Silver Lining

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Tag Archives: Israeli society

Israeli elections: The center cannot hold

Racism pervades Israeli electoral campaign

(Fence with Egypt to prevent immigration- file photo)

by Yusuf Fernandez, source

The last electoral campaign in Israel has been dominated by racism. It is not just racism against Arabs, which is as old as the existence of the Zionist entity, but also racism against Black people, whose life is becoming more and more miserable in Israel.

According to the statistics, there are currently about 60,000 African immigrants in the Zionist entity. Most of them come from South Sudan, Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Congo and other countries.

The situation of Africans in Israel, both Jews and non-Jews, is actually desperate. Some thousands have low-quality jobs where they are unscrupulously exploited by Israeli employers. Others are homeless and are begging on the streets of Israeli cities to survive. In spite of claims of rampant crime in the suburbs of South Tel Aviv where most Africans live, a senior police commander, David Gez, was quoted as saying the level of crime among this population was actually relatively low.

The last episode of anti-Black racism was a recent video made by the religious Shas party – which represents Sephardi Jews, who ironically have also been historically subjected to discrimination by Jews of European-origin (Ashkenazis). The five-minute video sought to fuel fear of Africans and increase support for the Shas’s anti-immigration platform ahead of the January 22 parliamentary elections.

The message of the video was that only the leader of the Shas party, Eli Yishai, who is also currently interior minister, can successfully fight against the “threat” allegedly posed by African immigrants, whom Yishai and other Israeli politicians repeatedly refer to as “infiltrators.” In an interview with Ynet, Yishai said “the threat from infiltrators is no less severe than the Iranian nuclear threat.”

In May, Yishai told Maariv that in the previous months dozens of Israeli women had been raped by “infiltrators” in South Tel Aviv but they had decided not to report the attacks so that people would not think they had “contracted AIDS.”

The content of the video was not different to other similar ones made by far-right European parties. There were in it remarks by local residents who express their fear for their safety and anger over a housing shortage – all allegedly due to the African immigrants. According to Times of Israel, one woman says that “it is their fault that there are no apartments. It is their fault that housing is very expensive.” A man complains that “tomorrow the Sudanese will keep on walking around here, continue to beat (people) up, continue to stab and continue to rape our women.”

The narrator says that the Black “infiltrators” “control neighborhoods in South Tel Aviv, Eilat, Ashdod, and other cities,” and pose a “social, religious and security threat.” He goes on to assert that the “greatest threat of all is the demographic threat.” The video also claims that the majority of African migrants are Muslim, and that they therefore “do not believe in the State of Israel’s right to exist.”

Ironically, the Shas has also denounced the racial bias of the other Israeli parties. Recently, Aryeh Deri, the number three of the party, accused the Likud-Yisraeli Beitenu party of “being a party of Russians and whites” and having ostensible bias against Sephardi Jews, who have been considered second-class citizens in the Zionist entity, where the power has been traditionally in the hands of Ashkenazi Jews, who mostly came from Eastern Europe.

For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that he wants to expel tens of thousands of African undocumented immigrants and that the inflow into Israel from Egypt has been brought to a halt due to the new barrier. “Our aim is to repatriate tens of thousands of infiltrators now in Israel to their countries of origin,” he said, adding Israel was in contact with some governments from Africa “to solve this problem.”

On May 23, 2012, Likud leading members took part in a demonstration in Tel Aviv’s impoverished suburb of Hatikva to protest against the presence of Africans in Israel. Miri Regev of Likud addressed the rally to which more than 1,000 people attended. There, she described the Africans as a “cancer in our body” and pledged to do everything she could “in order to bring them back to where they belong.” She attacked human rights and “left-wing” groups aiding the immigrants.

Danny Danon, another leader of Likud, said that the only solution to the issue of the “infiltrators” would be to “start to talk about their expulsion.” “We must expel the infiltrators from Israel. We should not be afraid to say the words ‘expulsion now,’” he said.

Violent attacks

Shortly after the speeches, violent incidents broke out. Demonstrators smashed shops, properties and cars belonging to the African immigrants and beat up men and women while chanting “Blacks out.”

In April 2012, apartments where Africans lived as well as a kindergarten were attacked with Molotov cocktails in Shapira in south Tel Aviv.

On July 12, 2012, an Eritrean man was badly burned and his pregnant wife suffered smoke inhalation after attackers tried to burn down their apartment in central al-Quds (Jerusalem). The incident, the second arson attack on African immigrants in the city within six weeks, took place near the city’s Mahane Yehuda market, AFP quoted a police source as saying.

The Israeli government has refused to condemn these attacks on African immigrants and instead used them as an excuse to promote its anti-migrant agenda, which included a new law allowing the authorities to keep undocumented Africans imprisoned for three years and jail those who help them for up to 15 years. According to recent polls, one in three Israelis supports those attacks.

Even “left-leaning” parties, such as the Labor, support racist policies. The Labor leader, Shelly Yachimovich, accused recently the government of “having failed… and let the slums be flooded by migrant workers and refugees, thereby helping to kindle wild passions” and claimed the need to “protect the country from facing a huge mass of migrant workers.”

In March 2012, Israel started to build a huge prison camp, the world’s largest, in the Negev desert. Such a facility is situated near the Ketziot prison, where thousands of Palestinian prisoners have been jailed. The camp will be run by the prison service and thousands of Africans will be locked there. A spokesperson for the Israeli ministry of interior confirmed that Yishai wanted to eventually jail all of the thousands of undocumented African immigrants currently in the Zionist entity.

Other immigrants have already started to be expelled. On June 10, the immigration police began a mass roundup operation, which was initially focused on South Sudanese nationals but was then expanded to include those from the Ivory Coast. Hundreds of these Africans were detained and around 240 were sent to Juba, capital of South Sudan.

