Israel’s hard-right turn has been decades in the making

From Israel’s fractured society, identity politics has arisen. Now it is connecting back to older fascist-Zionist traditions.

Far-right Israeli lawmakers Itamar Ben-Gvir (left) and Bezalel Smotrich (Image: AP/Maya Alleruzzo/Pool)

There was a delicious moment on Q+A last year, when the question of Israel came up, and the key panellists — Mark Dreyfus and Andrew Bragg — responded, almost in unison, that Israel “is not an apartheid state”. Singing from the same songbook.

One wonders how long this will be possible with the formation of the new government, led, once again, by Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, but this time drawing in parties of the extreme right. In the fifth general election in three years, parties once thought to be out of consideration for inclusion in government saw their votes double, sufficient to make it possible for Netanyahu to construct a wholly right-wing government, rather than another cobbled-together “national unity” government.

The new coalition thus includes the Jewish Power Party and the ultra-religious-right “Revival” Party; both groups have praised Zionist terrorism, and spruik various forms of Jewish supremacism in relation to Arabs. Their leaders, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, respectively, are now in line for ministries: Ben-Gvir wants the police ministry; Smotrich wants defence. These parties have in the past urged permanent annexation of the West Bank, and expulsion of Arabs from Israel. Jewish Power’s Party chant was, until recently, “death to Arabs”, now modulated to “death to terrorists”.

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