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Friday, 22 September 2017

Jewish Voices for Labour Expels Gary Spedding & its Zionist wing (or some of them) - after much Blood, Sweat & Bile

JVL faces a choice – Jewish anti-Zionism or Jewish Identity Politics

I have to confess that getting the leadership of Jewish Voice for Labour to see sense and remove some of its Zionist members was like drawing teeth.  A few days ago I was contacted by members of Jewish Voice for Labour, which sees itself as an alternative Jewish group in the Labour Party to the Jewish Labour Movement.  Why they wondered had the Steering Committee decided to accept Gary Spedding in its Facebook group and as an associate member?
It was only after an Open Letter to JVL that Arik Moshe, author of this vitriolic attack on Jackie Walker was removed

It was a good question.  Why had they also included Arik Moshe, a particularly vitriolic Zionist who had tweeted in respect of Jackie Walker, the former Vice-Chair of Momentum:

Has anyone else noticed how Jackie Walker only really mentions being Jewish when accused of #AntiSemitism?  Funny that...#Jackie out’
A post on the JVL Facebook group as a result of having forced it onto their agenda
A Zionist who believes that people who are Black cannot be Jewish, because that is what the political on Jackie is about, surely has no place in a group like JVL.  No one ever challenges the credentials of white people who say they are Jewish by virtue of their father, which is Jackie’s situation.  This has long been accepted in Reform Judaism.

Spedding has a long pedigree purporting to be a Palestine solidarity activist whilst echoing all the talking points of the false anti-Semitism attacks.  In 2016 he wrote an article for Ha’aretz echoing all the talking points of Zionist propagandists to the effect that the Palestine solidarity movement is riddled with anti-Semitism. We in the Palestinian Solidarity Movement Have a Problem With anti-Semitism
Just some of Gary Spedding's fan mail

Spedding also criticised Ken Livingstone as ‘anti-Semitic’. He has also accused me of ‘anti-Semitism’.  Lacking all self-awareness, since Spedding suffers from an extreme form of narcissism, he didn’t understand why it is not a good idea for someone who isn’t even Jewish to call Jewish people anti-Semitic. In his Ha’aretz article he wrote that 'Anti-Zionist Jews are also not immune from being complicit in, and promoting, anti-Semitism.'  Less considerate people than me might say that that is a good example of anti-Semitism.

Spedding is one of the few people to have given credence to the lies of Angela Eagle that she was subject to homophobic attacks at a meeting she didn’t attend in Wallasey CLP.  These lies were used to suspend Wallasey CLP.  Most people discounted them, but not Spedding.  So although being a socialist or a Corbyn supporter isn’t an absolute condition of membership of a non-Zionist Jewish alternative to the JLM being a witch-hunter should certainly debar you.

I first encountered Spedding when he messaged me furiously after I had criticised an Early Day Motion on anti-Semitism that he had drawn up.  This EDM talked about

‘the single biggest contributing factor to[anti-Semitic incidents] have been anti-Semitic reaction to the armed violence between Israel and Gaza in July 2014’ 

It is a curious phrase ‘armed violence’ to describe the one-sided attack by Israel on the defenceless Palestinians of the Gaza.  It suggests that Spedding was deliberately seeking to minimise the one-sided nature of that conflict by equating Palestinian defence with Israel’s armed aggression on a people under occupation.  In stating that anti-Semitism ‘has no place in campaigns of solidarity with the Palestinians’ Spedding implied that anti-Semitism had such a place.

Some examples of why Spedding should not have been allowed to join JVL
Early Day Motion that Spedding claims to have drafted for the SNP - John Mann signed it
i.   Drafting an EDM which SNP MPs and John Mann signed linking opposition to Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, when 2,200 Palestinians were murdered, with anti-Semitism.  This lie provided the pretext for the formation of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, a far-Right Zionist group which even other Zionist groups keep their distance from.

ii.  Spedding attacked as anti-Semitic both Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker.

iii.  Spedding attacked Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada.

iv.  Spedding was a member of the liberal Unionist Alliance party in the North of Ireland.

v.  Spedding has given full support to Owen Jones’s campaign, alongside the Jewish Labour Movement, in its attacks on Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone.

vi.  Spedding has praised the Community Security Trust, a Zionist vigilante group that specialises in conflating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.  Its Deputy Director Dave Rich recently brought out a book, The Left’ Jewish Problem.

Jackie Walker belongs to Momentum Thanet
Unfortunately not only the SNP but the JVL took Spedding seriously as a Palestine solidarity activist.  I’ve  posted a number of articles on his antics including:

What is particularly outrageous is that I and others were excluded from JVL because of political disagreements with the Steering Committee whereas open Zionists seemed able to waltz in with the blessing of the FB moderators– Messrs. Kuper, Cushman and Saville.

