Israel Between Lockdown and Annexation
Israel Shamir • July 20, 2020
Violent demonstrations have broken out in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Thousands marched, dozens were arrested, but more citizens continued to arrive and join the protests. The people of the only Jewish state are upset and unhappy. They expected a better outcome from their fight with corona.
Israel was the first state to implement a full lockdown. The Chinese did it earlier, but their lockdowns were local rather than national; even if they covered a hundred million men at their peak, it was always less than ten per cent of the huge Chinese population. The Italians applied it earlier, but it was also a local measure. Israel did it with gusto, went full steam ahead and locked down its entire people, incarcerating old men in their houses and forbidding everything; from a walk in the desert to a dip in the sea. It was a decision that influenced other nations.
When Sweden debated whether to lockdown or just recommend social distancing, the liberals called for Swedes “to follow the Israeli model”. The heavily Jewish liberal Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN), owned by the Bonnier family, referred to the Israeli example in its struggle to lock Sweden down. In other European states, the Israeli model was often brought up as an example.
The Israeli model worked. Very few Israelis died of coronavirus. It was hailed as a great success and proof that Jews can excel at anything. But there was an obverse side. The Israeli economy collapsed; millions applied for welfare; unemployment is now rampant. All the hard-won economic achievements of recent years went down the drain. Their old people had died lonely, deserted, unlamented. Today, Israel is a failed state with a ruined economy and unhappy citizens. They won the round vs. corona, and led other nations into perdition; but instead of an encouraging pat on the shoulder they were destroyed.
It is not much fun to play the Judas goat, if the safety gate fails to open. The whole idea is that you lead sheep to slaughter, but at the last moment the owners whisk you out through a side gate, while the sheep proceed to be killed. Without this certainty, no goat would lead the flock to the butchers’ knives.
What went wrong? Israeli leaders presumed that their mission was over after they had led the world into lockdown, and demonstrated encouraging statistics. That was a presumptuous presumption. The slaughterhouse managers wanted their favourite Judas goat to lead the nations into the Second Wave quarantine. The Israeli media had made a U-turn, from victorious proclamations of Corona is Defeated, to the re-release of the message We Shall All Die. In order to support the paradigm change, Israel embarked on an extensive testing programme. In addition, the definition of severe illness has changed. Under the new definition, low oxygen saturation is a sign of severe illness by itself. Very soon, the best results of extremely low corona deaths morphed into a fear of a fast spreading severe illness. Israel became so contagious, that Israelis weren’t allowed to travel to Europe.
The government decided to shut down restaurants and swimming pools on weekends, made wearing masks obligatory, and created a panic, despite no new deaths and empty hospitals. But the restaurant owners rebelled. They said they had bought food for weekend guests and they wouldn’t obey orders. And the virus retreated: the government surrendered and postponed the lockdown of restaurants and spas till Tuesday. This change convinced the Israelis that the lockdown is not the result of disease, but of government calculations. Now it is a big question whether the Israelis will obey the new quarantine orders, and how police will treat them. Meanwhile, Israeli police, as brutal as anywhere, applied full force on the order offenders. Some young people without masks were severely beaten up, taken to jail and fined; no doubt, for their own good.
The return of coronavirus helped PM Bibi Netanyahu to escape the annexation imbroglio. He primed the trap himself: during the three rounds of elections the country has been going through for the past year, Bibi promised to annex the Jordan Valley and/or the Jewish settlements, to satisfy the settlers and other nationalist voters. In the end, he survived the elections; his weak contender Benny Gantz agreed to take the second seat in the Israeli government; his trial proceeds slowly, and his enemies failed to remove him by virtue of indictment. Now he was expected to deliver on the annexation promise. He was not keen to do it, for the Jordan Valley and settlements are anyway under full Israeli civil and military control.
Israel has all the benefits and none of liabilities of the West Bank occupation. The Ramallah government (NPA) polices the area and takes care of the needs of the Palestinian population. If they have no money, they go to Europe to ask for help. Israel does not spend a penny on its captive population, except for prisons. If Israel wants to take a part of Palestinian land for a Jewish settlement, for roads natives are forbidden to use, for military bases, for nature reserves natives are not allowed to enter, no need to ask, just help yourself. The fiction of “temporary military occupation” is the best for Jews. While paying lip service to the dream of two states, Jews have everything, and it is not even called ‘apartheid’ (though it is much worse than South African pre-1993 apartheid). What would be the profit of annexation? The (legally doubtful) title, and possible troubles of being called an ‘apartheid state’, of requests to provide for the natives, of possible conflict with Arab neighbours. It’s really not worth it.
On the other hand, expanding the Jewish state over places mentioned in the Bible is an idea popular with settlers and romantic Zionists. Even the promise of taking over Hebron and Shechem causes Jewish hearts to beat excitedly. That’s why Netanyahu promises it but postpones it year after year, claiming that the current US president would not allow it. President Trump undermined this nice scheme, saying that Israel can decide whether or not they want to annex these lands, and the US would accept whatever decision they make.
