Tag: Israel

John Bolton’s Extremism Is Perfectly Aligned With the Most Bellicose Israeli Policies | The Nation

Bolton Gillerman

What few have pointed out is the fact that Bolton’s track record as a preemptive-war fiend and his contempt for much of the Muslim world are deeply rooted and maybe best reflected in his unflinching support for Israel’s military operations and posturing in the Middle East. Bolton has pointed to Israel’s 1981 bombing of the Osirak reactor in Iraq and its 2007 bombing of a reactor in Syria (which Israel just formally confirmed for the first time) as models of good practice. Bolton will presumably support whatever military action Israel wants to take in Syria and elsewhere, framing it as being in America’s national interests.

via John Bolton’s Extremism Is Perfectly Aligned With the Most Bellicose Israeli Policies | The Nation

The Pipes They Are A-Blowing: An Extremist Tour Down Under – New Matilda

Pipe’s visit was supported by AIJAC, the right-wing pro-Israel think tank and lobby group. In Melbourne, it was also supported by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the Jewish peak body of the state, and hosted at Beth Weizmann Community Centre. In NSW, it was supported by AIJAC, the Zionist Council of NSW, and Central Synagogue. The host was the opinion editor of the Daily Telegraph.

via The Pipes They Are A-Blowing: An Extremist Tour Down Under – New Matilda

No hurricane aid if you boycott Israel, says Texas city | The Electronic Intifada

Photo published for Texas City Tells People No Hurricane Harvey Aid Unless They Promise Not to Boycott Israel

Free speech hypocrisyAmid a national furor of the claimed right of Nazis and white supremacists like Richard Spencer to speak on college campuses, establishment media and politicians seldom criticize the growing censorship around Israel.But journalist Glenn Greenwald commented that the move by Dickinson again demonstrates that “the greatest and most frequent threat to free speech in the West is the attempt to criminalize and outlaw activism against Israel.”

Source: No hurricane aid if you boycott Israel, says Texas city | The Electronic Intifada

Theresa May to be propped up by Christian Zionists |

The identification also stems from the shared history that Northern Ireland was created through imposed partition, for the benefit of a settler-colonial group, against the wishes and rights of the indigenous population, just like Israel’s 1948 creation in Palestine.The DUP “identify with Israel fighting for its survival, and they feel the international media is unfairly hostile to Israel just as they believe it was hostile to their own cause,”

“reminds me more than ever of the unionists in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s,” he observed. Like Israelis, unionists were a community “with a highly developed siege mentality which led them always to see themselves as victims even when they were killing other people. There were no regrets or even knowledge of what they inflicted on others and therefore any retaliation by the other side appeared as unprovoked aggression inspired by unreasoning hate.”

Source: Theresa May to be propped up by Christian Zionists | The Electronic Intifada

Middle East: Australia distances itself from Paris peace conference concluding statement – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Australia distances itself from the concluding statement of the Middle East Peace conference in Paris, where countries met to try to revive the stalled peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

Source: Middle East: Australia distances itself from Paris peace conference concluding statement – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Tony Abbott criticises aid to Palestinian Authority, suggests moving Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

The Federal Government defends its foreign aid program following criticism from former prime minister Tony Abbott of the money sent to help the Palestinian Authority.

Source: Tony Abbott criticises aid to Palestinian Authority, suggests moving Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Trump is reaching into Netanyahu’s election playbook | +972 Magazine

From race baiting to fear mongering to warning of liberal media conspiracies against him, the Republican presidential candidate is doing exactly what Netanyahu did to get re-elected. But the Israeli prime minister had something Trump doesn’t. There is a lot about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign that is worryingly reminiscent of Benjamin Netanyahu’s electoral antics, particularly his willingness to say just about anything, regardless of the consequences as long as he thinks it might be politically expedient. Beyond style and personality, however, the tactical similarities in their respective campaigns’ final stretches are even more disturbing. In particular, Trump’s recent, wildly unspecified warnings…

Source: Trump is reaching into Netanyahu’s election playbook | +972 Magazine

U.S. Peace Council returns from Syria: “It is not President Assad against his own people, it is President Assad and the Syrian people, all together, against outside mercenary forces, terror organisations, supported by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United States, and underneath it, Israel” | the real Syrian Free Press

The truth about Syria and what is happening in Syria is all here, in the video below, outlined and documented during this press briefing by the U.S. Peace Council (USPC).We cannot be sure how l…

Source: U.S. Peace Council returns from Syria: “It is not President Assad against his own people, it is President Assad and the Syrian people, all together, against outside mercenary forces, terror organisations, supported by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United States, and underneath it, Israel” | the real Syrian Free Press

ABC And Getup Should Apologise For Their Loyalty To Israel, Not For Criticising It – New Matilda

(IMAGE: Sam Lavy, Flickr).

