With the Implosion of Israel’s Labor Party, Expect April’s Elections to Be about Personalities

A recent poll of Israeli voters’ preferences for the April 9 elections shows the once-dominant Labor party getting only six Knesset seats (out of 120). But the newly formed Israel Resilience party, led by the former IDF chief-of-staff Benny Gantz, could emerge as a serious contender against Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud, especially if it can draw in other centrist parties. Noting that such polls, while of questionable predictive value, can often shape voters’ perceptions and intentions, David Horovitz tries to make sense of Israel’s potential apparent political realignment:

The dismal poll showings of Labor and [the far-left] Meretz underline the collapse of the left as this election campaign gets going in earnest. Labor, [under its new leader Avi Gabbay], does not claim that peace is there to be made if only Israel would stretch out a warmer hand than Netanyahu’s. So if Labor doesn’t believe it can make peace, plenty of former Labor voters are apparently concluding, who needs it? . . .

While Israeli political infighting is vicious, ideological differences have narrowed. Everybody would love peace; very few people believe it is attainable. This is not 1999, when then-incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu told Israelis there was no chance of a historic accord with the Palestinians, and [the Labor leader] Ehud Barak ousted him because he convinced enough voters—wrongly, as it turned out—that there was [such a chance].

Ultimately, this election is unlikely to be a battle over left and right—no matter how hard Likud tries to make it so by depicting Gantz as a weak man of the left. It will rather be a choice of personalities—between a vastly experienced prime minister, widely respected for having protected Israel from without, and a neophyte ex-army chief arguing that this same prime minister is tearing Israel apart from within. Or between an incumbent who warns of a bleak future without him in a treacherous region, and a contender promising that, for all the very real threats, things can be a great deal better.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Labor Party, Peace Process

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat