The word “chutzpah” has its roots in the old Hebrew “ḥutspâ” and, as adopted by Yiddish, basically means “audacity bordering on downright cheek”. We’ve seen and heard plenty of that in Israel this week as triumphant right-wing blocs head to the Knesset after Tuesday’s General Election.
Predictably, Benjamin Netanyahu has been ladling out chutzpah in huge dollops, insisting that his was a convincing political victory despite a historically low voter turnout in the Arab community after it emerged that his Likud Party had deployed 1,200 hidden cameras on its activists to monitor — and, no doubt, to intimidate — Arab voters in local polling stations. It was a sinister move in what is supposed to be a democracy — the only one in the Middle East, we are told ad nauseam — and one which has already compelled Israel’s Central Elections Committee to lodge an official police complaint.
Of course, Netanyahu dismissed this and other reports that certain locations had a higher than 100 per cent voter turnout; even the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein never achieved that, no matter how much chutzpah he deployed. According to election statistics, voter turnout was a staggering 167 per cent in the illegal settlement of Brukhin, while the Bedouin village of Bir Haj managed a turnout of around 117 per cent.
Arguably, though, the most brazen chutzpah came on the morning after the night before from the Palestine Liberation Organisation which pushed out a statement by Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi: “Regrettably, Israelis overwhelmingly voted for candidates that are unequivocally committed to entrenching the status quo of oppression, occupation, annexation and dispossession in Palestine and escalating the assault on Palestinian national and human rights. They have chosen an overwhelmingly right-wing, xenophobic and anti-Palestinian parliament to represent them. Israelis chose to entrench and expand apartheid.”
#IsraElex19: Israeli Elections 2019
To be brutally frank, however, Netanyahu has been solidly “aided and abetted”— as one observer wryly pointed out on Twitter — in his “status quo of oppression” by the Palestinian Authority itself. Who can forget Mahmoud Abbas’s televised speech back in May 2014 when he described the PA’s security collaboration with Israel as “sacred”? And isn’t Abbas also on record as saying that he has no right to go back to his ancestral village in what is now Israel, unilaterally ditching the legitimate right of return enshrined in international law? The President of the PA based in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah is, remember, also the head of the PLO as well as Fatah and will have read, if not penned, Ashrawi’s statement before it was pushed out shamelessly to the media.
I used to be a big fan of Ashrawi; she is a very clever woman with a string of memorable quotes to her name. “The Israeli concept that security is its exclusive right somehow generates the US-enforced notion that the Palestinians are obligated to deliver security to the Israelis while Israel delivers death and destruction with impunity to the Palestinians,” is one of my favourites. She sums up the whole “peace process” in one sentence. However, the 72-year-old politician’s words are beginning to ring hollow, which is yet another sign that the revolutionary flame of the Palestinians across the ever-shrinking, occupied West Bank is beginning to flicker ever more faintly.
“The extremist and militaristic agenda, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, has been emboldened by the Trump administration’s reckless policies and blind support,” the PLO spokesperson continued. “The Palestinian people will overcome this dark and highly dangerous chapter and remain deeply rooted in our homeland.”
Again, more fine words that amount to nothing of any substance for the people of Palestine. Meanwhile, just a few hours later, Khalil Al-Hayya of Hamas described Israel’s election results to be “irrelevant” because, in his words, “Israel’s political parties are the faces of one coin, and that is the coin of occupation.” He pledged that the Hamas leadership in the besieged Gaza Strip would continue seeking to end the occupation and achieve Palestinians’ national goals.
Like it or loathe it, the Islamic Resistance Movement has never wavered from its robust position and no one knows that better than Zionist leader Netanyahu who is set to grab his historic fifth term in office by stitching together a patchwork coalition of ultra-Orthodox and nationalist groups. During a campaign interview last week he bristled when asked about Gaza. “All options, including entering and conquering Gaza, are on the table, in accordance with what is good for the state of Israel,” he threatened.
Totally unfazed by the Israeli leader’s chutzpah, one senior member of Hamas, Sami Abu Zuhri, responded on Twitter: “Netanyahu’s remarks about conquering Gaza as an existing option are ridiculous, and he must know that the liberation of Tel Aviv will certainly come.” That tweet wasn’t chutzpah or even a threat laced with chutzpah; it seemed more like a promise.
Like all Israeli governments, Netanyahu’s new administration will be built on lies, threats and contempt for international laws and conventions. Throw in the Apartheid that is now so obvious, and even the Likud leader must know that weasel words and chutzpah cannot sustain the myth that Israel is a democratic state. The sad fact is, though, that he and his allies in the West know this already, and really don’t care.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.