There is no doubt that racism and xenophobia are being fueled by the current Israeli government and nearly all the Zionist parties. Their main goal is to divert growing outrage over the decline of living standards and rising social problems by promoting racist claims and demands to preserve the “Jewish identity” of the Zionist entity at a time when the latter is getting weaker and more internationally isolated due to its settlement policies.

In shock reversal, Abe Foxman’s ADL speaks out against rights for Arab Jews & “Israel’s” anti-Black pogrom

“Israel’s” Anti-Black Pogrom (click to read)

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In shock reversal, Abe Foxman’s ADL speaks out against rights for Arab Jews

by Ali Abunimah, EI

Reversing a long-standing position, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the most influential Zionist organizations in the United States, has come out against recognition of the rights of Arab Jews.

In a 7 January press release, the ADL

welcomed the resignation of a close adviser to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi who last week called for Jews of Egyptian descent to return to Egypt and “leave Israel.”

The statement also condemned the advisor, Essam el-Erian’s, criticisms of Israel.

“This broad-brush negative stereotype of Jews by a senior Egyptian official was inappropriate, unacceptable and raises serious questions about the attitudes of some of Egypt’s leaders towards Jews,” the press release quoted ADL National Director Abraham Foxman as saying.

El-Erian called for Jews to come home

But the comments of el-Erian, a leading figure in the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, asreported by the Associated Press, only heaped praise on Jews qua Jews while attacking Israel and Zionism:

“I wish our Jews return to our country, so they can make room for the Palestinians to return, and Jews return to their homeland in light of the democracy” evolving in Egypt, he said. “I call on them now. Egypt is more deserving of you.”

“Why stay in a racist entity, an occupation, and be tainted with war crimes that will be punished, all occupation leaders will be punished,” he said. He added in separate comments that the Zionist “project” will end.

As usual, Foxman – in a blatantly anti-Semitic move – has deliberately conflated criticism of Israel with criticism of all Jews.

ADL reverses itself

Foxman’s condemnation of a call for Egypt’s Jews to be invited home represents a sharp reversal for the ADL which in 2008 hailed a US House of Representatives resolution on Jews from Arab lands:

“In passing this resolution, the House has recognized that any just discussion and resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must also address the narrative and outstanding claims of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to flee Arab lands in the years surrounding the establishment of the State of Israel,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.

“The story of these refugees who were forced to leave behind centuries-old communities had been ignored for too long.”

Given this position, the ADL ought, if anything, to have warmly welcomed El Erian’s willingness to see the terrible plight of Egyptian Jews exiled in Palestine reversed.

Cynical manipulation

While hundreds of thousands of Jews did leave Arab countries after the establishment of Israel, and in many cases were deprived of property and citizenship when they left, the notion that they were “forced” out is false, as Joseph Massad shows in a recent article for Al Jazeera debunking Zionist propaganda.

Israel itself was involved in terrorizing Jews in Iraq and Egypt in order to encourage them to leave for Palestine.

The real reason that Zionist organizations and the Israeli government have recently revived propaganda about Arab Jews is not out of concern for them, but rather a cynical campaign campaign to pit Arab Jews against Palestinian refugees and to advance the claim that the expulsion of the Palestinians was part of a “population exchange.”

There’s no clearer proof of this cynicism than the ADL’s panicked reaction when a senior Egyptian official apparently took the concern for the fate of the Jews from Arab lands seriously.

After the Israeli government’s renewed campaign last year, some Arab and Kurdish Jews formed the Committee of Baghdadi Jews in Ramat-Gan to reject Israel’s misuse of their history.

Affirming that the Israeli government “does not represent us,” the group said they would wage an international campaign for compensation from Israel if an investigation found that Israel’s founding prime minister David “Ben-Gurion did, in fact, carry out negotiations over the fate of Iraqi Jewish property and assets in 1950, and directed the Mossad to bomb the community’s synagogue in order to hasten our flight from Iraq.”

The terror lurking in a Christmas tree: “Israel” tries to ban non-Jewish celebrations

(File photo)

by Jonathan Cook, source

Israel’s large Palestinian minority is often spoken of in terms of the threat it poses to the Jewish majority. Palestinian citizens’ reproductive rate constitutes a “demographic timebomb”, while their main political programme – Israel’s reform into “a state of all its citizens” – is proof for most Israeli Jews that their compatriots are really a “fifth column”.

But who would imagine that Israeli Jews could be so intimidated by the innocuous Christmas tree?

This issue first came to public attention two years ago when it was revealed that Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, had banned Christmas trees from all public buildings in his northern Israeli city.

“Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” Gapso said. “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.”

The decision reflected in part his concern that Upper Nazareth, built in the 1950s as the centrepiece of the Israeli government’s “Judaisation of the Galilee” programme, was failing dismally in its mission.

Far from “swallowing up” the historic Palestinian city of Nazareth next door, as officials had intended, Upper Nazareth became over time a magnet for wealthier Nazarenes who could no longer find a place to build a home in their own city. That was because almost all Nazareth’s available green space had been confiscated for the benefit of Upper Nazareth.

Instead Nazarenes, many of them Palestinian Christians, have been buying homes in Upper Nazareth from Jews – often immigrants from the former Soviet Union – desperate to leave the Arab-dominated Galilee and head to the country’s centre, to be nearer Tel Aviv.

The exodus of Jews and influx of Palestinians have led the government to secretly designate Upper Nazareth as a “mixed city”, much to the embarrassment of Gapso. The mayor is a stalwart ally of far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman and regularly expresses virulently anti-Arab views, including recently calling Nazarenes “Israel-hating residents whose place is in Gaza” and their city “a nest of terror in the heart of the Galilee”.

Although neither Gapso nor the government has published census figures to clarify the city’s current demographic balance, most estimates suggest that at least a fifth of Upper Nazareth’s residents are Palestinian. The city’s council chamber also now includes Palestinian representatives.

