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Apartheid in the Middle East

Posted in the database on Thursday, January 12th, 2006 @ 14:40:15 MST (1359 views)
by Kristoffer Larsson    Dissident Voice  

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“I consider Zionism to be a mental illness which makes otherwise decent folks behave like Nazis or Afrikaners.”

-- Jeffrey Blankfort

After wiping Palestine off the map and expelling over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes, confiscating the land they've lived on for generations, Israel still had a considerable Palestinian minority within its borders. Set to realize the dream of creating a state for Jews only, which had obviously failed, Apartheid laws were imposed in order to make the non-Jewish citizens of the Jewish state to leave.

Many leading human rights defenders have correctly referred to the situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as Apartheid. Collective punishment, house demolitions, settlements for Jews only, prices on electricity and water several times higher for Palestinians than Jewish settlers; the Apartheid on the occupied territories is obvious.

Still, I find it strange that the inequality for the Palestinians within the state of Israel is neglected. In some perspectives, their rights within Israel proper today are more limited than in the territories conquered in 1967. This is due to the way the state of Israel is set up. When people hear Israel being referred to as a “Jewish state,” they tend to interpret it as if Israel is a state with a Jewish majority. That's true. But there's more to it. The principle of a Jewish state says that Israel “belongs to” the Jewish people, meaning that every Jew has a right to immigrate to Israel while non-Jews don't (unless they marry an Israeli Jew). As a result of this, Israel does not “belong to” any non-Jew, not even its non-Jewish citizens. [1]

In fact, the Jewish state does not recognize an Israeli nationality. The Israeli ID-card has a clause marking the “nationality” of the holder. [2] However, among the 140 nationalities Israel recognizes, “Israeli” is not one of them. Rather, the ID-card marks ethnicity, revealing if you are a “Jew”, “Arab”, “Druze”, or whatever the holder is registered as at the Ministry of Interior. Just this shows that Israel has a need of defining who is a Jew and who isn't. Note that one doesn't have to be religious in a way to be a Jew, or even feel Jewish. A Jew is a Jew because he has a Jewish mother. Arab, American, Asian, Africa or Swedish -- it doesn't matter. A Jew is a Jew through his or her blood. Obviously, the Zionists think the Jew should have different rights from the non-Jew (at least in Israel/Palestine), just because of his blood. This proves that the Zionists feel a need to distinguish Jews from non-Jews. And if they didn't think Jews were different from non-Jews through the blood, they wouldn't adopt discriminating laws against non-Jews in Israel/Palestine. [3]

It's truly amazing to see how Jewish survivors of World War II (on good grounds) demand to be compensated for property that was confiscated by the Nazis, while they themselves do not mind living on stolen Palestinian land. It is as if international law doesn't apply to the Jewish National Home. Zionist Jews are in general supporters of democracy and equal rights everywhere in the world -- except for the Holy land. This is what Zionism is all about -- a “Jewish” state solely for Jews. Scary perhaps, but evident to whoever has studied Zionism.

Israel adopted a Basic Law [4] in 1985 prohibiting parties to participate in the elections if they are opposed to “the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.” [5] Note that it isn't opposition to Israel's existence that causes banning; it is disbelief in “the state of the Jewish people.” In other words, those who don't want the state to be only for the Jews, but instead for all its citizens, are hence forbidden from running for office. It is the same as if South Africa would have had adopted a Basic Law forbidding candidates to run for office if they opposed the White Apartheid system.

In his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, the late Professor Israel Shahak noted:

“In 1956 I eagerly swallowed all of Ben-Gurion's political and military reasons for Israel initiating the Suez War, until he (in spite of being an atheist, proud of his disregard of the commandments of Jewish religion) pronounced in the Knesset on the third day of that war, that the real reason for it is ‘the restoration of the kingdom of David and Solomon’ to its Biblical borders. At this point in his speech, almost every Knesset member spontaneously rose and sang the Israeli national anthem. To my knowledge, no Zionist politician has ever repudiated Ben-Gurion's idea that Israeli policies must be based (within the limits of pragmatic considerations) on the restoration of the Biblical borders as the borders of the Jewish state. Indeed, close analysis of Israeli grand strategies and actual principles of foreign policy, as they are expressed in Hebrew, makes it clear that it is ‘Jewish ideology’, more than any other factor, which determines actual Israeli policies.”

