Israel: A racist colonial society eating itself from the inside

Below is my August article for Socialist Voice.

Jewish Defence League (JDL) graffiti in Hebron

Israel: A racist colonial society eating itself from the inside
Socialist Voice
, August 2010

Loyalty oaths to a religious state, stripping opposition politicians of parliamentary rights, community leaders and political activists jailed on trumped up charges, expulsions of minority representatives, demolition of minority homes, criminalising non-violent resistance and historical commemorations, calls for the murder of infidels, attacks on human rights organisations, arrests and deportations of international observers, people detained, tortured and disappeared into a prison system with no access to lawyers (and wiretapping of those that do), municipal programs and vigilante patrols to break up inter-religious/ethnic couples, vicious theological debates over who is or isn’t a member of the religious majority…

Reading the above list one would presume that we are discussing some theocratic tin-pot dictatorship desperately scrabbling to keep its bloody mitts on the reins of power. In fact we are examining the “only democracy in the Middle East”, that great “bastion of Western liberalism”, the Zionist state of Israel. Furthermore, we are not even talking about Israel’s well documented crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, but the increasingly irrational, repulsive and racist downward spiral of Israeli society in recent times.

For obvious and logical reasons  – overt apartheid, mass murder, routine human rights abuses, colonial expansion… the list is almost literally endless – the attention of Palestinian solidarity activists has been mainly focused on Israeli abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Often we overlook the 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel (over 20% of the Israeli population) and the racist and religious-supremacist nature of discrimination they face – both from the State and mainstream Jewish-Israeli society.

For example, a recent poll of Israeli teenagers showed that 49% felt that Jews and “Arabs” (refusing to call them Palestinians is a form of Israeli historical/cultural denial) should not have equal rights in the state. Other polls over the past few years have shown that 50% of Israeli Jews supported “encouraging” Palestinian emigration from Israel (2007) and that 67% would refuse to live in the same building as a Palestinian (2006).

Such attitudes are, of course, not unusual in colonial-settler societies – however Israel has always tried to present a façade of liberal tolerance to the outside world, juxtaposing Israeli “civilisation” with Palestinian “barbarism”. Regardless of the obvious falsity of such nonsense, the mask has well and truly slipped; we now have “the most racist [Israeli parliament] of all time” according to the anti-racist Mossawa Center, and the evidence of this increasingly racist/supremacist trajectory is there for anyone who takes the time to read the Israeli press.

Mere examples include the jailing of a Palestinian man for having consensual sex with a Jewish woman (he was convicted of “rape by deception” for not disclosing his ethnicity);  the ‘vice and virtue’ patrols that aim to prevent Palestinian and Israelis from dating; religious publications calling for the murder of non-Jews, the stripping of parliament member Haneen Zoabi of her parliamentary privileges and widespread calls for her assassination for taking part in the Freedom Flotilla; the de facto exiling of Azmi Bishara the leader of the Balad Party on trumped up charges of treason (and he is not the only community leader facing such accusations); the jailing of the Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Raed Salah for spitting at a policeman; the ongoing attempts at ‘Judaizing’ Palestinian East Jerusalem. This is not to mention the raft of bills before the pariliament that aim to criminalise commemoration of the Nakba, criminalise those who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, impose a loyalty oath to the “Jewish state”, and revoke the citizenship of those deemed “disloyal”. Again, these are just a sampling of such proposals.

These would appear to be dangerous and fearful times for Palestinian citizens of Israel. However, it is possible to see a bright side to all of this. Internally, the colonial elements of Jewish-Israel society and polity seem to have nowhere left to go, even as Palestinians continue to undergo a process of politicisation, often in cooperation with anti-Zionist Jews. The true nature of the racism and supremacism inherent in Zionism and the colonial-settler state it gave rise to is being exposed time and again. Israel is delegitimising itself in the eyes of civil society around the world via its brutal actions against Palestinians and their international supporters, and no longer even attempts to maintain, even in theory, its traditional veneer of internal liberalism (the inane doublespeak of spokespeople like Mark Regev and Zion Evrony notwithstanding). Israel is effectively eating itself from the inside, while Palestinians come up with new and ever inventive ways to resist Israeli colonialism. These are positive developments and it is incumbent upon those of us in the international Palestinian solidarity movement to redouble our efforts to facilitate the fall of Israeli apartheid by building the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

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One Comment on “Israel: A racist colonial society eating itself from the inside”

  1. […] leaving aside the raft of anti-democratic legislation being passed by the Israeli Knesset in recent times, there is a very basic discrimination […]

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