For months, Arabic media in the Middle East has been following the mass protests against the Israeli government and its judicial overhaul with great interest. Many Arab political commentators agree that they are witnessing a moment of unprecedented crisis and division in Israel; some believe that the rise of fascism there is an important development, as it puts the state on a path of self-destruction while revealing its true face to the world.
The Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily, regarded as a pro-Hezbollah newspaper, deals extensively with Israeli affairs and closely monitors Israeli media, with a recent article describing the current crisis as a “war of the tribes.” One of its regular contributors is Beirut Hamoud, a Palestinian from the town of Majd al-Krum in the Galilee, who moved to Lebanon after marrying a Lebanese. In June 2020, the Shin Bet accused Hamoud and her husband of trying to recruit Palestinian citizens of Israel to Hezbollah, a claim she denies.
One of Hamoud’s recent articles, titled “The fascist state is materializing,” mentioned the blacked-out front pages of Israel’s largest newspapers that were published to protest the passing of the first law of the judicial overhaul (the pages were in fact paid for by the hi-tech workers in the protest movement). According to Hamoud, “this mourning is nothing but an expression of the desire of the white colonialists from the liberal Zionist society to continue killing Palestinians and robbing them of their land, as they have done until now, under the immunity of the Supreme Court and in accordance with the standards of the International Criminal Court.”
Other articles in Al-Akhbar described what is happening as the beginning of a “crazy and useless” civil war. One piece quoted Israeli writers with passages such as: “The Israelis who have been in the streets for seven months understand that what is happening is a war on everything a person has: his freedom, his culture, his property, his home, and the future of his children.” Al-Akhbar and other Lebanese newspapers also discussed the positions of the United States and the European Union with regard to the judicial overhaul, pointing out a new rift in relations between Israel and the West.
Street wars and a weakened army
Other media sources from the Arab world also focused on the security implications of the demonstrations, and particularly on the division inside the army and the wave of refusal by army reservists, including air force pilots. The newspapers see the rift in the army as an unprecedented development that reflects the depth of the Israeli crisis.
Journalist Laila Nicola, for example, published an article on the Lebanon-based, pan-Arab Al-Mayadeen, in which she wrote that the army has been the basis of Israel’s existence since its establishment. Nicola mentioned the statement of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, that Israel is a “society of soldiers,” and that the state has always relied on virtually unlimited Western military support, in particular from the United States. According to Nicola, both of these elements are being considerably weakened today.
First, she writes, the army is experiencing an unprecedented crisis — the most dangerous in Israel’s history — against the backdrop of multiple problems that were revealed in recent wars with Lebanon and the Palestinians. At the same time, she says, there has been a growth in discussions of ending, or at least reducing, U.S. military aid to Israel, as reflected in a recent article in the New York Times, which included statements by senior officials such as Martin Indyk, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel and special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Nicola also referred to other fundamental disputes in Israel — in addition to racism and class inequality — such as the rising number of Haredi Jews and the takeover of political power by the extreme right. In her eyes, all of these factors are bringing the disintegration of the State of Israel nearer.
Media outlets in the Gulf have also been focusing on the crisis inside the Israeli army. The Saudi-based website Al-Arabiya published articles discussing Israeli concerns that the army could collapse, even publishing a report that a number of nuclear scientists in Israel are threatening to resign in protest of the judicial overhaul. And while most Gulf outlets mainly translate news reports without much analysis, the Qatar-based Al Jazeera regularly hosts Palestinian and Israeli commentators to talk about the crisis and its consequences.
Egyptian newspapers have similarly issued reports on the developments in Israel — describing the situation as “chaos” that has included street wars (between protesters and police) — and the damage to Israel-U.S. relations.
‘Headed toward implosion’
“There is a wide consensus in Arab countries regarding the situation in Israel,” a Jordanian journalist, who asked to remain anonymous, told +972. “Most of the Arab countries see Israel as an enemy destined to disappear, and what is happening now is seen as the beginning of the country’s demise and destruction from within.”
He continued: “Even in countries with which Israel has established peace and normalized relations, such as Egypt and Jordan, the publics to this day do not accept the idea of Israel’s existence. And feelings of hostility grow stronger with the continuation of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians and the violations at Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“The recent events in Israel have been welcomed with joy,” the journalist went on. “The Arab nations, who feel powerless and weak against Israel — because of the failure and corruption of their leaders and the West’s support for Israel — believe that a civil war within Israel may be the best way to destroy this entity.”
On the website of Al-Mayadeen, there is a section dedicated to reports and articles about developments in Israel, under the title “Israel is eroding.” Among other things, these articles focus on police violence against protesters and the escalation of the demonstrations, seen as confirmation that a civil war in Israel has already begun.
Ibrahim Alush, a Palestinian writer and political commentator who lives in Syria, wrote in Al-Mayadeen: “The crisis of the Zionist entity today is summed up by the absence of historical leaders, such as [David] Ben-Gurion, who are willing and able to cross the lines of division ideologically and politically … in order to establish a minimal national consensus.
“Netanyahu may be proud of the fact that he has served as prime minister for 15 years, a year and a half longer than Ben-Gurion, but he is fundamentally different from him,” Alush’s article continued. “Ben-Gurion made concessions to the religious parties in order to preserve Zionist unity. Netanyahu, on the other hand, decided to make concessions to the religious parties at the expense of Zionist unity and the cohesion of the Zionist entity, in order to maintain his personal and party rule, which is wonderful for us. If there is no leader in the Likud party who can build a ‘national’ consensus inside and outside the party … then it is clear that the Zionist entity is headed toward implosion.”
Abdel Bari Atwan, a Palestinian journalist and author living in London who used to be editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wrote in an article on his website Rai al-Youm: “It is our right, as victims of Israel’s crimes, massacres, and wars for 75 years, to watch with joy the accelerated collapse of the racist exclusion project of the Zionist occupation. But in the meantime, we must not, as Arabs and Muslims, provide it with a lifeline that will unite its ranks again.”
In his analysis, “the Ashkenazi secular left is the one who built the entity and laid its foundations toward the West, in an Arab region that previously surrendered to French and British occupation and suffered from ignorance, backwardness, and corrupt regimes. Now it is being destroyed by the extreme Sephardi movement, led by … Benjamin Netanyahu, which announces that it is joining the Fourth World, not only the Third, and that this is a divine gift.
“The disaster that has befallen the Zionist entity these days,” Atwan continued, “nothing will help prevent it, nor to minimize its damage … The invincible army is unable to provide protection to its settlers, not because it is no longer strong and armed with modern weapons, but because the other side has become stronger … and is prepared to sacrifice.”
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Atwan concludes with the question: “What should we do as Arabs and Muslims in the face of what is happening in the occupied land?” He offers a double-answer: continuing to observe from outside and refraining from taking any political or military action that would lead to the unification of Israelis; and at the same time, preparing for the next stage and developing strategic plans for a subsequent counterattack.
He also points some criticism toward the “official Arab armies,” whose “leaders are mostly corrupt and some of them have become partners with the occupying state, and unfortunately they wagered that it would protect them, and [what we’re seeing now] reveals their ignorance and their misjudgement, their failed wagers, and their inability to lead.”
A version of this article first appeared in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.