This “Jewish ideology,” or Judaism as interpreted by Zionists, states that only the Jews “have the right over the entire Land of Israel,” to quote Yitzhak Rabin. [6] Non-Jews are prevented from buying or renting land on more than 80% of the state of Israel within the Green Line (this also applies to land under Israeli control in the occupied territories). 93.7% of the land in Israel is defined as “Israel lands” [7] and is either owned by the Israeli state, the Development Authority or the Keren Kayemeth Le-Israel (The Jewish National Fund, JNF). This national land is property that was confiscated by the Zionists - except for a few per cent which was bought by the JNF -- and the Palestinians nowadays only own about 3.5% of the land in Israel, which is half of the private-owned land.

The JNF acts by the principle that only Jews are allowed to live on its land. However, cases where the right of Palestinians to live on JNF-owned land have been tried have (at least in recent years) been won by the Palestinians, thus given even non-Jewish citizens access to the land. [8]

But if there is no legal problem for Palestinians to live on all land in Israel, why are they then in practice prevented from residing on over 80% of the soil? I can only come up with one logical explanation: mere racism. Jewish landlords simply don't rent to Israeli citizens registered as “Arab”. I can't help thinking that the term “Judeo-Nazi” as coined by Professors Yeshayahu Liebowitz and Israel Shahak is an appropriate description for this fascism.

This Apartheid policy is strictly followed in most parts of the country, with Jerusalem being a good example. Sharon was clear when he said that Israel “will not negotiate Jerusalem” and that the city is “the Israeli capital, which is united and indivisible for eternity.”

In 1980, the Knesset adopted a Basic Law saying that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.” [9] “Complete and united” cannot mean anything but including East Jerusalem, which matches the route of the Apartheid Wall (in fact, it also incorporates part of the West Bank, creating a Jerusalem greater -- and perhaps more Jewish -- than ever before).

The “Judaizing” of Jerusalem is another word for ethnically cleansing it, making it as Jewish as possible. [10] A Palestinian born in East Jerusalem who has moved abroad is forbidden to return, while a Jew who has never sat foot in the city can move back and forth as he likes. Can you picture Jews being forbidden to return to Washington, DC just because they are Jews? Probably not, and that's good. The question is how Israel gets away with it. And why does almost no newspaper or magazine in Europe and North America ever write about it?

Following the racist set-up in Israel, the living conditions for Arab Israelis are not surprisingly much lower than for Jews. In fact, almost half the Arab Israeli families are poor (48%). A third of the Israeli children live in poverty, while the figure reaches a terrifying 60% among Palestinian Israeli children. [11] The Palestinians are constantly encouraged to leave.

Professor of Political Science at Haifa University and a true supporter of the Palestinians, Ilan Pappe in an interview well summarized the racist laws against the Palestinians in Israel:

“For example, the law of the land, which says that 94% of the land in Israel belongs to the Jewish people alone, not to the state of Israel, and therefore 20% of the population -- the Arabs -- are barred from this land. Although the Arab population in Israel tripled compared to the Jewish population, there has not been one new Arab settlement or village built, while there are hundreds of new Jewish, towns, villages and settlements. So this is discrimination on the basis of ethnicity on land rights. You cannot exist in an agricultural society like the Arab one, if you are not allowed to expand according to your demographic group. That's one law.

Then there is the law of citizenship, which says that Palestinians who may have brothers and sisters and relatives all over the Arab world are not allowed to reunite with their families, but Jews all around the world have all the rights to come and become full citizens from the moment they are born.

