Israel's racist ethnic cleansing

As of February 12, it was still unclear who will end up forming the next Israeli government following the February 10 parliamentary elections, with negotiations to form a new ruling coalition possibly continuing for six weeks.

However, what is clear is that regardless of who the eventual prime minister is or which parties are in the cabinet, the brutal ethnic cleansing of Palestinians is set to intensify.

This is indicated by the surge in votes for parties from the right-wing "anti-peace" camp, as well as the use of the recent assault on Gaza (which killed 1400 Palestinians, mostly civilians) for electioneering purposes by the supposedly "pro-peace" parties.

Preliminary results suggest the Kadima party led by current foreign minister Tzipi Livni will win 28 of the 120 knesset (parliament) seats, while former PM Benyamin Netanyahu's Likud will win 27.

Extreme racism

However, the strong showing by the extreme racist Yisrael Beitunu party of Avigdor Lieberman, which came ahead of the Kadima-aligned Labour Party, puts Netanyahu in a strong position.

Fawzi Barhoum, an official from the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, told Al Jazeera on February 11 that Israeli voters "clearly start choosing the one who is most extreme in his speech, the one who wants war with the Palestinians. This troika, this trio of terrorism of Lieberman, Livni and Netanyahu chose the dramatic development in Israeli society towards terror."

Barhoum described the elections as "bathed in Palestinian blood", and emphasised that he didn't expect much difference regardless of who ends up forming government.

"In the past 60 years, the Zionist entity witnessed many changes ... All of them worked and are still working to eliminate the Palestinian existence, to build a Jewish state and to isolate Palestinians in an apartheid canton, like what we have here in Gaza", he said.

This scepticism reflects the widespread views of Palestinians towards the main parties competing for government. "All are the same ... all have the same ideology which is based on considering the Palestinian people an enemy and that Israel should keep fighting them, killing them and kicking them out of their land", Na'el Hammad, a Gaza taxi driver told Xinhua on February 10.

Likud's election campaign counterposed the Kadima and Labour Party strategy of seeking negotiations with the Palestinians deemed acceptable "partners for peace" for an eventual "two state solution" with a platform of expanding the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and confining Palestinian self-government to policing, on Israel's behalf, geographically isolated walled cantons. Likud also campaigned on keeping all of Jerusalem as Israel's "eternal capital".

Two states?

However, even Kadima and the Labour Party's "two state solution" would leave Palestinians with control over a carved up territory dependent on Israel for survival in the West Bank and Gaza.

In negotiations with Israel, the only "state" offered to the Palestinians has been geographically separated walled cantons. Israel has made its continued occupation of East Jerusalem non-negotiable.

The difference between the positions amounts to whether to give the Palestinian ghettos the pretence of statehood.

This reflects the apartheid nature of the Israeli state. When Israel was established in 1948 on 78% of what was then Palestine, violent ethnic cleansing drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and ensured that the Jewish settler population was in a majority.

The Israeli invasion of the remaining 22% of Palestine (the Gaza Strip and the West Bank that, despite Israeli denials, includes East Jerusalem) changed the demographic balance.

About half the population currently under Israeli rule is Jewish.

To maintain its racist "Jewish democracy", Palestinians in the West Bank, the majority of whom are refugees from the 1948 ethnic cleansing and their descendants, have no citizenship rights. However, the half-million Israeli settlers in the West Bank have full rights as Israeli citizens.

The majority of settlers live in communities that are linked to each other and the rest of Israel by Jewish-only roads that Palestinians are prohibited from even crossing. Palestinian land is regularly confiscated for the building of settlements, Jewish-only roads and the "Apartheid Wall" that winds through the West Bank.

The diversion of water to the settlements means that while whole Palestinian communities will be dependant on a single, unreliable tap, Jewish settlements have backyard pools and irrigated lawns.

Deprived of land, water and freedom of movement, there is no basis for an economy for West Bank Palestinians.

As well as large suburban Jewish settlements, there exist smaller settlements established by armed religious extremists in the heart of Palestinian communities, such as Hebron. These extremists use terrorism to drive out neighbouring Palestinians.

As Israeli citizens, the armed extremists are entitled to, and receive, protection by the Israeli army from their unarmed victims.

