Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Racism.
Tags: anti-arab racism, arab emgration, arab israelis, arab minority israel, arab transfer, Avigdor Lieberman, conn hallinan, ehud olmert, expel arabs, gaza war, israel, israel army roadblocks, israel occupied territories, israel racism, israel settlements, israel xenophobia, israeli extremists, jewish nationalists, jewish state, kach, kadima, knesset, likud, meir kahane, meretz, Middle East, national union, nteanyahu, palestinian state, roger hollander, shin bet, tzipi livni, west bank, yisrael beiteinu, Zeev Sternhell
By Conn Hallinan, AlterNet. Posted March 4, 2009.
There is a growing consensus among Israelis that it would acceptable to expel its Arab citizens to either a Palestinian state or to Jordan and Egypt.
One of the more disturbing developments in the Middle East is a growing consensus among Israelis that it would acceptable to expel — in the words of advocates “transfer” — its Arab citizens to either a yet as unformed Palestinian state or the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt.
Such sentiment is hardly new among Israeli extremists, and it has long been advocated by racist Jewish organizations like Kach, the party of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as groups like the National Union, which doubled its Knesset representation in the last election.
But “transfer” is no longer the exclusive policy of extremists, as it has increasingly become a part of mainstream political dialogue. “My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two nation-states with certain concessions and with clear red lines,” Kadima leader and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a group of Tel Aviv high school students last December, “and among other things, I will be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, ‘ your national solution lies elsewhere.’”
Such talk has consequences.
According to the Israeli Association for Civil Rights, anti-Arab incidents have risen sharply. “Israeli society is reaching new heights of racism that damages freedom of expression and privacy,” says Sami Michael, the organization’s president. Among the Association’s findings:
* Some 55 percent of Jewish Israelis say that the state should encourage Arab emigration;
* 78 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose including Arab parties in the government;
* 56 percent agree with the statement that “Arabs cannot attain the Jewish level of cultural development”;
* 75 percent agree that Arabs are inclined to be violent. Among Arab-Israelis, 54 percent feel the same way about Jews.
* 75 percent of Israeli Jews say they would not live in the same building as Arabs.
The tension between Israeli democracy and the country’s Jewish character was the centerpiece of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party’s campaign in the recent election. His party increased its Knesset membership from 11 to 15, and is now the third largest party in the parliament.
Lieberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement near Bethlehem, calls for a “loyalty oath” from Arab-Israelis, and for either expelling those who refuse or denying them citizenship rights. During a Knesset debate last March, Lieberman told Arab deputies, “You are only temporarily here. One day we will take care of you.”
Such views are increasing, particularly among young Jewish Israelis, among whom a politicized historical education and growing hopelessness about the future has fueled a strong rightward shift.
In a recent article in Haaretz, Yotam Feldman writes about a journey through Israel’s high schools, where students freely admit to their hatred of Arabs and lack of concern about the erosion of democracy.
“Sergei Liebliyanich, a senior, draws a connection between the preparation for military service in school and student support for the Right” Feldman writes, “‘ It gives us motivation against the Arabs. You want to enlist in the army so you can stick it to themI like Lieberman’s thinking about the Arabs. Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the rightwing Likud Party] doesn’t want to go as far.”
Feldman polled 10 high schools and found that Yisrael Beiteinu was the most popular party, followed by Likud. The left-wing Meretz Party came in dead last.
In part, the politicalization of the education system is to blame.
Mariam Darmoni-Sharviot, a former civics teacher who is helping implement the 1995 Kremnitzar Commission’s recommendations on education and democracy, told Feldman, “When I talk to a civics class about the Arab minority, and about its uniqueness in being a majority that became a minority, my students argue and say it’s not true that they [Arabs] were a majority.” She said when she confronted teachers and asked why students didn’t know that Arabs were a majority in 1947, the teachers become “evasive and say it’s not part of the material.”