The third one is the law of social welfare, which says that only people who have served in the army are entitled to the full welfare social system. Now, the Arabs are not allowed to serve in the army [with few exceptions, as with the Druze], and therefore they are not allowed full social services. And these are just the formal laws. There are many de facto manifestations of apartheid in the way towards the Arab population in the way that the budget is distributed; in the basic treatment by the authorities; the police; and so on.” [12]

One question remains: How the hell does Israel get away with all this? Why is Israel, time after time, being called “the only democracy in the Middle East,” while its non-Jewish Arab citizens are forbidden to live on 80% of its land? How come almost no newspaper ever mentions that Jerusalem is being ethnically cleansed?

To some extent, I believe this is because of the image of Israel that has dominated Western media during the last 60 years. Non-Jews being banned from land just because of who they are sounds so unthinkable that very few are able to believe it.

But there's another factor that cannot be overseen: Criticizing Israel is likely to damage a journalist's career. The power of the lobby is often ignored or (in best case) underestimated. Editors are afraid of being accused of “bias” by the pro-Israeli lobbyists. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have said that this is pure rubbish. But after witnessing how editor after editor, publisher after publisher, are being targeted and forced to fold back, I have realized how bad the situation really is. Even if the media isn't owned by Jews, as in most cases, defending Palestinian rights is a politically incorrect act that likely means trouble.

Accusing Professor Noam Chomsky of disregarding the influence of the lobby, writer and radio show host Jeff Blankfort decided to ask Professor Shahak for his opinion on the matter. Shahak answered:

“I had the same, only greater, differences of opinion with Noam Chomsky, who is my personal friend for quite a time, on the subject of AIPAC and the influence of the Jewish lobby in general as you have. What is more, a number of mutual friends of Chomsky and me have also tried to influence him, in vain, on that point.

I am afraid that he is, with all his wonderful qualities and the work he does, quite dogmatic on many things. I have no doubt that his grievous mistake about the lack of importance of AIPAC, which he repeats quite often, helps the Zionists very much as you so graphically described.” [13]

War crimes on occupied territories is to some extent legitimate news to report on (under the condition that it isn't too “biased” or “anti-Israeli”), but exposing Israel's Apartheid and plain racism is still restricted area. Bishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu wrote:

“But you know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the US], and to criticize it is to be immediately dubbed anti-Semitic, as if the Palestinians were not Semitic. I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group. And how did it come about that Israel was collaborating with the apartheid government on security measures?

People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful -- very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God's world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.” [14]

Let's hope the Bishop's prophecy will come to pass.

Kristoffer Larsson lives in Sweden, and can be reached at: kristoffer.larsson@sobernet.nu.


[1] "Law of 'Return'," by Kristoffer Larsson, IMEMC, August 4, 2005.

[2] The Hebrew term used in the ID-card is leom, which means "nation" or "people". Another word for nationality is netinut.

[3] I don't use the term "Israeli Arab" here because 1) the majority of Arabs in Israel are Jews and not Palestinians and 2) the racist laws in Israel are not discriminatory against Arabs, but against non-Jews. The reason why 'Israeli Arab' (or "Arab Israeli") is commonly used is that a non-Jewish Arab Israeli is registered as "Arab" at the Israeli Ministry of Interior, while an Arab Jew is registered as "Jew".

[4] Israeli Basic Laws is by Shahak referred to as "Constitutional laws", which he defines as "a law overriding provisions of other laws, which cannot be revoked except by a special procedure." They are called Basic Laws as Israel lacks a constitution. Read more here.

[5] Basic Law: The Knesset.

[6] "Analysis of Israeli Policies: The Priority of the Ideological Factor," by Israel Shahak.

[7] Basic Law: Israel Lands.

[8] Report by Adalah.

[9] Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel.

[10] "Sharon's Final Solution," by Kristoffer Larsson, peacepalestine, October 27, 2005.

[11] "60% of Arab Israeli children are poor," Globes online, August 10, 2005.

[12] Ilan Pappe Interview by Don Atapattu; peacepalestine documents, July 13, 2005.

[13] "Damage Control: Noam Chomsky and the Israel-Palestine Conflict," by Jeffrey Blankfort, Dissident Voice, May 25, 2005.

[14] "Apartheid in the Holy Land," by Desmond Tutu, The Guardian, April 29, 2002.

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