There’s free speech, and then there’s speech free of a moral base. Michael Brull explains the difference. We constantly hear about how freedom of speech is under attack in Australia. Mostly, these calls ramp up when someone says something offensive about Muslims or Aboriginal people. If people request an apology, that is treated as someMore

Source: ABC And Getup Should Apologise For Their Loyalty To Israel, Not For Criticising It – New Matilda

Arab monarchies pour in funds to support terrorist militants in Aleppo – UK media — RT News

Militants in the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo continue to receive help from foreign powers that support the forces opposing President Assad’s troops, the Financial Times reports. That’s despite Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists forming a large part of the opposition.

Source: Arab monarchies pour in funds to support terrorist militants in Aleppo – UK media — RT News

Google this! Hillary Clinton and the Syrian regime-change conspiracy — RT Op-Edge

If you’d have said a year ago that the US State Department, Google, and Al Jazeera had been collaborating in pursuance of regime change in Syria, chances are you’d have been casually dismissed as a ‘crank’ and a ‘conspiracy theorist’.

Source: Google this! Hillary Clinton and the Syrian regime-change conspiracy — RT Op-Edge

Turkey may no longer be a viable partner in fight against Isis following coup attempt, says French foreign minister | Europe | News | The Independent

France’s foreign minister has said Turkey may no longer be a viable partner in the fight against Isis in Syria, while Syrian state media has claimed the failed coup in the country was fabricated by President Erdogan to tarnish the military’s reputation.

Source: Turkey may no longer be a viable partner in fight against Isis following coup attempt, says French foreign minister | Europe | News | The Independent

Sanders’s criticism of Israel is long overdue — RT Op-Edge

Bernie Sanders is not only taking on the Washington establishment in his campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, he is also challenging many of the received truths that make up the ideological foundations upon which its power rests.

Source: Sanders’s criticism of Israel is long overdue — RT Op-Edge

Jews, Journalists And Junkets: Why Australian Media Covers Palestine So Badly – New Matilda

The Australian's Sharri Markson goes 'deep undecover' in 2014, posing as a university student to expose Universities telling the truth about News Corporation.

Michael Brull spoke at a one-day symposium in Melbourne last week, organised by Australians For Palestine. Following is an edited version of that speech. In speaking today, I was asked to discuss why Australian journalists go on propaganda tours of Israel, instead of looking at how Israel oppresses the Palestinians. For some journalists, the answerMore

Source: Jews, Journalists And Junkets: Why Australian Media Covers Palestine So Badly – New Matilda

GOP candidates are sounding a lot like Israel’s leaders | +972 Magazine

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the 2016 AIPAC Police Conference in Washington D.C., March 21, 2016. (Photo courtesy of AIPAC)

Remarks by the most outlandish Republican candidates represent, in the best case scenario, the more moderate positions of Israel’s prime ministers since the state’s founding. By Abed Abu Shehada Let’s imagine for a second that…

Source: GOP candidates are sounding a lot like Israel’s leaders | +972 Magazine

‘Breaking the Silence’: Israeli whistleblowing NGO under pressure for exposing IDF abuses — RT News

A group of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans, who call themselves ‘Breaking the Silence’, are trying to expose the reality of IDF actions in the occupied territories. However, it stands accused of posing a threat to Israel by the country’s top politicians.

Source: ‘Breaking the Silence’: Israeli whistleblowing NGO under pressure for exposing IDF abuses — RT News

Israel freezes Palestinian tax funds over international criminal court move : Any criticism of Israel is frobidden

MIDEAST-GAZA-LIFE

Palestinian leaders call Israel’s decision to withhold tax transfers an act of piracy and ‘collective punishment’

Israel has halted transfers of the tax revenue it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in retaliation for their move to join the international criminal court in the Hague, according to Israeli media.

The Palestinians announced earlier this week that they are joining the international criminal court in the Hague to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. The move is meant to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories that Palestinians demand for a future state.

The move drew threats of retaliation from Israel and criticism from the US government, which called it “counterproductive”.

The daily newspaper Haaretz reported on Saturday that Israel had decided to withhold the taxes it collects for the Palestinians under the current interim peace accords and transfers each month to the Palestinian Authority. December’s tax transfer is about $127m, according to Haaretz.

An unnamed Israeli government official confirmed the substance of the reports but refused to elaborate.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat lashed out at the Israeli manoeuvre, calling it an act of piracy and a “collective punishment” against the Palestinian people.

“If Israel thinks that through economic pressure it will succeed in diverting our approach from freedom and independence, then it is wrong,” Erekat told the Associated Press. “This is the money of the Palestinian people and Israel is not a donor country.”

Israel has stopped tax transfers before but such freezes have been short-lived.

Withholding the funds is just one of several actions Israel could take against the Palestinians, including expanding West Bank settlement construction and curbing certain privileges. Israel’s Channel 2 news reported on Saturday night that prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu would convene his cabinet in the coming days to discuss further retaliatory steps. The US government has not said how it will react, but it provides hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians.

Turning to the international court at the Hague marks a major policy shift, transforming Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile.

Abbas has been under heavy domestic pressure to take stronger action against Israel amid months of rising tensions over the collapse of US-brokered peace talks last spring, a 50-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza over the summer, a recent spate of deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis, and unrest over access to a key holy site in Jerusalem.

Henry Siegman, Leading Voice of U.S. Jewry, on Gaza: ‘A Slaughter of Innocents’.Our most popular interview of the year is with American Jewish leader Henry Siegman. What he has to say about Israel may surprise you. In this extended Democracy Now! interview from July, Siegman discusses the assault on Gaza, the myths surrounding Israel’s founding in 1948, and his own background as a German-Jewish refugee who fled Nazi occupation to later become a leading American Jewish voice — and vocal critic of Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories.

http://www.democracynow.org/2014/7/30/henry_siegman_leading_voice_of_us

On ‘Lost Causes’ and the Future of Palestine The appearance of Palestinian defeat is an optical illusion—one that hides the probability of eventual Israeli defeat.

Israeli jets bomb Syria, says Damascus

An Israeli air force jet .

Syrian state TV claims Israel has bombed two installations, one near Damascus and one near the Lebanese border

Syria accused Israeli jets of bombing two installations inside the country on Sunday, one near the capital, Damascus, and the second in a town near the Lebanese border.

The report by Syrian state television described the attack as “an aggression”. It said the air raids occurred near Damascus’s international airport and in the town of Dimas.

The state news agency Sana said: “The Israeli enemy attacked Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, namely the Dimas area and the area of Damascus international airport.” It said no casualties were reported.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.

Speculation in the immediate aftermath suggested that the target of the strikes might have been advanced Russian-made S300 surface-to-air missiles.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the country’s civil war through a network of activists on the ground, said the strike near the Damascus airport hit a warehouse, and it was unclear what was in the building.

The Observatory said around 10 explosions could be heard outside a military area near Dimas. It had no word on casualties in either strike.

Israel has carried out several air strikes in Syria since the revolt against Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly threatened to take military action to prevent Syria from transferring sophisticated weapons to its ally Hezbollah.

In June, Israel struck targets inside Syria, including a military installation, following a cross-border attack that killed an Israeli teenager. Israel said at the time that it had struck nine military targets inside its northern neighbour and had confirmed “direct hits”.

What is a Jewish nation state?

Palestinians pray in front of Dome of the Rock in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

The Israeli government is dropping the pretense of balancing the state’s Jewish and democratic nature.

The “Jewish nation-state” law, already approved by the Israeli cabinet on Sunday and yet to be presented for a vote in the Knesset this Wednesday, will enshrine in statute a situation that has been palpable on the ground for decades. Its discriminatory character, turning a large Arab Israeli minority into second-class citizens and delisting Arabic as an official language, will only confirm the ongoing discrimination that members of this group have been subjected to well before the drafting of the new law.

The fallout from this piece of legislation is likely to be purely symbolic, marking a shift in the Israeli ideology hailed by some right-wing elements of the Netanyahu government as a return to the basics of Zionism.

The schizophrenic self-presentation of the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic is coming to an end in a clear choice of the polity’s Jewish and non-democratic fibre. But exactly what does a “Jewish nation-state” mean?

The ideologues of the regime are quick to point out that there is no inherent tension between France being a French and democratic state, or Germany being a German and democratic country. But neither Frenchness nor Germanness is equivalent to Jewishness. Even if the majority of citizens in France and Germany are Christian, these states are not declared to be “Christian nation-states”.

Definition of Jewishness

So what if Jewishness were not identical to Judaism, that is to say, to the Jewish religion? In fact, the official discourse in Israel has been, for a long time and purposefully, blurring the distinctions between religion, nationality, and ethnicity.

The very definition of Jewishness according to the 1950 Law of Return is ambiguous, seeing that the two possible criteria are: having a Jewish mother or converting to Judaism. The first criterion is biological, while the second is religious.

Amendment 2, passed in 1970, accentuates the religious component, bestowing the right of immigration on “a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion”. In other words, it is not enough to have been born of a Jewish woman in order to be considered a Jew; the act of conversion from Judaism to another faith would be grounds for excluding the convert from this definition. One wonders what happens under the Law of Return to the self-professed atheists born of Jewish mothers.

It is apparent that non-Jewish citizens of a Jewish state will find themselves in a limbo, regardless of the vacuous guarantees of “equal personal rights” under the law awaiting approval. But, as I have mentioned above, their predicament has been dire well before the drafting of this bill. The question, then, is why is the Israeli government dropping the pretence of its ability to balance the state’s Jewish and democratic nature now, at this precise moment?

Beyond the politicking considerations of a coalition dominated by right-wing hardliners, there are at least two possible explanations for the timing of the proposed piece of legislation.

Major stumbling blocks

First, it attempts to codify a narrative that equates the land occupied by the State of Israel with the “historic homeland of the Jewish people”. With these words enshrined in the law, yet another obstacle will arise on the path to peace with the Palestinian people, who will be not only materially and symbolically, but also legally dispossessed of their land and their history.

The words I have cited from the draft legislation usurp the historic origin as the exclusive property of one group of citizens and turn a deaf ear to the rightful claims of another group. Moreover, they render the Jewish attachment to a distant past more important than the ongoing presence of non-Jewish inhabitants in the same territory. All these are major stumbling blocks in the peace process, which will be guaranteed to stay fruitless if future Israeli governments are bound by the “Jewish nation-state” law. For instance, in accordance with it, the right of return for Palestinian refugees will be outright denied on the grounds that the territory claimed by Israel was not their historic homeland.

Second, and more cynically: Could it be that the current rulers of Israel have made a calculated, conscious choice to weaken their emphasis on democracy? Although, in order to gain admission into the international community, it is still necessary to present one’s state as democratic, the time of this requirement’s non-negotiability might be coming to an end.

Widespread passive acceptance of technocracy and the dictates of the “Troika” in the European Union are the telltale signs of a gradual departure from democratic rhetoric and political practice. It would not be surprising that the Israeli right-wing politicians are ahead of the curve in an avowed abandonment of democratic discourse, and that the draft bill is but a symptom of this lamentable development.

Michael Marder is IKERBASQUE Research Professor at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. His most recent books include Deconstructing Zionism: A Critique of Political Metaphysics (co-edited with Gianni Vattimo), The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium, and Pyropolitics: When the World Is Ablaze.

Déjà Vu in Jerusalem? In the latest round of violence, the Israeli government has been rebuked by its own security chief.

 Neve Gordon November

Israeli soldier in Hebron

There is a feeling of déjà vu as we witness the events currently unfolding in Jerusalem. Yet, like all déjà vus, some things are fundamentally different. The latest round of violence occurred on Wednesday, when a Palestinian teenager was critically wounded by police gunfire in East Jerusalem. On Tuesday, two Palestinians wielding meat cleavers, an ax and a gun murdered five people in a synagogue—four of them while praying, along with a police officer who tried to save them—before they were shot dead by an Israeli policeman. A day earlier, a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his bus, and while the Israeli pathologists claimed he had committed suicide, the Palestinian pathologist disagreed, maintaining that he had been murdered.

