Every week, this blog tries to chronicle the most egregious acts of racism committed by Israel. You can find a longer explanation of the purpose of this exercise here. As this list will, unfortunately be far from exhaustive, feel free to add additional stories of relevance and importance in the comments below.
I admit it. This feature targets the low-hanging fruit. Most of the time, the Wednesday Weekly Roundup of Israeli Racism focuses on the most spectacular and the easiest examples of racism: the settler-colonists violence in the West Bank or the violence of mostly working-class non-Ashkenazi (roughly, non-White) residents of South Tel Aviv against migrants. We try to “balance” that perspective by demonstrating how the institutions of the state permit, promote, and complement this street level violence through racist laws and policies.
Unfortunately, this may give the false impression that the ills of racism experienced by the state is the result of the uneducated brutes. Moreover, it may give the sensation that some large cosmopolitan elite – in the Israeli imaginary always located in either north Tel Aviv or the Ivory Tower – exists out there. If only these enlightened few – those associated with the Labour party or perhaps even the Meretz party – could take over from the religious-nationalists in charge right now, everything would be great, or so this narrative goes.
This week, however, offers a glimpse into some of the larger problems with that narrative. This week, the racism of Israel’s “mainstream left” came out in force. To reiterate once again what was said in the introductory post to this feature, the point of this article is not to claim that everyone on the Israeli Left is racist nor that each and every Israeli on the Left harbors racist attitudes. But, like the broader claim that this post is trying to make, I present these stories as an indication that there exists systematic and widespread racist attitudes in Israel are not a simple function of one’s political beliefs. This is not a story of a racist right vs. and enlightened left, but rather one of deeply entrenched and widespread forms of racism, albeit ones that have different manifestations in varying contexts.
So, in presenting 18 of the most horrific reports of blatant racism to come out of Israel this past week, we start off with a special highlighting of the way racism exists on the Left.
- Samer Issawi, the Palestinian political prisoner arrested without charge and on hunger strike for some 260 days, called upon the Israeli left to recognize their complicity in the crimes of their state and advocate for his release: “Israelis, I’m looking for an educated one among you who has passed the stage of the shadows and mirrors game. I want him to look at me as I lose my consciousness. Let him wipe the gunpowder from his pen, the shooting sounds from his mind, and see my face’s features etched in his eyes.” In response, a number of Israeli writers, including heroes of the Israeli “Left”, A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz, called upon Issawi to unconditionally end his hunger strike and head back to prison. Guess they didn’t feel like wiping the gunpowder from their pens. This is the very definition of chutzpah. As the AIC put it:
They did not rush to defend Samer Issawi, to demand his freedom, to save his life. They cried out to expel his living ghost, which knocks on their doors, breaking the peace of the occupation and satiety. They did not, God forbid, turn to the authorities to request for Samer’s release. They did not even care to ask what crimes he did that caused the State of Israel to chase him on their behalf, in the name of the public whose conscience and morality they purport to represent, to his expected and approaching death. They requested Samer to stop the hunger strike unconditionally, to agree to be confined for many years in prison for no reason, in violation of the prisoners’ swap, when the only accusation against him is that he went out of the “restricted zone” drawn for him in his city Jerusalem.
- At the same time, Dimi Reider highlights an important shift in Israeli political discourse, wherein right-wing politicians increasingly argue against the Apartheid Wall, while politicians on the Left argue for its maintenance. While the motivation of the right is the incorporation of settler-colonists beyond the wall into the nation, some of them have also advocated recognizing partial or full Palestinian rights of citizenship as well:
The division of opinion here indicates once again the slow redrawing of the political map in Israel: The Right is emerging as the more politically daring and flexible, ready to radically challenge the status quo and offer significant changes, up to and including enfranchisement of Palestinians and/or bi-national power-sharing, even if it is unlikely to offer or accept full individual and collective rights from the get-go. The old Left is becoming more entrenched and conservative-nationalist, determined to preserve the status quo without any profound or systemic changes.
- This shift is reflected in the results of a new poll (Heb) by the “blue and white future” group. +972mag’s Mairav Zonszein has an excellent writeup of the poll in English, focusing on the 36% of respondents who seem to favor an apartheid system. We’ll have a longer look at this poll over the weekend, but for those who don’t read Hebrew and can’t wait until my forthcoming post, let’s just say that when you dig deeper into the numbers, the left does not come out looking very good.
- The Anti-Zionist Jewish Network highlights the ongoing racist practices of the “environmentalist group,” the Jewish National Fund.
