Racism in Israel

Why keep returning to the issue of Israel?  Because the Israel-Palestine conflict is the most serious threat to stability in the Middle East, and because the Israeli state is coming increasingly to resemble apartheid South Africa with its corralling of Palestinians into bantustans surrounded by an obscene Wall, its military oppression and violence, and its deepening racism.

There has been much to substantiate this perspective in recent weeks.  The illegal construction of Israeli settlements has continued, whilst evictions of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to make way for incoming settlers continue apace.  A recent comment summed up the process in this way:

‘Judaising’ East Jerusalem is a stated policy of numerous settler groups and their financial and political backers, and every home demolition and family eviction expedites the process of ethnic cleansing already embarked upon.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel says 14 bills, now working their way through the Israeli parliament, are antidemocratic. These include a law that would demand that Arab citizens swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.  Last week a Palestinian man was convicted of ‘rape by deception’ after having had consensual sex with an Israeli woman who believed him to be a fellow Jew.

Meanwhile, Haneen Zoabi, the Arab member of the Knesset who was stripped of parliamentary privileges for joining the Gaza aid flotilla, has spoken about the impact on Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who makes up a fifth of Israel’s population:

‘It took us 40 years for us to admit that we were even Palestinians. Another 15 years passed before we realised that the peace process started under Oslo had been a disaster. The Zionist project was to domesticate its Arab citizens as the hewers and drawers of water. But the carrot-and-stick approach failed, and now we see Israel is prepared to throw away its liberal side to control us. We were passive once and now we are becoming active about our national identity. We did not immigrate to Israel. Israel immigrated to us. We are the indigenous people of a land from which we are being gradually expelled.’

Recently Rachel Shabi wrote in The Guardian:

Such racism doesn’t emanate, as some have argued, from the Jewish component of Israeli nationhood. It is informed by the Eurocentric cornerstones of the country: the belief, expressed by Israel’s founding fathers and still current, that the nation should be a bastion of the “enlightened” west in the heart of the supposedly savage Middle East.

It seems increasingly clear that the one-state solution- bi-national, secular, non-racist, democratic – must be the answer. Although Zoabi’s Balad party still officially favours a two-state plan, she has expressed doubt that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, could negotiate any state from Israel ‘bigger than a local authority’.

Remember the policy of ‘separate development‘, ‘homelands’ and forced removals in apartheid South Africa?  Ultimately doomed – though it seemed far from being so, back in the 1970s.


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