Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, September 2011
Only Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Can Change the Israeli Racist, Apartheid Regime
By Lawrence Davidson
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October 10, 2011
Lawrence Davidson debunks the myth that Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy any
kind of meaningful democratic rights – “the only reason they are allowed to
vote is because their votes cannot change the system that discriminates
against them” – and argues that only “a force of
catastrophic intensity” can change the deep-rooted racism in Israeli society
underlying this discrimination.
What "real democratic rights"?
In his speech to Congress on 24 May
2011 Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu boasted that "Of the 300
million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel’s Arab
citizens enjoy real democratic rights". This is, of course, a variation on
the oft-cited claim that Israel is "the only democracy in the Middle East".
Leaving aside places like Lebanon and now potentially Tunisia and Egypt, one
can ask just how "real" are these democratic rights Netanyahu claims for
1. At the end of September 2011 the Israeli government announced "a plan to displace 30,000 native Bedouin Arabs [all of whom are Israeli citizens] ... from their homes [in the Negev]". This would constitute "the biggest dispossession plan of Palestinians issued by Israel since 1948. It would forcibly relocate about half of the Bedouin population from their existing villages, which are older than the State of Israel itself..."
Why should Israel do this to the Bedouin? Is it to facilitate their enjoyment of their "real democratic rights"? Well, not quite. According to the head of the Regional Council of Ramat Ha-Negev, a Zionist settlement in the region, the reason goes like this:
2. At the beginning of October 2011 leaders of the Jewish settler movement announced their intention "to turn Palestinian population centres into another Srebrenica". This was their reaction to the prospect of international recognition of a Palestinian state. Initiating Balkan-style killing fields would represent a marked escalation of ongoing lower level terror tactics which have seen the destruction of Palestinian crops, the harassment of Palestinian adults and children, the practice of arson against mosques and the occasional outright murder. While this threat was directed mainly at the Palestinians of the West Bank, the Israelis are bound by international law to see to their civil rights as well. And since Netanyahu’s vaunted claim implies Israel’s civilized, law-abiding status relative to the Arab states, that Palestinian population must be taken account of.To show the extent of their respect for the rights of the Palestinians, settler rabbis have evoked the memory of their American-Israeli "saint and hero," Barach Goldstein, whose claim to lasting fame is the massacre of Muslims at prayer in Hebron back in 1994. And, there has been much recapitulating of the message delivered in October 2010 by "the spiritual leader of Shas, the powerful religious political party ... that the status of non-Jews is similar to that of beasts of burden..." And just how many "real democratic rights" do the animals of Israel have?
3. Just in case you think that these threats are hyperbole, take a look at reports and video on the recent pogrom-like violence near the settlement of Anatot. On 30 September 2011 Palestinians along with Israeli allies came to help a Palestinian farmer plant trees on land he owns near the settlement. They were attacked and beaten by settlers some of whom were armed policemen. The attackers have been accurately described as "nearly a lynch-mob". Then on 3 October 2011 a mosque in the upper Galilee village of Tuba-Zangariyye was set on fire by arsonists who left behind the message "Price Tag". This is a terrorist tactic used by Israeli right-wing extremists. Every time the Israeli government gets in the way of their racist and expansionist ambitions (which really is not often enough) they retaliate with acts of terror against Palestinians.
The truth is that Arab-Israelis have always been second-class citizens, suffering systematic and state sanctioned discrimination. Most of them are effectively segregated out from the majority Israeli Jewish citizenry. In this way their "real democratic rights" are rendered largely symbolic. The only reason they are allowed to vote is because their votes cannot change the system that discriminates against them.
The Palestinians in the occupied territories are even more vulnerable. They are not citizens at all and, even if Israel annexes the West Bank they never will be. This is because making them citizens would greatly enhance the likelihood that Arab-Israeli votes might, in fact, become sufficient to alter the system. The Zionists will never let that happen. If the choice is between democracy and keeping Israel a Jewish state, the Israeli establishment will jettison democracy without thinking twice. In fact, there is a portion of Israeli Jews who have already jettisoned any regard for "real democratic rights”, even for themselves.
It is interesting to note that 95 per cent of the US Congress seems
oblivious to all this. Indeed, a good number of them recently went off on an
expenses paid (illegal) junket to Israel which objective observers might
consider the equivalent of giving material aid to a terrorist organization.
But polls of Israelis show that the majority, caught up as they are in the dominant culture of victimhood and fear of the Arabs, are either ignorant of, or unconcerned about, the dangers of which Peleg and Waxman warn. Indeed, most of them want the Arabs segregated or just kicked out and therefore have no problem with their society’s deteriorating majority-minority relations.
The national Skinner Box
All of this raises some serious issues:
1. For most citizens the national environment is like a great big
Skinner Box. In other words, it is a hothouse of indoctrination.
Americans were taught to hate and fear communists, Russians were taught to
hate and fear capitalists and Israeli Jews are taught to hate and fear
Palestinians. Nation states do a good job at such indoctrination – making it
part and parcel of the acculturation process. And, under the right
circumstances, whole populations can easily move from hatred and fear to
Any way you look at it, the situation for those Palestinians under Israeli domination is likely to get worse before it gets better. And it is going to take a force of catastrophic intensity to really change Israeli behaviour. My money is on BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.http://www.bdsmovement.net/
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