Thursday, May 30, 2013

Jim Crow Israel...

There are a large number of people in Israel who want to fight for decency toward all Israelis, Arabs as well as Jews. Their voices are raised in several editorials and articles from Haaretz below. Once again, as the high price of housing and the continuing danger of war and destruction underline, Jews who fail to unite with the Palestinians for a decent solution both to the Occupation and within Israel, will live under a regime which harms all.


But Israel is now pretty despicably segregationist - see the first and fourth story below - and Israeli politics is moving increasingly to a racist definition - Jewish - of what it is to be a citizen.(h/t Ilene Cohen)


All of these disturbing stories are worth reading.


Avraham Burg, an Israeli leader who has recently stood out for decency toward the Palestinians, shifted when he was talking at a dinner party among fellow liberal Zionists about the murder by Israeli fire of a Lebanese grandmother and the two children she was watching.

One of his guests swiftly burst out. "But we're not as bad as the Nazis." He didn't want to hear.

And Burg realized, in that moment, that this is not a comparison space any sane person would choose.


The third piece from Haaretz below by Aeyal Gross emphasizes a strain of thinking registered in a proposed Basic Law (such laws comprise or substitute for an Israeli constitution) that a Jewish majority determines everything, the individual rights guaranteed in Israel's Declaration of Independence nothing. The white minority could have said this in the Jim Crow South, the white minority could have said this in apartheid South Africa, and the "Aryans" could have said it toward Jews in Germany.

The comparison space narrows...

The mimicry of the foul continues apace.


Segregation at Superland: Separate days for Arab and Jewish students at amusement park
Jaffa schoolteacher says he encountered policy of segregation at Israeli amusement park while attempting to book tickets for a class trip.
By Ilan Lior | May.30, 2013

Superland amusement park at Rishon Letzion. Photo by Tal Cohen

A teacher at a Jaffa school accounted encountering a policy of segregation between Arab and Jewish students while attempting to book tickets for his class at the Superland amusement park in Rishon Letzion.

Khaled Shakra, who teaches seventh grade at the Ajial school in Jaffa, called Superland on Tuesday afternoon with the aim of booking tickets for his class to have a fun end- of-term day out. He says that a Superland representative offered him three options: the 17th, 18th and 19th June. He asked to reserve 25 spaces for his students on the 18th, but was asked to provide the school's details before the reservation could be confirmed.

Shakra says that the moment the representative heard the name Ajial – and realized it was an Arab school – he was suddenly put on hold. Another representative was put on the line who told him that the dates he was interested in were not available. A few minutes later he called and introduced himself under the name of Eyal, who was enquiring on behalf of a Jewish organization. The Superland representative offered him the same dates that only a moment before had been unavailable.

Following the reports, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni contacted Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Tuesday night with a request that he examine whether Superland has discriminated against Arab students. "If these allegations are proved to be correct, then this is a symptom of a sick democracy. Any incident such as this must be severely dealt with," Livni said.[Livni's comment is an important if fading memory of decency...]

On Wednesday, Shakra posted a letter on his Facebook page that described the sequence of events and his feelings on the matter. "I have experienced another sickening, racist event and something within me is screaming to be released. Another stain, another wound has today been etched into the depths of my soul, and I am trying, unsuccessfully, to make sense of what has happened. How can I supress my anger and the deep bitterness I am currently feeling?"

He described the moment the Superland representative discovered the name of the school. "She suddenly fell silent and then asked me in confusion: 'what? What is that?' 'Ajial!A-j-i-a-l,' I answered confidentially. I didn't understand if the letter 'j' bothered her or the city of Jaffa bothered her, but I suddenly had the sober realization of what it was that was going through her head. I panicked and stopped abruptly. She responded "just a moment, sir!' And I suddenly heard the hold music. I can't put into words my feelings and thoughts at that exact moment, but for some reason the faces of my students popped into my head."

After waiting on the line for three minutes, Shakra was transferred to another representative who claimed that there were no free spots on June 17th or 18th, and offered that he come on the 19th. "I didn't hesitate, and told her that the 19th wouldn't be a problem. But less than a minute later she said 'I apologize, but we don't have any free spaces on the 19th either." A few minutes later, he called again. "This time I said my name was Eyal, and that I was interested in reserving some tickets for the Jewish organization I work for. 'Eyal? the 17th, 18th and 19th are free, which option would you like?' was the response."

