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  Print view: Deteriorating Conditions for Israeli Arab Citizens


Deteriorating Conditions for Israeli Arab Citizens

by Stephen Lendman
Thursday, 8 July 2010
Discriminatory Israeli legislation has institutionalized inequality, political delegitimization, and incitement against Arab Citizens. Also, Arab needs and rights have gone unaddressed, including violent racist incidents, at times involving killings.

In April 2010, the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel published a report titled, "PDF graphic One Year for Israel's New Government and the Arab Minority in Israel," assessing the climate for Israeli Arabs - citizens comprising 20% of the population but none of the rights and protections afforded Jews.

Mossawa calls them "a potentially formidable force for peace and coexistence between Palestinians and Israeli Jews" if only they were respected as equals. They're not and face systemic discrimination, despite their wanting to be active participants and partners for peace in a nation as much theirs and Jews. Why not! They lived there for centuries without persecuting the minority Jewish population.

Like earlier governments, the Netanhayu regime denies them - its key portfolios openly hostile, extremists in them endorsing schemes to collectively expel them to a future undefined Palestinian state, either outside Greater Israel or in isolated cantons, surrounded by hostile Jewish settlements, incrementally stealing their land.

In the past year, discriminatory legislation institutionalized inequality, political delegitimization, and incitement against them. Also, their needs and rights have gone unaddressed, including violent racist incidents, at times involving killings.

Mossawa examined Israel's current political climate, "the issue of racism, violence and incitement against (Arab citizens) by public institutions, security forces and (Jews), as well as in legislation. In addition, the current socio-economic situation" they face, including the marginalized status of women. Budget allocations are also considered and how they short change Arab communities.

An Analysis of Netanyahu's First Year

His election created an "extreme religious-nationist coalition government, dominated by Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu, (Israel is our Home)" - the latter party founded in 1999 by Avigdor Lieberman, an ultranationalist, revisionist Zionist, and current Foreign Minister.

In contrast, the political left weakened, but the presence of Labor in the government denotes its acceptance of belligerent, racist policies, however its members vote or may split. Even the opposition is a "mosaic of extreme right, center and left parties," unable to block extremist measures, harmful to Arab rights.

The election marked the low-point of Arab-Jewish relations. Ahead of it, Acre clashes caused damage and destruction to over 100 Arab and Jewish shops and properties, some burned to the ground (a mini- Kristallnacht mostly affecting Arabs).

The incidents signified a political agenda to Judaize Arab neighborhoods by transferring Jews to towns and cities across Israel. Racial incidents, violence and other incitement followed, Acre signaling worse to come.

Throughout 2008, political incitement against Arab communities occurred. Then the Gaza war that affected Arab Israelis, especially from repression of anti-war sentiment at the time and greater Arab hostility.

On January 12, 2009, Israel's Central Election Committee (CEC) banned two of three Knesset parties representing Arab communities - the United Arab List Ta'al and Balad - from participating in the February elections, claiming they don't recognize the Jewish state and call for armed uprisings against it. Although the Supreme Court overturned the decision, it showed an increasing infringement of Arab Israeli civil, human, and political rights as well as alarming racism and discrimination by state authorities.

Post-election, key portfolios have been dominated by ethno-nationalistic politics, legitimizing discriminatory ideology and legislation, threatening peace, Israeli Arab rights and security.

Much provocation also comes from former settlers, moved to Acre, Jaffa, Ramle and other mixed areas after Sharon's 2005 Gaza disengagement, now encouraged to incite violence against Israeli Arabs. Politicians like Avigdor Lieberman aid them by racist slurs and charging Arab political leaders with disloyalty when they disagree with government policy.

For example, on August 5, 2009, Lieberman accused MK Ahmad Tibi, United Arab List head, of being "more dangerous to Israel than the Islamic Resistance movement, Hamas, and the Islamic Jihad (and that Israel's) main problem is not the Palestinians but Ahmad Tibi and others like him."

During the 2009 election campaign, Liberman advocated transferring Israeli Arabs (1.5 million citizens) to a future Palestinian state in exchange for new West Bank Jewish settlements. As Foreign Minister, at home and abroad, he voices the same idea - an illusory two-state solution based on mass ethnic cleansing.

In early 2010, deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon suggested a land for peace deal, involving northern Israeli towns and villages ("the triangle") for new West Bank settlements, coming anyway because they're planned.

In addition, other Israeli officials showed open hostility to Israeli Arabs, including Internal Security Minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, caught on film using the term "Araboosh," highly derogatory slang for Arab, similar to calling Jews "kikes" or Blacks "niggers."