I was particularly critical of the fact that it had avoided open support for the Palestinians in its Statement of Principles in favour of an anodyne ‘We stand for rights and justice for Jews everywhere and against wrongs and injustice to Palestinians.’.  The Right of Return, a basic democratic demand or even opposition to the bogus anti-Semitism witch-hunt were not mentioned.  Whereas the JLM is an explicitly Zionist group, the JLV prefers not to even mention the word.  I therefore penned an open letter to JVL about what was happening and sent it by Messenger to all 160 or so of their Facebook group.  This led to my exclusion from their Facebook group. Such is the price of free speech (although all the moderators are members of Free Speech on Israel!).

The Jewish Socialist Group Take My Criticism Particularly Badly
The JSG, a group which barely exists today (its last magazine came out over a year ago) have taken my criticisms particularly badly. This is because I called on them to distance themselves from Jon Lansman, the Momentum proprietor and dictator, who is also a member of the JSG.  Lansman bears most responsibility for the suspension of Jackie Walker. 

When the JLM attacked Jackie after last year’s Labour Party conference, Lansman immediately leapt to their defence.  He told the Independent that their Chair Jeremy ‘perjurer’ Newmark was  ‘very upset and I can understand that – I work closely with Jeremy, I’ve been meeting with Jewish organisations to talk… I’ve been outspoken. I was very, very unhappy about… and I did comment on it, about it, what she had previously said.’  Lansman joined in with the political lynching of a Black comrade who was his own Vice-Chair without once asking for her opinion.  Newmark is a paid propagandist and Israeli state agent.  The idea that he was ‘upset’ is fanciful.  He was probably delighted to have a pretext for attacking Jackie.  Lansman scabbed on her and the JSG refused to call him out on this.
When a member of the JSG, Ruth Appleton, signed a joint letter to the Guardian as a member of the JSG, she was told to take it off by Julia Bard

In a number of posts I called on the JSG to distance themselves from Lansman, e.g.

Jewish Socialist Group Cowardice Over the Zionists' Racist Attacks on Jackie Walker

An Open Letter to the Jewish Socialists Group

The Strange Silence of the Jewish Socialists Group

I initiated a campaign in October 2016 to get the JSG to come off the fence.  Some 5 months later the JSG finally caved in to the pressure.  But they did so with little grace.  David Rosenberg, who previously I have known as affable and mild mannered, the leading light of a progressive if somewhat ineffective Jewish group, had taken any criticism of Corbyn for his backtracking on Palestine to heart. 

David Rosenberg's response to queries from Debbie Fink re their stance on Jackie Walker's suspension
Dave Rosenberg’s vituperative response to Debbie Fink of Free Speech on Israel and J-Big was indicative.  Her queries were
‘‘based on ignorance and vituperation, they were not worth responding to. The JSG is solely accountable to its members, not to you, nor to FSOI, nor to any other groups we may or may not be connected with or work with.’ 
Realising that this was hardly an adequate response, Rosenberg issued a ‘Statement of Clarification re Debbie Fink’s questions re JSG, Jews for Jeremy, and John Lansman. This is for information. We won’t be making further comment on this matter as we have more important work to do.’
Unfortunately the 'Statement of Clarification' was anything but clear:
'Our group is anti-Zionist but does not go in for gratuitous and childish demonisation of those who identify as Zionists’. 
David Rosenberg's response to my campaign to have Gary Spedding barred from the JVL Facebook
 What Rosenberg defined as ‘demonisation’ most people would call criticism.  The JSG have always been wary of being seen to be an anti-Zionist group.  Rosenberg explained why someone who had previously criticised the lack of democracy in the Jewish community had become a petty dictator in his own right: 
'we have, reluctantly, had to block people for misusing our page by posting anti-Corbyn material, abusive sectarian political material, or re-posting material by those who they know have been blocked from the page. [me!] It is for these reasons that J4J collectively decided to block Debbie Fink.'
Jews 4 Jeremy was set up by a number of people, Debbie Fink and me included, not just JSG yet Rosenberg referred to it as ‘our group’.  They had deliberately let it run down, opposing it doing anything collectively about the witchhunt. Like Debbie I was also removed from JSG's Facebook Page for Asking Awkward Questions about Lansman.

Once you become a witch hunter you develop a logic of your own.  Everyone else but you is a sectarian.  David Rosenberg and his partner-in-crime Julia Bard, were extremely angry after having been backed into a corner over Jackie Walker.  See Better Late than Never - Jewish Socialists Group Finally Supports Jackie Walker

Although, they grudgingly agreed to oppose Jackie’s suspension they did it very reluctantly.  Hence when I launched a campaign against the JVL admitting Zionists whilst excluding anti-Zionists as well as criticising JVL’s chauvinist membership structure, Rosenberg resorted to the kind of language that Stalinism was famous for.  He informed members of the JVL, most of whom are in no position to know any better, that I was barred because of my ‘serial abuse of people within those groups whom he disagrees with, his lying about and smearing of other left wing Jews.’ As a final flourish, apparently ‘The Zionist establishment should thank him.’

