Inside Israel’s Pro-War Nationalist Camp
As Israel’s war in Gaza claims more than 1600 lives, a recent survey shows that more than 86% of Israelis oppose a ceasefire. All attempts to reach one collapsed. As the operation expands so too does the movement in Israel against it. Anti-war demonstrations have grown from week to week, but so has opposition to them. Groups of nationalists have been demonstrating in support of the war and attacking anyone who opposes it. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky asks who are these groups and what is their political message?
LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN PRODUCER: Since Israel began its offensive in the Gaza Strip, more than 1,500 Palestinians were killed. According to Physicians for Human Rights, 83 percent of the casualties are civilians. More than 8,000 are injured. On the Israeli side, 60 have died, 86 percent of them soldiers in combat.
NEWS PRESENTER, CHANNEL 2, ISRAEL (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): As the rumour of a kidnapped soldier spread, Hadar Goldin’s friends began visiting his Kfar Saba home.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We want to support the IDF and the state of Israel in this war. We’re sure the IDF won’t leave a stone unturned until Hadar is found and returned to us.
TARACHANSKY: A hundred and fifty are injured, the vast majority hurt while running to shelters from incoming rockets.
As the offensive intensifies daily, so too grows the movement against the war.
CROWD: In Gaza and Sderot, children just want to live.
OREN YIFTACHEL, AUTHOR, ETHNOCRACY: Ethnic ghettos always have a tendency to have conflict, because it’s good politically for the leadership on both sides. In other words, Bibi need the Hamas, and the Hamas needs Bibi.
TARACHANSKY: And, as The Real News reported, the movement in support.
YIFTACHEL: Well, there’s a demonstration of thousands of people who believe that violence will not solve anything. It’s better to talk before more people are being killed. On the other side, there is a group of Israelis that are very keen to continue the violence and to continue in the illusion that violence can solve the profound problems that we have of occupation and colonialism in terror.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Turn Gaza into a cemetery. Cut the terrorists to pieces.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): These are our children fighting, and the press doesn’t care about that. We are not being undemocratic. They can protest the war but not during it.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): All leftists are sons of bitches.
TARACHANSKY: The latest poll shows 86 percent of Israelis are against a ceasefire. Groups of extreme nationalists have taken advantage of the media’s distraction, increasing their attacks on Palestinian civilians and anyone who opposes the war.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The Gaza Strip must be destroyed. There is no other option.
TARACHANSKY: Using social media, right-wing activists have sent callouts asking people to identify individuals who post antiwar messages on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. They then harass them and pressure their employers to fire them. An employee with the telecommunications company Cellcom, an employee of the Lod municipality, and several hospital nurses were recently fired for posting pro-Palestinian or antiwar messages on their social media accounts.
On the other hand, a public servant with the Israeli post office who wrote on her Facebook wall that anyone who opposes the war should be sent to the gas chambers was defended by her employer.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): You should be ashamed!
DEMONSTRATORS (CHANTING, SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Your mothers are whores.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Our political message is simple. While these bleeding-heart lefties are here, people are fighting and the south is getting rocketed. They’re drinking beer. These are people who refuse orders in the army. They go around saying the IDF is murdering [Gazans]. On Facebook, they say Israeli air bombers are murderers.
TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): So it’s not because they’re calling for peace that you’re mad?
DEMONSTRATOR: They support piece, but in their own way. What, we don’t want peace?
TARACHANSKY: You do? What’s your idea of peace?
DEMONSTRATOR: First of all, with Hamas you can’t make peace.
TARACHANSKY: Then with whom?
DEMONSTRATOR: First the IDF must eliminate the extremists. They must understand that anyone with a gun pointed at IDF soldiers or Israel will be shot in the head.
TARACHANSKY: Okay, that’s war. But how do you imagine peace?
DEMONSTRATOR: Then, after you kill the terror, you build their economy. Why not?
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We’re killing their children? Their children will grow up to be terrorists. So we’re just preempting that.
TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH): The presence of pro-war nationalists has intensified with more and more violent attacks on antiwar demonstrations from protest to protest. The worst of the violence against leftists took place on Saturday night, when mobs followed demonstrators home after the biggest of the antiwar protests, beating and harassing them.
DEMONSTRATORS (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Let the IDF win. Fuck up the Arabs.
TARACHANSKY: These groups are not new in Israel, but their presence is especially visible during military offensives on Palestinians. One of their main leaders is former member of Parliament Michael Ben-Ari and his two right-hand men, Baruch Marzel and lawyer Itamar Ben-Gvir.