In part, students reflect the culture that surrounds them.
“Israeli society is speaking in two voices,” says Education Minister Yuli Tamir. “We see ourselves as a democratic society, yet we often neglect things that are very basic to democracy. If the students see the Knesset disqualifying Arab parties, a move that I’ve adamantly opposed, how can we expect them to absorb democratic values?”
All the major Israeli parties voted to remove two Arab parties, United Arab List-Ta’al and Balad, from the ballot because they opposed the Gaza war. Balad also calls for equal rights for all Israelis. Kadima spokesperson Maya Jacobs said, “Balad aims to exterminate Israel as a Jewish state and turn it into a state for all its citizens.” Labor joined in banning Balad, but not Ta’al.
The Israeli Supreme Court overturned the move and both parties ended up electing seven Knesset members in the recent election.
“The ultimate aim here,” says Dominic Moran, INS Security Watch’s senior correspondent in the Middle East, “is to sever the limited ties that bind Jews and Arabs, to the point that the idea of the transfer of the Arab-Israeli population beyond the borders of the state, championed by Yisrael Beiteinu, gains increasing legitimacy.”
This turn toward the Right also reflects an economic crisis, where poverty is on the rise and the cost of maintaining the settlements in the Occupied Territories and Israel’s military is a crushing burden. Peace Now estimates that the occupation costs $1.4 billion a year, not counting the separation wall. Israel’s military budget is just under $10 billion a year. According to Haartez, the Gaza war cost $374 million.
Some 16 percent of the Jewish population fall below the poverty line, a designation that includes 50 percent of Israeli Arabs.
“The Israeli reality can no longer hide what it has kept hidden up to now — that today no sentient mother can honestly say to her child: ‘ Next year things will be better here,’” says philosophy of education professor, Ilan Gur-Ze’ev. “The young people are replacing hope for a better future with a myth of a heroic end. For a heroic end, Lieberman fits the bill.”
Intercommunity tension manifests itself mainly in the Occupied Territories, where the relentless expansion of settlements and constant humiliation of hundreds of Israeli Army roadblocks fuels Palestinian anger.
This past December, settlers in Hebron attacked Palestinians after the Israeli government removed a group of Jewish families occuping an Arab-owned building. In response, the settlers launched “Operation Price Tag” to inflict punishment on Palestinians in the event the Tel Aviv government moves against settlers. Rioters torched cars, desecrated a Muslim cemetery, and gunned down two Arabs.
Settler rampages on the West Bank are nothing new, even though they receive virtually no coverage in the U.S. media. But a disturbing trend is the appearance of extremist settlers in Israel. Late last year Baruch Marzel, a West bank settler and follower of Kahane, threatened to lead a march through Umm al-Fahm, a largely Arab-Israeli town near Haifa.
“We have a cancer in our body capable of destroying the state of Israel,” Marzel told The Forward, “and these people are in the heart of Israel, a force capable of destroying Israel from the inside. I am going to tell these people that the land of Israel is ours.”
Arab-Israelis charge that settlers — some of them extremists re-settled from Gaza three years ago — played a role in last year’s Yom Kippur riots in the mixed city of Acre and forced Arab families our of their houses in the east part of the city. Arabs make up about 14 percent of Acre and 20 percent of Israel.
Rabbi Dov Lior, chair of the West Bank Rabbinical Council, has decreed, “It is completely forbidden to employ [Arabs] and rent houses to them in Israel.”
The Adallah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights is urging Israeli Attorney General Mernachem Mazuz to investigate “Wild incitement to racism against Arabs in general and the [Arab] residents of Acre in particular.”
On Oct. 15, three days after the Acre riots, two Arab apartments in Tel Aviv were attacked with Molotov cocktails. Seven Jewish men were arrested. The Arab residents of Lod and Haifa charge that they too are being pressured to move.
