Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Apartheid Plain and Simple" -- Al Ahram

http://alethonews.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/apartheid-plain-and-simple/

via Aletho News

As if the preponderance of discriminatory laws already swelling the Israeli legal system were not enough, the Israeli parliament — the Knesset — is slated to debate a fresh instalment of anti-Arab draft laws aimed at “reasserting the Jewish nature of Israel”.

One of these draft laws, tabled by a pro- settler party called Habayt ha Yahudi, or the Jewish Home, would force all citizens and would-be citizens of Israel to declare their loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state. The draft law specifically targets Palestinians married or wishing to marry other Palestinians who are already Israeli citizens — ie Palestinians living in Israel proper.

A declaration of loyalty to “a Jewish state” is not just a procedural matter. It implies, for Arabs or others, recognition of one’s inferiority vis-à-vis Jewish citizens of the state. Indeed, the ramifications of such recognition are enormous and far-reaching.

Israel usually claims to be both a Jewish and democratic state. However, it is widely known that the “democratic” epithet is preserved for Jews, not Arabs, and that the state can’t be both “Talmudic”, as demanded by the growing Jewish religious sector, and democratic, as asserted by secular segments, given the intrinsic contradictions between the two concepts.

Democratic dismissed, the “Jewish” epithet leaves non-Jews living in Israel as a Jewish state, even if they happen to be indigenous inhabitants, estranged and unwanted, by virtue of being non-Jews. Their status as “citizens” is not owed to the laws of the land, but mainly to Jewish magnanimity and/or charity.

“This legislation [is] organised racism whereby citizenship is granted in exchange for recognition by a citizen of his inferior status as a second or third class citizen,” said Arab Knesset member Ahmad Tibi.

Tibi, who denounced the new draft laws as “products of a depraved mentality,” said the camp that holds power in Israel is trying to communicate a message to more than 1.5 million Arabs in Israel proper that “if you want to have your rights guaranteed and if you want to live freely and happily, then you will have to leave this country.”

Tibi responds: “But we won’t leave this country, because this country is our country. We were born here, our forefathers were born and are buried here.”

Another Arab Knesset member, Hanin Zubi, scoffed at Israel’s notion of democracy, calling it “a joke”. “How can democracy be practised or even survive in a fascist environment?” The Knesset, Zubi said, “is becoming a fascist Jewish club, which is why it is difficult for free voices to be heard.”

Two weeks ago, Israeli Jewish MPs ganged up on Zubi while speaking at the rostrum of the Knesset, with some extremist Jewish lawmakers calling her obscene names and even trying to drag her to the ground for defending her participation in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The Israeli navy brutally attacked the flotilla on 31 May, killing at least nine aid activists and injuring many, drawing angry reactions around the world.

Zubi’s family has been living in the city of Nazareth since time immemorial. The Jewish MP who assaulted Zubi is a recent immigrant from the former Soviet Union who doesn’t even speak fluent Hebrew.

But if the Knesset is a reflection of the state of affairs permeating Israel, and if the Israeli parliament is succumbing to an extremist onslaught, Israel itself — government and society alike — is embracing what is widely now deemed “fascism” in a most cordial manner.

This week, an Israeli court in Jerusalem decided to keep Sheikh Mohamed Abu Tir in jail for refusing to leave the city of his birth. Sheikh Abu Tir, who spent more than 25 years in jail for his opposition to the Israeli occupation, was elected in 2006 as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council representing East Jerusalem. However, an Israeli judge recently issued a decree banishing Abu Tir from East Jerusalem for affiliation with a “terrorist organisation” — in reference to the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, an arm of Hamas.

Abu Tir denied that he was a member of Hamas, saying he was representing the people of Jerusalem who elected him and that he took part in an election that was okayed by Israel and closely monitored by the United States and the rest of the international community. His argument was rejected by the Israeli judge. Abu Tir was then asked to pay $95,000 in bail. He refused, prompting the Israeli authorities to return him to jail.

Abu Tir, like dozens of other Islamic lawmakers, had just spent 48 months in jail for taking part in the 2006 elections. Following his release, the Israeli domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, demanded that he leave his hometown within one month. He refused to heed the order, arguing that Jerusalem was his hometown and the city of his birth, and that nothing would make him leave his hometown.

Abu Tir’s lawyer Osama Al-Saadi described the trial of his client as “political and ideological from A to Z.” “This is part of the battle over Jerusalem. They are trying to convince themselves that the Palestinians of Jerusalem are only temporary citizens who can be expelled at any time.” Al-Saadi underscored the stark discrimination against the Arab community in a state that doesn’t stop claiming to be democratic.

“Imagine a Jew who is affiliated with a terrorist organisation, or who belongs to an outlawed Jewish political party. Would he ever be banished from Israel, irrespective of the enormity of his crime?” “You see the mendacity of this slogan, that Israel is a ‘democracy’? Do democratic states expel citizens because they adhere to a different religion?”

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