Similar policies have been used in the Gaza Strip, which with 1.5 million people (80% of whom are 1948 refugees or their descendants), is the most densely populated place on Earth. However, in 2005, Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza and essentially walled in the entire territory.

Apartheid

Those who argue that Israel is a democracy point to the fact that following the 1948 ethnic cleansing, the Palestinian minority that remained inside the new Israeli state was granted citizenship.

However, not only does this minority suffer discrimination in employment, education and housing, racist Israeli law allows for Palestinian-owned land to be confiscated "for the public good" and given to the Jewish National Fund or other bodies for the exclusive use of Jewish people.

Such confiscations occur regularly in Galilee, where Palestinian farmland is taken to build suburbs for new Jewish immigrants. Palestinians comprise 72% of the rural population in Galilee, but own only 16% of the land.

Mass eviction of Palestinian public housing tenants in Israel is used to "Judaise" Israeli cities with a large Palestinian minority. Pogroms instigated by religious extremists from the West Bank settlements have become another tactic to achieve this end, for example the Yom Kippur pogrom in Acre in October 2008.

While the Palestinian citizens of Israel do have the right to vote and stand for office, the fact that the electoral commission banned two Arab parties from contesting the elections (following mass protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel in solidarity with Gaza), while subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court, demonstrates the tenuous nature of this right.

Attacks on Palestinian citizens of Israel featured strongly in Lieberman's racist election campaign, which included the proposal that Palestinian candidates must swear a loyalty oath to Israel that explicitly accepts the Jewish nature of the state.

This proposed policy reflects the assumptions, promoted by the US and other Western countries, of the "peace processes" that have been occurring since the 1993 Oslo Agreement.

Acceptance of the eternal right of Israel to exist as a Jewish supremacist state, and denial of the Palestinian right to resist occupation (a right recognised under international law), are prerequisites for Palestinian negotiators to be allowed at the table.

In other words, to be suitable "partners for peace" Palestinians have to be willing to negotiate their nation out of existence.

This is what is at the core of the divide in Palestinian politics. It is not, as the Western media claims, a divide between Islamists and secularists.

Resistance

While Hamas is an Islamic party, it leads a united front that includes secular nationalists and Marxists. The victory of the Hamas-led alliance in the 2006 Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza reflected that the rival Fatah party's 13 years of participation in negotiations had failed to advance the Palestinian struggle for liberation.

While the undisguised racism of Israel's leaders is unlikely to lessen Western support for Israel — which includes US$4 billion a year in US military aid — the West placed immediate economic sanctions on the occupied Palestinians following the 2006 elections.

This was not because Hamas was opposed to peace. In fact, the Hamas-led coalition was willing to offer a long-term truce if Israel withdrew to behind its pre-1967 borders, despite this being the de facto surrender of 78% of historic Palestine.

The Western blockade was in response to Hamas's refusal to collaborate in the destruction of the Palestinian people.

A US-orchestrated June 2007 coup attempted to overthrow the Hamas-led coalition in favour of the collaborationist West Bank-based Fatah Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. This coup succeeded in the West Bank but failed in Gaza.

Western media routinely refers to these events as "Hamas violently seizing control of Gaza", ignoring the 2006 elections. Israel has placed Gaza under a starvation siege ever since.

While Western politicians justify Israel's periodic massacres in Gaza as a response to Hamas intransigence, in the West Bank land confiscations, the Apartheid Wall, checkpoints, closures, settlement-building, Jewish extremist violence, army violence, assassinations and kidnappings continue.

This is despite Abbas meeting all the requirements of a "partner for peace".

Indeed, such is his willingness to appease Israel that his security forces brutally repressed solidarity protests by West Bank Palestinians during Israel's recent assault on Gaza.

Israel is able to continue as an apartheid state that routinely commits gross crimes against humanity due to the support of Western governments. This is due to Israel's role as beach-head in the region for Western imperialism.

However, the horrific war that began on December 27 led to unprecedented global protests of millions, not just in the Arab world, but in cities in all parts of the world. The recent refusal by South African maritime workers to unload ships carrying Israeli goods is an example of a growing movement to delegitimise support for Israel.

Western support for apartheid South Africa was delegitimised by a global movement. This movement argued that a "whites only" democracy is not democratic at all, and the same arguments apply to "Jewish democracy". Democracy, to be democratic, must be for all.