which resembles a political corpse without a purpose, has elected a new leader, Avi Gabbay.  He has barely been a member of the party for more than 5 minutes, having previously served in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet.  
The ILP have reached for someone on the Right in the hope of fooling Israel’s electorate that the Israeli Labour Party too is on the Right.
Logically there really is no reason for the ILP to have to convince anyone it is not on the Left.  It was the original party of government in Israel for 30 years.  It waged 3 wars and launched numerous attacks on its neighbours.  For most of its time in government Israel’s Arabs were under military rule.  It developed the nuclear bomb, expelled the Palestinian refugees and formed the alliance with the United States.  It developed all the structures of Zionist Apartheid that we see today.  However even the word ‘Labour’ is likely to put people off in a state where even the word ‘leftist’ is a term of abuse.
The problem for the ILP was in bringing in the Arab Jews to form a Jewish working class and then treating them like dirt.  The ILP was a party of the Ashkenazi Jews and after a time these poor whites decided to vote, in 1977, for Menachem Begin of Likud.  With just two interruptions, the history of Israeli governments since then has been a history of the rule of Likud in alliance mainly with far-Right and religious parties (Shimon Peres was a rotating Prime Minister in 1984). 
As former leader Shelly Yacimovich admits, the Israeli Labour Party is not and never has been a left-wing party.  It was always resolutely opposed to class politics, even of the social democratic version  It was a party of Jewish labour and it believed that the national struggle against the indigenous Arabs was the class struggle.  The Arabs were transformed into the class enemy and the Jewish capitalists were their friends.  Ben Gurion coined the slogan ‘from class to nation’ to accommodate this perspective. 
Professor Zeev Sternhell’s Founding Myths of Israel describes how it is a myth to ever believe that the ILP ever had a socialist beginning.  From the start its 2 components – Ahdut Haavodah and Hapoel Hatzair- which merged in 1930 to form Mapai, were resolutely anti-socialist.
What is an outrage is that this openly racist party is proudly described by the Jewish Labour Movement as its ‘sister’ party. 
The ILP’s leader previous leader Isaac Herzog was no slouch when it came to racism.  Herzog declared that his nightmare was waking up to find that Israel had a Palestinian Prime Minister and 61 Palestinian Members of Israel’s Knesset .  Who needs the Right when we have Isaac Herzog?  Herzog also declared that he wanted to dispel the false impression that the ILP were ‘Arab Lovers’ Herzog slammed for remark about ‘Arab lovers’.  Imagine that someone had said their nightmare was to wake up and find Britain had a Jewish Prime Minister or that the Labour Party was not a ‘Jew lovers’ party.  The term ‘Jew lover’ and ‘N***** Lover’ used to be part of the language of the National Front and BNP.  The fact that it trips off the tongue of the head of Israeli Labour should be an indication of what Zionism and the JLM are really about.
It is a complete disgrace that the JLM has not been disaffiliated from the Labour Party.  When Michael Kalmanovitz suggested at the Free Speech on Israel meeting at Labour Party conference that the Jewish Labour Movement should be disaffiliated, the Right went into hysterics.  After all ‘supporting the world’s only Jewish state is a mainstream and longstanding Labour position’.  So is supporting the world’s only Apartheid state!  It is difficult sometimes to get it across that religious states went out of fashion around the late 18th century with the French Revolution.  The identification of a state with a religion, especially a state that gives privileges to members of a particular religion, is a badge of racism.  The Zionists often point to the Islamic states of Iran and Saudi Arabia.  These are not exactly model states but the role of Islam is to legitimate the repression that Muslims experience not to accord them privileges.
The Israeli Labour Party is a party of segregation and Jewish supremacy.  It openly states that it does not believe Jews and Arabs can co-exist in one state.  Its attitude to its sole Arab MK, Zouheir Bahloul  is instructive.  Because he refused to attend the Balfour Day celebrations he has been told he will not be allowed to stand for the ILP again.  He was expected to be an Arab Zionist and celebrate the misfortune of his own people.  The only reason an Arab is a member is because historically the ILP gained a significant but today declining percentage of the old clientist Arab vote.
The affiliation of the JLM to the Labour Party is a historical anachronism, a left-over from the days when the Labour Party supported the British Empire.  It was natural that since the Zionists were partners in crime with British imperialism in Palestine that they should have a privileged status in the Labour Party.  This was a position that Jeremy Corbyn used to support.  Socialists should be raising this demand in the Labour Party once again.  Of course this has nothing to do with expelling Jews from the Labour Party as the Zionists assert.  On the contrary they could affiliated the newly formed Jewish Voices for Labour .  I’m not convinced that Jews should have a Jewish section in the Labour Party but to appease the liberals I am not opposed to a non-Zionist Jewish section.  However the present racist Zionist section should be removed as soon as possible.