- Not to leave out, in the United States, Democratic Senator Barbra Boxer is working hard to ensure that Israel retain its right to freely discriminate against U.S. citizens based on the color of their skin and their faith.
The American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) is now pushing legislation that would allow Israel to enter this program, so that Israelis can enter the US without a visa. But as JTA’s Ron Kampeas reports, there is one serious impediment: Israel has a practice of routinely refusing to allow Americans of Arab ethnicity or Muslim backgrounds to enter their country or the occupied territories it controls; it also bars those who are critical of Israeli actions or supportive of Palestinian rights. Israel refuses to relinquish this discriminatory practice of exclusion toward Americans, even as it seeks to enter the US’s visa-free program for the benefit of Israeli citizens.
- The exporting of Israeli racism is also happening in France, where new reports have emerged of SCNF banning Black and Arab workers from the Gare du Nord, during Israeli President Shimon Peres’s visit last month. At this point, it appears unclear whether the ban came down from the Israeli Embassy, the French Interior Ministry, or the SCNF, though an investigation is being carried out.
- Once and future Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman threatened (once again) to strip the citizenship of the up to 25% of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish, for the sole crime of not feeling included in a state that explicitly excludes them from full belonging as citizens.
- The mayor of Nazareth Illit posted a message on Facebook promising to maintain his city as ethnically Jewish by any means necessary:
I have not hesitated, and I shall not hesitate, to declare loudly and clearly: I will not allow for a change in the city’s Jewish character. I will prevent at all costs the establishment of an Arab school in upper Nazareth. And I will take action for the establishment of neighborhoods for Jewish residents.
- As though this wasn’t enough, the mayor then went on to tell the media (Heb) that “We maintain the Jewish majority in ways that are better left unsaid.” We can only imagine the sorts of tactics this implies.
- Fortunately, at the national level we don’t have to use our imaginations. This week, the Netanyahu government unanimously voted to renew the so-called “Citizenship Law.” As covered by Love in a Time of Apartheid, the primary effect of the Law is to keep prevent Palestinian from forming families, should they happen to be from opposite sides of the Green Line.
- Three settler-colonists from the “outpost” (a settlement-colony which, despite receiving utilities and security services from the State, is illegal not only under international law, but also under Israeli law)
- Yesh Din highlights some of the regular settler-colonist violence against the residents of Hebron. Read this and guess who was detained:
As “I.” would later tell the police, he thought that “B.” would pass his house with a few curses – that he would “curse and go on his way, as usual,” as he put it. That’s life in occupied Hebron (Al Khalil) for you. Not this time. “B.” went into “I.”‘s yard, while the accompanying settlers stayed outside. “I.” Demanded “B.” leave, and in response the latter immediately punched him in the face, and kept on attacking him.
- And the Christian Peacemakers’ Team released a new report documenting the mistreatment of children in Hebron’s H2 zone.
- An East Jerusalem man is being repeatedly harrassed by the police for appealing an eviction order. Interestingly, the original eviction order is based on Jewish claims to ownership over his property prior to the war of 1948. This means that the State of Israel does, in fact, recognize the principle of the Right of Return, but makes that right dependent upon one’s ethnicity.
- Electronic Intifada highlights a video, since removed, of an American settler-colonist abusing the Palestinians he hired to build his settlement-colony
The video unintentionally provides a glimpse of the racist and colonial conditions Palestinians live under, where settlers – many from the United States – are happy to exploit Palestinian labor, but only under armed guard lest the oppressed natives revolt against the masters.
- Witnesses to the shootings of two Palestinian teenagers last week contradict the Israeli army’s official version of events. The Israeli army has an atrocious record of carrying out competent investigations of these sorts of incidents.:
According to the eyewitness, Amer Nassar was “left on the ground for half an hour bleeding to death. A Palestinian ambulance was prevented from approaching him. Around 11pm, the army handed Amer’s body to the Palestinian ambulance.” As Naji Biblisi was still missing, locals began searching for him.
- A group fo settler-colonists from Homes attacked two Palestinians near Nablus. In a separate incident near the same settlement-colony, Jewish youth threw stones at Palestinians, injuring three. There has been a recent effort in Israel to classify Palestinian stone throwing as terrorist activity. We somehow doubt the same standard will be applied here.
- And finally, one week after denying Palestinians entry permits to visit Yad Vashem on Holocaust Memorial Day, the Israeli army denied entry permits to Palestinians who wished to take place in a Memorial Day ceremony organized by Combattants for Peace.