On July 2, 2009, Housing Minister, Ariel Atias, advocated for preventing Arab Israeli dispersion in various parts of the country, saying: "I see (it) as a national duty to prevent the spread of a population that, to say the least, does not love the State of Israel." Speaking to the Israel Bar Association, he stressed that "populations that should not mix are spreading (to Jewish areas) I don't think appropriate."

The term "demographic threat" is used to further government policy favoring separatism and exclusivity, rather than assuring equal rights for all citizens. As a result, Jewish only cities have been created, like Nevatim and Habahadim in the Negev, areas for military use with only Jewish housing.

On July 26, 2009, settler Rabbi Dov Lior called for Judaizing Nazareth Illit, saying: "....much like in Hebron, it takes a determined Jewish community to transform an area that has always been Jewish and that is currently inhabited by Arabs, into an area of emerging Jewish life and Jewish revival." No matter that its residents lived there for centuries.

For decades, extremist Jews targeted the city of Umm Al-Fahem. On February 10, 2009, the day of state elections, ethno-nationalistic Jewish National Front leader (and member of the banned Kach party), Baruch Marzel, planned to supervise ballot collections in the city. Local resistance prevented it, one council member saying "we welcome any other Jewish person who does not wish to expel us." Yet over 3,000 security personnel protected their racist demonstration against the city's Arabs, supporting it by showing contempt for its non-Jewish citizens.

Similar incidents are commonplace, including in Rahat, Israel's largest Bedouin city, when provocative right wing extremists marched in protest (on July 26, 2009) against "illegal" construction. The irony is galling - Arabs prevented from building legally, but sanction illegal West Bank settlement construction, at the same time "Death to Arabs" graffiti is openly displayed, not banned or removed throughout Israeli towns and cities.

Racist incidents result, including a 66% 2009 increase on football fields because offenders aren't punished. Also in Israeli communities, at times originating from the highest political levels to incite violence within and between Israeli Arabs and Jews.

Discriminatory legislation follows, earlier examples include the 1950 Law of Return, the 1952 Citizenship Law, and same year Entry into Israel Law - granting Jews worldwide automatic citizenship on arrival, a benefit no other country affords or should.

In 2009, 21 discriminatory bills were introduced that undermine Arab legitimacy, a population Lieberman calls the "enemy within." While all bills didn't pass, proposing them shows how 1.5 million citizens are threatened - dispelling peace and reconciliation hopes, notions past Israeli governments spurned, let alone the current one, introducing extremist measures, including to let the Interior Minister revoke citizenship rights of anyone deemed disloyal, with no right of appeal to the Attorney General.

The current one, Eli Yishai, said if the bill passes he'll revoke MK Azmi Bishara's citizenship as well as for 34 other Israeli Arabs - but not Yigal Amir's, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's killer. For Israeli extremists, he's a hero.

In 2003, the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law became a temporary measure, thereafter renewed annually. It denies citizenship and Israeli residence to Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens. Although in theory applying to all Israelis, it's been used disproportionately against Arabs - despite being in violation of the unanimously adopted UN resolution on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that upholds fundamental international human rights law.

In December 2009, Yisrael Beitneinu MK, and Chaiman of the Knesset Constitution, David Rotem, introduced an amendment with 44 other MKs to the Basic Law Human Dignity and Freedom, to eliminate its incompatibilities with the racist Citizenship and Entry in Israel Law. It was rejected, but if adopted, would have institutionalized Basic Law racism, the closest thing Israel has to a constitution. Its mere introduction, however, set a dangerous precedent, suggesting future efforts that will pass.

Other bills are also outrageous, including the attempt to prohibit Nakba commemorations on threat of cutting off funding for institutions supporting it. Another bill criminalizes denying Israel's right to be called a Jewish state. It's not. It's a Zionist one, the distinction some orthodox Jews acknowledge, but not extremist MKs. If passed, offenders will be imprisoned for up to a year, and Arab citizen inequality and discrimination will be institutionalized.

Rotem also introduced a Loyalty Oath bill, requiring citizens pledge it to a "Jewish, Zionist, and democratic State," to its emblems and values, and to perform military service or an equivalent as a condition for a national identity card signifying citizenship. So far, it's rejected but may be reintroduced in new form, given the dominance of extremist MKs.

A May 2009 "Principles of the Agreement between the State and the JNF" (Jewish National Fund) proposed its ownership of "available and unplanned" land in the Negev and Galilee - in the heart of Arab communities as a way to displace them for Jews.

