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Tel Aviv’s losing brands: Israeli ‘coup’ and the death of false democracy

Sep 19,2023 - Last updated at Sep 19,2023

From its very onset, Israel has constructed a brand for itself, a powerful gimmick that was predicated on two main pillars: democracy and stability.

The main target audience for this brand has been powerful Western states that wielded disproportionate political, economic and military powers.

These Western governments, along with their influential mainstream corporate media, did their part, by polishing Israel's image, as most democratic and most stable, while tarnishing that of their Arab and Palestinian enemies, or anyone else who dared criticise Israel.

It mattered little whether Israel was truly a beacon of democracy and stability because these terms are often conjured up and used to conveniently fit the interest of those in power.

To maintain the charade, Israel's task was fairly straightforward: maintaining a facade of democracy at home, even if this democracy is racially-oriented and exclusionist, and providing enough “stability” to allow foreign companies to trust that their investments in Israel are safe.

Actual, verifiable truth in these kinds of situations is hardly relevant. All that matters are slogans and cliches, and enough people in power who are willing to repeat those slogans, and even believe in the cliches.

Over the years, Israel thus emerged as the "only democracy in the Middle East" and an "oasis of freedom and stability" that is protected by "the most moral army in the world", and so on.

But this pseudo-reality can only exist in relative terms; for Israel to be elevated, the Arabs had to be tarnished and demeaned, despite the fact that it was Israel that illegally occupied Arab land and waged repeated wars on Palestinians and other Arab nations.

The perfect illustration, until recently, of the successful Israel model is a statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on September 13, 2012, almost precisely 11 years ago.

Toasting top military commanders at the Israeli Army General Staff Forum on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, Netanyahu summed up Israel's sense of triumphalism in a few words. 

“We live in a volatile and stormy region. Its explosions and storms are increasing. The strength of the IDF has helped ensure that we remain an island of stability amidst the storms,” Netanyahu said.

Two facts may have escaped Netanyahu, back then. One, that much of the “explosions and storms” in the modern history of the Middle East were outcomes of Israel's own doing, military invasions, occupation and other destabilising factors. 

And, two, in the words of Heraclitus: “The only constant in life is change.”

Eleven years after that declaration, Israel is now learning that it is no longer isolated from the “volatile and stormy region”.

It is important to underscore that the long-perceived Middle Eastern “chaos”, as juxtaposed with Israel's “stability”, are not inherent values in history.

The Middle East, in fact, much of the Global South, has remained victim to former Western colonial powers for many decades.

Rarely a coup, a revolution, a political crisis or an economic collapse experienced in that part of the world, has taken place without Western involvement, direct or otherwise.

Arabs, the architects of one of the greatest and longest-lasting civilisations in human history, are not innately “chaotic”, as Israel and its Western benefactors maintained through their relentless propaganda.

Such a conversation is now outdated, anyway, as Israel, itself, now epitomises political instability and social chaos.

A viral video dating September 7 showed dozens of Israeli soldiers from the “elite” Golani Brigade destroying their own military base.

The leaked video could be dismissed as an isolated incident if it were not for the fact that at least 10,000 Israeli army reservists have declared that they will not join their military units if Netanyahu's judicial reforms are confirmed.

Thousands have already refrained from returning to the army, and the number is in constant increase, while hundreds of thousands of Israelis continue to occupy the major squares of all Israeli cities, demanding an end to what they perceive as a far-right coup.

Israeli military analysts and highly-regarded journalists are engaging in political and moral questions that would have been, only a few years ago, considered unconceivable: what if the army turns against the people? What if the people overthrow the government? What if Israel is no longer a democracy?

In fact, many already agreed that the latter scenario has already actualised. 

They include two former heads of Israel's powerful internal security service, the Shin Bet. In a letter, made public on August 31, they urged US President Joe Biden not to meet Netanyahu.

Such a visit would be seen as “legitimising the government coup”, they wrote, accusing the Israeli leader of “causing severe damage” to Israel, particularly the “strategic relationship between the US and Israel”.

The task of marketing Israel as “the only democracy in the Middle East" is no longer an easy sell.

With the “democracy” pillar crumbling, the “stability” pillar is falling apart, as well. And without stability, investors simply run away.

The rush to escape the Israeli market has already begun. The flight of capital, by Israel's own estimation, is so extreme, it took many market analysts by surprise.

The first three months of foreign investments in Israel was a meager $2.6 billion, a drop of 60 per cent compared to the years 2020 and 2022, according to a recent report issued by Israel’s finance ministry, which excluded 2021.

Certainly, what is taking place in “democratic” and “stable” Israel is truly unprecedented.

Israel's current vulnerability is accentuated by the massive and rapid changes to the political map of the Middle East and the world. As the US-Western stronghold on the region and other parts of the world weakens, Israel's once powerful geopolitical position is growingly compromised.

This should present Palestinians with the opportunity of exposing Israel's losing brands — that of false democracy, social instability and outright apartheid.

Israel must now be pressured to acquiesce to international law which guarantees, in principle, justice and freedom for the Palestinian people, and inalienable “Right of Return” for their refugees.

Without Palestinian freedom, Israel's future is sealed as that of an unstable country with undemocratic institutions, permanent apartheid and, indeed, perpetual chaos.

 

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak Out”. His other books include “My Father was a Freedom Fighter” and “The Last Earth”. Baroud is a non-resident Senior research fellow at the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is 

www.ramzybaroud.net

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