But Gapso is not alone in his trenchant opposition to making even the most cursory nod towards multiculturalism. The city’s chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, has refused to countenance a single Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth, arguing that it would be “offensive to Jewish eyes”.

That view, it seems, reflects the official position of the country’s rabbinate. In so far as they are able, the rabbis have sought to ban Christmas celebrations in public buildings, including in the hundreds of hotels across the country.

A recent report in the Haaretz newspaper, on an Israeli Jew who grows Christmas trees commercially, noted in passing: “hotels – under threat of losing kashrut certificates – are prohibited by the rabbinate from decking their halls in boughs of holly or, heaven forbid, putting up even the smallest of small sparkly Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby.”

In other words, the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.

Few mayors or rabbis find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to go public with their views on the dangers of Christmas decorations. In Israel, segregation between Jews and Palestinians is almost complete. Even most of the handful of mixed cities are really Jewish cities with slum-like ghettos of Palestinians living on the periphery.

Apart from Upper Nazareth, the only other “mixed” place where Palestinian Christians are to be found in significant numbers is Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. Haifa is often referred to as Israel’s most multicultural and tolerant city, a title for which it faces very little competition.

But the image hides a dirtier reality. A recent letter from Haifa’s rabbinate came to light in which the city’s hotels and events halls were reminded that they must not host New Year’s parties at the end of this month (the Jewish New Year happens at a different time of year). The hotels and halls were warned that they would be denied their kashrut licences if they did so.

“It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter states.

After the letter was publicised on Facebook, Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, moved into damage limitation mode, overruling the city’s rabbinical council on Sunday and insisting that parties would be allowed to go ahead. Whether Yahav has the power to enforce his decision on the notoriously independent-minded rabbinical authorities is still uncertain.

But what is clear is that there is plenty of religious intolerance verging on hatred being quietly exercised against non-Jews, mostly behind the scenes so as not to disturb Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” image or outrage the millions of Christian tourists and pilgrims who visit Israel each year.

Israeli officials “honor” settler who tortured Palestinian child, leaving him naked and bound

by Ali Abunimah, EI

Frequent and rising Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians almost always go unpunished.

Indeed, often, Israeli soldiers stand by and watch as Israeli settlers go on the rampage. The situation is so bad that a boy like Yousef Ikhlayl, 17, can be killed and there is no investigation or accountability.

So when an Israeli settler got sentenced to prison for torturing and abusing a Palestinian child, it was quite an event, as Haaretz reported:

Prominent rabbis, public officials and a Knesset member, on Saturday, held a send off for a criminal about to enter prison after being convicted of abusing a Palestinian youth.

The event was held in the West Bank Shilo settlement in honor of Zvi Struck, who was convicted of abusing a Palestinian youth in July 2007, together with another man whose identity remains unknown. The two beat the youth up, bound him, fired their guns close to him, undressed him and threw him naked at the roadside. Three months earlier the two men had beaten up the same youth and killed a day-old kid.

The Jerusalem District Court sentenced Struck to 18th months in prison, which the Supreme Court extended after an appeal to 30 months.

According to Haaretz, “The send off was led by Bnei Akiva yeshivas head Rabbi Haim Drukman and Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior, Binyamin Council head Avi Ro’eh, his deputy Motti Yogev and MK [Knesset member] Arye Eldad.”

The settler website, Israel National News posted video and a report of the party which featured live music, many children and families, and Struck himself (wearing a red shirt and a white scarf) warmly greeting people. In the video, supporters of Struck claim that “the judicial system believes the Arabs first.” Itzak Shadmi, a settler leader, said that he was fundraising to support Struck’s family.

Judge: “disgust and deep shock” over Struck’s abuse of child

A Ynet story from March 2011, at the time of Struck’s conviction, goes into even greater detail about what the settler did:

“There is no doubt that the actions harmed the complainant, who was 15 at the time, in a grievous manner,” Judge Amnon Cohen noted.

“I reviewed the medical records and the difficult photographs that were taken of the complainant immediately after the event, and I cannot avoid expressing disgust and deep shock over the signs of terrible trauma that the minor suffered.”

The incident took place in July 2007; Struck and another suspect kidnapped and beat the Palestinian teen, a resident of the West Bank village of Kusra. The teen was later found unconscious in an open field, naked, tied and injured, after making it to a main road on his own. Passersby rushed him to a hospital in nearby Nablus.

In addition to the assault, Struck was also convicted for a previous incident, during which he met with the teen on the outskirts of Kusra and demanded him to leave the area claiming he was trespassing on his land. At that time he slapped the teen, and killed a newborn goat by kicking it.

This is not justice

I have no doubt that some propagandists will try to claim that the conviction and imprisonment of Struck – despite the events in “honor” of him – are some sort of vindication for the Israeli “justice” system.

Bear in mind that this incident occurred in 2007, and it has taken until 2012 for Struck to go to jail – amid lamentations – for a light sentence of 30 months for a horrible crime. And even this must be seen in a context where, according to the UN OCHA, “Over 90% of monitored complaints regarding settler violence filed by Palestinians with the Israeli police in recent years have been closed without indictment.”

In the meantime, Zvi Struck is, at least for some prominent Israelis, a hero.

Israeli filmmaker: “But we gave back Lebanon”

by Brenda Heard, Friends of Lebanon

“What do you imagine when you’re in a tank?” Israeli filmmaker Itamar Rose asks young Israeli kids. “I picture a dead Arab and that makes me happy,” responds one boy. (1:37; 1:54-1:57)

These words are quickly circulating amongst internet activists. Of course there is also a flurry of counter-finger-pointing, beginning with Rose’s own reference to a Palestinian society of “agitation and hate.” In this and other films, Rose seems to be saying that cyclical violence is a no-win situation.

