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  Print view: Israel's Sham Democracy

Israel's Sham Democracy

by Stephen Lendman
Sunday, 19 December 2010
Despite High Court rulings prohibiting the practice, de jure segregation will be replaced with legislated apartheid in the weeks ahead. The racist Knesset and Netanyahu government pay no attention, doing what they please.

Numerous previous articles exposed it, highlighting policies affording rights solely to Jews, including this January 2010 Israeli Democracy or Hypocrisy one.

It cited a same titled October 2007 Haaretz editorial, calling for "debate about Israel's control over the lives of Palestinians deprived of civil rights," saying its democracy is flawed for denying Arab Israelis equality with Jews.

In his December 10 op-ed titled titled, "The farce of a secular and democratic Jewish state," Haaretz writer Gideon Levy was equally critical, saying:

"The debate over the conversion bill is deceptive." The IDF bill aims to prevent municipal marriage clerks from refusing to register marriages of people converted during military service. An estimated 2,500 occur annually, mostly among former Soviet Union immigrants. Orthodox parties, like Shas, want the Sephardic chief rabbi to have sole conversion authority. Secular ones want bill's language left unchanged.

Levy believes the debate masks greater issues, fundamental ones "that define our society and state." Whether military or civilian rabbis decide who is Jewish is a distraction. "Ten times more significant is....whether (we're) living in the only country on earth where clerics determine the right to citizenship. No less important (is the illusion that Israel) is a secular and democratic state."

Imagine debates over whether to rent apartments to Arabs. What about equal rights, democratic freedoms, civil liberties and justice. Choosing who's superior, who's inferior, who gets rights and who doesn't exposes Israel's real agenda, a theocratic-run Jewish state under religious law, deciding who belongs and who doesn't, enforced by hardline officials and MKs.

"It's time to admit that this approach can only be called racist," based on "the blood flowing through (one's) veins....determin(ing) your status....Sixty-two years after (Israel's) establishment, (it's time to) change this reality."

It's time for "normalcy, for joining the enlightened world, (and changing) distorted reality." Otherwise, it's ludicrous calling Israel "a liberal and modern state" when growing despotism better defines it. Non-Jews have experienced it for decades, under a repressive occupation, and Israeli Arabs treated like second class citizens.

On December 17, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel said a new report lists 20 new Knesset laws and draft laws that discriminate against Arab minorities, threatening their rights as citizens. In some cases, Occupied Palestinian rights are also violated.

For example, a recently proposed Knesset "Bill for Protecting the Values of the State of Israel (Amendment Legislation) 2009 requires organizations pledge loyalty to Israel as "Jewish and democratic." In a November 4 press release, Adalah said the bill:

"violates the right of freedom of association and freedom of expression of all Arab organizations in Israel, which seek through democratic means to change the political, legal and social status in Israel. It asks those organizations to express their loyalty to the Jewish state and therefore it is not just a discriminatory law but one that seeks to oppress the rights of the Arab minority."

It also limits and damages Arab organizations' work, "put(ting) them under ultra-nationalist, ideological interrogation and investigation, and (questioning) every serious action" they take. The bill enforces a Jewish world view, delegitimizing and perhaps criminalizing organizations not endorsing it. This and other bills mirror 1920s Italy and 1930s Germany where democracy became fascism, including racist laws, persecution and extermination.

Institutionalizing Apartheid in Israel

On October 29, Haaretz writer Amnon Be'eri-Sulitzeanu headlined, "Segregation of Jews and Arabs in 2010 Israel is almost absolute," saying:

The Knesset's "Amendment to the Cooperative Associations Bill" bypasses High Court rulings in favor of instituting apartheid law.

Ten years ago, Israel's Supreme Court "ordered the town of Katzir to accept the family of Adel and Iman Kaadan, Arab citizens of Israel, as members of the community. Seven years later," the Court again ruled against the Rakefet Galilee village. Like Katzir, it's Jewish, ordered not to discriminate against Arab citizens. The Knesset amendment, however, lets communal village acceptance committees limit residency exclusively to Jews, rejecting families that "are incompatible with the social-cultural fabric of our community, and where there are grounds to assume that they will disrupt the fabric."

In other words, non-Jews are barred to let communities preserve Jewish traditions. Earlier, anticipating the Knesset action, communities like Yuvalim and Manof, in the Misgav area, mandated residence based on declaring allegiance to the Zionist vision. In Mitzpe Aviv, applicants must openly identify with Zionist values and the notion of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.

