Israel: What is behind a Second Lockdown?

By Adam Smith, Statement of the Internationalist Socialist League (RCIT Section in Israel / Occupied Palestine), 19.09.2020,

The Israeli government has decided to impose a second lockdown, for the High Holidays period. This is an entirely cynical move for the following reasons:

Public Transport services have been reduced to zero on Friday mornings and Saturday evening (from Friday noon to Saturday evening there is no service even in regular times because of religious laws) and 25% otherwise. [1] Yet Netanyahu’s quarantine period when coming back from the United States has been reduced to 5 days (and pressure was applied to reduce it to zero). [2]

Workplaces (without public reception- again – this will hurt the poor the most) will continue to open as usual, but beaches and other open air locations will be closed off, and protests are going to be limited. [3] This is one of the real reasons behind the lockdown. The other reasons are for wanting to delay his court date even further and to reduce in-faction coalition fighting.

Another contributing factor was that most of the cities with the highest infection rates are majority ultra-Orthodox (this can be explained by lack of medical access and crowded living conditions), and since Netanyahu depends on his junior ultra-Orthodox coalition partner, he decided to extend the lockdown to the entire country (of course, not that we would support a lockdown on the ultra-orthodox only). [4]

This has led to a shameful response from the Zionist “Left” – even the most meager and sectorial attempts to roll back the lockdown (by the Haredim) are opposed by it. Another issue is the flights to Uman [5] – in which the anti-Semitic Zionist “Left” would rather ban all flights than fight for civil liberties (with coronavirus checks for pilgrims). Or the issue of synagogues – they ask why the government closed the beaches but not synagogues and from this drew the conclusion that the synagogues should be closed as well.

For example, the “Black flags” movement has said they will not protest at Balfour because of the coronavirus (“out of social responsibility”, not even because of a court order!). [6] When asked what is their beef with Netanyahu, they say that he is corrupt and his court hearing three times a week (when the trial will start) will prevent him from managing the affairs of the (bourgeois) state – as if that should be a concern of an authentic left winger! The main base of many such groups is the “Shulmanim” – a nickname for small business owners and freelancers(of course, freelancers are many times workers in a precarious position as opposed to the petty-bourgeois), and some of those groups are in fact headed by right wing Likud members(a phony opposition) who censor any criticism of Netanyahu. [7]

The Palestinian cause has no support, apart from a small minority of call for justice for Eyad’s family. [8] The narrative brought up of a Palestinian George Floyd by the liberal, US-oriented crowd is also problematic in a way – police brutality in Israel has a different form and reason and it cannot be “Americanized”, it takes place under a brutal occupation and colonialism which the protesters seem to ignore.

This crisis has also led to a slew of new anti-working class attacks – from the reduction in unemployed benefits to new reactionary proposals regarding pension schemes. [9]

Also, Israel has a very tough approach to air travel, with a ban on foreigner entry since March and many people haven’t been on vacation this year as there are no countries which they can go to/flights being very expensive (and vacation in Israel would cost even more). And the government has decided to cancel all new flights – causing the largest one day airport traffic since the beginning of the shutdown. [10] The (right wing) populist response is “Stay at home! So you would not go on vacation one year, big deal” – this is just another attack on the living standards of the working class.

This is very absurd thinking which sees every working class gain as a threat (aka FOX NEWS style “99% of the poor have smartphones, why are they complaining?”). An annual vacation is a right which has been fought for and earned, and lack of is a key indicator of poverty(even by UN definition: “The deprivation items: (1) being in arrears with mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, hire purchase installments or other loan payments; (2) inability to afford paying for one week annual holiday away from home; (3) inability to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian equivalent every second day; (4) inability to face unexpected financial expenses; (5) inability to afford a telephone; (6) inability to afford a colour TV; (7) inability to afford a washing machine; (8) inability to afford a car; and (9) inability of the household to pay for keeping its home adequately warm during the coldest month”). [11] Also many people have been separated from their loved ones, missed job opportunities, etc. because of lack of air travel – again treating air travel as a luxury is a 50’s mindset and absurd, especially when it comes from people who are even more privileged and have not been affected as much by the coronavirus.

In conclusion, while the people suffer, sealed in their homes and losing their jobs or having their income drastically reduced, the government and its ministers continue to fly around the world and skip all the health regulations. The second lockdown is proof of the government failure to combat COVID19 and inability to come up with anything but the most brutal solutions.

The fact that leading social organizers decided to cancel mass protests shows the urgent need for a revolutionary leadership to head the struggle against the government’s creeping authoritarianism and reactionary agenda. [12]













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