Israelis insist that Israel is the only Democracy in the Middle East. But what kind of Democracy is a country that discriminates against people based on race and religion and continually reinforces that discrimination? More importantly, what kind of people live in an apartheid-like country and pretends that they do not discriminate?
By Ray Hanania
For years, I always avoided using the word “Apartheid” when speaking about Israel. I used terms like racism, discrimination and hate, but I felt the word Apartheid took the racist policies to a new level.
I thought maybe avoiding the use of the word would help encourage dialogue with “good Israelis” and “good American Jews” who are truly anguished by the racism and the hatred and were working to have that changed. I recognized that extremist fanatics in the Arab community exaggerated everything from statistics to events in their hatred of anything Jews or Jewish and in their desire to exterminate and destroy Israel rather than find a way for both sides to live together.
The Palestine-Israel conflict is no joy ride. The truth is there is good and there is bad on both sides. Yet, when the bad runs a country, as it does in Israel, it’s not enough to say you want peace and oppose violence. You have to not only want peace and oppose violence, but you also have to speak out against policies and practices that discriminate on the basis of race and religion.
But I have come to realize that any country that openly describe itself as a place for only one people, and worse, implements policies that discriminate against its civilians, whether they are citizens or under occupation, is actually worse than an Apartheid country like the former Apartheid South Africa.
At least in South Africa under Apartheid, they admitted it, acknowledged it and justified it until it brought their ugly society down and replaced the system with freedom and true Democracy.
The difference is that Israelis and especially American Jews pretend the racism doesn’t exist, or that the racism isn’t “bad enough” to rise to the level of a discussion. But it is about “policy and practice.”
When I was younger, having just left service in the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War, I was learning about the vicious side of Israel. The Israeli murder of 34 crewmen and American soldiers on the U.S.S. Liberty during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, disgusted me. Israel’s heavy investment in powerful public relations int he face of the total dysfunctional policies and the absence of any professional public relations by the Arab community and governments resulted in unchallenged story after story, and opinion column after opinion column, which denied the racism and painted a pretty picture using lies and exaggerations of their own in the Western News Media.
I launched my own newspaper, while going to college on the G.I. Bill as a Vietnam Era Serviceman, called The Middle Eastern Voice, and one of my first interviews was with Tawfiq Ziad (Tewfiq, Zayyad) who was the mayor of Nazareth for many years, a city in Israel that has been oppressed by Israel’s society for years. Mayor Ziad told me during a lengthy interview in 1976 that discrimination and racism and hatred in Israel was “policy, practice and reality.” Ziad was the head of the Palestinian Communist Party — (communist only because at the time Israel prevented Arabs from creating mainstream organizations and many Jews in Israel were communist, too.) Ziad told me that the practice of racism was often greater than the policy, but that the reality of Israel racism was in its foundation and that most Israelis, would pretend it doesn’t exist.
A political comic i wrote characterized the issue when leaders of Apartheid South Africa visited Israel in 1976 to study how Israel was using violence to occupy the West Bank as well as its policies of oppressing Christians and Muslim Palestinians in Israel. That summer South African exploded in protests resulting in the murder of hundreds of Black South Africans. The comic showed South African’s President B.J. Vorster standing next to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Vorster asked Rabin as they watched Israeli soldiers brutalizing Arab civilians, “How do you tellt hem apart?” To which Rabin answers, “We beat the color in them, black and blue.”
But in recent years, under the administration of Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the most vicious and anti-peace prime ministers Israel has ever had, the practice of racism in Israel has been overcome by the policies of racial and religious discrimination.
Israeli officials like Benjamin Naftali and Avigdor Lieberman openly speak about the need to expel Christians and Muslims as citizens of Israel, and are the backbone of Netanyahu’s political existence.
Israel is an “Apartheid-like” country that does discriminate and impose policies of racism and hatred into their society to undermine freedoms of non-Jews and strengthen the rights and privileges of Jews in almost an “Aryan” manner of religious superiority that in its essence is about racial superiority. In Israeli society, religion and race have become one.
Eventually, South Africa’s non-White population overcame Apartheid and implemented a Democracy to give all of its people equal rights, ending the discriminatory policies of its Apartheid past. That’s Israel’s future. Because more and more people are seeing through Israel’s carefully constructed and high financed media propaganda lies to recognize its “policy, practice and reality” of racism, and Apartheid-like practices targeting Christian and Muslim Arab Israeli citizens.
Even post-Apartheid South Africa’s former Ambassador to Israel, who served in what he later described as a tortuous three years, Ismail Coovadia, told Israel’s government that their policies with Apartheid-like.
In rejecting the planting of trees in his honor in 2013 after his term ended, Coovadia wrote, “I have supported the struggle against Apartheid South Africa and now I cannot be a proponent of what I have witnessed in Israel, and that is, a replication of Apartheid.” The trees were planted on land that was confiscated by Israel from non-Jewish citizens in the Negev.