ONE DAY the Israeli Labor Party felt that it needed a new leader.

That happens to this party every couple of years. The party is in bad shape. It looks more like a political corpse than a living organism. Wanted: a new leader, charismatic, energetic, enthusiastic.

So they found Avi Gabbay.

Why him? Nobody is really sure.

Avi Gabbay has no visible qualities of political leadership. No charisma at all. No special energy. No enthusiasm himself and no ability to inspire enthusiasm in others.

After serving as a government employee dealing with the mobile phone industry, he himself became the successful director of the largest mobile phone concern. Then he went into politics and joined a moderate right-wing party, and was appointed Minister for the Protection of the Environment. When the extreme right-winger Avigdor Lieberman was appointed Minister of Defense, Gabbay resigned from the government and his party and joined Labor. That was only a year ago.

He has one significant asset: he is a Mizrahi, an oriental Jew. His parents are immigrants from Morocco, he is the seventh of eight children. Since the Labor party is considered a Western, Ashkenazi, elitist grouping, these passive attributes are important. Up to a point.

GABBAY DID not waste time in presenting his political identity card.

First he made a speech asserting that he will not sit in the same government with the "Joint List".

The Joint List is the united (or disunited) list of the Arab community in Israel. It joins together the three very different “Arab” parties: the Communist party, which is overwhelmingly Arab, but includes some Jews (including a Jewish member of parliament), the Balad party, which is secular and nationalist, and a religious Islamic party.

How come these diverse parties created a joint list? They owe this achievement to the genius of the great Arab-hater, Avigdor Lieberman (see above), who saw that all three parties were small and decided to eliminate them by raising the electoral threshold. But rather than perish separately they decided to survive together. There is no doubt that their list represents the vast majority of Israel's Palestinian citizens, who constitute more than 20% of the population. Strange as this may sound, every fifth Israeli is an Arab.

The simple numerical fact is that without the support of the Arab members in the Knesset, no left-wing government can exist. Yitzhak Rabin would not have become prime minister, and the Oslo agreement would not have come into being, without the support "from the outside" of the Arab bloc.

Then why did they not join Rabin's government? Both sides were afraid of losing votes. Many Jews cannot envision a government including Arabs, and many Arabs cannot envision their representatives sharing "collective responsibility" in a government mainly occupied with fighting Arabs.

This has not changed. It is highly unlikely that the Arabs would join a Gabbay government if invited, and even more unlikely that they would receive such an invitation.

So why make such a declaration? Gabbay is no fool. Far from it. He believes that the Arabs are in his pocket anyhow. They could not join a Likud government. By making a blatantly anti-Arab declaration, he hopes to attract right-wing voters.

His predecessor, Yitzhak Herzog, publicly complained that too many people considered the Labor party to consist of "Arab-lovers". Terrible.

IF ANYONE hoped that this was a one-time anomaly, Gabbay put them right. After the first blow came more.