As I wrote in my second letter to JVL, this kind of response was knockabout stuff designed to avoid debating the real issues.  A large number of people on the JVL Facebook page agreed with my comments with one resigning.  With difficulty I persuaded two others not to resign. 

David and the JSG have no analysis or understanding of Zionism.  They have done little in the Palestine solidarity movement and nothing around BDS.  What surprised me was David’s resort to outright lies. Far from my being excluded from the JVL FB group for lying, smearing etc. Ian Saville, who is appropriately a magician, wrote informing me that:

‘Your posts attacking the steering group ... and other people posting on the page seem provocative and divisive, and have caused concern to other members. If you persist with such posts you will be removed from the group. It seems also that even before joining the group you circulated some of its members with unsolicited material attacking the JVL and disparaging the process of its formation.’

Nothing here about lies or smears but plenty about ‘attacking’ (i.e. criticising) the steering group and even worse circulating those criticisms to JVL members.

It was because I circulated Saville’s warning, coupled with my own response, JVL – What are they afraid of that I was removed.  What the JVL chiefs couldn’t stand was criticism!  Ian Saville then wrote to me privately complaining about my having called him a Stalinist!  He also added that ‘the fact that you chose to make public other people's private correspondence without even seeking permission was a breach which couldn't be tolerated. Some people saw your final post as a challenge to the Steering Group to exclude you, given that you chose to quote the warning you were given.’

The correspondence in question was anything but private.  It was part of a political polemic between Rachel Lever and others regarding the formation of the JVL.  The real reason why Rosenberg and Saville indulged in these transparently poinless lies is political. Rosenberg and what’s left of the JSG believe that we should be completely uncritical of Jeremy Corbyn, his retreat from Palestine and appeasement of the JLM. I take the view that if we don’t exert counter-pressure on Labour’s leadership then the JLM will triumph by default.

JVL’s Apartheid Membership Structure - Only Jews can be full members – non-Jews are non-voting ‘associates’

From the day that I was first asked to sign up to the JVL’s principles I have argued that the group should not be Jewish only.  JVL’s Steering Committee has decided that whereas Jews can be full members, non-Jews can only be Associate Members.  The Steering Committee, whose composition hasn’t been made public, but which is believed to include Jenny Manson as Chair, Mike Cushman as Treasurer/Secretary, Naomi Wimborne-Iddrissi, Joseph Finlay, Miri Franklin, David Rosenberg and Richard Kuper, has taken leave of its senses.  They seem incapable of understanding or appreciating that they are effectively setting up a group with an apartheid structure.  Again they were not prepared to debate this.

JVL should be a political group in opposition to the Zionist politics of the JLM.  What it is doing is pretending that it is a broad based ethnically Jewish group and smuggling its politics in by the backdoor.  Hence its Jewish only structure.
Non-Jews are made to feel guilty by being less than full members or participants in JVL - either JVL is a political group or it is a specifically ethnically oriented one -  even the JLM admits non-Jews into full membership because it is a political Zionist group
 Everything I predicted about this decision has come to pass.  Jewish members of the group have expressed their resentment at non-Jews participation and made the latter feel guilty.  There were even suggestions for a non-Jewish FB group!  After a woman (Jo) expressed her hostility to the involvement of non-Jews in the Facebook group, one woman Eleanor promised to take ‘more of a backseat’.  Another non-Jewish member John reacted by saying ‘I’ll shut up then.’  Yet Jo and others began to whinge that I had publicised what they thought were their private discussions!  Yes it’s unfortunate that some members of the group have enough courage and principle to leak information to me.

Shlomo Anker's contribution to a discussion group - he is still a member
However all’s well that ends well.  After having defended Gary Spedding against all comers in the end the JVL moderators bowed to the inevitable and removed both him and the even more vitriolic Ari Moshe.  However that still leaves Shlomo Anker, who has even posted a report on the JLM’s recent conference on the JVL site.  Rob Abrams is another Zionist who has been left untouched. 

Tony Greenstein

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A letter from an Israeli History Professor Shlomo Sand to the President of France