In addition, in Upper Nazareth, Safed and Carmiel, senior municipal officials call for dispossessing Arabs or preventing their integration into the communities.

As a result, "Segregation of Jews and Arabs in Israel in 2010 is almost complete." Resident Jews take it for granted. Visitors, however, can't "believe their eyes: segregated education, segregated businesses, separate entertainment venues, different languages, separate political parties, (and) segregated housing...contribut(ing) to the growing mutual alienation of Jews and Arabs." In other words, Jim Crow in the extreme, including violence and intimidation.

To Israel's shame, segregation remains de jure, legislated apartheid expected to pass its final version and become official in the weeks ahead. It already is in practice despite High Court rulings prohibiting the practice. The racist Knesset and Netanyahu government pay no attention, doing what they please with or without legal right.

Under present and past governments, core Judaization policy is a dagger against minority Arab rights, dispossessing or prohibiting them from land Israel wants exclusively for Jews. Cooperative associations limited to 500 families effectively enforce this policy, limiting Arab citizens to shrinking areas, comprising about 2.5% of Israel. Eventually it may all be lost for total Judaization. In addition, all valued West Bank and East Jerusalem land may be seized, confining Palestinians to resource-poor, cantonized scrub lands.

On December 16, Haaretz writers Jack Khoury and Jonathan Lis headlined, "Israeli towns continue to rewrite bylaws to keep Arabs out," saying:

Circumventing Knesset and High Court actions, Jewish "communities are....rewriting admission regulations in order to 'preserve their Jewish and Zionist character.' " The idea, of course, is to prohibit Arabs and other unwanted residents.

A Misgav Regional Council proposal describes the "multigenerational and variegated communal life that upholds Zionist values and seeks to maintain Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the spirit of (Israel's 1948) Declaration of Independence."

The document also mentions community values "based on tolerance, human dignity and reciprocal relations among members, who pursue a communal lifestyle in an independent, democratic and voluntary manner." Those values, however, are racist, excluding anyone not Jewish, putting a lie to sham language without meaning.

On December 26, Israel's High Court will decide whether Ahmed and Fatin Zbeidat may live in the Rakafet communal settlement, barring Arabs from residency. As in the past, however, Jewish communities may bypass Court rulings, a testimony to Israel's institutionalized racism.

Rabbis Endorsing Racism

Racist rabbis affirm it, including leading ones wanting renting homes to Arabs prohibited. Dozens of municipal chief rabbis endorsed a religious ruling to do so, claiming Israel belongs to Jews, not goyim, especially Arabs.

Beit El settlement's Rabbi Shlomo Aviner said, "We don't need to help Arabs set down roots in Israel." According to Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, head of Ashdod's Yeshiva, "Racism originated in the Torah. The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what Holy One Blessed Be he intended, and that is what the (sage) Rashi interpreted." God intended Israel for Jews, he added, a notion only bigoted hatemonger ones endorse. Doing so should get them suspended, denounced and prohibited from distorting true Jewish dogma, teaching love, not hate, like Islam.

No shred of evidence exists that Torah or Talmudic doctrine sanction racism or any other form of hate. Even Haifa's Mayor Yonah Yahav was outraged, calling the ruling a "desecration of God's name." Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy said, "We are all children of the land. Both (sides) must search for common ground and not bring out escalation." The rabbis, however, urged "neighbors and acquaintances (of Jews who rent or sell to Arabs to) distance themselves (from them), refrain from doing business with (them), deny (them) the right to read from the Torah, and (ostracize them) until (they retract) this harmful deed."

Racist rabbis offer more proof of Israel's sham democracy. Most disturbing, however, is the extremist Netanyahu government, support or no dissent from opposition leaders, and Israel's most right-wing ever Knesset, flouting democratic principles one law or edict at a time. It endorses, but hasn't yet passed, measures like Israel's Law of Citizenship amendment, requiring non-Jews wanting it to pledge loyalty to "the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

On October 10, Netanyahu's cabinet approved it (22 - 8) for new non-Jewish citizens. He, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, other Knesset hard-liners, and MK religious zealots support it.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) expressed concern about increasing anti-democratic Knesset measures proposed or passed. They're "gaining momentum and, regrettably" the new session may be worse, though at times, language in original submissions is softened.

The last session was notably anti-democratic. If this one's no different, enormous damage will be done. Apparently it's Israel's chosen course, harming Arabs most of all.

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 in the Baltimore Chronicle on December 19, 2010.


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