In the case of Lod, municipal authorities are open about their intentions. Municipal spokesman Yoram Ben-Aroch denied that the city discriminates against Arabs, but told The Forward that municipal authorities want Lod, to become “a more Jewish town. We need to strengthen the Jewish character of Lod and religious people and Zionists have a big part to play in this strengthening.”
However, the growing lawlessness of West bank settlers and Jewish nationalists has begun to unsettle the authorities in Tel Aviv. After rightwing extremists tried to assassinate Peace Now activist Professor Zeev Sternhell, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said the intelligence organization was “very concerned” about the “extremist right” and its willingness to resort to violence.
Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said “We are not willing to live with a significant group of people that has cast off all authority,” and called Operation Price Tag a “pogrom.”
So far, however, the government and Shin Bet have done little to rein in the rising tide of rightwing terror, which is aimed at Jews as well as Arabs.
Ahmad Tibi of the Arab Ta’al Party says that while Arab Israelis feel threatened by what Ben Gurion University political scientist Neve Gordan calls a “move toward xenophobic politics,” Tibi warns that, “It is the Jewish majority that should be afraid of this phenomenon.”
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: Avigdor Lieberman, bibi netanyahu, greater israel, hamas, Israel Beytenu, israel settlements, israeli election, jonathan freedland, kach party, kadima, knesset, likud, meir kahane, palestinian state, roger hollander, shimon perex, tzipi livni, west bank, yitzhak shamir, zionism
The search for silver linings in the murky cloud of yesterday’s Israeli election requires a great effort of the will. There is not much to go on. You could draw comfort from the fact that Likud’s Bibi Netanyahu, who thought he was such a dead cert to win a matter of weeks ago, was rejected, albeit narrowly, in favour of the woman he so consistently patronised, Tzipi Livni of Kadima.
Or you might take solace in the notion that the near tie between Bibi and Tzipi would most easily be resolved by the pair rotating the premiership between them, each taking a two-year turn, following the precedent set by Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Shamir after they fought each other to a dead heat in 1984. The virtue of such an arrangement could be the exclusion of the ultra-nationalist hardman Avigdor Lieberman, whose Israel Beytenu – Israel our Home – party surged to third place on Tuesday.
Or you might assume that the likeliest coalition will be unambiguously of the right, given that – even though Likud itself fell short – the parties of the self-styled “national camp” won a convincing victory over the centre-left bloc. Bibi’s motivation will be to expose Kadima to the chill of opposition for the first time in its short life, where, Bibi hopes, it will wither and die. The result will be the most rightwing government in Israel’s history. Good, one longtime peace campaigner told me yesterday. “Let the right have power and live with the consequences.” They will soon be on a collision course with Barack Obama’s Washington. Under US pressure, they will unravel, the right’s limitations will have been exposed and the pendulum will swing back leftwards.
Even if that is too hopeful, some on the Israeli left see a value in the country having a full-bloodedly rightist government. “Maybe we’re like the alcoholic who needs to touch bottom before we can start the climb back up,” was how one put it. Perhaps there has to be a crisis before there can be a recovery.
If these sound like heroic attempts at self-consolation, that is because they are. The truth is, the clouds are much clearer to see. The hawkish camp thumped the centre left on Tuesday, and that’s even when you generously count Kadima and Labour – co-authors of operation Cast Lead – as the centre left. But this is about more than a victory for the right. Something else happened and its face belongs to Avigdor Lieberman, the kingmaker whose 15 seats are essential if either Bibi or Livni are to govern without each other.
He does not fit straightforwardly on the Israeli right wing. For one thing, he is avowedly secular. Indeed, much of his appeal was to anti-religious voters who liked his demand for civil unions, thereby breaking the orthodox rabbinate’s current monopoly on state-sanctioned marriage. Talk of liberalising the sale of pork products proved too much for at least one religious party, whose spiritual leader warned that a vote for Lieberman was a vote for Satan. The result is that Bibi may find assembling a coalition that includes both the religious parties and Lieberman impossible.
Even more striking is the kingmaker’s stance on the defining issue of Israeli politics: territorial compromise. The hard right have always opposed the very idea, clinging to the notion of Greater Israel. But Lieberman – who lives in a West Bank settlement – has said he would be prepared to give up even his own home. Unlike some of his fellow settlers, he does not regard the land as sacred soil that can never be conceded.
Make no mistake, this is not because Lieberman is some kind of crypto- peacenik. The opposite is true: I saw him give a victory speech on Tuesday in which he declared his refusal to join any government that would allow Hamas to remain in power: “Our first goal is clear, to destroy Hamas, to take it down.”
What separates Lieberman from the traditional Revisionist Zionists that formed Likud is that his goal is not holding on to the maximum amount of land but governing over the minimum number of Arabs. To put it concisely, he would prefer a smaller, ethnically pure Israel to a larger, binational one. To that end, he would give up heavily-populated Palestinian areas of the West Bank and – much more controversially – seeks to redraw the border so that Arab areas of pre-1967 Israel become part of a Palestinian state. In other words, those who are now Palestinian citizens of Israel will find themselves living in their same homes – but under the jurisdiction of another country. Whether their consent will be sought for this move is left vague.
But it’s not this idea which has made Lieberman such a toxic force. For that you have to look to the slogan that drove his campaign: “No loyalty, no citizenship.” He would insist that every Israeli swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state: anyone who loses will lose his citizenship.
Israel Beytenu denies this is racist, insisting that every Israeli will have to swear the oath, Jewish or Arab. It is true that plenty of ultra-orthodox Jews who don’t accept the authority of a godless secular state may also refuse. But the target is clearly Israel’s 1.45 million Arabs. If they will not swear their allegiance, explains Lieberman deputy Uzi Landau, “They will have residency rights but no right to vote or be in the Knesset.”
It is a truly shocking idea. I asked several Israel Beytenu luminaries if they could name a single democracy anywhere that had removed citizenship from those who already had it. I asked what they would make of demanding that, say, British Jews, swear an oath of loyalty to Britain as a Christian country on pain of losing their right to vote. I got no good answers.
There was a time when such a poisonous idea would have been confined to the lunatic extremes of the racist Kach party, led by Meir Kahane (of whose youth wing Lieberman was once a member). Twenty five years ago Kahane was banned from the Knesset. Now his heir is courted by the two main parties, desperate for his support. Kadima is untroubled by the loyalty oath scheme; Bibi says he agrees with it.
Who is to blame for this? Israel Beytenu puts the blame on the Israeli Arab leadership for flaunting their “disloyalty”, especially during January’s Gaza offensive when several prominent Israeli Arabs proclaimed their solidarity with Hamas. They say no democratic society could tolerate such a fifth column, cheering on a mortal enemy.
The Israeli left bear some indirect responsibility here too, at least for the idea of reassigning Palestinian villages inside Israel to Palestine. For years, the left has couched its opposition to the occupation in demographic terms: ruling over millions of Palestinians would eventually imperil Israel’s status as a Jewish state. Lieberman is simply extending that logic beyond the 1967 borders. In this sense Lieberman is the bastard child of the Israeli peace movement.
Above all, it is Israeli society that has to take a hard look at itself. For so long, it has lived inside a bubble in which it can only see its side of the story: they hit us, so we hit back; we are under siege from hostile forces, we are the victim. In this mental landscape, even a Moldovan-born immigrant stripping people born in their own land of their citizenship can come to seem acceptable. What’s needed is not just a change in the electoral system that would allow “strong government” of the kind Lieberman yearns to implement. What’s needed is for Israelis to step outside the bubble, to begin to see the causes of their current predicament, instead of dealing again and again, ever more ineffectively, with the symptoms. Tuesday’s election prompts no confidence that that is about to happen.
© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Peace, War.