Did Trump say that because of his love of Israel or of Jews? Not exactly. Trump wants to cause a schism among the US Jews. For some Jews, hatred of Trump and support of BLM is paramount; for other Jews, the Jewish state and the Land of Israel are more important. The first kind can’t be persuaded, but the second kind can be turned over. And Jews are the biggest donors, the main media figures and a decisive force in any elections.
The Democrats are aware of this ploy, and they have tried to stop it. They have convinced Israelis that Biden’s electoral victory is unavoidable: “Don’t even think Trump will retain the White House. And do not dare to annex anything. After November, we shall allow you some advance; not now.” The Dems are not amateur like Trump, they are professional. They have a finger in every pie, and their own Shadow State Department to deal with Israel and the Middle East. Such an arrangement is unusual, nay, unprecedented for the US. They convey the feeling that the power in the US has fallen by chance or misfortune into the hands of ignorant Rednecks; these four years will pass in a few months, and the US will be again led by sophisticated globalists. It makes little sense to try and agree with official Washington for their days are numbered.
This is what Europeans, Russians, Chinese and Arabs hear. Israeli Jews agree, but they are in two minds over what should be done. Should they use this window of opportunity and annex some prime real estate and damn Biden and his warnings? Or it is wiser to lower expectations and accept the Dem recommendation? It is not an easy choice. Biden is very pro-Israeli, but he is not likely to allow Israel to annex the Jordan Valley and settlements, for traditional US policy had always been in favour of the Two-State-Non-Solution. So if Jewish nationalists want to take over Palestine in perpetuity, it is now or never. Alternatively, the US Dems and globalists in general aren’t people one wants to quarrel with, especially at such an important moment.
Netanyahu has tried to blame his Arab neighbours, saying they will threaten Israel with war if he annexes the Palestinian lands. Nice try, but it didn’t work; the Arab leaders promptly leaked that they won’t go to war or even threaten Israel. Bibi pushed the decision on Ramallah, saying Palestinians would rise up in revolt. Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian President, tested the ground; he said he would return the keys of the country to Tel Aviv. Palestinians were perfectly indifferent to the pending annexation. These parts of their country have for many years been under Jewish control. Since 1993 we have had the PNA (Palestinian National Administration), a body with very few prerogatives besides watching Israel’s back. Many Palestinians demand its liquidation: let Israel rule directly instead of using this proxy, they say. Abbas, the old and ailing man, is not popular; he is blamed for all the faults of neocolonial Oslo system. Indeed there were no local reasons to avoid doing what Bibi promised. For the entire past month, Israelis have been overwrought with the prospect of annexation. And then, merciful Covid came and allowed them to postpone the operation without losing face.
Should we worry about it, one way or other? In my view, no. Palestine and Israel should be united in one state, with one citizenship and full equality for all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish, native and immigrant. If Jews want to call it “annexation”, fine. What they should not be allowed to do is to pick some of the more desirable parts of the country and leave others to live in an unviable state. They should not be allowed to take territories without giving citizenship to the residents. They should not be allowed to carry out Jim Crow policies on the whole of Palestine.
Otherwise, there is nothing to get excited about. Some twenty years ago I wrote:
Behind the smoke of racist illusions, we already live in a united Palestine. The Green line, the “border” between Israel and Palestine, exists only in our minds. It is in everyone’s common interest to abolish the fiction completely and establish equality before the law for everybody in all of Palestine (Israel), from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Then we can enjoy one law for both the native son of the land and the newcomer, as the Bible commands us. One law for a kibbutznik from Afikim, and for a fellah from Yatta.
It could have happened years ago, if the Israeli (and American) left had not nurtured the illusions of partition. So how do we get to the Promised Land? We’re already there! We already have one state. Historical Palestine is unified. Stop the empty rhetoric of occupation and two states. We need no tricks, no ‘creative solutions’, just good old universal suffrage, the “One Man – One Vote”. We demanded it for our grandfathers in Eastern Europe. They received it from the Gentiles 150 years ago; it is the right time to pass this most basic of rights to the Palestinian natives of this land.” Even liberal Zionists like Peter Beinart see the light now. Biden’s Democrats intend to keep the myth of two states going on, but is it now possible?
Now, after lockdown, first wave and second wave, the situation has changed. The Israeli economy took a hit, and it will take a long time to recover, if at all. There are new threats. The International charity Oxfam predicts many millions will die of Hunger Virus, i. e. of famine caused by lockdowns and quarantines. Many of these starving men and women will be in Africa, and they are likely to leave the hungry continent by its landbridge – Palestine. Egypt is in danger, as Ethiopia has completed its dam on the Nile. Without the Nile, Egypt will be thrown into starvation mode, and Israel will not be able to hold its borders before many millions of new arrivals.
By stopping the global machine of supply and distribution, the prosperous North intended to save its old and rich inhabitants from the Covid virus. But the consequences are likely to be so stupendous and traumatic that the world we know will change beyond recognition. Who knows whether the problems of Jews who could not live peacefully with their neighbours will still be relevant in a few years’ time in the face of a total collapse?