"I ask myself whether the Arab feels he is discriminated against in all walks of life, is pushed to the sidelines politically, socially, culturally and feels, quite rightly, that he is being controlled instead of being included? No, my question is not [intended to be] provocative, but it is a harsh reality, and therefore it raises tough questions and presents complex and difficult problems," he wrote.

He concluded: "Peace between two peoples, between two national movements, and the ability to heal the wounds both sides have incurred after all the wars are the heart's desire of every Arab. My dear students, I apologize in advance! I have no idea what your reactions will be but I really did try. During a whole year I tried to instill you with values. Acceptance of others is first and foremost, but the reality out there says otherwise."

The Ajial school in Jaffa has a middle school and high school for Arabic speaking students. "This is unacceptable, racist segregation," said the school's principal, Jalal Tuhi, on Tuesday night. "This is a special school in terms of its students and teachers. It has a mixed faculty. There are Jewish teachers, and Muslim, Christian and even Druze teachers…this is how we see the future of this country and this city. I asked the teacher not to remain silent about this because we are fed up of this segregation and this racist treatment, full stop. I want my students to know that they need to fight for their rights, and not give up."

In response, Superland's management told the Walla website on Tuesday: "we open our gates to all of Israel and all sectors of the public all year round. Everyone can buy a ticket through the website, or directly through the ticketing office…however, in June we hold closed events for the school year end. The schools dictate which schools will enter the event. There are reservations for closed days held by Jewish schools. There are reservations for closed days held by Arab schools."

Six months ago, a similar incident was reported at the Soho restaurant in Rishon Letzion. Arab citizens who tried to place an order at the restaurant recorded conversations with employees that showed that when the couple tried to order a table under an Arab name they were fobbed off with a variety of excuses. A short while later they succeeded in making the same booking using a Jewish name.

Basic Law: Apartheid in Israel

The proposal put forth by Coalition Chairman Yariv Levin is nothing short of an apartheid law, aiming to provide a solid legal basis for the exclusion of Israel's Arab minority.
Haaretz Editorial | May.30, 2013

The exclusion of the Arab minority in Israel has until now lacked a vital basis to its institutionalization. There is no law discriminating against Arabs, limiting where they may settle, negating their language as an official language or determining that they are challenging the state’s Jewish identity.

Israel has been forced until now to rely on tricks, excuses and winks to prevent Arabs from working in so-called sensitive places of work, delay building plans in their communities, limit how many of them reside in Jewish communities and not enforce the use of Arabic in official correspondences. Only in a few instances did the High Court of Justice intervene and the government had no choice but to obey the ruling.
Coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin decided to put an end to this murky reality and provide the unofficial apartheid policy a legal basis. Levin is proposing the Basic Law: State of the Nation, which is nothing short of an apartheid law. If it will be accepted, Israel will be able to proudly hold the title of a Jewish and racist state, a unique political creation, which will certainly astonish the family of nations.

Levin proposes, among other things, mandatory construction of Jewish communities, while building Arab communities will need authorization; abolishing Arabic as an official language and mandating the courts to give precedence in their rulings to Jewish identity in questions of democratic values and equal rights. That is to say, to give precedence to “Jewish” over “democratic” in defining the state.

Arabs will enjoy at best the status of a tolerated minority, with the option of turning them into a non-tolerated minority down the line, one which needs to be rid of because its presence spoils the state’s Jewish purity.

Levin and his comrades have a vision: The racist state won’t suffice with its recognized borders. It will officially adopt the living space divinely promised to it.

“The Land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and where the state of Israel was established,” the bill reads. Finally, the messianic dream will have a geographic, legal identity, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

Levin is no joke, and he is far from being the exception. He is continuing the way paved by Avi Dichter, who failed in his efforts to legitimize apartheid. Moreover, he is a competitor with MK Ruth Calderon, a member of Yesh Atid, who is promoting together with Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked a similar bill, which at its heart subjugates democracy to the state’s Jewish identity.

Instead of purging elements of racism from within its ranks, it turns out that the present coalition is also promoting apartheid in the guise of “new politics.”


An Israel that is more democratic, less Jewish

The last thing Israel needs is a new Basic Law that constitutionally defines its Jewish identity, and it doing so discriminates against its other communities and further erodes its democratic character.
By Aeyal Gross | Jan.21, 2013

The first legal document to explicitly term Israel "a Jewish and democratic state" was the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom, enacted in 1992. This law played a key role in setting the tone for the debate on the relationship between these two components of the state's identity. While some believe that these two components can complement each other, others point out that defining a country based on a concept of nationality, one that fundamentally differs from the concept of citizenship, doesn't mesh well with the modern view of democracy.

