In Israel, some are more equal than others

By Ismail Patel

Why should Israel not be allowed to define itself as a Jewish state? Because to do so is to deny millions of indigenous Arabs their historic and legal rights to their homeland; a land they inhabited long before Israel was created the first time round, for the centuries between that and its recreation in its present form as a racist colonial state, in which all non-Jews, despite their large numbers, are treated as second class citizens who’s right to exist on the land is always brought into question.

For any state to define itself on religious grounds, it must have an overwhelming majority who accede to that religion. Thus, the United Kingdom is a Christian state, while Nigeria cannot define itself as either Christian or Muslim. Saudi Arabia has a majority Muslim population, as does Iran, and the other states quoted by Mr Saks who define themselves on religious ground. The rights that minorities enjoy are really a reflection on the democratic values of the given state.

Israel cannot justifiably draw a parallel between it and these states for many reasons. Firstly, Israel claims to be a beacon of democracy, with equal rights for all its citizens. Yet quarter of its non Jewish Arab population is treated as anything but equals, and it further occupies the land of another four million Arab Palestinians, who are treated with callous cruelty.

Mr Saks quotes a list of rules and regulations which have been used for decades to portray an Israel that is just and reasonable to the rest of the world. All of Israel’s citizens have access to its lands? Tell that to the Arab Jerusalemites who’s city (East Jerusalem) was illegally annexes by Israel following the 1967 war. These 200,000 people live in cramped and squalid conditions due to the refusal by the state of Israel to grant any consents for planning resulting in massive overcrowding and eventually, the illegal buildings of homes which Israeli bulldozers then come to destroy.

Up to 30% of the Arab homes in Jerusalem have been built without the requisite consents.  Even where consents are sought, these applications are only permitted on 13% of the land that formed part of East Jerusalem prior to 1967 and almost never granted. The remainder of land in Jerusalem is exclusively for Israel’s Jewish community. Israel has gone to great lengths to display an easy going western culture in Jerusalem, however, the tensions are apparent. Does Mr Saks deny that the Silwan district of Jerusalem is slowly being emptied of its Arab population in a silent but precise population transfer plan? Here, the streets are squalid and the services poor, as Israel refuses to grant the Arab residents the same rights as Jewish residents just at the foot of the hill that Silwan rests upon. Thousands of Arab homes are threatened with demolition, but Mr Saks may jump and claim Israel in its offering the owners some compensation, as long as they leave and build their homes elsewhere outside of Jerusalem. Thus, it is silently and effectively ridding Jerusalem of its indigenous Arab population. While it does this, extremist Israeli Settlers are moving in to the area making life for its Arab residents a misery. The government’s complicity in this is rarely disguised and the name Silwan has been replaced to the ‘the City of David.’

Then there is the case of the Bedouin Arab villages in the Israeli desserts which Israel refuses to acknowledge. These villagers lived on these lands for centuries and long before Israel existed, and since its inception, Israel has refused to acknowledge the existence of the villages and thus while they are expected to abide by Israeli laws and pay taxes, they are provided with no services by the state and are continuously harassed. There is no housing, electricity, education or health care for these non-Jewish Israeli’s in the bastion of civilisation that Mr Saks describes. These unrecgonised villages house 80,000 Arab Israelis, and bear a striking resemblance to the Bantustans of Apartheid South Africa. Thus, within the state of Israel, non-Jewish Israeli citizens continue to live decades in the past in tin shacks; a well kept secret by those who peddle the half tales of Israel’s great democracy.   

Israel knows that these villagers exist, and the policy is to drive them out. In relation to Nazareth, former Prime Minister Ben Gurion is recorded to have said, "Why are there so many Arabs here? Why didn't you chase them away?" And this is exactly what Israel has sought to do for decades.

