Pro-Israel or Not? The Contradictory Nature of Right-Wing Israeli Politics
Above: Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett promoting their new party, Hayemim Hehadesh, at a press conference.
If controversy in Israel is not prevalent enough already, a new political party has just been established to rock the boat even more. Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, the Justice and Education Ministers of Israel, respectively, have just established the party, Hayemin Hehadesh, or “The New Right”. Shaked and Bennett vow to take votes away from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-existing, right-wing Likud party. While promoting their new party at a press conference, Bennett described it as “right-wing, no buts and no sort-ofs. In favor of the land of Israel without compromise, against a Palestinian state, period.”
As an Ashkenazi Jew with family that fled Nazi persecution in Austria in 1939, I should, in theory, be in favor of a party that vows to maintain and fight for the Israeli state regardless of the circumstances. I feel almost indebted to a country founded in part to provide a safe haven for Jews in the wake of the Holocaust. A statement that has been ingrained in my mind for as long as I can remember, is that if something were to happen similar to the Holocaust, Israel would be the only safe place for Jews to seek refuge. The “homeland” of my people is meant to evoke feelings of comfort and security, yet has instead become almost synonymous with violence, strife, and division.
The primary reason that I am wary of Hayemim Hehadesh is that the right-wing of Israeli politics is often so concentrated on protecting the state of Israel at all costs that they will stop at nothing to do so. This includes Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and imposing violence on the people of Palestine. The majority of the world is already hostile to the state of Israel, often out of a place of implicit and/or subconscious anti-semitism. This opposition is only heightened by Israel’s ongoing unjust treatment of Palestinian citizens. The right-wing’s primary focus is to fight for and better Israel, but the methods that they use to do this are only contributing to Israel’s isolation from the rest of the world.
The Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have faced blatant acts of violence because of the strife between the two states. Just this past December, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz obtained footage of an Israeli soldier placing a canister of tear gas in the yard of a school in the occupied West Bank city Al-Khalil. The Israeli government originally denied this attack, but there were too many witnesses and copious evidence that proved it did occur so that a government source eventually had to confirm that the event had happened. A Palestinian teacher even went on to add that such events happen “on a regular basis.” The school’s manager keeps a large box full of all of the canisters and grenades that are thrown at the school over the course of many months to serve as evidence.
Aside from this event demonstrating a time when Israel was harming innocent Palestinian children, this reflects extremely poorly on of the Israeli government.
It is in Israel’s best interest, in terms of gaining the support of other, larger nations, not to harm Palestinians. Every time there is a report of Israel-on-Palestine violence, social media platforms are flooded with photos of slain Palestinian children, bloody citizens, and countless other depictions of Israel’s abhorrent treatment of the citizens of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It is important to consider that ISIS and other terrorist organizations kill innocent citizens at a rate that is seven times higher than that of Israel. Yet, specific, individual incidents of this brutal treatment are often overlooked and do not receive anywhere as near as much coverage as the events of Israel-on-Palestine violence do. Why? Because Israel is held to a different standard than any other country in the region.
I am in no way attempting to provide justification for the Palestinian citizens who are killed and tortured at the hands of Israel. The Israeli government is guilty of brutally violating the basic human rights of Palestinians in the interest of reinforcing Israel’s security. I am instead shedding light on the especially harsh criticism of Israel and its portrayal in the media when other nations, governments, and organizations are guilty of committing crimes that are comparable, if not more damaging in magnitude. Because of this inequitable standard, it is important for the Israeli government to work together to mitigate the negative press that they receive.
Oftentimes, it is those who are so fixated on a single objective or goal that tend to overlook the actual root of the issue at hand and how best to address it. These radically pro-Israel right-wing groups exemplify this, because in their tireless mission to “fight for Israel,” they are not only feeding into the opposition toward Israel, but putting both Israeli and Palestinian citizens at risk of violence. If these political leaders are supposedly so “pro-Israel,” they should be protecting their people by diminishing conflict between the two states and prioritizing the wellbeing of Israel.