From Socialist Voice, August 2010

International

Israel: A racist colonial society eating itself from the inside


Loyalty oaths to a religious state, stripping opposition politicians of parliamentary rights, community leaders and political activists jailed on trumped-up charges, the expulsion of minority representatives, the demolition of minority homes, criminalising non-violent resistance and historical commemorations, calls for the murder of infidels, attacks on human rights organisations, arrests and deportation of international observers, people detained, tortured and “disappeared” in a prison system with no access to lawyers (and the wire-tapping of those who have), municipal schemes and vigilante patrols to break up inter-religious or inter-ethnic couples, vicious theological debates over who is or isn’t a member of the religious majority . . .
     Reading this list one would presume that we are discussing some theocratic tin-pot dictatorship desperately scrabbling to keep its bloody mitts on the reins of power. In fact we are examining “the only democracy in the Middle East,” that great “bastion of Western liberalism,” the Zionist state of Israel. Furthermore, we are not even talking about Israel’s well-documented crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories but the increasingly irrational, repulsive and racist downward spiral of Israeli society.
     For obvious and logical reasons—overt apartheid, mass murder, routine human rights abuses, colonial expansion . . . the list is almost endless—the attention of Palestinian solidarity activists has been mainly focused on Israeli abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Often we overlook the 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel—more than 20 per cent of the Israeli population—and the racist and religious-supremacist nature of discrimination they face, both from the state and from mainstream Jewish-Israeli society.
     A recent survey of Israeli teenagers showed that 49 per cent felt that Jews and “Arabs” (refusing to call them Palestinians is a form of Israeli historical-cultural denial) should not have equal rights in the state. Other opinion polls over the past few years have shown that 50 per cent of Israeli Jews supported “encouraging” Palestinian emigration from Israel and that 67 per cent would refuse to live in the same building as a Palestinian.
     Such attitudes are, of course, not unusual in colonial-settler societies. However, Israel has always tried to present to the outside world a façade of liberal tolerance, juxtaposing Israeli “civilisation” with Palestinian “barbarism.” Regardless of the obvious falsity of such nonsense, the mask has well and truly slipped. We now have “the most racist [Israeli parliament] of all time” according to the anti-racist Mossawa Centre, and the evidence of this increasingly racist-supremacist trajectory is there for anyone who takes the time to read the Israeli press.
     Just a few examples are the jailing of a Palestinian man for having consensual sex with a Jewish woman (he was convicted of “rape by deception” for not disclosing his ethnicity); the “vice and virtue” patrols that try to prevent Palestinians and Israelis from dating; religious publications calling for the murder of non-Jews; the stripping of a member of parliament, Haneen Zoabi, of her parliamentary privileges and widespread calls for her assassination for taking part in the Freedom Flotilla; the de facto exiling of Azmi Bishara, the leader of the Balad Party, on trumped-up charges of treason (and he is not the only community leader facing such accusations); the jailing of a leader of the Islamic movement, Sheikh Raed Salah, for spitting at a policeman; the continuing attempts at “Judaising” Palestinian East Jerusalem.
     This is not to mention the raft of bills before the parliament that aim to criminalise commemoration of the Nakbah (“catastrophe”—the expulsion of the Palestinian population on the creation of Israel in 1947), to criminalise those who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, to impose a loyalty oath to Israel as a Jewish state, and to revoke the citizenship of those considered “disloyal.”
     These would appear to be dangerous and fearful times for Palestinian citizens of Israel. However, it is possible to see a bright side to all of this. Internally, the colonial elements of Jewish-Israel society and polity seem to have nowhere left to go, even as Palestinians continue to undergo a process of politicisation, often in co-operation with anti-Zionist Jews. The true nature of the racism and supremacism inherent in Zionism and the colonial-settler state it gave rise to is exposed time and again. Israel is delegitimising itself in the eyes of civil society around the world by its brutal actions against Palestinians and their international supporters and no longer even attempts to maintain, even in theory, its traditional veneer of internal liberalism. Israel is effectually eating itself from the inside, while Palestinians come up with new and ever more inventive ways to resist Israeli colonialism.
     These are positive developments, and it is incumbent on those of us in the international Palestinian solidarity movement to redouble our efforts to facilitate the fall of Israeli apartheid by building the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
[KS]

■ www.arabhra.org
■ www.adalah.org
■ www.mossawacenter.org
■ www.acri.org.il
■ www.theonlydemocracy.org
■ www.coteret.com

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