21 February 2024

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The Genie Is Out Of The Bottle

The Genie Is Out Of The Bottle

The Genie Is Out Of The Bottle

By Shrouq Tariq

The start of an end of an apartheid state

The Northern Hemisphere has often positioned itself as the champion and embodiment of democracy, showcasing how governments can function cohesively with state institutions in harmony. It has also criticised developing and underdeveloped nations for not aligning with democratic principles and coordinated institutions.

One such case pertains to the United States of America’s ally, Israel. Israel’s establishment involved territorial acquisition, transforming over time from Palestine into the state of Israel. Initially heralded as a model of democracy with institutions working in sync, recent events have brought about a shift.

Over seven months, Israeli urban centres have witnessed persistent protests against a contentious judicial overhaul proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government. These demonstrators, waving their national flag, passionately oppose the reforms.

On July 22nd, marking the 29th consecutive week of protests, massive gatherings occurred in Tel Aviv, West Jerusalem, Beersheva, Herzliya, and Kfar Saba. This collective display of strength aimed to voice opposition to the controversial changes. Yet, on July 24th, the Knesset passed the bill despite the extensive protests.

The bill allows a simple parliamentary majority to reverse Supreme Court decisions, and another part gives Parliament the ultimate authority in judge selection.

The dissent extended beyond civilians; Defense Minister Yoav Gallant expressed concern over increasing numbers unwilling to join the military under these changes. Gallant sought to delay the scheduled vote in response. Reports indicated that up to 10,000 reservists might abstain from service, including Air Force reservists who joined the protest later. Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate sent several warnings to Prime Minister Netanyahu, highlighting security risks tied to the proposed judicial overhaul.

The military cautioned that operational readiness could suffer if many reservists, notably key pilots, don’t fulfil duties for an extended period. Major General Tomer Bar warned of adversaries testing military capabilities during these protests. This situation has led to concerns of undermining Israel’s deterrent capabilities, with many Israeli experts seeing summer 2023 as the most historic low in Israel’s history.

Yair Netanyahu, Netanyahu’s son, criticised Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi for not taking intense action against protesting reservists. This criticism was later removed from Yair’s Facebook page. An Israeli Journalist Erez Tadmor alleged Halevi prioritised stress relief seminars over discipline. Prime Minister Netanyahu received a military briefing on Sunday, raising worries about reservist absence impacting national security.

Amidst these tensions, one-third of Israelis reportedly desire to leave the country, affecting the business sector. The political and security situation, along with divisions between various entities, has spurred this desire to leave, as it’s seen as a threat to democratic ideals and liberal lifestyles.

It is like the genie is out of the bottle, A prolonged war that started between Israel and the Palestinians, driven by colonial and religious factors, seems to have reached a point where internal tensions within the Jewish community and the institutions of Israel resemble potential civil conflict.

Apart from divisions within institutions, an ongoing and deeply rooted historical conflict is primarily centred around two variations of Zionism: pre-1967 and post-1967 Zionism. This can be framed as a clash between more progressive and secular forms of Zionism and more extreme and authoritarian forms of Zionism.

This leads to the question: Why do the Israeli parties, individuals, and institutions that prioritise secularism, display lower levels of fanaticism, and are proponents of democracy seem to be hesitant or incapable of acknowledging the correlation between the intensifying apartheid and the emergence of escalating messianic fascism?

In brief, a significant portion is resistant, and an even larger segment lacks the capacity to do so. Those who resist might fear associating fascism with apartheid could fracture the movement and erode its drive. Those who cannot perceive the connection wish to maintain contradictory positions: They argue that Israel can and should remain secular, liberal, and democratic, all while upholding Jewish dominance and oppressive control over Palestine.

These parties might eventually find a middle ground with the coalition government concerning its proposed legislation, aiming to preserve some aspects of the system’s openness towards Jews while enabling the advancement of its discriminatory policies against Palestinians both within Israel and in the occupied territories. This compromise could potentially restore alignment between state institutions, the government, and national security, avoiding compromise on the latter.

Such an arrangement could quell the ongoing protests and bring about a semblance of normalcy in the short term, though the underlying issues persist. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to recognise that the situation is far from contained. The country, which was founded on the principle of relocating Palestinians, is encountering significant challenges today.

The trajectory of Israel’s internal conflicts, blending the secular-religious and political-institutional dimensions, remains uncertain. However, it’s imperative for Western nations keen on preventing Iran’s nuclear development to reassess their support for Israel, which is increasingly evolving into a fervent nuclear power and is grappling with internal divisions. These divisions could potentially threaten its stability and security.

Shrouq Tariq
The writer is a research associate focusing on Middle East affairs and International Relations, with an MPhil in Defence and Strategic Studies from Quaid-i-Azam University.

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