He declared that "we have no partner for peace". This is the most dangerous slogan of the populists. "No partner" means that there is no sense in making an effort. There will never be peace. Never ever.

He declared that God promised the Jews the entire land between the sea and the Jordan. That is not quite correct: God promised us all the land from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt. God never made good on that promise.

Last week Gabbay declared that in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians, not a single Jewish settlement in the West Bank would be evacuated.

Until now, there has been tacit agreement between Israeli and Palestinian peace activists that peace will be based on a limited exchange of territories. The so-called "settlement blocs" (clusters of settlements near the green-line border) will be joined to Israel, and an equivalent area of Israeli territory (for example, along the Gaza Strip) will be ceded to Palestine. This would leave some dozens of "isolated" settlements in the West Bank, generally inhabited by fanatical religious right-wingers, which must be evacuated by force.

Gabbay's new statement means that after a peace agreement, these islands of racist extremism will continue to exist where they are. No Palestinian will ever agree to that. It makes peace impossible, even in theory.

In general, Gabbay agrees to the "two-state solution" – but under certain conditions. First, the Israel army would be free to act throughout the demilitarized Palestinian state. The Israeli army would also be positioned along the Jordan River, turning the Palestinian "state" into a kind of enclave.

This is a "peace plan" without takers. Gabbay is much too clever not to realize this. But all this is not devised for Arab ears. It is meant to attract right-wing Israelis. Since a Labor-led "center-left" coalition needs rightist or religious votes, the reasoning looks sound. But it isn't.

There is no chance whatsoever that a significant number of rightists will move to the left, even if the left is led by a person like Gabbay. Rightists detest the Labor party, not since yesterday, but have done so for generations.

THE LABOR party was born a hundred years ago. It was the main political force that led to the creation of the State of Israel, and led it for almost thirty years. Its power was immense, many (including me) accused it of dictatorial tendencies.

During all these years, the main occupation of the Zionist leadership was the historical fight against the Palestinian people for the possession of the country. Except for a tiny minority, the party was always nationalist, even militaristic. It was left-wing only in its social activities. It created the Jewish workers movement, the powerful trade union (the "Histadrut"), the Kibbutzim and much more.

This social network has long since degenerated. Corruption became endemic, many scandals were uncovered (mainly by my magazine). When the right-wing under Menachem Begin finally took over, in 1977, the Labor Party was already a living corpse. It has changed its name many times (its current name is "the Zionist Camp") but it has dwindled from election to election.

Avi Gabbay was called in as a savior. His nationalist declarations are conceived as patent medicines. No chance.

CAN THE Labor Party be saved at all? I doubt it.

In the last elections, after a powerful, spontaneous social upheaval, there seemed to be a new chance. Some of the young leaders, female and male, who had appeared from nowhere, joined the Labor Party and entered the Knesset. They are genuine leftists and peace activists. Somehow, their voices became quieter and quieter. Instead of inspiring the party, the party subdued them. It seems to be beyond repair.

A question never asked is – does the party really, really want to assume power? On the face of it, the answer is yes, of course. Isn't that the supreme prize of politics?

Well, I doubt it. The existence of a parliamentary opposition is a cozy one. I know, because I was in that situation for ten years. The Knesset is a good place, you are coddled all the time by the ushers, you get a good salary and an office, you have no responsibilities at all (unless you create them for yourself). You must, of course, make an effort to be re-elected every four years. So, if you are not particularly keen on becoming a minister, with all the work and responsibilities and public exposure that this entails, you just stay put.

WHAT IS the practical conclusion? To forget the Labor Party and create a new political force.

We need new leaders, young, charismatic and resolute, with clear-cut aims, who can energize the peace camp.

I do not subscribe to the picture of a public divided between a right-wing majority and a left-wing minority, with the orthodox on one side and the Arabs on the other.

I believe that there is a right-wing minority and a left-wing minority. Between the two there is the great mass of the people, waiting for a message, desiring peace but brainwashed into believing that peace is impossible ("there is no partner").