As worrisome as the happy-to-kill mantra of the kids might be, equally disturbing are these political practicalities:

Q—Where do you want to do your army service? In the north? The occupied territories? Gaza? Judea and Samaria?
A—Lebanon. My first choice would be Lebanon. [. . . ]
Q—But we gave back Lebanon. We aren’t fighting in Lebanon.
A—That’s okay, we’ll be back.
Q—Do you hope that by the time you’re a soldier we’ll be at war with Lebanon again?
A—Yes.
(2:14—2:35. The original is in Hebrew. The English translation is provided in the original film posted by Itamar Rose, as is the French translation, which confirms the same precise meaning: “Mais on a déjà rendu le Liban, on n’est plus en guerre là-bas.” “ C’est pas grave, on les remettra de nouveau.”)

The boy, who I would guess to be about 11 years old, states that his father had served in the Israeli Givati Brigade. These are specialist forces for the Lebanon Border, Hebron and Gaza. The boy states he wants to do the same as his father. A normal sentiment—to follow in a father’s footsteps. But he doesn’t just want to be a soldier. He doesn’t say he wants to defend his country or his people. He says he wants to be part of the Israeli military that returns to Lebanon. He wants to wage war against Lebanon.

He might have said that he would stand ready in Israel in its defence. He might have said that he hoped there would be peaceful relations. But he echoed the aggression he had absorbed from his society: “We’ll be back.”

Was he just playing up to the camera? Caught up in the atmosphere of the Armored Corps Memorial they were visiting? Of course it is possible, but even in such a case he felt that this belligerent stance, even if not heartfelt, was appropriate to enact.

And then there is the filmmaker’s statement: “But we gave back Lebanon.” Itamar Rose uses satire in his films, so there is a remote possibility that this phrase was a tongue in cheek baiting of the interviewee. But given the fact that Rose was recently hosted for a London event by the Israel Connect program of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, that possibility looks remote indeed. The Zionist Federation just doesn’t promote voices opposed to Zionism. And the 22-year occupation of Lebanon was Zionist at the core.

To say “we gave back Lebanon” necessitates the presumption of custodial possession. You can’t “give back” something you don’t hold claim to. Therein lies the rub. Zionism, a political ideology, presumes this entitlement. Israeli officials have, of course, frequently denied designs of territorial conquest. But the historical facts argue otherwise and the pervasive sense of entitlement is revealed time and again.

“But we gave back Lebanon,” says the older generation.

“That’s okay, we’ll be back,” says the new generation.

No, say those of the world with an eye on justice and international law. No, Lebanon wasn’t yours to take. It wasn’t yours to give back. And should you try to return, you will learn this very simple fact.

Waiting for false prophets: The puzzling matter of the ‘Israeli liberals’

by Ramzy Baroud, source

Regardless of who may rule Israel, little change ever occurs in the country’s foreign policy. Winning parties remain obsessed with demographics and retaining absolute military dominance. They also remain unfailingly focused on their quest to initiate racist laws against non-Jewish residents of the state, and continue to hone the art of speaking of peace, while actually maintaining a permanent state of war.

Every few years the media becomes captivated by Israeli democracy. Commentators speak of right, left, center, and anything in between. Despite Israeli elections still being a year and a half away, media pundits are already discussing possible outcomes of the vote against the peace process, economic reforms, social equality, and so on.

In a recent article, Israeli columnist Uri Avnery decried the fact that the main opposition to the rightwing parties – “the Likud, the Lieberman party and various ultra-nationalist, pro-settlement and religious factions” – is no other than the center-left Kadima. The party, led by the “incompetent” Tzipi Livni, is allegedly in “shambles”. Moreover, left parties, such as Labor and Meretz, are not expected to pose a real threat to the right party conglomerate, despite their temporary rise in the polls.

As genuine as he is, Avnery is once again presenting the false hope of a savior emerging to save Israel from itself. Avnery envisions Israel being rescued from its ‘neo fascists’ and returned to the over-romanticized scenario of old, when early Zionists supposedly dreamed of an Israel governed by universal ethics, true democracy, peace and social equality . “I fervently hope that a different kind of new political force will emerge – a center-left party with a clear and inclusive message: social reform, narrowing the gap between rich and poor, the two-state solution, peace with the Palestinians and the end of the occupation.”

But this is as far as the imagined narrative of a kinder, gentler Israel can possibly go. Many outside Israel struggle to reconcile familiar discourses of democracy and equality with the reality on the ground. True, the ailment is not exclusive to Israel itself, but few other self-proclaimed democratic countries have such a massive gap between mainstream political discourses and actual policies.

Recall, for example, what the media touted as Israel’s own ‘Arab Spring.’ Even those who knew Israeli history hoped for a fleeting moment that the mass protests throughout Israeli cities could actually challenge the political and social status quo in Israel. But not Seraj Assi, a columnist and PhD student at Georgetown University. Assi wrote: “The dirty secret of the Tel Aviv protests is that the bulk of those middle-class Ashkenazi protestors are moved by a racist hysteria. They are simply afraid of being moved to the city peripheries and the far less fashionable parts of the country. For when they complain that they only feel at home in Tel Aviv, they explicitly express a racist desire to stay away from the development towns and neighborhoods populated by Arabs, poor Mizrahi and Ethiopian Jews.”

Indeed, the protests labored to stay clear of contentious discussions of military occupation, war, and even racial inequality within Israeli itself.

Not even the one-sided war on Gaza, which resulted in the killing of over 1400 Palestinians, was enough to raise the level of mass consciousness to challenge political and military apparatuses in Israel in any meaningful way. Under the title, ‘The Moral and Military Meltdown in Israel’, Hamid Dabashi, Professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University, wrote: “It is not just the worst of the Israelis who (according to a recent poll by Haaretz) condone and actively support the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, but so have their very best, their intellectuals, professors, journalists, filmmakers, novelists and poets, from Amos Oz to David Grossman to A. B. Yehoshua to Meir Shalev and scores of others” (Jan 12, 2009).

While rightwing Israeli parties are often dismissed as anti-peace and hawkish, the ‘liberal’ Zionists in the Israeli Left have been viewed by some as an alternative, capable of writing wrongs and achieving the long-awaited peace. These are mere ‘delusions’, argued Roger Sheety in a recent article. “Scratch just a little below the surface and you discover that .. when it approaches the Palestinian person in particular, (Liberal Zionism) suddenly stops and fully reverses itself,” he wrote (Jan 9).

Sheety suggests a “clear and concise word for this phenomenon…hypocrisy.” But ‘hypocrisy’ might be too easy a term to explain this very involved trend in Israeli politics, which defined the Zionist movement long before the state of Israel was established in 1948. A most compelling book by Israeli author Tikva Honig-Parnass traces the roots of liberal Zionism from an insider perspective. False Prophets of Peace: Liberal Zionism and the Struggle for Palestine is a profound addition to a growing library that challenges ‘liberal’ Zionists’ claim to liberalism or progressiveness.

After reading Honig-Parnass’ book, one is left with a clear impression that liberal Zionists are neither ‘Israel’s best’ and nor is their double-speak a simple reflection of hypocrisy. Liberal Zionists were, and remain at the heart of the problem. After all, the Israeli Right didn’t emerge as a powerful player in politics until the late 1970s. All that proceeded – the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing, the Law of Return, the 1967 war and further colonial expansion, and even the war on Gaza in 2008-09 – were orchestrated by Israel’s Zionist Left leaderships. More, the “systematic institutional discrimination against Palestinian citizens was (also) applied through the strengthened power of the Zionist Left,” Honig-Parnass argues. Even the most ‘radical’ forces in Israel are tainted, as the Zionist Labor movement rallied around racial discrimination against non-Jews before the establishment of Israel; later laws made racial discrimination against non-Jewish laborers the status quo, as is the case today.

To hold hope in the new election cycle in Israel is like waiting for false prophets. No salvation will be heralded by some imagined center-left party that will bring “an end to the ultra-rightist frenzy,” as hoped by Avnery.

The task will not be easy, but a true shift in Israeli politics can only occur at the foundational level by confronting the country’s Apartheid-like political institutions. More, by challenging the “Zionist Left political and ideological perspectives,” a way could open for “progressive forces among Jews and Palestinians to fight together against the Zionist/Jewish state,” as suggested by Honig-Parnass.

- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

Anti-racism protest held in “Israel”

Press TV

Thousands of Ethiopian immigrants have staged a protest rally in Israel to condemn the growing social discrimination targeting their community.

More than 5,000 Israeli Jews of Ethiopian origin demonstrated in front of the Israeli Parliament in al-Quds (Jerusalem) on Wednesday calling for equal social rights and legislation against racism.

They hold banners reading, “Blacks and Whites – We’re all Equal”, “Social Justice,” “Our Blood is Only Good for Wars.”

“We have problems and we will not rest until things change. As of now the response to racism has been merely cosmetic,” social activist Daniel Bahart said.

Several lawmakers also joined the protest, including Shlomo Molla of the opposition Kadima party, who is himself of Ethiopian origin.

Ethiopian protesters also gathered outside the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently in Holland.

Similar anti-racism rally were held in southern Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi last week.

The demonstrations were sparked by a new report earlier this month which revealed that city residents had signed a paper not to rent or sell houses to Ethiopians.

Following the protests, Israel’s Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Lander criticized Ethiopians for staging protest rallies, saying that they should be grateful for what they have received from Israel. Her racist remarks drew harsh criticism.

There are more than 120.000 Jews of Ethiopian origin living in Israel who are being treated as third-class citizens.

Welcome to the world’s first bunker state

Room for Jews Only in “Israel’s” ‘Villa in the Jungle’

by JONATHAN COOK, source

The wheel is turning full circle. Last week the Israeli parliament updated a 59-year-old law originally intended to prevent hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from returning to the homes and lands from which they had been expelled as Israel was established.

The purpose of the draconian 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law was to lock up any Palestinian who managed to slip past the snipers guarding the new state’s borders. Israel believed only savage punishment and deterrence could ensure it maintained the overwhelming Jewish majority it had recently created through a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Fast-forward six decades and Israel is relying on the infiltration law again, this time to prevent a supposedly new threat to its existence: the arrival each year of several thousand desperate African asylum seekers.

As it did with the Palestinians many years ago, Israel has criminalised these new refugees – in their case, for fleeing persecution, war or economic collapse. Whole families can now be locked up, without a trial, for three years while a deportation order is sought and enforced, and Israelis who offer them assistance risk jail sentences of up to 15 years.

Israel’s intention is apparently to put as many of these refugees behind bars as possible, and dissuade others from following in their footsteps.

To cope, officials have approved the building of an enormous detention camp, operated by Israel’s prison service, to contain 10,000 of these unwelcome arrivals. That will make it the largest holding facility of its kind in the world – according to Amnesty International, it will be three times bigger than the next largest, in the much more populous, and divine retribution-loving, US state of Texas.

Israeli critics of the law fear their country is failing in its moral duty to help those fleeing persecution, thereby betraying the Jewish people’s own experiences of suffering and oppression. But the Israeli government and the large majority of legislators who backed the law – like their predecessors in the 1950s – have drawn a very different conclusion from history.

The new infiltration law is the latest in a set of policies fortifying Israel’s status as the world’s first “bunker state”- and one designed to be as ethnically pure as possible. The concept was expressed most famously by an earlier prime minister, Ehud Barak, now the defence minister, who called Israel “a villa in the jungle”, relegating the country’s neighbours to the status of wild animals.

Barak and his successors have been turning this metaphor into a physical reality, slowly sealing off their state from the rest of the region at astronomical cost, much of it subsidised by US taxpayers. Their ultimate goal is to make Israel so impervious to outside influence that no concessions for peace, such as agreeing to a Palestinian state, need ever be made with the “beasts” around them.

The most tangible expression of this mentality has been a frenzy of wall-building. The best-known are those erected around the Palestinian territories: first Gaza, then the areas of the West Bank Israel is not intending to annex – or, at least, not yet.

The northern border is already one of the most heavily militarised in the world – as Lebanese and Syrian protesters found to great cost last summer when dozens were shot dead and wounded as they approached or stormed the fences there. And Israel has a proposal in the drawer for another wall along the border with Jordan, much of which is already mined.

The only remaining border, the 260km one with Egypt, is currently being closed with another gargantuan wall. The plans were agreed before last year’s Arab revolutions but have gained fresh impetus with the overthrow of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Israel is not only well advanced on the walls of the bunker; it is also working round the clock on the roof. It has three missile-defence systems in various stages of development, including the revealingly named “Iron Dome”, as well as US Patriot batteries stationed on its soil. The interception systems are supposed to neutralise any combination of short and long-range missile attacks Israel’s neighbours might launch.

But there is a flaw in the design of this shelter, one that is apparent even to its architects. Israel is sealing itself in with some of the very “animals” the villa is supposed to exclude: not only the African refugees, but also 1.5 million “Israeli Arabs”, descendants of the small number of Palestinians who avoided expulsion in 1948.

This has been the chief motive for the steady stream of anti-democratic measures by the government and parliament that is rapidly turning into a torrent. It is also the reason for the Israeli leadership’s new-found demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel’s Jewishness; its obsessions with loyalty; and the growing appeal of population exchange schemes.

In the face of the legislative assault, Israel’s Supreme Court has grown ever more complicit. Last week, it sullied its reputation by upholding a law that tears apart families by denying tens of thousands of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship the right to live with their Palestinian spouse in Israel – “ethnic cleansing” by other means, as leading Israeli commentator Gideon Levy noted.

Back in the early 1950s, the Israeli army shot dead thousands of unarmed Palestinians as they tried to reclaim property that had been stolen from them. These many years later, Israel appears no less determined to keep non-Jews out of its precious villa.

The bunker state is almost finished, and with it the dream of Israel’s founders is about to be realised.

Palestine: Settlers burn car belonging to P.A. official & hundreds block roads, throw stones in Beit Shemesh

Israeli Settlers Burn Car Belonging to Senior P.A. Official

by Mais Azza – IMEMC & Agencies

On Monday, Israeli settlers torched the car of a Palestinian Authority Intelligence officer, Mohammad Ghannam, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Palestinian news agency, Ma’an reported.

Ghannam stated that the car was parked in front of his home in Dir Dibwan village, near Ramallah, when he saw it being burned by Israeli settlers, who later fled the scene.

Last week, settlers burned a car in Hebron city and attacked a car convoy carrying a senior PA security official.

On Wednesday, settlers fired at a vehicle, causing an injury to an army officer. The attack occurred on the road that connects Rammallah and Tulkarem, near the illegal settlement of Shilo.

The latest incident came after several attacks by settlers against Palestinian homes and property, mosques, and olive trees across the West Bank.

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Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Protesters Block Roads, Throw Stones in Beit Shemesh

by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC & Agencies

Religious “Haredi” Jews clashed on Sunday with Israeli Policemen in Beit Shemesh, a city in central Israel that has in recent weeks become the flashpoint for conflict between secular/moderate majority, and minority of conservative religious Jews.

Sunday’s protests began after several members of the Haredi Orthodox community were arrested by Israeli police for tax fraud and money laundering. Protesters say that the arrestees were deliberately targeted as a provocation against the Orthodox community in Beit Shemesh.

Among the detained was the personal assistant of Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, the leader of the Haredi community in Beit Din. He and other Haredi leaders arrested on Sunday were accused of misusing millions of shekels worth of donations to the community.

Protesters tried to set up barricades on several main roads in Beit Shemesh, and threw rocks at police officers when they attempted to intervene. Clashes were also reported in Jerusalem, with Orthodox Jewish youth throwing rocks at police. Four protesters were arrested in Beit Shemesh.

The tension between Israel’s orthodox Haredi community and the secular, moderate Jewish community has escalated in recent weeks, following reports that Orthodox Haredi Jews harass girls, some as young as 8 years old, using physical intimidation, threats and violence when the girls were deemed to be less than sufficiently covered. This was despite them wearing the national uniform for religious schools (including a blouse with long sleeves and a long skirt)

Hundreds of residents of Beit Shemesh protested last week against what they see as an invasion of their community by ultra-Orthodox elements, who the residents say are attempting to change the character of their city.

Israeli police clash with religious Jews

Press TV

More than 10,000 people are set to participate in a large protest after ultra-Orthodox Jews clashed with Israeli police near East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

People are expected to protest the exclusion of women as well as violence against girls and women.

The clashes erupted in Beit Shemesh after religious Jewish people called for the segregation of men and women.

Beit Shemesh has become a focus of friction between secular and ultra-Orthodox Jews demanding strict gender segregation and modest dress for women.

An Israeli officer was injured in the clashes and several protesters were consequently arrested.

The latest clashes came as police attempted to remove one of the several signs in the town ordering gender segregation.

In reaction, at least 300 of the religious residents pelted police with stones and eggs and set rubbish bins on fire.

Although only 10 percent of Israel’s mostly Jewish population consists of religious Jews, their population is rapidly growing.

Racism In Israeli Jewish Schools; “A Dead Arab Is A Good Arab”

by Saed Bannoura, IMEMC

A number of teachers working in Jewish Schools in Israel stated that more instances of racism are reaching alarming levels as more students are expressing their views that exceeded their hatred to Arabs to the level of advocating for killing them.

The teachers told Israel’s Yedioth Aharonoth, that they found graffiti witten on school walls and even on exam papers. The most “famous” graffiti was “Death To Arabs”.