Tags: amy goodman, danis moynihan, democrcy now, ehud barak, gaza, hamas, israel military, israelis, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, knesset, likud, netanyahu, Obama, Palestinians, refugee camps, roger hollander, tzipi livni, unrwa
Jan 6, 2009, www.truthdig.com
By Amy Goodman
Israel’s assault on Gaza, by air, sea and now land, has killed (at the time of this writing) more than 600 Palestinians, with more than 2,700 injured. Ten Israelis have been killed, three of them, Israeli soldiers, killed by friendly fire. Beyond the deaths and injuries, the people of Gaza are suffering a dire humanitarian crisis that is dismissed by the Israeli government. There is, however, Israeli opposition to the military assault.
Israeli professor Neve Gordon is chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in southern Israel, the region most impacted by the Hamas rockets.
Speaking over the phone from Beersheba, Gordon said: “We just had a rocket about an hour ago not far from our house. My two children have been sleeping in a bomb shelter for the past week. And yet, I think what Israel is doing is outrageous. … The problem is that most Israelis say Israel left the Gaza Strip three years ago, and Hamas is still shooting rockets at us. They forget the details. The detail is that Israel maintains sovereignty. The detail is that the Palestinians live in a cage. The detail is that they don’t get basic foodstuff, that they don’t get electricity, that they don’t get water. And when you forget those kinds of details, all you say is, ‘Why are they still shooting at us?’ That’s what the media here has been pumping them with, then you think this war is rational. If you look at what’s been going on in the Gaza Strip in the past three years and you see what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians, you would think that the Palestinian resistance is rational. And that’s what’s missing in the mainstream media here.”
Gordon attended a large peace march last weekend in Tel Aviv with more than 10,000 Israelis. Longtime Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery was there. He called the invasion “a criminal war, because, on top of everything else it is openly and shamelessly part of Ehud Barak’s and Tzipi Livni’s election campaign. I accuse Ehud Barak of exploiting the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] soldiers in order to get more Knesset seats. I accuse Tzipi Livni of advocating mutual slaughter in order to become prime minister.” Israel’s elections will be in February.
The assault strengthens right-wing Likud Party leader and former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a foremost hawk and leading candidate for prime minister. While Netanyahu fully supports the attack on Gaza, his nephew, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, is an Israeli conscientious objector who was court-martialed and imprisoned for a year and a half. He spoke to me from Providence, R.I., where he is a student at Brown University.
“I’m speaking … not as anyone’s nephew but … as an Israeli, trying to speak out to Americans to tell them you don’t have to support Israel blindly. Not everything that Israel does is holy … sometimes you have to speak firmly to Israel and tell us, tell our government, stop doing this.”
Gideon Levy is a Jewish journalist with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He told me: “I think that Israel had this legitimacy to protect its citizens in the southern part of Israel … but this doing something does not mean this brutal and violent operation. … I believe we could have got to a new truce without this bloodshed. Immediately to send dozens of jets to bomb a total helpless civilian society with hundreds of bombs—just today, they were burying five sisters. I mean, this is unheard of. This cannot go on like this.”
But it is. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, in Gaza opened up schools to provide shelter, since Gazans, trapped in this narrow strip of land, have no place to flee. Christopher Gunness of UNRWA told me that they provided the coordinates of the schools to the Israeli military. Nevertheless, at least two schools have been hit by Israeli airstrikes in the past 24 hours. Three people were killed at the Asma Elementary school. More than 30 are reported dead and more than 55 injured at the al-Fakhura school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza.
While Israeli planes drop pamphlets urging Palestinians to leave, the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, perhaps the most densely populated place on Earth, have no place to run, no place to hide. Calls for an immediate cease-fire are ignored by Israel and blocked by the U.S. government. It is not clear what the Obama administration will do—but the people of Gaza can’t wait until the inauguration. There must be a cease-fire now. And that’s just the beginning.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.
© 2009 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate