Israel | Greece | Austria | WWII

David Remnick: Base Appeals (New Yorker)

In last week’s Israeli elections, Netanyahu did play the role of Nixon—except that he did not go to China. Nor did he go to Ramallah. He went racist. In 1968, Nixon spoke the coded language of states’ rights and law-and-order politics in order to heighten the fears of white voters in the South, who felt diminished and disempowered by the civil-rights movement and by the Democrat in the White House, Lyndon B. Johnson. Nixon’s swampy maneuvers helped defeat the Democrat Hubert Humphrey and secure the South as an electoral safe haven for more than forty years.
Netanyahu, a student—practically a member—of the G.O.P., is no beginner at this demagogic game. In 1995, as the leader of the opposition, he spoke at rallies where he questioned the Jewishness of Yitzhak Rabin’s attempt to make peace with the Palestinians through the Oslo Accords. This bit of code was not lost on the ultra-Orthodox or on the settlers. Netanyahu refused to rein in fanatics among his supporters who carried signs portraying Rabin as a Nazi or wearing, à la Arafat, a kaffiyeh…
Netanyahu, sensing an electoral threat from a center-left coalition led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, unleashed a campaign finale steeped in nativist fear and hatred of the Other. This time, there was not a trace of subtlety. “Right-wing rule is in danger,” he warned his supporters. “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls.” On Israeli TV, he said, “If we don’t close the gap in the next few days, Herzog and Livni, supported by Arabs and leftist N.G.O.s, will form the next government.” (Twenty per cent of the Israeli citizenry is Arab.) He warned darkly of “left-wing people from outside,” including perfidious “Scandinavians,” and “tens of millions of dollars” being used to “mobilize the Arab vote.” Pro-Likud phone banks reminded voters that Netanyahu’s opponents had the support of “Hussein Obama.” …
The day before the election, Netanyahu made it clear that, after so many years of periodically flashing the Nixon-goes-to-China card to keep the center-left and the meddling “foreigners” at bay, he would play a new hand. “Whoever moves to establish a Palestinian state or intends to withdraw from territory is simply yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorist attacks against Israel,” he said in an interview with NRG, a right-leaning Israeli news site. Pressed to say if this meant that he would never agree to a Palestinian state, he answered, “Indeed.”
Now that he has been reëlected, Netanyahu has started to walk back his remarks, telling interviewers that he didn’t mean what he said about “droves” of Arabs, that he is all for a secure two-state solution. Nixon goes to China—again! But why should anyone believe it?

Ilene Prusher: Netanyahu resorts to race-baiting to win elections (Haaretz)

In the last 48 hours we’ve seen Benjamin Netanyahu’s true face.
We learned that he has no intention of ever agreeing to a Palestinian state.
We learned what he thinks of the Arab minority in Israel, which he said should not feel threatened by his attempts to pass a nation-state bill, because this is still a democracy where citizens have equal rights.
But we learned, when we see him sending out tweets, texts and a video saying “Hurry friends, the Arabs are going out in droves to vote, bused in by the left” – we see in that moment what he really thinks of the 20% of Israeli citizens who are Arab.
They are the enemy. They are a danger. They and their votes are to be feared. Their walking peacefully to their places of voting is an existential threat, just like every Palestinian organization of every political stripe. Just like Iran and ISIS and BDS.

Gershom Gorenberg: Netanyahu’s campaign finale dealt a body blow to Israeli democracy (Haaretz)

The Israeli prime minister sees the Green Line as the border between where Arabs can’t vote and where they shouldn’t.

Nick Clegg condemns Netanyahu for ruling out two-state solution (Guardian)

Nick Clegg has described the Israeli prime minister’s pledge that he will not agree to the creation of an independent Palestinian state as alarming, saying it may lead a future British government to formally recognise Palestinian sovereignty.

Peter Beaumont: Netanyahu backtracks on rejecting two states, but damage is already done (Guardian)

Binyamin Netanyahu’s contradictory statements a few days apart on whether or not he supports a two-state solution are so at odds that they are at first hard to reconcile.
On Monday, the eve of Israeli elections, he unequivocally disavowed his support – first given in a speech in 2009 – for a Palestinian state.
By Thursday, however, Netanyahu was in full reverse, saying in an interview with the US channel MSNBC that’s not what he had meant at all.

Peter Beaumont, Alan Yuhas: Netanyahu backs off from pre-election stance ruling out Palestinian state (Guardian)

The embarrassing retreat came as the White House hinted that the US could stop protecting Israel at the UN and international institutions if it was not committed to a two-state solution – a key long-term policy in Washington.