WHAT WE NEED is a new start. 

Labour chief: Settlements represent the ‘beautiful face of Zionism’

Shifting further rightwards, Avi Gabbay lauds settlers’ ‘determination,’ says Israel must retain Jordan Valley, stresses imperative for national unity

By Alexander Fulbright, Times of Israel
October 19, 2017

Labour Party leader Avi Gabbay on Thursday called the settlement enterprise “the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism” and said Israel must retain control over the Jordan Valley in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

“The settlement [project] was and remains the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism,” he said, in quotes carried by Army Radio in a pre-recorded video for an event celebrating 50 years of settlement in the Jordan Valley.

“Over the years, regardless of the party in power, the settlement project demonstrated commitment, determination, and love of the country. You, the settlers, are the pioneers of our generations, people who act in the face of adversity, who cause the wilderness to bloom, who realize the impossible,” he added.

Labour party leader Avi Gabbay leads a Zionist Union faction meeting at the Knesset on July 24, 2017. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90

Gabbay’s remarks marked further dramatic evidence of his shift to the right. They came days after he said in an interview he would not evacuate West Bank settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, in comments that represented a dramatic break from the historical stance of the dovish Labour party.

In the past week, he has also said he would not have the Joint (Arab) List as a member of any coalition he heads, and indicated he was “unsure” that Israel has a viable partner on the Palestinian side for a peace accord.

His position on ruling out the evacuation of settlements has been condemned by a number of lawmakers from the Zionist Union, an amalgam of Labour and the Hatnua party.

Gabbay’s comments earlier this week were seen by many as further proof of Labour’s rightward shift since he was elected chairman in July as part of a bid to pick up more moderate members of the ruling Likud party and supporters of the centrist Yesh Atid.

On Thursday, Gabbay also said Israel must maintain control over the Jordan Valley as “Israel’s eastern security buffer” under a future peace agreement, echoing a sentiment expressed by previous Labour leaders, most notably Yitzhak Rabin.

“For us, the Jordan Valley was and will remain Israel’s eastern security buffer. And security requires settlement,” he said.

“But the security of the Jewish people in its land requires not only tanks and fences, but also national unity,” added Gabbay. “And this is our duty as public servants, to be moderate and remember in every statement we make that without unity there is no nation, and no state.”

Speaking at the Jordan Valley event later Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the area a “strategic defensive belt” for Israel and said the Jewish state will never relinquish control over it.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at an event marking 50 years of settlement in the Jordan Valley on October 19, 2017, near the Ma’ale Efraim settlement in the West Bank. Photo by Gali Tibbon/AFP
“[The Jordan Valley] has supreme security importance for the State of Israel. The Middle East is unstable and violent. The Jordan Valley is a strategic defensive belt for the state and without it the fundamentalist flood would reach the interior of the country,” said Netanyahu.

“That’s why our eastern line of defence begins in this place. If we are not here, then Tehran and Hamastan will be here. We won’t allow this to happen,” he added. “The Jordan Valley will always be a part of the State of Israel.”

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report
In interview with pro-settler media outlet Arutz Sheva, Labor head and opposition leader says Labor has always been a centrist party.

Jonathan Lis Nov 08, 2012 7:19 PM
Former leader Shelley Yacomovich - Israeli Labour was never a left-wing party

The Labor Party never was a left-wing party, but rather a centrist one, its chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich asserted on Thursday.

In an interview with the settlement-movement radio station Arutz Sheva, Yacimovich said that calling Labor a left-wing party is a historical injustice. "Labor has always drawn its power from being a centrist party. There have been both hawks and doves within its ranks, and there has always been an argument among them. Labor has always drawn its power from advocating peace, but pragmatically," she said.

Over the last few months, Yacimovich has been courting right-leaning voters, mostly because of an in-depth poll conducted for her party, which suggests that Likud could lose five Knesset seats to Labor in the coming election.