South Africa’s first Prime Minister Nelson Mandela, who lived through Apartheid, often expressed support for the Palestinians, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the struggle for Palestinian Statehood, views that angered Israelis including Netanyahu who refused to attend his funeral with other heads of state. And Mandela denounced Israeli practices, although he never said Israel was an “Apartheid State” was has been claimed by Arab extremists who don’t think the facts on their own are bad enough to recite in order to tear Israel and the peace process down.
In 1973, the world officially defined Apartheid as a crime and it was later reinforced in 2002.
On November 30, 1973, the United Nations General Assembly opened for signature and ratification the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. It defined the crime of apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
The Crime of Apartheid is defined by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) as inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” (Israel refused to sign this seemingly important fundamental law of Democracy, which says a lot.)
They didn’t call American policies of slavery and the vicious racism that followed slavery’s abolition as “Apartheid” but everyone knew that what was happening in America at the end of the 19th Century and through the first seven decades of the 20th Century was in fact Apartheid-like.
But you don’t need a sign that says “Whites Only” to prove that Apartheid and racism exist. You don’t need signs that say “Jews Only.” It’s not the face or the facade of the policy. While South Africa fought to justify Apartheid, Israelis pretend it doesn’t exist in any form or level in Israel. Israel has taken the concept of “Big Brother” from the George Orwell Novel “1984,” and replaced the stern looking menacing leader with a phony face of happiness, laughter and most important hundreds of millions of dollars in PR spin and media influenced propaganda to throw the Apartheid-like debate into a “fog of PR spin” which they have been very successful at.
But the truth is that in Israeli society such signs do get posted and advertised in Israel that read “We don’t employ Arabs.” The signs are not always so openly hateful and racist and include less offensive semantics like the popular sign “Hebrew labor,” which signifies that non-Jews are not hired.
Former President Jimmy Carter, who naively thought he could bring about peace by getting Egypt’s Dictator “President” Anwar Sadat to shake hands with Israel’s former terrorist Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Begin promised to make peace across the board including with Jordan and Palestinians, but intentionally blocked all efforts to pursue Palestinian peace. Begin lied to Sadat, who was assassinated by anti-peace Arab extremists, just as Rabin was assassinated by anti-peace Israeli Jews.
Today’s Big Brother is not a threatening leader of black and gray portraits overlooking the barren wood benches of indoctrination. Today’s Big Brother is a PR Spin with the glaze of lies and a sweetness that blankets the racist hatred. Israel has mastered the transformation of that image, giving racism a pretty look to disarm and undermine unknowing critics.
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, has published a detailed list of the discriminatory laws that exist in Israel that are intended to compromise and erode the rights of non-Jews. All done behind the mask of a smiling face of happiness, Birthright, peace, love and deception!
Racism and Apartheid-like policies are rampant in Israel and continue to increase. They are not going away. And those policies are undermining the possibility that there will be a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the Arabs and Israel. Israel is enjoying a lull but that will change.
Israeli society is able to embrace Apartheid-like policies without putting up “No Arabs” or “Jews Only” signs because the Israeli government supports it through laws and through its actions of discrimination and racism. Discrimination and racism, again, not just against Christians and Muslims living under occupation, but against Christians and Muslims living in Israel supposedly with Israeli citizenship.
They allow just enough “freedoms” so that they can thwart criticism of Apartheid and discrimination. They allow non-Jews to vote, but impose laws that control and limit the success of non-Jewish voters in Israel. They calculate how many votes there are and then adopt laws to impose a minimal threshold required to actually take a seat in the Knesset.
What kind of Democracy tells its citizens that you can vote but your vote will only count if in a given voting area you have enough like-minded voters to surpass a certain percentage threshold in an election. Otherwise, your vote doesn’t count.
Communities in Israel ban the sale of homes to non-Jews, sometimes by decree and policy but mainly through practice, a practice that is not challenged by Israel’s judicial system.
And when a judicial system in a nation refuses to challenge a practice, you don’t need to pass a law banning Arabs from moving into Gilo. All you have to do is let the Jewish residents know that if they deny a rental or sale to a non-Jewish citizens, they won’t be prosecuted.
That’s how Israel twists and turns the issue ofJewish crimes against non-Jewish citizens of Israel. They use spin, and a government and police that wink at the Jewish offenders while imposing harsher punishments for misdemeanors by non-Jewish citizens.
Israelis and American Jews who oppose extremism, violence and discrimination need to stand up and confront other Israelis and Jews who openly practice and support racist discrimination. They need to speak out against Israeli Apartheid-like policies and practices. They need to do more. And the racists need to be called out to make Israel a better country, and to make peace possible.