Yonatan Mendel: Diary (London Review of Books)

The Jewish parties, while similar in many ways, can be distinguished in their approaches to the conflict. The first bloc, headed by Netanyahu, is in no way interested in resolving it: giving back territory, putting a halt to building in the Occupied Territories – all that would be too much of a headache…
The second bloc, headed by the Zionist Union of Livni and Herzog, is in love with negotiations. They can’t wait to topple Netanyahu because they long for a ‘peace process’. Oh, the process! Not an actual peace, obviously, not the return of ‘a single Palestinian refugee’ (Livni’s words), no negotiation on ‘Jerusalem, the united and undivided capital of the Jewish people for 3007 years’ (Livni again, it would be 3014 now), no compromise on Israeli’s full security control of the Jordan Valley in the Occupied West Bank, but still – a process. In their dreams, Livni and Herzog see themselves flying to Washington and shaking hands with the US president… The Zionist Union wants to topple Netanyahu, but without offering a meaningful alternative…
The third bloc is by far the ‘nicest’. It’s led by Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party. Following the ‘social justice’ demonstrations in 2011, Lapid got voters to think first about themselves and their own ‘social justice’ and to forget about the Other’s lack of social and political rights. Lapid got help from the Labor Party (then headed by Shelly Yechimovich), which showed its new lack of spine when it ‘forgot’ the conflict and concentrated instead on Israel’s middle class. And indeed Lapid offers a great option for Israelis. Why does it matter whether there are 400,000 or 500,000 Israeli settlers? Why worry that Gaza has been under siege for eight years, and could explode tomorrow? Why should we deal with the difficulties of the poorest communities in Israel – the Arab citizens and the ultra-orthodox – when we can complain that they are holding us all back? This party is a great hit in Israel, and there are those who wish to copy its success – the Kulanu party, headed by Moshe Kahlon (formerly of Likud), is a right-wing version. The clearest proof of Israeli decadence and escapism, these parties sell Israelis an all-inclusive package of ‘social justice’ – within Zionist and neoliberal parameters – that does not include Arabs, conflict, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements or any other passé 1990s concepts…
[T]he Jewish-Arab List, the National Democratic Assembly, the United Arab List and the Arab Movement for Renewal joined forces to re-form as the Joint List, which may be the third largest presence in the next parliament. Headed by a young and charismatic leader, Ayman Odeh (who is, yes, supported by me), this party has a line. It says it is against another war on Gaza. It calls for an end to the occupation (and it actually uses the word ‘occupation’) in the West Bank as a step towards peace (and it actually uses the word ‘peace’). It calls on Jews and Arabs in Israel to unite against racism and discrimination – of Arabs and Mizrahi alike – and positions itself on the left (and actually uses the word ‘left’).

Gideon Levy: Why Israel’s Jews must vote for the Arab list (Haaretz)

The Joint List is the clear ray of light in this election season. It’s important for many Arabs to vote for it, and no less important for many Jews to do likewise. There is no more appropriate way for anyone who is guided by moral and ethical standards to demonstrate empathy and register protest.
Those who hesitate because it’s an “Arab party” should remember the role that Jews played in the African National Congress during the apartheid era. They did not recoil because it was a black movement. They did not hesitate because it was not their battle, supposedly.

Gideon Levy: To see how racist Israel has become, look to the left (Haaretz)

The new levels of Arab-hatred being displayed are shocking, and so are the Israeli public’s acceptance of them.
[F]oreign minister [Avigdor Lieberman] said “Those who are against us … we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head,” aiming his ax at Arab Israelis. Such a remark would end the career and guarantee lifetime ostracism of any Western statesman. Only superannuated African dictators speak of axes and beheading — and the leaders of Islamic State, of course. But such is the intellectual, cultural and moral world of Israel’s foreign minister, a bully who was once convicted of physically assaulting a child. The world can’t understand how Lieberman’s remark was accepted with such equanimity in Israel, where some highly-regarded commentators still believe this cynical, repellent politician is a serious, reasonable statesman.
No less repugnant was his savaging, in a televised debate, of Joint List leader Iman Odeh, whom he called a “fifth column” and told, “you’re not wanted here,” “go to Gaza.” None of the other party heads taking part, including those of leftist and centrist slates, leader in the debate, stepped in to stop Lieberman’s tirade. (Zehava Galon of Meretz denounced it later.) Silence is tantamount to an admission of guilt. We are all Lieberman.

Jack Khoury: Erekat: International community to blame for Netanyahu reelection (Haaretz)

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Wednesday blamed the international community for Israel’s election results and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection.
“Such a result would not have been possible had the international community held Israel to account for its systematic violations of international law,” Erekat said in a statement.
Erekat said that results show “the success of a campaign platform based on settlements, racism, apartheid and the denial of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people.”

Nahum Barnea: Netanyahu’s dangerous deal with the Republicans (Yedioth Ahronot)

The American Republican Party is intervening in our elections, and in return an Israeli party is intervening in their politics. They are helping our prime minister beat his rivals here, and he is helping them humiliate their president there.