Other laws, introduced or passed, favor Jews over Arabs. In addition, legitimized violence has grown alarmingly in the past decade resulting in dozens of Israeli Arab deaths. Prominent Arab leaders have also been arrested during peaceful demonstrations, and human rights groups ("deemed biased against Israel") have been threatened and targeted by hostile legislation to restrict their funding and freedoms.

In January 2010, the Zionist student group, Im Tirtzu, accused the New Israel Fund (NIF) of bearing direct responsibility for the Goldstone Report. NIF responded, saying it "became the latest target of what appears to be a coordinated effort to stifle dissent and shut down the human rights community in Israel."

Over the past decade, Arab MKs have been investigated - some indicted on charges of incitement for participating in nonviolent protests against discriminatory government policies. Over the same period, Jewish MKs introduced bills comparing Arab Knesset members to Nazi collaborators, proposing transferring them to a future Palestinian state.

For some time, systematically curtailing Arab civil and political liberties has continued, all Israeli Arabs endangered by a nation affording rights solely to Jews.

A Historic Analog - Nazi 1930s Violence Against Jews

Early on, the Nazis institutionalized violence to force its will on all aspects of society - its plan to solidify power and establish despotic rule. The Gestapo and SS enforced it against declared enemies of the state, including communists, social democrats, gypsies, homosexuals, and, of course, Jews.

Right after the March 1933 elections, Nazis institutionalized violence, riots beginning in the Ruhr and spread nationally. Jewish businesses, enterprises and stores were picketed, handbills saying "Germans, don't buy at Jewish shops." SA stormtroopers broke into Jewish homes, mistreating and arresting their occupants.

Hitler launched a nationwide boycott against Jewish enterprises, doctors and lawyers. Entrances to their establishments and offices were blocked. Anti-semitic graffiti was put up and windows smashed. It was a precursor of worse to come, including propaganda to institutionalize public anger against Jews as enemies of the Third Reich.

By 1935, Jews were publicly humiliated, banned from certain towns, and party activists assaulted the orthodox, cut their beards and shaved their heads to vilify them and Judaism.

Racist legislation followed, including the infamous "Nuremberg Laws" discussed below. Landlords were forced to break leases with Jewish tenants. By 1936, distinctions were removed between harming Jews physically and using legal measures to destroy their businesses and livelihoods.

By 1938, violence escalated, starting with the Austrian Anschluss in March. A wave of anti-Jewish measures followed, aimed at Austrian Jews. Nazi policy enforced "Aryanizations," confiscations, arrests, and physical violence against Jews. In November, the infamous Kristallnacht pogrom occurred, directly incited by Hitler and Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda.

They exploited the attempted assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris on November 7. Violent riots followed. The entire party apparatus was involved. In most German cities and towns, enterprises and Jewish homes were looted; 200 or more synagogues and 7,500 Jewish enterprises were attacked, burned and destroyed; and when it ended, 680 Jews were dead and nearly 30,000 interned in concentration camps.

In addition, the ministerial bureaucracy and Gestapo intensified enforcement of Jewish emigration and keeping Jews and Aryans totally apart. Violent anti-Jewish acts were exempted from German law. Many occurred, including murders, rapes and other sexual assaults, organized pogroms, public humiliations, vandalism, anti-semitic graffiti, boycotts, confiscations, looting and other forms of theft - virtually anything to vilify and remove German Jewry.

On the eve of WW II, German society was accustomed to anti-semitic violence. It was the genesis of the 1941-45 holocaust, facilitated by the 1935 "Nuremberg Laws" that:"

  • protected "German Blood and German Honour";
  • prevented marriage or sexual relations between Jews and Aryans;
  • declared persons with any Jewish blood no longer citizens and denied all rights;
  • banned Jews from holding professional jobs to exclude them from education, politics and industry;
  • segregated Jews from Aryans;
  • punished them financially, effectively bankrupting Jewish enterprises;
  • prohibited Aryan doctors from treating them;
  • prevented Jews from becoming doctors;
  • excluded Jewish children from state-run schools; and
  • effectively denied Jews all rights afforded Aryans - a prelude to Nazi genocide, what Palestinians have incrementally endured for decades by racist laws, persecution, land theft, dispossession, exclusion, isolation, mass imprisonment, torture, targeted assassinations, violence, and wartime slaughter - most recently, Cast Lead, and now an extremist government targeting them and Israeli Arabs, by persecution, removal, or perhaps annihilation. A historic analog shows the danger.

Stephen Lendman

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at His blog is

Listen to Lendman's cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.

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This story was published on July 8, 2010.

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