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Dr Musa A Keilani: A policy of discrimination
December 27, 2010
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The growing wave of anti-Arab sentiments among Jewish Israelis — as reflected in recent public demonstrations — highlights the discriminatory and apartheid-like policies of the Israeli state. We know that many Jewish Israelis do not consider Arab Israelis as human beings who should be treated as fellow citizens being entitled to the same rights as any other Israeli enjoys.

The most visible indications of this fact are the underdeveloped Arab Israeli villages and the disproportionate Arab representation in Israel’s parliament (Knesset). There is also an increasing number of legal cases against Arabs based on flimsy evidence that they helped Palestinians plot or carry out anti-Israeli acts; some of them face charges of “collaborating” with Lebanon’s Hizbollah. Yet some others are accused of spreading “incitement” against Jewish Israelis. There are many Israelis who favour the summary expulsion of Arabs from within the 1967 “Green Line.”

Short of that, some, like Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, suggest that the borders be redrawn in a manner that would place Arab villages beyond the 1967 lines into the West Bank in any territorial agreement with the Palestinians.

Recent Israeli discriminatory moves against Arabs include a legislation that makes it mandatory for any citizen of Israel to declare allegiance to the “democratic Jewish state of Israel.” How could Arabs expected to recognise such a state where there is little democracy for them? How could they recognise Israel as a “Jewish state” — a move that would deprive them of their national rights at any point in future and deny the rights of the refugees from the 1948 war?

Then came the letter written by some 50 rabbis — a sort of an edict — ordering Jews not to rent or sell land to non-Jews. For the sake of debate, their reasoning is at best so fanatical to a point nearly bordering ridicule: Warning that those who defied the religious ruling should be “ostracised,” the rabbis’ letter reads: “In answer to many questions, we reply that it is prohibited by the Torah to sell a house or field in Israel to a gentile.”

“Those who sell or rent out in an area which Jews live cause great damage to his neighbours.... For their way of life is different to Jews,” it says. Intended or otherwise, the letter also highlights the first and foremost concern of many Jews.

“It is known that due to selling or renting one apartment, all the apartments of the neighbours devaluate even if the buyers or renters are nice at first ... and the one that sells and rents first causes his neighbours a loss and causes others to rent and sell after him and leave the place.”

The ban itself is reminiscent of apartheid South Africa, where the coloured citizens, or blacks and “browney” Asians, were banned from living in white neighbourhoods. The Association of Civil Rights in Israel has put the finger on the pulse when it said there was a growing climate that sanctioned discrimination, nurtured by the formation almost two years ago of a coalition government embracing the extremist Yisrael Beitenu party and the ultra-Orthodox Shas.

“We definitely see a connection between these different instances, most of them targeting either Arab citizens or non-Jewish people living in Israel,” the group has said.

It criticised the “racist and xenophobic” declarations by Israeli legislators and their promotion of discriminatory legislation encouraged hatred. Israeli government leaders, including President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have denounced the rabbis’ edict. But that has not done much to reduce the enthusiasm of many Israelis to publicly support the edict. This was evident in the mass rally held in occupied Jerusalem last week.

On Thursday night, some 10,000 people staged a protest in occupied Jerusalem to protest against any freeze on Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem and to support the rabbis.

Such militant calls are contagious as is evident in the arrest last week of a gang of young Jews accused of multiple hate crime attacks against Arabs and inciting others to do so. A number of rabbis from the outlawed and racist Kach movement also demonstrated in support of other clergy over the edict against selling or renting to non-Jews.

In Tel Aviv itself, Jews staged a demonstration last week denouncing “fraternisation” between Arab men and Jewish women and calling for death to be inflicted on those who indulge in it. They also wanted African migrants to be kicked out. This prompted a group of Eritreans living in Israel to write an open letter to Peres.

“We assure the Israeli public that we are not a threat to Israel or to its Jewish character,” said the letter. “We have been labelled with so many names so far, such as economic migrants, infiltrators and so on, expressing in a contradictory way our true reasons for being here.”

The letter called on the people of Israel and the government of Israel to offer them protection. “We are not here to claim citizenship, but rather, for reasons of safety and protection of our lives which we do not have in our country of origin (and unfortunately not in Israel either), it said.

The reasons that brought us here have to do with the unstable and unjust political leadership of the regime at home. We were forced to flee, and none of us likes being the victim of exile. We are descendants from a culture with good norms and values respecting human dignity....”

That would not impress many in Israel since how could anyone expect those Israelis who don’t respect human dignity when it comes to their own fellow citizens to respect the human dignity of others?

In any event, the real nature of many Likud nurtured Jewish Israelis is emerging into the open. And it indicates an eventual collapse of the Israeli society since no society can expect to last long when it practises a policy of discrimination against fellow humans.

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