High Court of Justice President Meir Shamgar may have written in 1988 that "the existence of Israel as the state of the Jewish People does not negate its democratic character as much as the Frenchness of France does not negate its democratic character." However, this statement contains an internal contradiction. The parallel to the "Frenchness" of France would be Israel's existence as an Israeli state, not as "the state of the Jewish people." This contradiction attests to the strong tension that exists today.

Israel differs from democratic states like France, where the concept of citizenship and nationhood are identical. In these countries, a person is a citizen with equal rights regardless of his ethnic background, and his nationality is based on his equal citizenship. However, Israel is also different from countries like Belgium and Canada, which constitutionally recognize the existence of a number of national groups but are built on the equality and cooperation between them. Of course in many countries there are different types of discrimination and prejudice, but in Israel discrimination is constitutionally justified based on the dichotomy found in its Basic Laws.

If, for example, we were to compare Israel to Canada, the parallel would be a constitutional clause declaring Canada the state of Anglo-Canadians. This definition would never be accepted by Canada's French Canadian citizens and Quebec would obviously make good on its threat to secede from Canada. The proposal to pass a new Basic Law Israel that would fix Israel's status as the nation-state of the Jewish people and needs to be understood in this context.

In his Haaretz op-ed "A Basic Law to save Israel's Jewish identity " (January 21), Joel Golovensky makes claims based on a position paper published by the Institute for Zionist Strategies. He says that there is an "imbalance" in Israel's present constitutional infrastructure, and that it has eroded the High Court's willingness to defend the Jewish character of the state. Golovensky advocates adopting a Basic Law defining Israel as a Jewish state, a move, he says, that would correct the court's current emphasis of individual rights at the expense of the majority's right to self-determination. He also mentions the importance of such a Basic Law in relation to the topics of Jewish settlement and the preservation of Hebrew as the national language.

Among the legal rulings on these topics that are mentioned in the position paper written by Prof. Aviad Bakshi, there is a legal ruling that determined that it was impossible to forbid Arabs from purchasing land in communities built on state-owned land as well as a ruling that requires Arabic language signage in mixed Arab-Jewish cities. If these are the court rulings that bother Golovensky and Bakshi, it's possible to clearly discern the goal of their Basic Law proposal: They want to prevent court rulings like these in a manner that would constitutionally enshrine not the Jewish right to self-determination, but rather discrimination against Arabs.

I don't know of a democratic country that constitutionally enshrines the land rights of just the majority group. Similarly, anyone who has visited countries comprised of several national groups, like Canada or Belgium, will have seen a multitude of bilingual signs; many more than exist in Israel, even after the High Court's ruling on the matter. It isn't constitutionally permissible to deprive minorities of access to state-owned lands under the French model, the Belgian model, or the Canadian model. In all countries it is also illegal for the state to establish communities solely for the majority group.

It was basic democratic principles and in line with Israel's Declaration of Independence that led the High Court to issue these rulings. It is based on this very Declaration of Independence that the state provides "complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex." Giving content to the definition of the state as "Jewish" will nullify these kinds of court rulings and this type of civic equality, negating the already flimsy "democratic" aspect of the state.

In light of the already problematic constitutional definition of the state that exists today, along with the recent anti-democratic initiatives and the many democratic failures (some of which have already become law, and some – like the Amendment to the Citizenship Law or the "Nakba Law," that would allow the finance minister to fine government-funded organizations that commemorate the Palestinian Nakba on Independence Day – which weren't struck down by the High Court), the last thing Israel needs is a special Basic Law defining it as the nation-state of the Jewish people. This type of law will push it further away from the fundamental democratic principle of civic equality and diminish its stance as a state that belongs to all its citizens. What Israel needs is exactly the opposite. It needs a reinforcement of democracy, not a reinforcement of an ethnocentric-based view of nationality that excludes one-fifth of the its citizens.


Right-wing group mapping Jerusalem businesses that employ Arabs

Meir Ettinger, 19, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar and grandson of late Rabbi Kahane, says goal of Hebrew Labor project is 'to warn the public' against buying from businesses that employ Arabs.
By Oz Rosenberg | Nov.21, 2011

About 10 days ago, a fish merchant in Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda outdoor market noticed a young man with sidelocks and a skullcap trying to determine which of the stalls employ Arabs. The merchant, Saleh, called the police, who detained the man for questioning on suspicion that he was planning a terror attack.

