They Are Behaving in a Fascist Way, MK Touma-Sliman on the Stifling of Anti-War Voices

“The Biden administration is also responsible for what is happening in Gaza. The massacres of people, children who are killed there. [US President Joe] Biden is as responsible as [Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu for the unconditioned support and the financial and weapons that are sent to Israel,” Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman said to Time magazine.

MK Aida Touma-Sliman (first from left) during a meeting of the Hadash-Ta’al parliamentary faction at the Knesset with parents of hostages held in Gaza Strip, Monday, November 13, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

What has the situation in Israel been like for Palestinian citizens since Oct. 7?

Since the beginning of this, we were very cautious. We were very clear in our position and feeling really shocked by what happened on the 7th of October.Meanwhile, the minister of national security [Itamar Ben-Gvir] was distributing weapons all over the cities. The police chief [Kobi Shabtai] said very clearly that we will never allow any demonstration against the war and whoever wants to send sympathy to Gaza will be sent there. On top of that, we knew that on the public level, there are groups of very right-wing people who are doing a kind of incitement against the Arab population. They are tracking people who are working in Jewish institutions, students, doctors. They are tracking their Facebook and their social media. And if there is a small sign—even in the past—about your Palestinian side, they will report directly to the Minister of the National Security and people will be persecuted. We had hundreds of people either investigated or arrested.

How do you interpret the crackdowns on anti-war protests? Is this an attempt by the Israeli government to effectively criminalize expressions of Palestinian identity and solidarity?

Not only the Palestinian identity. I think that whatever they couldn’t pass through the judicial overhaul, they are passing now under the cover of the war. When nobody is paying attention, they are eliminating the freedom of speech. They are not allowing any real opposition. Yesterday night, there were two protests in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem led by our Jewish comrades against silencing the Palestinian community. And they were cracked down brutally.

Because the Palestinians are the main power against the policy of occupation, of destruction, of war, it looks like it’s only criminalizing the Palestinians. But it is also criminalizing the anti-war voices. They are behaving in a fascist way. They are establishing a fascist regime under the pretext of the war because the war has political goals relating to conquering Gaza and annexing a large part of the West Bank. They need to prepare the legislation to protect them later on and they need to silence any opposition for that.

Is there any meaningful political opposition to the government right now?

There is political opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Yesh Atid, opposition leader Yair Lapid’s party, which is in opposition to him because he is not doing enough, in their opinion, and they want to replace him. But they are not against the war policy.

We—meaning Hadash and Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al Party—are the only ones who are voting against. There is no real opposition. All of them are supporting what the government is doing.

Are you concerned that the policies of this crackdown might outlast the war?

It will stay. None of [Israel’s leaders] will dare even to try to change it. The atmosphere is really bad. I don’t think that any government that will come will challenge these—at least not immediately. It’s going to take years.

How do you see this ending?

There are signs that they are starting to go for a ceasefire. I don’t think it’s going to end, really. Netanyahu understands very clearly that the day the war ends, his career is also going to end. There is a lot of criticism and the voices are more and more clear about him—that he should resign, that he should leave his position, that he is responsible for what happened. So, he understands that very clearly and I’m afraid that he will look badly for a victory photo or a victory moment that can convince people to keep him.