One student, in the twelfth grade even wrote “Death to Arabs” on his exam paper.

They said that the students are showing more signs of violence and hatred directed against Arabs.

A student at a School in Tel Aviv told his teacher during class that his dream is to become a soldier so he can exterminate all Arabs; several students in his class clapped in support to his statement.

Teachers in different schools said that they saw graffiti stating “Death to Arabs”, A Dead Arab is a Good Arab”, “Kahana Was Right”, and other racist slogans.

An Israeli education official told Yedioth Aharonoth said that latest incidents are indicating an alarming level of hatred and racism not only against the Arabs, but also against other minorities in the country.

The official said that some Israeli political leaders are responsible for this phenomenon explaining that the issue here is not about a number of extremist students, but a group of ordinary students who became encouraged to express racist attitude due to increasing levels of racism among Israeli political leaders.

He added that the student who wrote “Death To Arabs” is a who has very good grades and an excellent school record.

A teacher at an Israeli school in the north said that a number of students said during discussion sessions that Arabs are better dead, and that several students expressed attitudes supporting killing all Arabs while students who oppose such racist views are afraid to express their opinions.

Three weeks ago, several Israeli teachers signed a petition warning of the alarming levels of racism among Jewish students.

Nine Israeli Youths’ Assault against Arabs “Extraordinarily Cruel”

Al Manar

22/12/2010 The arrest of nine youths suspected of assaulting young Arab men in occupied Jerusalem did not surprise residents of the capital’s eastern neighborhoods.
 
The Arab residents spoke of an everyday reality that has become increasingly violent and the lenient attitude of the police, which was not doing enough to protect them from Jews, who were trying to instill fear in their communities.
 
“These acts are extraordinarily cruel,” said Shaker Abu Snini, an east Jerusalem resident. “It is the manifestation of increasing racism against Arabs – especially those living in east Jerusalem,” he noted.
 
The gang of teens was allegedly headed by a 14-year-old boy, and used a girl their age to seduce Arab youths.
 
The girl would then lead the young men to a meeting point in the city’s Independence Park, where they were brutally attacked by the teens with stones, glass bottles and tear gas. Police suspect the girl took part in three of the assaults.
 
Although the arrests were made possible due to a laborious police investigation following the victims’ complaints, Abu Snini blamed law enforcement agencies for discriminating against complaints filed by Arabs.
 
“I think there is police negligence, because they do not deal with Arab complaints promptly, and there is a feeling that we are being completely dismissed. Progress is only made after the issue reaches the hands of senior ranks,” he lamented.
 
Abu Snini called on the Arab public in Jerusalem to speak out against the phenomenon. “There is a threat on our families and we must launch a public campaign against those responsible. It is an infringement of our right.”
 
Hussam Tamimi, also an east Jerusalem resident, said the violence is aimed at chasing Arab resident out of their houses. “In my opinion it is a settlers’ scheme, because the objective is to create fear and danger, so that we leave our lands,” he said.
 
Tamimi also believes the violence toward Arabs has become a routine part of the city’s harsh reality. “This is not new to us. Almost everyday there’s an incident in which settlers attack Arabs.”
 
The local Arab leadership frowned upon the incident, and laid blame on the political reality. “These are (Avigdor) Lieberman and Eli Yishai’s boys,” said Mossawa Center Director Jafar Farah, adding that it was “a result of the education and legal system, as well as the political environment that does nothing to stop the incitement across the country.”
 
Farah harshly criticized the decision to release three of the suspects to house arrest, and said that “if it were Arabs attacking Jews, no one would have been released. They would have faced charges and their arrest would have been extended until the completion of proceedings.”

Source: Ynet

Racist Slogans Displayed During Beit Yam Protest Against Interfaith Couples

by Ane Irazabal – IMEMC & Agencies

On Monday evening, approximately 200 people gathered in the city of Bat Yam, southern Tel Aviv-Jaffa, to protest against interfaith couples, under the banner “We Want a Jewish Bat Yam.” The Major condemned the event.

The demonstrators explained that they wanted to show their concern about the ‘Arabs who are taking our daughters’, referring to the relationships between local Jewish women and Arab men.

During the rally, the speakers remarked that they were “just Jews,” not racist, but the protesters repeatedly insulted Arabs and Islam’s holy figures. One of the demonstrators also exclaimed “Any Jewish woman who goes with an Arab should be killed; any Jew who sells his home to an Arab should be killed,” Israeli new source Ynet quoted.

The rally was also a platform to support the recent letter signed by about 50 municipal rabbis, in which they urged Jewish not to rent apartments to Arabs.

The protest was harshly criticized by human rights associations, left-wing parties and Arab residents, who defined it at as a racist act.

Bat Yam Mayor Shlomo Lahyani strongly condemned the event and those who took part in it and denied the claims of the organizers, who told that the protest was a local initiative.

Lahyani, speaking to Ynet, claimed “The city of Bat Yam denounces any racist phenomenon. This is a democratic country with laws,” and added “I am certain and I know that most of the protestors are not Bat Yam residents. This is a foolish attempt to create a provocation, which has failed.”

In addition, about 200 leftists and Arab residents were also gathered in Bat Yam in a counter demonstration, bearing the slogans “We’re fed up with racists” and “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”. They also criticized the behavior of police forces, who, in their opinion, did not act when the demonstrators made racist remarks.

According to Ynet, the organization behind the protest is Lehava, which strongly opposes interfaith marriage in Israel. The right-wing activists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel participated in the rally and claimed that Bat Yam “has been taken over by hostile elements and is suffering from assimilation.”

During the past week, several posters were placed on the streets of Bat Yam, calling for the protest: “I will not allow them to hit on my sister! What would you do if an Arab hit on your sister? Put an end to it! Recently we have learned of a grave phenomenon: Hundreds of girls from Bat Yam and the center get together with Arabs, they are integrated amongst us, their confidence rising. Put an end to it! Lower their confidence!”