While these were just the most recent casualties in the Holy City, it is crucial to remember that other structural forms of violence directed against its Palestinian residents have been deployed without restraint over the past weeks. Jewish settlers have embarked on yet another round of expansionist real estate schemes in Arab East Jerusalem, taking over Palestinian houses. Simultaneously, Palestinian neighborhoods in the city have been blockaded, restricting the movement of thousands of residents, as the Israeli government decided yet again to build new apartment units on expropriated Palestinian land. The old British Mandatory practice of demolishing homes belonging to the families of suspected terrorists has been reinstituted as a form of deterrence. And, perhaps most importantly, Members of the Knesset and right-wing groups have launched a concerted campaign to nullify the existing status quo on the Temple Mount—whereby Jews pray at the Wailing Wall and Muslims at the Haram al-Sharif—by allowing Jews to assert their sovereignty over this sacred Muslim site.

This last bit is crucial for understanding one of the alarming transformations taking place in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One might recall that the second intifada erupted immediately after Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Haram al-Sharif compound in late September 2000. At the time, Palestinian demonstrators hurled stones at Israeli police, who fired back tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets. Demonstrations rapidly spread to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it took several years and thousands of fatalities before Israel managed to quell the popular uprising.

This time around, events are influenced by other theaters of violence in the Middle East. Put differently, the nationalist discourse of Sharon—as well as Yasir Arafat—is now being successfully hijacked by a religious rhetoric. Members of ISIS are threatening to smash all national borders until they reach Jerusalem, while in our neck of the woods, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is invoking religious tropes to condemn Israeli efforts to change the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites in the hope of garnering support among a constituency that has become more religious over the years.

Naftali Bennett, the right-wing economy minister in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet, retorts by calling Abbas “a terrorist because he said that Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount.” Bennett and his allies in government are thus playing into fears of Muslim fundamentalism in the West, even as they present Jewish fundamentalism as innocuous.
This transformation is dangerous not necessarily because nationalist struggles are less bloody than religious ones—they are not—but because it is fueling extremism on both sides.

This, it should be stressed, is precisely what the Israeli government wants. It would like to present the conflict as a clash of civilizations à la Samuel Huntington, rather than as a Palestinian struggle against colonial domination. Alongside the government’s attempt to pit fundamentalist Jews against Palestinians, most Israeli politicians on the right, which now dominates the country’s electoral landscape, have been working overtime to bolster the “no partner for peace” myth as another justification for their ongoing refusal to resume negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinians are not only part of a different and barbaric civilization, they claim, but their leaders are terrorists, or at the very least support terrorism.

A few hours after the synagogue massacre, Netanyahu maintained that the attack was “a direct result of the incitement lead by Hamas and Abu Mazen [President Mahmoud Abbas].” And in a televised address that echoed Bennett, he averred that the Palestinian leaders are “saying Jews are contaminating the Temple Mount, that we intend to destroy the holy sites and change the prayer routines there. These lies have already exacted a very heavy toll.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added that “Abbas has intentionally turned the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict into a religious one between Jews and Muslims, and the systematic incitement he leads against Jews—who he says cannot visit the Temple Mount because they are ‘impure’—is the ‘go-ahead’ for these despicable terror attacks.” Bennett concluded that “Abbas, one of the biggest terrorists to have arisen from the Palestinian people, bears direct responsibility for the Jewish blood spilt on tallit and tefillin while we were busy with delusions about the [peace] process.

This is the moment when the déjà vu becomes most apparent. Arrows just like these were shot at Arafat in the years and months before his mysterious death a decade ago. This time around, however, there was an unexpected intervention that exposed the lie behind the demagogic scare tactics: Yoram Cohen, the head of Israel’s secret services, also known as the Shabak, weighed in against Netanyahu and his cabinet members.

On the day of the attack on the synagogue, Cohen asserted that no one among the Palestinian leadership is calling for violence. “Abu Mazen is not interested in terror,” he explained, “and is not leading [his people] to terror. Nor is he doing so ‘under the table.’” The head of Shabak went on to blame the Israeli leadership for the religious turn. He warned that the Palestinian reactions in East Jerusalem were exacerbated due to “a series of confrontations centering around the Temple Mount—including the ascent to that holy site by MKs [Knesset Members], as well as proposed legislation that would change the status quo in the compound.”

Wittingly or not, Israel’s top security officer thus accused the prime minister and his comrades of incitement and spreading lies, exposing how these political leaders are fueling religious tensions as well as producing the “no partner” myth in order to sustain the strife. This is not a minor event, since it is the first time in Israel’s history that the head of the secret services—during his tenure in office—has contradicted the prime minister and has publicly revealed his duplicity.

If even the Shabak, the organization responsible for torturing and assassinating Palestinians during forty-seven years of occupation, thinks the Israeli leadership has gone too far, then matters are becoming really scary. Yes, there is a sense of déjà vu, only this time it seems that Israel’s political entourage has already fallen into the abyss

Opinion The ‘Jewish state bill’ doesn’t matter to us, Palestinians The ‘Jewish state bill’ will simply put on paper what is already a reality in apartheid Israel.

Palestinian women are blocked by Israeli security forces outside the al-Aqsa mosque compound [AFP]

http://bcove.me/1h4m7089

Despite the uproar over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet passing the new “Jewish nation-state” bill, its discriminatory contents are part and parcel of Israel’s long history of marginalising and discriminating against the country’s Palestinian minority.

The bill, which still needs to be passed by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, defines Israel as the “nation-state for the Jewish people” and enshrines the Zionist principles that the state was founded on at the expense of all Palestinians more than six decades ago.

Its defenders point out that it protects “the personal rights of all [the state’s] citizens”, ignoring that it only guarantees “communal rights” to Jews, who, regardless of their ancestral origins, have always been permitted to immigrate to Israel and gain citizenship.

Within Netayahu’s cabinet, the bill was passed by a 14-6 vote and reportedly sparked a passionate debate. As usual, that debate didn’t focus on the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up 20 percent of the total population, but centred on the state’s Declaration of Independence and founding ideology of Zionism.

For the 1.7 million Palestinians who were forced to take Israeli citizenship and continue living in what became Israel after the Nakba, this bill is nothing more than Israel finally taking off its mask in front of the world.

The debate it has thus far sparked is also nothing new: Despite our nominal citizenship, we have always been rendered second-class citizens with limited rights, for no reason other than not being born Jewish.

Discrimination from day one

Whether Netanyahu’s latest bill passes is irrelevant to Palestinians everywhere – in present-day Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories and the diaspora, where millions of refugees are waiting to return to the lands they were violently expelled from in 1948.

For those of us living in present-day Israel, the law is merely symbolic, as there are already dozens of laws that “discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, and criminal procedures,” as  Adalah Legal Centre has revealed.

Was it not already clear that Palestinians in Israel are living under the same occupation as Palestinians in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the imprisoned Gaza Strip? Treating us as a “demographic threat”, Israel champions our citizenship in front of the world as alleged proof of its democratic nature, while simultaneously attempting to limit our presence and influence in society.

Following the state’s declaration of independence, the first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, dismayed at the number of Palestinians who stayed in their ancestral lands, lamented that Israel wouldn’t be able to “clear the entire central Galilee region” of the then 100,000 remaining indigenous residents without a war.

But Israeli leaders have actually attempted to do so, even in peacetime. In recent years, a plan to demolish the Galilee village of Ramiyya and expel its people is one example of attempts to make Ben Gurion’s dream come true. As Professor Hilel Cohen of the Hebrew University said, “The project of ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ commenced when the state [of Israel] was founded and has continued in various guises to the present day.”

In the Negev region, Palestinian Bedouins with Israeli citizenship have been exposed to home demolitions and denied basic services, such as water, electricity and education. Living in more than 40 “unrecognised” villages across that region, an estimated 53,000 men, women and children face impending eviction.

Al-Araqib, for instance, has been razed by Israeli bulldozers 78 times since July 2010. Its residents, however, refuse to leave, returning and rebuilding it each time. Was it not already clear to them that Israel’s leaders viewed us as second-class citizens from day one? And can a Jewish “nation-state” bill, largely devoid of practical content, possibly make their daily lives any more difficult?

The opposition to the law by Israel’s so-called “centrists” and “liberals”, such as finance minister Yair Lapid and justice minister Tzipi Livni, exposes the whole affair as yet another case of Israel’s political establishment debating over and controlling our future without our input.

A failed project

Nonetheless, Palestinian political parties in Israel continue to sit as lawmakers in the Knesset. Ostensibly convinced that they could impact the laws being pumped out of the parliament, they continue to vie for our votes and encourage us to support them each time campaign season comes around.

But this has proven to be a failed project. Despite giving the opportunity to speak in the Knesset, they have not made our daily reality any better. The onslaught of racist laws hasn’t slowed down, the incitement from Israeli politicians has also grown and our ability to organise as a unified political force has been impeded by internal divisions and competition between the Arab political parties.

Palestinian lawmaker Hanin Zoabi was recently expelled from the Knesset for six months after remarking that Palestinians who kidnapped and killed three Israeli settlers this past summer were not “terrorists”.

Now, Netanyahu and his rabid rightwing cohorts are pushing a new bill to expel Knesset members “who in a time of war or military action against an enemy state or terror organization offers public support for military struggle”. It was aptly named the “Hanin Zoabi bill” by its sponsors.

Israel’s claim to not be an apartheid state has always relied on the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel can vote and participate in the Knesset. Do we need any more proof that this was a facade from the outset?

With a law that outright declares that this state exists solely for the Jewish people, it’s high time that Palestinians in Israel drop the idea that participating in this theatre of absurdity that is the Israeli political process will improve our lives and further our cause.

It is time to take steps to dissolve our political divisions and build ties with our compatriots in the occupied Palestinian territories and the diaspora in order to build a joint struggle capable of posing a serious challenge to world’s last settler colonial occupation. 

Waad Ghantous is a Haifa-based Palestinian activist and a member of the Al-Awda organisation. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


Israel and Mississippi: Racist Plans for Second Class Citizens and Religious Legislation:

Israeli activists dressed up as members of the Ku Klux Klan as a critique of right-wing politicians at the annual human rights march in Tel Aviv in 2011.

The Guardian reports that

“A controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character.

Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.

The bill, which is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and delist Arabic as a second official language.”

Netanyahu’s measure is much worse than that of Mississippi fundamentalists who want to declare Mississippi a principally Christian state and want to celebrate the white-supremacist Confederacy as part of the state’s heritage.

I wrote earlier of this kind of development when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was planning it out:

“So either way Netanyahu defines Jewishness, it disenfranchises substantial numbers of self-identifying Israeli Jews. If it is a matter of maternal descent, it leaves 300,000 or so out in the cold. If it is a matter of belief and observance, it leaves nearly 2 million Israeli Jews out of the club.

In addition, of course, 1.7 million Israelis, about a fifth of the population, are Palestinian-Israelis, mostly Muslim but some Christians. They are, in other words, a somewhat greater proportion of the Israeli citizen population than Latinos are of the US population (Latinos are about 17% of Americans). If current demographic trends continue, Palestinian-Israelis could be as much as 1/3 of the population by 2030.

Saying Israel is a “Jewish” state in the sense of race would be analogous to insisting that the US is a “white” state and defining Latinos as “brown.”

And saying Israel is a Jewish state in the sense of observant believers would be like asserting that the United States is a Christian state even though about 22% of the population does not identify as Christian (roughly the same proportion as non-Jews in Israel). The point of the US first amendment is to forbid the state to to “establish” a religion, i.e. to recognize it as a state religion with privileges (the colonists had had bad experiences with Anglicanism in this regard). While we can’t stop other countries from establishing state religions, we Americans don’t approve of it and won’t give our blessing to it, as Netanyahu seems to want. In fact our annual State Department human rights report downgrades countries that don’t separate religion and state.

While some countries have a state or official religion, that is different from what Netanyahu is demanding. Argentina’s constitution says Roman Catholicism is the state religion. But Argentina is not a “Catholic state” either in the sense of being mainly for people of Catholic religious faith (only 20% of Argentines are observant) or for being for persons descended from traditionally Catholic populations. Indeed, Argentina has about half a million Muslims, who are not discriminated against in Argentine law the way Palestinian-Israelis are discriminated against (their villages not ‘recognized’) in Israel. Anyway, as I said, in the U.S. we don’t approve of that part of the Argentine constitution. If all Netanyahu wanted was that Judaism be the ‘state religion’ of Israel, that could surely be achieved by a simple vote of the Knesset. He wants something much more, something that requires that outsiders assent to it.