This is a powerful open letter to the French President Macron by Israeli Professor Shlomo Sand.  Macron a few weeks ago made a particularly stupid statement, even for a French Blairite, when he declared that anti-Zionism was the new anti-Semitism.  This of course has been the message of Zionism for the last 30 years.
You wonder why people who are, at least on the surface, superficially intelligent, repeat this vacuous nonsense.  Anyone with any understanding of Zionism would know that it was Jewish people who were always its fiercest opponents.  Jews saw in Zionism the validation of anti-Semitism.  It was a Jewish form of anti-Semitism.  Anti-Zionism rejected the idea that Jews could not live with non-Jews, that anti-Semitism was part of the non-Jewish psyche and could never be eradicated.  Zionism was racist even in its attitude to Jews.  It was no wonder that an ideology that was transfixed by the racist nostrums of its day should, in turn, treat the Palestinians in the same way as the Jews of Europe were treated.
Please read!
Tony Greenstein
France's increasingly unpopular and intellectually lightweight President Macron
To President Macron
As I began reading your speech on the commemoration of the Vel d’Hiv round-up, I felt grateful toward you. Indeed, in the light of the long tradition of political leaders, both Left and Right, past and present, who have denied France’s participation and responsibility in the deportation of Jewish-origin people to the death camps, I was grateful that you instead took a clear position, without any ambiguity: yes, France is responsible for the deportation, yes there was anti-Semitism in France before and after the Second World War. Yes, we must continue to fight all forms of racism. I saw these positions as standing in continuity with the courageous statement you made in Algeria, saying that colonialism constitutes a crime against humanity.
But to be wholly frank, I was rather annoyed by the fact that you invited Benjamin Netanyahu. He should without doubt be ranked in the category of oppressors, and so he cannot parade himself as a representative of the victims of yesteryear. Of course, I have long known the impossibility of separating memory from politics. Perhaps you were deploying a sophisticated strategy, still yet to be revealed, aimed at contributing to the realisation of an equitable compromise in the Middle East?
Shlomo Sand - history professor at Tel Aviv University
I stopped being able to understand you when, in the course of your speech, you stated that “Anti-Zionism … is the reinvented form of anti-Semitism.” Was this statement intended to please your guest, or is it purely and simply a marker of a lack of political culture? Has this former student of philosophy, Paul Ricoeur’s assistant, read so few history books that he does not know that many Jews or descendants of Jewish heritage have always opposed Zionism, without this making them anti-Semites? Here I am referring to almost all the old grand rabbis, but also the stances taken by a section of contemporary orthodox Judaism. And I also remember figures like Marek Edelman, one of the escaped leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, or the communists of Jewish background who took part in the French Resistance in the Manouchian group, in which they perished. I also think of my friend and teacher Pierre Vidal-Naquet and of other great historians and sociologists like Eric Hobsbawm and Maxime Rodinson, whose writings and whose memory are so dear to me, or indeed Edgar Morin. And finally I wonder if you seriously expect of the Palestinians that they should not be anti-Zionists!

Nonetheless, I suppose that you do not particularly appreciate people on the Left, or, perhaps, the Palestinians. But knowing that you worked at Rothschild Bank, I will here provide a quote from Nathan Rothschild. President of the union of synagogues in Britain, he was the first Jew to be named a lord in the United Kingdom, where he also became the bank’s governor. In a 1903 letter to Theodor Herzl, the talented banker wrote that he was anxious about plan to establish a “Jewish colony”; it “would be a ghetto within a ghetto with all the prejudices of a ghetto.” A Jewish state “would be small and petty, Orthodox and illiberal, and keep out non-Jews and the Christians.” We might conclude that Rothschild’s prophecy was mistaken. But one thing is for sure: he was no anti-Semite!
Of course, there have been, and there are, some anti-Zionists who are also anti-Semites, but I am also certain that we could find anti-Semites among the sycophants of Zionism. I can also assure you that a number of Zionists are racists whose mental structure does not differ from that of utter Judeophobes: they relentlessly search for a Jewish DNA (even at the university that I teach at).
But to clarify what an anti-Zionist point of view is, it is important to begin by agreeing on the definition of the concept “Zionism,” or at the very least, a series of characteristics proper to this ter. I will endeavor to do so as briefly as possible.
First of all, Zionism is not Judaism. It even constitutes a radical revolt against it. Across the centuries, pious Jews nurtured a deep ardour for their holy land, and more particularly for Jerusalem. But they held to the Talmudic precept intimating that they should not collectively emigrate there before the coming of the Messiah. Indeed, the land does not belong to the Jews, but to God. God gave and God took away again; and he would send the Messiah to restore it, when he wanted to. When Zionism appeared it removed the “All Powerful” from his place, substituting the active human subject in his stead.
We can each give our own view on the question of whether the project of creating an exclusive Jewish state on a slice of land with a very large Arab-majority population is a moral idea. In 1917 Palestine counted 700,000 Arab Muslims and Christians and around 60,000 Jews, half of whom were opposed to Zionism. Up till that point, the mass of the Yiddish-speaking people who wanted to flee the pogroms of the Russian Empire preferred to migrate to the American continent. Indeed, two million made it there, thus escaping Nazi persecution (and the persecution under the Vichy regime).
In 1948 in Palestine there were 650,000 Jews and 1.3 million Arab Muslims and Christians, 700,000 of whom became refugees. It was on this demographic basis that the State of Israel was born. Despite that, and against the backdrop of the extermination of the European Jews, a number of anti-Zionists reached the conclusion that in the name of avoiding the creation of fresh tragedies it was best to consider the State of Israel as an irreversible fait accompli. A child born as the result of a rape does indeed have the right to live. But what happens if this child follows in the footsteps of his father?
And then came 1967. Since then Israel has ruled over 5.5 million Palestinians, who are denied civil, political and social rights. Israel subjects them to military control: for part of them a sort of “Indian reservation” in the West Bank, while others are locked up in a “barbed wire holding pen” in Gaza (70% of the population there are refugees or their descendants). Israel, which constantly proclaims its desire for peace, considers the territories conquered in 1967 as an integral part of the “land of Israel,” and it behaves there as it sees fit. Thus far 600,000 Jewish-Israeli settlers have been moved in there… and this has still not ended!
Is that today’s Zionism? No!, reply my friends on the Zionist Left — which is constantly shrinking. They tell me that we have to put an end to the dynamic of Zionist colonisation, that a narrow little Palestinian state should be created next to the State of Israel, and that Zionism’s objective was to establish a state where the Jews would be sovereign over themselves, and not to conquer “the ancient homeland” in its entirety. And the most dangerous thing in all this, in their eyes, is that annexing territory threatens Israel’s character as a Jewish state.
So here we reach the proper moment for me to explain to you why I am writing to you, and why I define myself as non-Zionist or anti-Zionist, without thereby becoming anti-Jewish. Your political party has put the words “La République” in its name. So I presume that you are a fervent republican. And, at the risk of surprising you: I am, too. So being a democrat and a republican I cannot — as all Zionists do, Left and Right, without exception — support a Jewish State. The Israeli Interior Ministry counts 75% of the country’s citizens as Jewish, 21% as Arab Muslims and Christians and 4% as “others” (sic). Yet according to the spirit of its laws, Israel does not belong to Israelis as a whole, whereas it does belong even to all those Jews worldwide who have no intention of coming to live there. So for example, Israel belongs a lot more to Bernard Henri-Lévy or to Alain Finkielkraut than it does to my Palestinian-Israeli students, Hebrew speakers who sometimes speak it better than I do! Israel hopes that the day will come when all the people of the CRIF (“Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France”) and their “supporters” emigrate there! I even know some French anti-Semites who are delighted by such a prospect. On the other hand, we could find two Israeli ministers close to Netanyahu putting out the idea that it is necessary to encourage the “transfer” of Israeli Arabs, without that meaning that anyone demanded their resignations.
That, Mr. President, is why I cannot be a Zionist. I am a citizen who desires that the state he lives in should be an Israeli Republic, and not a Jewish-communalist state. As a descendant of Jews who suffered so much discrimination, I do not want to live in a state that, according to its own self-definition, makes me a privileged class of citizen. Mr. President, do you think that that makes me an anti-Semite?