But the interrogation revealed that Meir Ettinger, 19, had a completely different goal in mind. Ettinger, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar and a grandson of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, said he was investigating on behalf of a project called Hebrew Labor, whose goal is "to warn the public" against buying from businesses that employ Arabs.

Ettinger was released and ordered to keep away from Mahane Yehuda for two weeks. But last Thursday night, police detained four other young men from Yitzhar who were on the same mission.

Conversations with right-wing activists this week revealed that Ettinger and his comrades have been working on this project for several weeks now. Their goal is to map all of the businesses in Jerusalem that use Arab labor. They began in the northern neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze'ev and Neveh Yaakov, then moved to the western neighborhoods of Kiryat Moshe and Givat Shaul, and are now working on the downtown area, which includes Mahane Yehuda.

"They came to my boss and asked him if he has Arabs working for him," related Yaakov Azaria, an electrician from Pisgat Ze'ev. "He said no, but I know they also went to others and asked them."

About 20 people are working on the mapping project. Most are Yitzhar residents who were recently served with administrative orders requiring them to stay out of the West Bank, for fear that they might carry out attacks on Palestinians or soldiers, and are therefore living temporarily in Jerusalem. Their goal is to prevent people from patronizing businesses that employ Arabs.

"A booklet with a list of places that employ Arabs will be published soon," said Moshe Ben Zikri, an extreme right-wing activist from Jerusalem. "That will be followed by hanging up posters and signs with these lists in the streets - just so that the public will know and be cautious."

The modus operandi is simple: If it isn't clear that a store does or doesn't employ Arabs, the activists simply walk in and ask the owner. Police found a list of several dozen businesses in Ettinger's pocket, each marked with an X if it employed Arab workers or a checkmark if it did not.

The Hebrew Labor project is not one of a kind: In January, for instance, a right-wing group called Lehava - For the Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land launched a campaign to give "kashrut certificates" to businesses that don't employ Arabs. Benzion Gopstein, one of the leaders of Lehava, said this new campaign was unrelated, but motivated by the same goal.

"I don't understand what the problem is here," he said. "All in all, this is just a service to the public that isn't interested in buying from businesses with Arabs."


Segregation at Superland: Separate days for Arab and Jewish students at amusement park
By Ilan Lior | May.30,2013

Rishon Letzion's Superland amusement park might be the essence of Israeliness with its provinciality, pushing and shoving, and standing in line, but it also gives us hope for normalcy. At Superland, you can find Ethiopians, Mizrahim, Ashkenazim, Russians, Arabs, fat people, skinny people, children and old people all having fun together. You can see them feasting on greasy French fries, getting dizzy on the roller coaster and seeking an illusion that life can be great. It’s a kind of multiculturalism – if phony.

But where is that normalcy when it turns out that Superland has special days for Jewish children only? In a normal country, the prime minister would call a press conference and roundly condemn the racism. He would warn against a return to the South Africa and maybe even the Europe of decades ago. If he were too busy, he would at least release a statement condemning the practice and telling us what to do. Meanwhile, the police or the municipality would shut the place down for a few days.

In a normal country, parents would immediately boycott Superland, the Luna Park, the Meymadion water park, the Zapari bird park and the ISkate rinks – all of them under the same ownership – in the run-up to the summer vacation. Spontaneously, hundreds of people would demonstrate outside these places.

Of course, this hasn’t happened and it won't happen. So it’s interesting to discover that in 1989 the Israel Lands Administration awarded those 94 dunams (23 acres) in Rishon Letzion without a tender and almost for free – for a project defined as “theZionism Train.”

So how does the Zionism Train look 24 years later? Racist and sick. In the Israel of 2013 violent acts based on racism take place nearly every day – whether against Ethiopians, labor migrants or Arabs. They take place at the shopping mall, on the street or on the soccer field. Arabs also get special treatment at the hands of the price-tag people, those militant settlers who are never caught and never punished.
But maybe there's still hope? Immediately after Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s unfortunate statements against Arabs ("the Zuabis,” referring to controversial MK - Member of the Knesset - Hanin Zuabi), a clause on addressing racism was written into his party's coalition agreement with Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. It said the government would appoint a committee “to develop a plan for the war on racism” within 30 days of taking office.

After 90 days the committee is supposed to present the government with a plan. But more than two months have gone by and no committee has been established. The racism is only increasing.

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