by Tony Greenstein
On July 31, Zionist terrorists firebombed the house of the Dawabsha family in Duma, near Nablus, incinerating 18-month-old Ali and severely burning three other members of his family. As is always the case, the Israeli police failed to apprehend those responsible for what are euphemistically known as ‘price tag’ attacks.
At almost the same time, the notoriously racist Jerusalem police allowed Yishai Schlissel, an Orthodox Jew and Haredi, to repeat the stabbings he carried out against participants in the 2005 Gay Pride demonstration. Schlissel had only just been released from prison and had made his intentions clear on social media, but, as he was not an Arab, no attention was paid to him. In 2005 three people were stabbed and this time around another six people received the same treatment – one of whom, 16-year-old Shira Banki, has since died.
It is worth pointing out that despite the ‘pink-washing’ of Israel by its Zionist supporters, 47% of Israelis consider being gay an ‘abomination’. It is true that this includes Palestinian Israelis, but the difference is that the latter do not participate in anti-gay protests, whereas the orthodox and nationalist right do. They include the HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) Party in Netanyahu’s government, including its education and justice ministers, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked. Shaked has openly called for genocide against the Palestinians.
Israel, the only remaining settler colonial state, is also the world’s most racist state. Yet in the Labour leadership hustings here in Britain, hosted by Labour Friends of Israel, the three rightwing candidates fell over themselves to demonstrate their Zionist credentials, oblivious to the cesspit of racism and bigotry that Israel has descended into.
Even Israel’s president, a Likud member and Greater Israel supporter, Reuven Rivlin, has been the subject of death threats after having condemned the murder of Ali Dawabsha. Rivlin, unlike Netanyahu, has been consistent in speaking out against racism and what he has termed Israel’s racist “disease”.1
Andy Burnham promised that Israel would be his first destination if he becomes prime minister. Quite what Israel has done to deserve this he did not explain. For Yvette Cooper, it is “hugely important that Labour continues to be a friend of Israel”. Quite why it is more important than being a “friend” of any other state she did not explain. According to Cooper, Labour was not quick enough to condemn rising levels of anti-Semitism in the UK during Israel’s deadly assault on Gaza last summer. She seemed oblivious to the fact that 2,200 people in Gaza, including over 500 children, had been killed and that Israel claims it carries out its war crimes on behalf of all Jews. Liz Kendall, had her work cut out to appear even more pro-Zionist and had to be content with pledging to “always be a friend of Israel”. She would go to the stake to oppose boycott, divestment and sanctions.
But, apart from the right to vote, which in an ethnocracy is virtually meaningless, Palestinians in Israel experience not merely racial discrimination, but a life in which they are permanent outsiders and ‘guests’ in a Jewish state. People often find it hard to grasp a very simple fact: a settler colonial Jewish state is inherently racist. Whereas in Islamic states, such as Iran or Saudi Arabia, the ruling elites use religion to justify the oppression of other Muslims, in Israel being Jewish means being entitled to privileges. That is why Israel is an ethnocracy.
Every aspect of life – education (except higher education), land, employment, personal status – is segregated and distinct. In most capitalist societies there is racial discrimination, but there are also laws designed to mitigate or end such a situation. There are European race directives and in Britain a Race Relations Act. In the United States there are equivalent laws and affirmative action. In Israel, on the other hand, discrimination is woven into the fabric of the state. Racism is part of the state’s identity. So, even where there is a law against incitement to racial hatred (brought in when Rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of the Jewish Nazi Party, Kach, was elected to the Knesset), it cannot be used, because the law makes an exception for discrimination on the grounds of religion – which gives Jewish racism a free pass. The only people prosecuted under it are the victims of racism, Israel’s Arabs. Even Kahane ended up voting for the act!
An example of how the right to vote is granted – not to mitigate the discrimination against Israel’s Arab population, but to present a ‘democratic’ facade to the world – was the exchange in Israel’s Knesset over the 2003 Citizenship Law, which prevented family unification for Palestinians living in the West Bank with their Israeli relatives. Deputy interior minister Yaron Mazuz turned to the Arab parliamentarians present and declared: “You’re the first ones who should hand in your ID card.” He told Arab MK Issawi Frej of Meretz, a left-Zionist party: “We’re doing you a favour by letting you even sit here.” The next speaker, Binyamin Netanyahu, continued the racist tirade, attacking the Arab MKs for not having condemned war crimes in Syria and Yemen.2 It was only in May that Netanyahu had gone on Facebook to warn Israel’s Jewish voters that the Arabs were voting in “droves”.
Where the Netanyahu coalitions have broken new ground is their open adoption of racism. No longer is it necessary to hide behind ‘security’ obfuscations or ostensibly neutral provisions, such as a requirement for army service to get certain jobs. Today you can wear your racism on your sleeve.
One recent example of this is the tirade on Facebook of ‘justice’ minister Ayelet Shaked:
This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people … an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure … They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons – nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.3
Rabbi Eli Dahan, the deputy defence minister, also of HaBayit HaYehudi, has some interesting views too: “Palestinians are beasts; they aren’t human.”4 For those interested in religious metaphysics, the good rabbi believes that “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual.”5 As Uri Misgav writes, “How can a nation so proud of being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ operate as the only theocracy in the OECD?”6
The leader of Jewish Home, Naftali Bennett, is also no slouch when it comes to Arabs. In a discussion with a security advisor there was the following dialogue:
Bennett: “If you catch terrorists, you have to simply kill them.”
Amidror: “Listen, that’s not legal.”
Bennett: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”7
Dozens of Arab and Jewish leftwing high school students walked out on a speech by Bennett during a conference at Tel Aviv University after he suggested that Arabs are car and property thieves.8
Open expressions of racism are not confined to Jewish Home. The major party in the current coalition, Likud, is also no slouch. The new deputy foreign minister, Tzipi Hotovely, during her tenure at the Committee on the State of Women and Gender Equality, in 2011 invited representatives from Lehava, an organisation which opposes all Jewish-Arab assimilation, to a discussion on possible activity to prevent the development of relationships between Jews and Arabs. In 2015 Lehava was declared a terrorist organisation after its activists had set fire to Jerusalem’s only Jewish-Arab mixed school. Hotovely declared: “It is important to me to check systems to prevent mixed marriages and Lehava are the most suitable for this.”9 One of these “systems” involves organising attacks on Arabs in Jewish areas. Lehava’s ‘charitable’ wing, Hemla, receives half its budget – over 600,000 shekels (just over £100,000) a year – from the social affairs ministry.
And Hotovely’s view on the settlements is quite clear: “This land is ours. All of it is ours. We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognise Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere.”10
As for defence minister Moshe Yalon, at the 2015 Shurat HaDin conference he stated that Israel is “going to hurt Lebanese civilians, to include kids of the family. We went through a very long deep discussion – we did it then, we did it in the Gaza Strip, we are going to do it in any round of hostilities in the future.” He went on to threaten the use of Israeli nuclear weapons against Iran “in certain cases”, when Israel feels “surgical operations” would not suffice. Then it might take “certain steps”, as the US did in “Nagasaki and Hiroshima”11
For her part, Miri Regev, Likud’s culture and sports minister, distinguished herself by stating that “the Sudanese are a cancer in our body”. This helped trigger riots in south Tel Aviv and attacks on African refugees. She later apologised to cancer patients in case they thought they were being likened to asylum-seekers.12
Ideology and practice are coming into line. Ever since the foundation of the state of Israel, Palestinian citizens have suffered permanent and ongoing discrimination, but to some extent at least the ruling ideology traditionally nodded in the direction of mainstream western values. Today all such pretensions are being abandoned l
6. The hierarchy of the human species, as told by Eli Ben Dahan: www.haaretz.com/blogs/2.596/.premium-1.566156.
Tony is a veteran working class and anti-imperialist activist, based in Brighton, Britain. The article above first appeared in the Weekly Worker in Britain, on August 12.