In addition, Yacimovich has recently been expressing intentions to implement a policy similar to that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, regarding negotiations with the Palestinians.

Yacimovich told her interviewer that she appreciates the settler community. “I have appreciation for an ideological community, and I believe that any policy move must be based on national consensus and not come from a place of hatred, hostility or disrespect.

“The Labor party’s pragmatic view is two states for two peoples, a permanent arrangement with the Palestinians, as well as determining borders and territorial exchanges that would retain the settlement blocs and 80 percent of the settlers. The opposite of this arrangement would be a single state, and that would be a danger to a Jewish and democratic state.” 

Yacimovich used the words “hityashvut” and “mityashvim,” which are less politically charged words for “settlement” and “settlers” than the more commonly used “hitnahlut” and “mitnahlim.”

Some 83 Labor party members are expected to run for a spot on the party’s Knesset list. The party’s central election committee Thursday approved their candidacies, including the group of young, influential “rising stars” that recently joined the party, even though most of them have not been party members for at least six months as required by the party bylaws.

Thus, Merav Michaeli’s candidacy was approved, although sources close to Yacimovich have hinted recently that they would have preferred not to allow Michaeli to run. (Michaeli, a journalist and social activist, is a columnist for Haaretz.) “There are more than a few people trying to take advantage of the party’s momentum in the polls to gain a seat in the Knesset at the expense of people who have been party loyalists for years,” said Labor party officials.

The committee also approved the candidacies of social protest leaders Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli; journalist Miki Rosenthal; businessman Erel Margalit; former commander of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit, Omer Bar Lev; educator Hili Tropper; executive director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Gilad Kariv; and two Kadima MKs, Nino Abesadze and Nachman Shai.

Arab MK from Zionist Union plans to skip Knesset’s Balfour tribute

'This is not a joint celebration for me and my Jewish friends' says Zoheir Bahloul; MKs from Joint (Arab) List also to stay away

Zionist Union MK Zouheir Bahloul in the Knesset on December 5, 2016. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

An Arab lawmaker from the Zionist Union faction said Monday that he would not be attending a Knesset ceremony next week marking the 100th year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
“It is not out of defiance that I will not be attending the session,” Zoheir Bahlul told Channel 2. “This is simply not a joint celebration for me and my Jewish friends.”
In the Balfour Declaration, which was issued on November 2, 1917, then-UK foreign secretary Arthur Balfour told British Jewish leader Lord Walter Rothschild that His Majesty’s government “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Although the lawmaker recognized the strength of his Israeli identity, he also emphasized his equally strong connection to the Palestinian people. “What about my people?” he asked. “You (the Jewish people) received the the right to self-determination through the Balfour Declaration, while the same Palestinian goes completely ignored.”
The lawmaker and former sport broadcaster added that he had no problem being a member of a Zionist faction, but celebrating the Zionist character of the state when part of his own identity as a Palestinian remains unrecognized was something he could not accept. “I do not think it would be appropriate to participate when I myself am not free,” Bahloul said.
Close associates of new Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay told Channel 2 that Bahloul’s remarks “were too extreme and that his place is no longer in the party.” They added that this would be the Arab lawmaker’s last term on the faction list, although Gabbay does not have the authority to remove members elected by Labor voters.
Joint (Arab) List MK Youssef Jabareen during a committee meeting in the Knesset, December 13, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Also announcing that they would not be participating in the centennial celebration were the members of the Joint (Arab) List faction. “Of course we will not be participating in the event honoring the Balfour Declaration,” said one of its MKs, Youssef Jabareen, in a Monday statement. “Britain had promised land that did not even belong to it… ignoring its original inhabitants and without even asking them.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will leave for Britain on Tuesday to take part in the UK’s own celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration along with Prime Minister Theresa May and leaders of the British Jewish community.

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