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Thousands of Israeli citizens have had their citizenship revoked – all of them non-Jewish

Because Israel is an Apartheid state Jews could not lose their citizenship 'by mistake'

Israel is engaging on a plan to ‘Judaify’ the Negev desert area in the south.  It is sparsely populated and most of its inhabitants are Bedouin.  Thousands of them were expelled into neighbouring countries from 1948 until the mid 1950’s and those who remain live in ‘unrecognised’ villages.  That means they have no mains water, electricity, state schools, sewerage etc.  It also means that they are liable to be demolished at a moments notice.

Al Araqib has been demolished over a hundred times and in January Umm al-Hiran was demolished.  One protestor, a school teacher, was murdered by the Police who fired rubber bullets at the leader of the Joint Jewish-Arab list in the Knesset, Aymen Odeh, injuring him.
The reason to demolish Umm al-Hiran was to build a Jewish town, Hiran, in its place.  In other words naked Apartheid.
That is the context in which thousands of Bedouin are having their Israeli citizenship revoked at a stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.  The reason given is that they were registered as citizens by mistake.  They have lived in what is now Israel all their lives.  They are the indigenous population, unlike the Jewish settlers who came mostly after them, but that doesn’t count.  It as all a mistake and so they are no longer citizens.  In fact they  never were citizens!

Of course this could never happen to a Jew because if you are Jewish you have the automatic right under the misnamed Law of Return to go to Israel and claim citizenship.  If I were to go to Israel and claim citizenship I would have to be granted it even though I have never lived there.  Arabs who have lived in Israel for hundreds of years can have their citizenship revoked immediately.  This is not accidental.  It is the product of a Jewish state where Arabs live in it by sufferance only.  In Jerusalem thousands of Arabs who had permanent residency cards are now having them revoked too.
What is surprising is that some people in the West still see Israel as a democratic state.

Tony Greenstein

By Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man   Published August 26, 2017

Hundreds if not thousands of Bedouin are having their citizenship revoked seemingly for no reason, according to ‘Haaretz.’ Shocking as it may be, it’s not surprising. Citizenship has never provided non-Jewish Israelis with the same security it gives their Jewish compatriots.

A Bedouin woman from the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib sits in front of an Israeli police van. Israel has demolished al-Araqib over 100 times. (Illustrative photo by Oren Ziv/

Imagine going to renew your passport or change your official address and after a few minutes of pattering on a keyboard without looking up to see the human being in front of him or her, a government clerk informs you that you are no longer a citizen of the only country you have ever known. The country of your birth.
And no, it’s not that your citizenship is being revoked, the clerk calmly explains. It’s not like that. You were never a citizen in the first place, you see, it was all a mistake — never mind the fact that you were born in Israel to parents who are Israeli citizens, and your siblings are Israeli citizens, and maybe you even served in the Israeli army.
Hundreds if not thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel have undergone that exact terrifying experience in recent years, according to a report by Jack Khoury in Haaretz Friday.

The Kafqesque ordeal, to which Jewish Israelis are exempt, is part of a policy in which one’s citizenship is re-adjudicated, without a judge or judicial process of course, every time one comes into contact with an Interior Ministry clerk for the most routine reasons, according to the Haaretz investigation.

The gut-wrenching practice is shocking on the most basic levels. For those of us lucky enough to be citizens of a country, so much of our security in this world comes bundled up with it. Of course, Palestinians and other non-Jews have never had the same level of security attached to their citizenship in Israel as their Jewish compatriots do. Many of them, like the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, don’t even have citizenship to begin with.
As shocking as the Haaretz report is, nobody should be surprised. The Israeli prime minister has openly declared his belief that some, namely Arab, Israeli citizens should be stripped of their citizenship for making political statements not to his liking. A senior government minister recently threatened a “third Nakba,” referencing the largely forced displacement of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948. And then there was the landmark ruling earlier this month actually stripping a Palestinian-Arab man of his Israeli citizenship because of his familial lineage. Let us not forget the more-than 14,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who have had their permanent residency status stripped of them over the years, sending them into exile.
Again, none of this should be news. Israel is not a state of all its citizens — any minister in the current Israeli government would be happy to tell you as much. Advocating turning Israel into a state with those types of liberal-democratic building blocks is considered nothing short of seditious. It is antithetical to Zionism as it has come to be defined in the contemporary Israeli zeitgeist.

It should also be no surprise that attempts to reduce the number of Arab citizens are taking place in the Negev desert, where every Israeli government has tirelessly worked to establish Jewish hegemony in the sprawling desert that comprises more than half of Israel’s land mass. The latest iteration of those plans, The Prawer Plan, which sought to displace some 40,000 Bedouin citizens living in dozens of “unrecognized” villages, was just one in 70 years of similar efforts. Currently, the Israeli government is finalizing the destruction of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in order to build a new settlement in its place — for Jews only.
Imagine the feeling of living under a regime which views your very existence as a strategic threat; one out of every five Israeli citizens do.
A state that belongs less to some of its citizens than others, which sees some of its citizens as assets and others as liabilities, which bestows inalienable rights upon some and views others as expendable — is not a just state. After 70 years, the question is no longer whether Israel can balance its Jewish and democratic character. The question is which of them it has chosen.
Even that debate won’t be relevant for much long. The Israeli Knesset is scheduled to advance the “Jewish Nation-State” law in the coming weeks. The government-supported bill, which is the equivalent of a constitutional amendment in Israel’s system, would explicitly favor the country’s Jewish character over its democratic character.
Jack Khoury Aug 25, 2017 8:21 AM
Abu Gardud Salem from the village of Bir Hadaj of the Azzamah tribe on August 18 became a man without citizenship after a trip to Israeli immigration offices.
Dozens of people – men and women, young and old – crowd into a big tent in the unrecognized village of Bir Hadaj. Some hold documents in plastic bags while others clutch tattered envelopes. What brought them to this village south of Be’er Sheva in Israel’s Negev desert was that the Population, Immigration and Border Authority had revoked their citizenship, claiming that it had been awarded to them in error.
Judging by the increasing number of complaints piling up in recent months, this appears to be a widespread phenomenon among the Negev’s Bedouin residents. Hundreds if not thousands of them are losing their citizenship due to “erroneous registration.” This is the reason they get from the Interior Ministry, with no further details or explanation.
Fifty-year-old Salim al-Dantiri from Bir Hadaj has been unsuccessfully trying to obtain Israeli citizenship for years. He doesn’t understand why Israel won’t grant it to him; his father served in the Israel Defense Forces. “Sometimes they say there was a mistake in my parents’ registration dozens of years ago. Is that our fault?” asks al-Dantiri. He’s not the only one, but many of those who came to the meeting were reluctant to identify themselves out of concern that it might hurt them in their interactions with the Population Authority. Others have already given up hope.
Aryeh Dery, the racist Interior Minister from the Shas party - presiding over the bureaucratic removal of Arab citizenship - Dery was gaoled for corruption for 3 years but allowed back as a cabinet minister - he is now under a new investigation
Mahmoud al-Gharibi from the Al-Azazme tribe in the Be’er Sheva area is a carpenter who has been unemployed for a year following a road accident. He has 12 children from two wives. One is an Israeli citizen and the other comes from the West Bank. Seven of his children have Israeli citizenship but he has been stateless since 2000. “I went to the Interior Ministry to renew my identity card,” he relates. “There, without any warning, they told me they were rescinding my citizenship since there was some mistake. They didn’t tell me what it was or what this meant. Since then I’ve applied 10 times, getting 10 rejections, each time on a different pretext. I have two children who are over 18 and they too have no citizenship. That’s unacceptable. I’ve been living in this area for dozens of years and my father was here before me. If there was a mistake, they should fix it.”
Salim al-Dantiri from Bir Hadaj Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Another person in the tent, who wished to remain anonymous, says that “many of these people, mainly ones who don’t speak Hebrew that well, don’t understand what happened to them. No one explains anything and all of a sudden your status changes. You go in as a citizen and come out deprived of citizenship, and then an endless process of foot-dragging begins.”
For years Yael Agmon from nearby Yeruham has been accompanying Bedouin to the Interior Ministry to help them apply for passports or update their identity cards. On many occasions, she has witnessed their citizenship being revoked. “You can clearly see how a clerk enters their details into a computer and then they instantly lose their citizenship. They then have to contend with an endless bureaucratic process. Sometimes it costs them tens of thousands of shekels in lawyers’ fees, and they don’t always get their citizenship in the end,” she says.
Salman al-Amrat came to the tent gathering because of his wife’s and oldest son’s status. The 56-year-old member of the Al-Azazme tribe is an Israeli citizen. His 62-year-old wife is stateless even though she was born here, he says. “Every time we try to get her citizenship we are met with refusal.” Al-Amrat’s oldest son, now 34, is also without citizenship even though his younger brothers ultimately received theirs. “We’ve been trying for years to obtain citizenship for him but to no avail. Every time they say some documents are missing. Now we’re trying through an attorney. It’s illogical that six of my children and I have citizenship and my oldest son doesn’t,” he says.
Salim al-Dantiri in Bir Hadaj. He too has lost his citizenship due to what Israel claims is a registration error. July 2017 Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Atalla Saghaira, a resident of the unrecognized village of Rahma, fought for 13 years to obtain his citizenship, even though his late father served in the IDF. He started the process in 2002, when he applied for a passport and the Interior Ministry refused to give him one. “They said that my parents had become citizens but weren’t ones to begin with,” he says. He finally obtained Israeli citizenship in 2015. “I insisted on my rights and waged a campaign against the bureaucracy by myself until I obtained citizenship, but I know there are some people who give up,” he says. Saghaira’s father was a tracker in the army for several years, and left after sustaining an injury. At the time, he had seven children (including Attala), but three of them still are still stateless.
Another resident of Bir Hadaj, Abu Garud Salame, works in the Ramat Hovav industrial zone. He says that all five of his children and three of his brothers received their Israeli citizenship but he has been refused each time he requested to have it reinstated. “We’ve been living here for dozens of years. My parents registered in the ‘50s and now I’ve been deprived of my citizenship. Even if there was some mistake in the registration process I don’t know why I have to pay for it,” he says. “Why are we to blame for things that happened decades ago?”
Automatic change in status
Abu Garud Salame from the village of Bir Hadaj also had is citizenship revoked Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Lawmaker Aida Touma-Suliman of the Joint List has received many appeals in recent months from people who have been stripped of their Israeli citizenship. Attorney Sausan Zahar from the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel recently appealed to Interior Minister Arye Dery and to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, asking them to cancel this policy.
According to her petition, these sweeping citizenship cancellations has been going on at least since 2010. When Bedouin citizens come to Interior Ministry offices in Be’er Sheva to take care of routine matters such as changing their address, obtaining a birth certificate or registering names, the Population Authority examines their status, as well as that of their parents and grandparents, going back to the early days of the state.
In many cases, the clerk tells them that their Israeli citizenship had been granted in error. On the spot, he changes their status from citizen to resident and issues them a new document. People who lose their citizenship are given no explanation and no opportunity to appeal. Instead, the clerk suggests that they submit a request and start the process of obtaining citizenship from scratch, as if they were newcomers to Israel.
Many, caught by surprise and without legal advice, don’t know what to do. Some submit a request for citizenship while others simply give up in despair. Zahar says that many requests are denied due to missing documents, a criminal record (not a valid reason for denying citizenship) or even the applicant’s inability to speak Hebrew. Many Bedouin women who have been stripped of citizenship fall into the latter category. One such woman filed an appeal over the cancellation of her citizenship due to an alleged error. When it turned out that her Hebrew was lacking, her appeal was rejected. She remains stateless.
Adalah’s petition to the interior minister shows that individuals who have been citizens for 20, 30 or even 40 years, some of whom served in the army, who voted and paid their taxes, had clerks cancel their status with a keystroke. As permanent residents, they can vote in local elections but cannot run for office, vote in national elections or run for the Knesset. They receive social benefits such as medical insurance and national insurance payments, but cannot receive Israeli passports. If they are out of the country for prolonged periods of time, they can also lose their permanent residency, and unlike citizens, they cannot automatically transfer their status to their children.
Among those who remain without Israeli citizenship are people born in Israel to parents who are Israeli citizens. There are families in which one child is a citizen while another is a permanent resident. Some of those affected were stripped of their citizenship when they tried to renew their passports to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca, a mandatory tenet of Islam and something they now cannot do.
Registration during British Mandate
The Knesset’s Interior and Environment Committee held a discussion on the issue last year, following an accumulation of requests to reinstate citizenship. During it, Interior Ministry officials confirmed that such a policy exists: When Bedouin citizens come to the ministry’s offices, clerks check the population registry for records of their parents and grandparents between 1948 and 1952.
Perhaps these years were not chosen by chance. Between the founding of the state in 1948 and the passage of the Citizenship Law in 1952, many Arabs could not register with the population authority since their communities were governed by a military administration. This included areas in the Negev which had a high concentration of Bedouin residents after 1948. In many cases, checking the records of an individual's grandparents entails looking at their citizenship during the British Mandate – a time when Israeli citizenship did not even exist.
After last year's Knesset discussion, the Interior Ministry was asked to check the extent of the phenomenon and its legality and to then update the Interior Committee. The head of the ministry's citizenship department, Ronen Yerushalmi, submitted the findings to the committee's chairman, David Amsalem (Likud), in September 2016. Entitled “Erroneous Registration of Negev Residents,” the report said that “the extent of the problem could involve up to 2,600 people with Israeli citizenship, who could lose it due to erroneous registration by the Interior Ministry.” It added that since individual cases had not been examined, the data was not precise and the numbers could even be higher.
During an earlier meeting of the committee in December 2015, the committee's legal counsel, Gilad Keren, expressed doubts regarding the legality of this process: “The citizenship law refers to cases in which citizenship was obtained based on false details, namely under more serious circumstances, not when the state has made a mistake. It refers to people giving false information before obtaining their citizenship. The law allows the interior minister to revoke citizenship only if less than three years have passed since it was granted. After that a court needs to intervene in order to revoke it. I therefore don’t understand how, when a person has been a citizen for 20 years and the state makes a mistake, that person’s status is changed.”
Adalah’s appeal to the interior minister and the attorney general demands an immediate halt to the citizenship cancellation policy. Zahar argued that the people affected by it don’t even have the right to a hearing before their Israeli citizenship is taken away from them. In addition to infringing on their right to citizenship, she wrote, the policy blatantly infringes on their right to equality. It is discriminatory based on nationality, since no Jewish citizen has had his citizenship revoked due to a mistake in his parents' or grandparents' registration under the Law of Return.
 “I’m afraid that what has been exposed is only the tip of the iceberg and what hasn’t been revealed yet is even more serious,” says Touma-Suliman. She says that if Dery and Mendelblit do not resolve the issue soon, it will go to the High Court of Justice. “There is no justification for this policy,” she says. “The ministry is blatantly violating the law. It’s unacceptable that in one family living under one roof, half the children are citizens while the other half are residents or people with indeterminate status.”
Haaretz approached several former senior officials at the Interior Ministry and the Population Authority, including the agency's head until 2010, Yaakov Ganot, and Amnon Ben-Ami, its director until recently. Former Interior Minister Eli Ben-Yishai, who held the post most recently in 2013, said that if a decision had been made to revoke the citizenship of Negev Bedouin, “I don’t know about it and don’t remember holding discussions regarding this issue during my tenure.”
The Population Authority said in response that the cases mentioned above were not instances of revoked citizenship but ones of past registration mistakes, in which people had been registered as citizens but were not. It said now was the time to fix the problem, adding that the ministry held a discussion on the issue, the minister had taken a decision and the Knesset's Interior Committee had been informed. It said that “attempts are being made to address this problem legally in a manner that won’t affect these individuals' status in Israel.” The Population Authority also said the attorney general would be handling the appeal filed by Adalah.
Dery’s office insisted that the cases were absolutely not instances of citizenship being revoked but were instead situations of arranging legal status. “The minister has directed officials at the Population and Immigration Authority to handle the process involving this group of people in the easiest and simplest way possible. Minister Dery asked them to find any way possible to shorten the procedure in an attempt to avoid imposing any hardship on them,” said the office.
The attorney general's office told Adalah that the Population Authority is conducting an examination of thousands of people who have been erroneously registered as citizens instead of permanent residents. Those who are found to have been registered as such by mistake will be allowed to obtain citizenship through an accelerated process, should they meet the legal criteria, the response said.
According to the response, no one has been denied citizenship so far, and residents' rights are being maintained. Therefore the attorney general sees no reason to intervene in the Population Authority's decision, the response said.