“Keeping Bat Yam Jewish. Arabs are taking over Bat Yam, buying and renting apartments from Jews, taking and ruining Bat Yam girls! Around 15,000 Jewish girls have been taken to villages! Jews, come on, let’s win,” was the theme of another poster.

Apartheid “Israel”-style

by Carlos Latuff

Law to keep Jews and Arabs apart

by Jonathan Cook, source

The pretty two-storey home with a red-tiled roof built by Adel and Iman Kaadan looks no different from the rows of other houses in Katzir, a small hilltop community in northern Israel close to the West Bank.

But, unlike the other residents of Katzir, the Kaadans moved into their dream home this month only after a 12-year battle through the Israeli courts.

The small victory for the Kaadans, who belong to Israel’s Palestinian Arab minority, dealt a big blow to a state policy that for decades has reserved most of the country’s land for Jews.

Katzir is one of 695 so-called “co-operative associations”, communities mostly established since Israel’s creation in 1948, whose chief purpose is to bar non-Jews from residency.

In October, the Israeli parliament moved to enshrine in law the right of these associations, comprising nearly 70 per cent of all communities in Israel, to accept only Jews.

The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee approved a private members’ bill that will uphold the right of the communities’ admissions committees to continue excluding Arab citizens, who make up one-fifth of the population. The bill is expected to pass its final reading in the coming weeks.

Commentators have compared the legislation with South Africa’s notorious apartheid laws such as the Group Areas Act. A leading jurist, Mordechai Kremnitzer, of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said the bill gave off the “foul odour of racism”.

The legislation, both its supporters and opponents are agreed, is a rearguard action to prevent the possibility that other Arab citizens might be inspired to follow the Kaadans’ example.

Israel Hasson, of the centrist Kadima party, who was among the bill’s formulators, said it reflected “the state’s commitment to the realisation of the Zionist vision” in Israel. That vision is embodied in a decades-old “Judaisation” programme to settle as many Jews as possible in the heavily Arab-populated north.

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with the Adalah legal centre for the Arab minority, said that the long-standing practice of using admissions committees to weed out applications from Arab citizens was being given legal standing for the first time.

“This legislation makes clear in very blunt fashion that the thrust of policy in Israel is towards maintaining segregation in housing between Jewish and Arab citizens,” she said.

The question of control over land, Ms Bishara said, was felt especially keenly by the Arab minority, because the state had nationalised 93 per cent of all territory inside its recognised borders.

Co-operative associations, which are limited to no more than 500 families each, have jurisdiction over most of the country’s habitable land and are regarded by the authorities as a bulwark against an Arab takeover, she said.

Arab citizens, meanwhile, are largely restricted to living in 124 towns and villages, and control 2.5 per cent of Israel’s territory.

Planning and building laws confine the development and expansion of Arab communities, leading to overcrowding. Tens of thousands of Arab families, forced to build in non-zoned areas, live in homes under demolition orders.

Mr Kaadan, 54, a hospital nurse, said he had wanted to move to Katzir to improve his family’s quality of life. Baqa al Gharbiyya, an Arab town 10km from Katzir where they previously lived, was densely populated and lacked public services, while the local schools for his five children were underfunded and crumbling.

Typically, Arab municipalities receive only one third of the budget of Jewish communities.

Mr Kaadan said he had applied to Katzir when he learnt that plots of land there for house-building were heavily subsidised by the state, selling for a fifth of the price demanded in Baqa al Gharbiyya.

The family’s legal fight to win a place in Katzir has been arduous. It took five years for the Supreme Court to rule on the community’s decision in 1995 to reject the Kaadans on the grounds that they were Arab.

Making “one of the most difficult decisions in my life”, Aharon Barak, the court’s president, ordered Katzir’s admissions committee to consider the family’s application, warning that it could not reject them because of their ethnicity.

Katzir, therefore, imposed a new criterion for admission – “social suitability” – that the Kaadans also failed. It was clear to everyone, Mr Kaadan said, that “suitability” referred to the fact that they were not Jews.

When the Kaadans appealed to the court again, the Lands Authority, a state body that manages territory in Israel, relented and sold the family a plot in 2007.

However, the case has continued to reverberate.

Other exclusive Jewish communities in the Galilee sought their own solution to barring the entry of Arab families after Ahmed and Fatina Zbeidat, from the Arab town of Sakhnin, applied to the co-operative association of Rakafet in the Misgav region.

Rakafet’s admissions committee ruled in 2006 that the Zbeidats were unsuitable: Fatina was too “individualistic”, while her husband lacked “knowledge of sophisticated interpersonal relations”. Like the Kaadans, the Zbeidats have appealed to the Supreme Court.

Several Jewish communities near Rakafet hastily changed their bylaws last summer to include a loyalty oath. Typical was Manof’s, which requires applicants to share “the values of the Zionist movement, Jewish heritage, settlement of the Land of Israel … and observance of Jewish holidays”.

Ms Bishara, who represents the Zbeidats, said the couple was seeking a ruling against the use of admissions committees in the allocation of land and housing. The judges ordered the government to justify the practice at a hearing next month.

The new legislation, known as the Admissions Committee Bill, is designed to pre-empt any ruling by the court.

Gush Shalom, an Israeli peace group, said it would petition the Supreme Court to strike down the bill if, as expected, it becomes law in the next few weeks.

The liberal Haaretz newspaper called the bill an “outrageous” attempt to preserve “Jewish purity” in communities such as Katzir and Rakafet.

But the rightwing Jerusalem Post newspaper backed the legislation, saying Israeli Jews “should have the right to live in a community where they are not threatened by intermarriage or by becoming a cultural or religious minority”.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jkcook.net.

A version of this story first appeared in the National (http://www.thenational.ae).

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