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anti-racism | human & civil rights


If a recent poll is accurate, many Israeli Jews hold racist views toward Arabs. What does this mean for Arab citizens of Israel?
The results of a recent poll conducted in Israel are very disturbing to anyone who abhors racism and discrimination. The survey found that anti-Arab sentiment was widespread among Israeli Jewish citizens. The poll was conducted by Geocartographia for the Centre for the Struggle Against Racism.

The findings of the poll include the following:
1. More than two-thirds of Israeli Jews would refuse to live in the same building as an Arab.
2. Nearly half would not allow an Arab in their home.
3. 41% want entertainment facilities to be segregated.
4. 40% think Israel should "support the emigration of Arab citizens."
5. 63% consider Israeli Arab citizens a "security and demographic threat to the state."
6. 34% agreed with the statement that "Arab culture is inferior to Israeli culture."
7. 18% stated that they felt hatred when they heard someone speaking Arabic.

These findings would be outrageous enough on their own, but unfortunately the recent elections in Israel indicate that votes were gained by those parties which had anti-Arab platforms which appealed to the racist sentiments above.

For instance, the Yisrael Beiteinu party, which made major advances in the election, advocates redrawing the border of Israel to place a half-million Arab-Israelis outside of Israel. Party chairman Avigdor Lieberman stated, "We have become the largest party in the national camp and I'm certain that next time we will be Israel's ruling party. This is only the beginning." The beginning of what is the question.

Other far-right parties also gained votes with their anti-Arab platforms in the elections. Rather than redrawing the borders though, many of the far-right advocate "transfer" of Arabs from both Israel and the "occupied territories." Transfer is merely code for ethnic cleansing. Under international law such action is clearly unlawful. But then Israel, with U.S. backing, has consistently violated international law. Whenever the U.N. attempts to do something about this, the U.S. exercises its veto power to squelch action and protect its ally and partner in crime.

Even the so-called "centrist" Kadima party, which won the largest number of votes, made a decision not to include an Arab in a viable position on its election list because it feared that it would cost the party several seats, according to a report by the Haaretz newspaper.

Israeli newspapers regularly discuss the racist term "demographic time bomb." This refers to the high birthrate among Arab citizens of Israel as compared to the birthrate among Jewish citizens. Those that use the term raise the "fear" that Arab citizens will one day outnumber the Jewish citizens unless something is done. They then advocate emigration (ethnic cleansing in another form) of Arab Israeli citizens or other policies such as limiting re-unification of Arab citizens with family members. Thousands of Arab citizens are currently forcefully separated from their family members by restrictive and racist immigration policies.

Supporters of Israel often claim that it is "the only democracy in the Middle East." But discriminatory practices reminiscent of the Jim Crow laws keep a large part of the population of Israel subjugated. Of course in the "occupied territories" the Israeli government does not even pretend to be democratic in its rule. There the Israeli government openly rules with military force. Using U.S.-supplied weapons and military hardware it regularly terrorizes the Palestinian population.

The survey and recent election do not hold out the hope for change in Israeli policy, nor do past surveys. A 2002 survey reported that 80 percent of those Israelis polled opposed the participation of Arab Israelis in any "critical decisions affecting the state." So much for democracy.

But Israeli policy toward Palestinian Arabs has been consistent since the founding of Israel in 1948. After all, Israel is a settler state founded on the principles of Zionism which only recognize the existence of a "Jewish state". Zionists believe that they have the right to occupy "historic Israel", meaning the lands that were allegedly once part of a Jewish kingdom 20 centuries ago. Of course among the Zionists they have been unable to agree on the geographic boundaries encompassed by "historic Israel." For some, the West Bank and parts of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and even Iraq fall within the boundaries.

But in twentieth century this land was occupied by Palestinian Arabs and also a Jewish minority. In the 1948 war, the Zionists used terrorism and massacre to expel much of the existing Palestinian population. Before the war there were approximately 850,000 Arabs within what became Israel. After the war about 130,000 remained. These Palestinian Arabs eventually became Israeli citizens, albeit second class ones. Today, they and their descendants number over a million and are about one-fifth of the Israeli population.

The displaced Arabs were replaced by the immigration of Jews from all over the world. Under the Zionist Law of Return, any Jew has the right to immigrate to Israel and is automatically granted citizenship, along with spouses, children and grandchildren. At the same time, some Israeli Arabs have been denied the right of return after taking vacations out of the country or visiting relatives in the occupied territories.

Even the U.S. government has had to admit that the Arab segment of the population is oppressed. In the 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices published by the U.S. State Department it is stated, "The [Israeli] Government did little to reduce institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against the country's Arab citizens... "

This is in direct contravention of Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in December 1966 which states, "All Persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect the law shall prohibit any discrimination on any grounds such as race, colour, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

Although Israel ratified the ICCPR it has consistently failed to implement it. Within Israel, Arabs are treated as second class citizens. In the occupied territories they have no rights at all and are imprisoned by the thousands if not actually killed in regular Israeli military operations.

Anti-Semitism led to the deaths of millions in the twentieth century. In Germany and Nazi occupied Europe, Jews were at first treated as second class citizens. Eventually they were treated as non-humans and subjected to extermination which led to the deaths of six million. Those that deplore the holocaust must speak out against all forms of discrimination and racism if we are to prevent other atrocities. It is not acceptable to stay silent about Israel and its discriminatory policies because we fear being branded as anti-Semitic.

Today Israel illegally occupies Palestinian land and is in the process of building an apartheid wall reminiscent of the walls that surrounded Jewish ghettos in Europe. It deprives many of the occupants of this land of basic human and political rights. The U.S. spends billions each year in support of Israel and its policies. The American people must take the responsibility for ending this support. We can not pretend we did not know what is being done. We can not be like the "good Germans" who pled ignorance of what the Hitler regime did in the name of the German people. We must do all that we can to oppose all actions of Israel and the U.S. government which oppress the Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule.