Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Israel's discrimination against its Arab citizens

By Sawsan Ramahi

MEMO, June 29, 2010

Racism was, and still is, an inherent feature of Zionism and the state established on its back, Israel. From its declaration of independence up to this day, the 20% of Israel's citizens who are Arabs have suffered from the state's racist policies and have been subjected to a fierce campaign of repression. Through racist laws and the demolition of their homes, the confiscation of their land and looting, the Arabs of Israel have seen their overwhelming majority ownership of the land pre-1948 reduced to just 2.5%, even though they make up more than 20% of Israel's population. This is not an accident, but a planned programme by successive Israeli governments, with several goals: Forcing Arab citizens who hold Israeli citizenship to migrate and leave and, in the process, stirring up Jewish Israeli public opinion against their Arab compatriots by calling them "enemies" and "traitors" who are "working to undermine the Zionist project".

A survey by Prof. Sami Smooha of the University of Haifa of Israeli looking at relations and coexistence between Jews and Arabs was published by Ha'aretz newspaper in May 2010 and presented to the Knesset within the context of the deterioration of such relations over the past decade. The poll revealed that 48% of Israel's Arab citizens are dissatisfied with their lives in the Jewish state, compared to 35% in 2003; the number of Arabs who are not willing to befriend Jews has doubled and, perhaps most seriously, 62% of Israeli Arabs fear "transfer" (forced migration or, as it has been called, "ethnic cleansing"), compared to just 6% who expressed that fear in 2003. It is also noted that 40% of the respondents expressed their distrust of Israel's judiciary system while almost 41% supported an Arab boycott of Knesset elections.

In terms of demography, 58% of Jewish respondents said that they fear the threat of the demographic situation changing in favour of Arabs, due to the higher birth rate of the latter, at three children per family compared with 2.1 among Jews.

This data as a whole is significant in the search for reasons for the lack of peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Israel, as it results from racist and discriminatory policies against Israeli Arabs.

Yet more statistical evidence came in a poll devoted to the views of Jewish youth, conducted by the Institute of Studies, Magar Mouhot ("treasury of brains"), which found that 50% of young Jews surveyed believe that Arabs should not have the same rights as Jews in Israel; 56% said that Arabs must be prevented from running for the Knesset and 48% reject any notion of evacuating the [illegal] settlements and outposts in the occupied West Bank. Such extremism is more prominent among young ultra-orthodox Jews, with 82% demanding that Arab citizens should not be granted equal rights and 82% opposing the election of Arabs to the Knesset; 56% say that their fellow citizens who are Arabs should not be allowed to vote in Israel's national democratic elections.

In a report on racism in 2010 (see Maariv, 22 March, 2010), an independent anti-racism organisation claimed that the current parliament in Israel, Knesset number 18, is the most racist since the establishment of Israel in 1948, with the number of draft racist laws that aim to deprive Arab citizens of their rights has reached a new high. In 2008 there were eleven such drafts submitted to the Knesset members for consideration, in 2009 there were twelve and already in 2010 there have been twenty-one. All of these laws seek to demote the status of Arab citizens and reduce their rights, along with a constant threat to the legitimacy of their presence in Israel. Some of the issues covered are as follows:

1. Anyone denying the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state faces imprisonment.

2. Government support for student tuition fees is available only for those who serve in the Israel Defence Forces.

3. An amendment of the Jerusalem Law so that Jerusalem is recognised as the capital of the Jewish people.

4. An amendment to the nationality law so that the Interior Minister has the right to revoke the citizenship of people who violate allegiance to the state of Israel.

5. The Nakba Law, which makes it illegal for citizens inside Israel to organize demonstrations on the anniversary of the creation of the Palestinian refugee catastrophe.

6. The provision for harsher sanctions against Palestinian prisoners, particularly those who are members of Hamas.

7. The withdrawal of citizenship from those convicted of terrorism or spying.

8. The withdrawal of nationality and revocation of the right of citizenship, and denying the Arab Knesset Members who visited Libya parliamentary immunity and other rights.

And the list goes on...

The shift to the extreme right in Israeli politics calls for the expulsion of Arab citizens of Israel and the prohibition of having Arab MPs able to defend their rights. Not so long ago, the trend was to limit parliamentary participation to those who serve in the Israeli military. Moves in this respect have been postponed due to accusations of bias against the nature of Israel's democracy. Nevertheless, on the eve of the last general election the right-wing representatives in the Central Elections Committee tried to cancel the participation of at least two Arab lists of candidates. Legal considerations blocked that attempt but this is not the end of the matter. Other moves to block Arab participation in Israeli democracy include the removal of parliamentary immunity from Sa'id Nafa, from the Balad Party, for travelling to Syria with a delegation of Druze clergy. Several Israeli organizations have called for criminal charges to be brought against Knesset Member (MK) Jamal Zahalka, also of the Balad Party, for his condemnation of the blockade imposed on Gaza and participation in a demonstration at the Beit Hanoun border crossing; he also called Defence Minister Ehud Barak "the murderer of the children of Gaza".

Israel's Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, has called for revoking the citizenship of some leaders of the National Democratic Assembly and the Islamic movement inside Israel, in particular its chairman, Sheikh Raed Salah. The Internal Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovich, considers the Islamist movement led by Sheikh Salah to be the biggest threat to the existence of Israel.

The Zionists have targeted Sheikh Raed Salah ever since the emergence of the Islamic movement, when he was described by security sources as the most dangerous of the leaders of the Islamic movement and at the same time the most popular among the Palestinians inside the Green Line (the 1948-1967 armistice line). He was named the most "extreme" of the Arab leaders and "the most Islamic figure in the whole world" for "inciting" Arabs against Israel over its policies on Al-Aqsa Mosque. Sheikh Salah was extremely successful in bringing Al-Aqsa back onto the public agenda whenever Israel sought to take it out of the spotlight; the Sheikh has dedicated himself to the issue of Jerusalem and its importance to Arabs and Muslims.

In 2002, Sheikh Salah faced accusations that he had "established relations with hostile organisations" within and outside Israel. He was arrested in 2003 and spent two years in prison for alleged money laundering on behalf of Hamas. During the Aqsa Intifada the Sheikh was shot in the face in what was regarded as an assassination attempt by Israeli forces.

Early in 2010 Sheikh Salah was sentenced to nine months in prison for protesting against the attacks and excavations in Jerusalem, but was acquitted on appeal.


No comments:

Post a Comment