DEMONSTRATORS (CHANTING, SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Arabs are sons of bitches. Jews are darlings.
MICHAEL BEN-ARI, ISRAELI POLITICIAN (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Mohammed is dead. The most moral thing to do is to flatten Gaza into a parking lot.
TARACHANSKY: The three are followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was once a member of Parliament who believed that all Palestinians should be expelled.
PICKET SIGN (TEXT ON SCREEN, SUBTITLED TRANSL.): “We’re not violent, we’re beating Zionism [into them]”
TARACHANSKY: In between inciting for violence on Palestinians and leftists, the three are involved in the most extreme elements of the settler movement in the West Bank and an anti-refugee movement in south Tel Aviv. A major stream inside the groups Michael Ben-Ari leads is the LEVAHA organization. Founded by settler Benzi Gopshtein, LEHAVA harasses Jewish women involved in romantic relationships with Palestinians to prevent what they call “assimilation”.
TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What’s LEHAVA?
LEHAVA PROPONENT (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Preventing Assimilation in the Holy Land (acronym).
TARACHANSKY: And what do you do?
LEHAVA PROPONENT: We find [Jewish] girls who go out with Arabs and we save them. No matter where he takes her, a Jew never gives up on a Jew. The [Arabs] are our enemy. Their mentality is murderous. It’s not a good mentality.
TARACHANSKY: But now you are the ones yelling “death to Arabs”.
CROWD: Death to Arabs! Death to Arabs!
TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH): The newest wing of the anti-left movement is a spontaneous coalition united by Israeli rapper Yoav Eliasi, who calls himself /hʌtˈsɛl/, or the Shadow. /hʌtˈsɛl/ was first brought to public attention when he called on his Facebook page for fans to attack an antiwar demonstration. When he saw how strong the response was, he issued a wider call, which turned into a nationwide movement. Using military language, he called it Order Number 8, after the Israeli army’s Order 8, which is ordered to reserve soldiers when they’re called in to battle. In the field, /hʌtˈsɛl/ is often seen collaborating with Baruch Marzel and Michael Ben-Ari. His fans have recently began attending pro-war demonstrations wearing T-shirts with the slogan, “good night left side”, common among European neo-Nazi groups.
Most alarming, though, are not the organized groups, but incitement from Israeli politicians. Member of Parliament Ayelet Shaked posted on her Facebook that “[The ongoing conflict is] not about the operation, or an ongoing offensives. This is war. Who is the enemy? The whole Palestinian nation”. Another inciting comment came from the foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. He wrote on his Facebook page that all Arab businesses should be boycotted. But the worst so far came from the Prime Minister himself.
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): A deep and wide moral divide separates us from our enemies. They sanctify death. We sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty. We sanctify compassion.
TARACHANSKY: It’s therefore not surprising to hear such sentiments in the Israeli public at large. For example, on Tuesday, a professor of law at Bar-Ilan University sent a letter to his students, saying a third opportunity to take their semester exams will be added because of the ongoing situation. Not identifying Israelis or Palestinians, the professor wrote that he hopes the students are safe and that their families and loved ones are not among the hundreds of killed and thousands of wounded or the tens of thousands whose homes were destroyed or had to flee. His students complained to the dean, who responded saying that the professor’s expression of sympathy with the Gaza victims deeply hurt the students and that the professor will be reprimanded.
Most in Israel perceive sympathy with civilians in Gaza and opposition to the war as opposition to the army. In Israel, the army is seen as the strongest symbol of national unity. Because all Jewish citizens have to serve, being seen as opposing it is often perceived as treason against Israeli society itself.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Sons of bitches! Whores!
TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Can you explain to me your rage? Why are you so angry?
DEMONSTRATOR: Our rage–wait, wait.
DEMONSTRATOR: They’re sons of bitches.
DEMONSTRATOR: You know why we’re angry? Because Jews, Israelis, who live with us in this country, serve in the army with us, eat in restaurants with us, go to the movies with us, declare against the IDF that the IDF is the devil, that it’s immoral.
TARACHANSKY: After Saturday night, while mobs chased groups of leftists after the demonstration, a bystander on crutches approached one protester and hit him over the head, cracking his skull. Another, a soldier in uniform, pepper sprayed a group of demonstrators on their way home. When they complained to the police, officers approached him but did not arrest him, instead giving him a high five.
For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky in Tel Aviv.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.