It is furthermore offensive for Mr Saks to cite that it is apparently a capital offence for an Arab to sell land to a Jewish person, even if the Arab lives within Israel. How, one is forced to ask, do the Palestinian laws which cannot even be implemented in the occupied territories due to Israel’s overriding authority, be implemented outside of their territories and in that of another nation state, i.e. in Israel? It is a truly absurd statement to make. But if one is to treat it seriously, then it is easy enough to understand such a law. For the Palestinians, they are being occupied by a hostile state which is slowly encroaching on the Palestinian homeland and driving out its inhabitants. Let us consider Nazi Germany and its occupation across Europe during WWII. If a British man agreed to sell the Nazi chunks of British land, one can imagine what crime he would be charged with, a capital offence no less. So let us not be fooled into taking such a rule out of context; Israel is not at peace with the Palestinians and it can only expect that they will uphold such laws if only in the interests of self-preservation. 

Mr Saks also quotes the PLO Charter which defines a Palestinian and bestows Palestinian nationality on all people who can trace their lineage to Palestine in 1947, and compares this to the Israeli Aleya principle. Once again, highly misleading and hardly comparatives. Palestinians are defined in this way by the UNRWA and it is necessitated by the refugee problem that all Palestinians can trace their origin back to the start of the refugee crisis. For Israeli’s, providing a claim to Israeli nationality is a purely political move, and it is driven by the quest of Zionism for Jews in Israel to remain the majority. For clarification, nowhere in Article 15 of the PLO Charter does it call for Jewish Israeli’s to be driven out as suggested by Mr Saks. Palestinians, even the Hamas movement most recently, have overtly stated that Israeli’s of all religions would be welcome in a united country that accommodates all its people, both Palestinian and Israeli. There is no threat of Jewish people being driven out, but there is a threat against the political movement that is Zionism which is the racist ideology that refuses to give any other religious group other than the Jewish people a right to the Palestinian land. I am compelled to say, this is rightly so.   Finally, on the point of the Gaza war, Mr Saks outdoes himself in a pitiful regurgitation of Israel’s official line. Anyone consulting investigations other than that ‘officially’ sanctioned and whitewashed by the Israeli state are well aware that in fact civilians were targeted by admission of Israel’s own soldiers. Leaflets were dropped, yes, as a PR exercise. When leaflets are dropped minutes before a bomb, what is the purpose of the leaflets other than to tell western journalists and politicians that it was dutifully done?

Where, one is forced to ask Mr Saks, were the Palestinians in densely populated Gaza expected to flee to once they received these warning leaflets? UN schools perhaps, clearly labelled and illegal to attack in accordance with international humanitarian laws? Well that is exactly what hundreds of women and children did before they were bombed out and killed.

Did Israel’s careful plans not to harm Gaza’s civilians go so wrong that they ‘accidently’ bombed the only power plant on the land continuously until it was unable to continue operating? If it was indeed an accident in the fog of war, one would imagine that Israel would speedily allow the materials in to rebuild the desperately needed power station? Except, Israel didn’t and still refuses to allow even basic necessities to cross the border.

How about the ceasefire announced by Israel on a few days in the interests of allowing casualties to be taken out by medical staff?  Eyewitness accounts tell of how Israel opened fire on those who were trusting enough to believe it. And last but by no means least, Mr Saks, what about the instructions that some sloppy Israeli soldiers left behind in an occupied house which were recovered by Amnesty International/ Human Rights Watch later, stating unequivocally that the soldiers were to target medical rescue teams?

So yes, while Israel made all the right noises to convince the world it was fighting a noble battle in Gaza utilising strict rules of engagement, the story on the ground, told by all who have visited the besieged Strip, is one of wanton destruction including the Israeli Soldiers whop served in Gaza and are now reporting that they carried out war crimes.

May I respectfully suggest that it is in fact Mr Saks who needs to be better informed about Israel, instead of continuing to spin notions of a state founded on the bastions of democracy – Israel is anything but this and its continual failure to respect Palestinian life and treat the Arab indigenous population of Israel with any semblance of respect and dignity is in fact the problem, not any racist ideology of the Palestinian people. No one is disputing that the Jewish people can reside in the land previously known as Palestine, however, equally, it must be acknowledged that the Palestinians have an equal right. So let us have one man one vote from the river to the sea – a true democracy Mr Saks.

MRN

Author: MRN Network

The aspiration of the Media Review Network is to dispel the myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims and to foster bridges of understanding among the diverse people of our country. The Media Review Network believes that Muslim perspectives on issues impacting on South Africans are a prerequisite to a better appreciation of Islam.