Netanyahu’s demand is either racist or fundamentalist and is objectionable from an American point of view on human rights grounds either way (and I’m not just talking about the human rights of Palestinian-Israelis).”

Elsewhere I pointed out that Israel is moving in the opposite direction from Morocco, Tunisia and other more successful Middle Eastern states, which have new constitutions affirming citizen equality and freedom of conscience and avoiding specifying Islamic law (sharia) as the main source for law, in the way this new Israeli measure specifies Jewish law (halakha) as the inspiration for Israeli legislation.  Netanyahu’s Israel looks more and more like the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt of now-deposed President Muhammad Morsi.

“Netanyahu is also moving in the opposite direction from the more positive developments in the Middle East itself. Iraq’s old Baathist Arab nationalism (qawmiya) had racialized Arabness (which is really just a linguistic group) and had excluded the Kurds, who speak an Indo-European language, from full membership in the Iraqi nation. Interestingly, many Arabic-language news items on Netanyahus speech translate his use of “national” by the Arabic qawmiya, which has overtones of extremist nationalism of a racist sort. The new Iraqi constitution rejects that kind of racist nationalism. It recognizes Kurdish as a national official language (and Turkmen and Aramaic as provincial ones). Without denying the Arab or Muslim identity of the majority, it recognizes the right of the minorities to their own ethnic identities within the nation. It doesn’t say that Iraq is only a homeland for the Arab-Shiite majority.

And Morocco suffered deep political divisions between its Arab majority and Berber/ Amazigh minority in earlier decades. But its new constitution finally recognizes Berber/ Amazigh as an official language and celebrates Amazigh identity as one of the key heritages of all Moroccans, including Arabic speakers. The constitution does say that Islam is the religion of state, while guaranteeing freedom of belief and religion to the country’s Jews and adds:

… the Kingdom of Morocco intends to preserve, in its plenitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity, is forged by the melting together of its Arab-Islamic, Berber [amazigh] and Saharan-Hassanic components, nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences.”

So could we really expect Netanyahu to say that Judaism is the religion of the Israeli state and that:

… Israel intends to preserve, in its plenitude and its diversity, its one and indivisible national identity. Its unity is forged by the melting together of its Jewish and Palestinian components, nourished and enriched by its Hebraic, Arab and Mediterranean influences.”

No. Netanyahu is talking of an indivisible national identity, but its unity is achieved by exclusion, not by melting and inclusion. He does not celebrate Israel’s Arab heritage, but wants to exclude it from any claim on the national homeland, wants to make it lesser. (Arabic is an official language of Israel, but Netanyahu’s rejection of the idea of a binational state makes it clear he thinks it is very much a de facto and unfortunate component of Israel, not something to be celebrated).

Interestingly, the Israeli left has a different objection. They mind the idea of Israeliness, of the Israeli national identity (akin to the Moroccan national identity in the constitution, quoted above) being demoted in favor of a Jewish identity. Haaretz’s Hebrew edition wrote on May 5:

“Yesterday Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu explained why he is promoting a new Basic Law: ‘The Nation State of the Jewish People’: ‘Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people is not given sufficient expression in our Basic Laws, and this is what the proposed Basic Law is meant to do’… For 66 years now ‘Israeliness’ has attempted to gain recognition and win independence, and has been rejected repeatedly by the establishment. It has been described as the ‘slivers of people-hood’ whose existence has not been proven, while at the same time, no one seeks to enact a law that will define and protect it. Again and again it is forced to bow before its ‘big sister’, the Jewish state… The creation of Israeli literature, Israeli art, Israeli music, Israeli theatre, Israeli humour, Israeli politics, Israeli sports, an Israeli accent, Israeli grief – are these not enough to speak of an ‘Israeli people’…?” [From [Hebrew language] editorial of left-of-centre, independent broadsheet Ha’aretz]. – [Trans. via BBC Monitoring]