Jack Khoury: New Joint List MK calls on Netanyahu to apologize for ‘Arab voters’ warning (Haaretz; also via Google News)

A new Joint List MK on Saturday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to apologize to the Arab community for his controversial comments on Election Day, in which he warned Likud supporters that Israeli Arabs were voting “in their droves.”
New Joint List MK Dr. Yousef Jabareen, an attorney and expert in minority rights, was speaking at the first post-election meeting of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which also blasted Netanyahu for his statement.
Jabareen said Netanyahu’s statements constituted incitement toward Arab citizens, who were simply fulfilling their basic right to vote.
“The prime minister presents the vote of citizens who suffer from discrimination as a source of fear and worry? In a normal country, a prime minister would encourage all citizens to get out and vote,” said Jabareen.
“Could anyone imagine a European leader saying in a video clip that he was worried about high voter turnout among Jews in his country? Such a politician would not stay an hour in his job, and rightly so. However, in Israel it seems that anything goes and there is no limit to racist discourse,” added Jabareen.

Orly Azoulay: With a little help from Netanyahu’s billionaire friends (Yedioth Ahronot)

The Republicans, who control the US Congress, have organized a visit for Israel’s prime minister which is worth more than 1,000 political strategists and copywriters’ brilliant ideas.

You’re an Arab? Strip (Haaretz)

The unnecessary, humiliating treatment that multitudes of Arab Israelis suffer routinely in Israel’s airports must be done away with for good.

Anshel Pfeffer: In Israel, racial profiling doesn’t warrant debate, or apologies (Haaretz)

While other democracies hesitate to resort to racial profiling, Israel takes the practice for granted.

Eli Bahar: Israel’s High Court shirking its duty on racial profiling (Haaretz; also via Google News)

The court’s refusal to decide on ethnic profiling at airports is nothing less than scandalous.

Sebastian Budgen, Costas Lapavitsas: Greece: Phase Two (Jacobin)

Much — too much — has been written in a journalistic, superficial vein about Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and last month’s negotiations with the European Union. But now that the lines have hardened and are clearer for us all to see, a new situation has opened up.
The scenario of Greece leaving the eurozone (“Grexit”) is more frequently and explicitly posed as the only way that Syriza’s government can avoid backtracking on its campaign promises.

Serge Halimi: The democratic right to cry ‘enough’ / Soutenir la Grèce (Monde diplomatique)

The Greeks voted to change their government, and its dealings with the world. For now, Greece and Germany have stepped back from the brink, with EU approval for Greek reform proposals and a 4-month bailout extension.

Costas Lapavitsas: To beat austerity, Greece must break free from the euro (Guardian)

What should we as Syriza do and how could the left across Europe help? The most vital step is to realise that the strategy of hoping to achieve radical change within the institutional framework of the common currency has come to an end. The strategy has given us electoral success by promising to release the Greek people from austerity without having to endure a major falling-out with the eurozone. Unfortunately, events have shown beyond doubt that this is impossible, and it is time that we acknowledged reality.
For Syriza to avoid collapse or total surrender, we must be truly radical. Our strength lies exclusively in the tremendous popular support we still enjoy. The government should rapidly implement measures relieving working people from the tremendous pressures of the last few years: forbid house foreclosures, write off domestic debt, reconnect families to the electricity network, raise the minimum wage, stop privatisations. This is the programme we were elected on. Fiscal targets and monitoring by the “institutions” should take a back seat in our calculations, if we are to maintain our popular support.
At the same time, our government must approach the looming June negotiations with a very different frame of mind from February. The eurozone cannot be reformed and it will not become a “friendly” monetary union that supports working people. Greece must bring a full array of options to the table, and it must be prepared for extraordinary liquidity measures in the knowledge that all eventualities could be managed, if its people were ready. After all, the EU has already wrought disaster on the country.

Peter Tiede, Costas Lapavitsas: „Kompletter Schuldenschnitt ist der Preis für den Grexit“ (Bild)

Jeremy Warner: Austria is fast becoming Europe’s latest debt nightmare (Telegraph)

Ah Austria, land of schnitzel, lederhosen, Mozart, alpine meadows and beer drinking. Less widely appreciated is its special place in the history of catastrophic banking crises.

Rory Fanning: The Firebombing of Tokyo (Jacobin)

Today marks the seventieth anniversary of the American firebombing of Tokyo, World War II’s deadliest day. More people died that night from napalm bombs than in the atomic strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But few in the United States are aware that the attack even took place…
World War II was carried out with brutality on all fronts. The Japanese military murdered nearly six million Chinese, Korean, and Filipino civilians by the end of it. However, to argue that Japanese civilians deserved to die — that children deserved to die — at the hands of the US military because their government killed civilians in other Asian countries is an indefensible position, in any moral or ethical framework.
Operation Meetinghouse saw more than three hundred B-29 bombers flying at ten thousand (as opposed to their usual thirty thousand feet) to avoid the effects of a 100 to 200 MPH jet stream, and setting Tokyo ablaze in the late hours of March 9. The American planes dropped five hundred thousand M-69 bombs (nicknamed “Tokyo Calling Card”), which were designed specially to consume the largely wooden residential structures of Tokyo.

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