Analysis. Demagogic nationalism is used as a cudgel against a right-wing government accused of not being able to defend Israelis fighting for the sacred goal of liberating ‘God's promised land.’

The war grows, but so does anger at Netanyahu

“Regular” wars have never been happy events. But the current one is particularly tragic. Not only because of its effects, but also because of the political, economic and moral crisis Israel is going through. The visible war is raging mainly in and around Gaza, but its impact also affects the Occupied Territories and the entire region. The Israeli far-right is intensifying its colonizing activities in the West Bank, using its control over the Ministry of Finance for its own purposes and already pointing the finger at the “guilty.”

In the southern part of Israel, near the Gaza Strip, there are few kibbutzim. Beside some population centers inhabited by the very poor, quite a few of the people living in these kibbutzim were part of the moderate left, and some of the more radical left.

It is unacceptable to put the blame on the dead, but already there are those who are pointing fingers: allegedly, some pro-Hamas spies were part of the southern left. Others are accusing the weakness of many – including PM Netanyahu – that led to the disaster.

Let’s go back to the relationship between Netanyahu and Hamas. In a number of previous articles in il manifesto, I pointed out the balance of power and mutual “convenience” that has characterized the relationship between PM Netanyahu and Hamas, a fundamentalist terrorist organization. Around 1979, a dear Palestinian friend, who had been a young member of the Communist Party in 1948, paid me a visit, as he often did. This time he brought very troubling news. He was returning from a visit to Gaza and told me that the Israelis were repressing communists and PLO activists and encouraging Palestinian religious leaders, a fundamentalist alternative to the Palestinian leadership at the time. We argued about this. It took time for me to believe it. While saying out loud that it would destroy Hamas, the Netanyahu government, as a rule, has not sought to wipe out the organization. But military responses to Hamas’ actions have always come with a heavy toll in Palestinian victims of Israeli military attacks.

Secret deals with Qatar and others meant major inflows of cash that helped Hamas avoid discontent among the Palestinian population when it could not prove more effective than the PLO government, which was overthrown by violence in 2007. Agreements with the Israelis allowed thousands of Palestinians to return to work in Israel, thus both meeting the needs of the Israeli economy, starved of cheap labor, but also, to a significant extent, helping the impoverished Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip.

What about the Palestinians and the West Bank? Every dead Israeli settler and every stone thrown at an Israeli car contributed to strengthening the voices of settlers crying out at the deterioration of “security” conditions in the West Bank. A number of Israeli settler leaders were renowned for their adeptness at playing the role of “poor humble settlers whom the terrible Palestinians want to kill.”

There were so many complaints and threats, all the fruit of a demagogic nationalism used as a cudgel against a right-wing government accused of not being able to defend Israelis fighting for the sacred goal of liberating “God’s promised land.”

But now, the Jews who aim to “redeem the Holy Land” are part of the new government – which includes fundamentalists whose far-right ideology has strong roots in the very same racism that, in its anti-Jewish version, led to the Holocaust in World War II.

Quite a few fundamentalist officers have joined the armed forces and are spreading not only the “spirit of God,” but also militant fascist slogans. But two ministers of the new coalition stand out in particular: National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, known as a prominent exponent of right-wing ideology, and especially the new Finance Minister Bezalel Smothrich, whose number one mission is to continue disbursing funds for colonization and various fascist projects while he keeps withholding funds that have been already allocated to Arab-Israeli settlements, on a variety of pretexts.

And what about the hostages?

Addicted as I am now to TV news, I see two or three terrible stories about the hostages every day. Children as young as 2 or 3 years old, young women, old men, Israelis, Thai agricultural workers or home care workers. One of the promises of the current military operation was to free more than 230 of them. But every day it becomes clearer that most likely few will return and many will die.

Anger against the government is widespread. The few ministers who dared to show their faces in public, for instance at hospitals and care centers, were chased away by popular anger.

But the rage grew enormously on Saturday, when the “royal family” crossed a line.

After a vacuous televised speech by Netanyahu, with the token and inane presence of Defense Minister Yoav Galant and General Benny Gantz – the former great promise of the moderate opposition – the premier was only able to give stammering answers to a few questions. Afterwards, after midnight, apparently at the behest of his wife or advisers, the premier sent out a tweet casting all the blame for the bloody October 7 attack on the army and intelligence services. Netanyahu had known nothing, he claimed; the big boss, the king himself was innocent and everyone else was guilty. It was 1 a.m., Israeli forces were already risking soldiers’ lives, and Netanyahu was still trying to help his now-uncertain future prospects – certainly not those of the country. The incredible fury unleashed by his tweet prompted him to delete it 10 hours later. He apologized, but here was yet another act in what many see as a kind of repeat of the fall of the Ceausescu family.

The many Israeli deaths prefigured the much larger number of Palestinian casualties in recent days. The horrific images of Israeli children and adults murdered seem to presage the violent deaths of so many Palestinians. And beyond the body count, there is an inescapable thought: the horror and revenge are making the possibility of a future peace agreement slimmer and slimmer.

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