15 June 2012

The Zionist Roots of Israel’s anti-African Pogroms

The article below is worth crossposting, although I don’t agree with all of it.  In particular it doesn’t draw the connections between the ‘threat to our identity’ that Netanyahu expresses and the Zionist aim of creating a purely Jewish state.  Where Friedman talks about ‘Israeli racism (which exists, as it does everywhere)’ she forgets the specificity of Israeli and in particular racism.  Zionism aims to exclude those who are not Jewish , the indigenous population, from Israel in order to create a Jewish  state.  It is that which is driving these racist pogroms and, from what Lara Friedman says, a near lynching in Eilat.

Racist demonstration in Tel Aviv
No one denies that racism against asylum seekers exists everywhere in Europe.  However Israel is unique in that its political system is driving that racism and members of the government, from the Prime Minister down, are doing their best to support and sympathise with the mobs whilst doing nothing to tackle their basic assumptions.  When the Government’s Interior  Minister states that Israel is a white man’s country and Africans are equated to a ‘cancer’ one knows that one is dealing with the most primeval and backward biological racism, dressed up in religious garb.  Even the most backward and reactionary European states, such as the Baltic republics, Croatia and Ukraine don’t have this active and overt level of encouragement given to naked racist attacks. 

Israel has at least one achievement to its credit.  It has transformed the Jewish  victims of pogroms into their perpetrators.  What this demonstrates, yet again, is that racism is not the property of one particular group and that being a victim is not the sole preserve of a particular group.  When Zionism libels opponents of Zionist racism as ‘anti-Semitic’ not only do they let off the real anti-Semites and cynically use the suffering of past generations of Jews, but they demonstrate that tomorrow’s oppressor can use yesterday’s oppression.  There is nothing unique about this.  Apartheid apologists in South Africa regularly used the fact that the first concentration camps in the world were British, set up to imprison  Boer fighters.

And perhaps most shocking amongst the latest attacks was the near lynching of an African hotel worker in Eilat.  He was set upon by 7 male guests, and but for the intervention of 2 security guards he would have been thrown from a 5th floor window to his death.  What was the reaction of the Police?  To release them to house arrest.  As the Police explained:  '"These are normative people who were not intoxicated and do not have a criminal record,"  And he might have added, they aren't even Palestinians, in which case we could have locked them up and thrown the key away. 

What we are also seeing is a lumping in of all Africans, including Ethiopian Jews.  Ethiopian Jews, as the article below refers to, are increasingly being lumped in with 'the infilatrators'.  Immigration of the Falashas, Ethiopian Jews, to Israel stopped over a decade ago because of the racist reaction from 'white' Israeli Jews.  Blacks are held by many, especially the religious orthodox, to be incapable of being Jews.  As they say, what goes around comes around.

Tony Greenstein

Where the Racism Comes From

by Lara Friedman Jun 6, 2012 

Israelis protesting in south Tel Aviv against anti-foreigner violence on Thursday. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
The ugly reports keep rolling in. A rally against African migrants turns violent and a race riot ensues; the whole thing is repeated a week later. A Jewish-Israeli of Ethiopian descent is “mistaken” for a migrant and assaulted in Tel Aviv. A group of teenagers in Tel Aviv is arrested for a series of brutal, racially-motivated robberies and assaults targeting Africans.  A Sudanese man is viciously beaten in Tel Aviv.  A Sudanese hotel worker is nearly lynched in Eilat.  An apartment in Jerusalem is torched with 10 Eritreans trapped inside. 
It’s easy to tell ourselves that this paroxysm of racism is an aberrant phenomenon, linked to the socially and politically fraught challenges posed by illegal immigration. But that’s too easy. What’s happening is in no small measure a natural outgrowth of the intolerance that is an inevitable result of an occupation that this week enters its 46th year. 
A protestor holds a sign that reads ''Voluntary Racists'' in Hebrew,
as Israeli Jews, mainly of Ethiopian origin, protest against racism
and discrimination. (Jack Guez / AFP / Getty Images)
Two generations of Israelis have now been born into an Israel that must constantly justify the denial of rights and freedoms to Palestinians and the ever-growing settlement enterprise. Those justifications ring ever more hollow with each passing year, juxtaposed against Israeli policies that only perpetuate and deepen the occupation. They ring especially hollow at times like this past weekend, when Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that his government’s policy is to “defend and strengthen settlement and laid out his audacious plan to reward settlers for breaking the law.    
As criticism of Israeli policies has mounted, it has given rise not to Israeli self-examination and a course-correction, but to a tribalist, circle-the-wagons mentality that is more pronounced than at any time in Israel's history. The ongoing assault against African refugees and migrants in Israel is just the latest symptom of this phenomenon. 
Previously, we have seen how anyone who challenges the occupation is attacked and dehumanized. Palestinian non-violent protest in all forms is branded a form of terrorism. Israelis working for peace, civil rights and human rights are incited against and terrorized.  IDF officers who try to carry out the law against settlers are attacked.  Israeli politicians who defend the rule of law and democracy are threatened.  The convergence of right-wing nationalist zeal and racial intolerance is self-evident in what is happening today: The Israeli politicians who are leading the anti-African campaign are the same ones who are the loudest defenders of the settlers and the greatest aggressors against democratic values like free speech. They also hail, for the most part, from Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.
They include Likud MK Miri Regev, who called African migrants "a cancer in our body" and Likud MK Danny Danon, who declared, "Without delay and without mercy, all the infiltrators should be taken out of Israel" and "Some call it expulsion, I call it defending the homeland." 
There is also National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari, who has called for Africans to be deported "for their own safety” and suggested that African children should not be allowed to sit in the same class with Israelis because “you don’t know what diseases they are carrying.” His colleague, National Union MK Arieh Eldad, suggested this past weekend that anyone crossing Israel’s borders illegally “should be shot” (he also noted that this wouldn’t be possible because “bleeding hearts groups will immediately begin to shriek and turn to the courts”). 
They also include Minister of Interior Eli Yishai (Shas), who said that “many women in Tel Aviv were raped and are now afraid to report so they won’t be seen as AIDS carriers.” He also said “Most of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.” 
Most troublingly, they include Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has stated that the Africans are “threatening the fabric of Israeli society, its national security and its national identity” and that they could “lead to the eradication of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”  As violence against them has worsened, Netanyahu has made clear that he understands “the pain” of Israelis who are lashing out and has promised to swiftly deport or imprison the objects of their anger. 
These politicians have a clear and compelling message: these people are diseased and unclean; they will attack us and rape our women; they are an existential threat to our people and our way of life; they are an enemy that must be shown no mercy, and anyone who helps or defends them is likewise an enemy (one Kadima MK suggested that Israeli human rights activists who are aiding the migrants “should be imprisoned and transported to [prison] camps we are building). This message is disturbingly reminiscent of the smears used against Jews in pre-Holocaust Europe and against black people in America's pre-civil rights era.  
The good news is that the emergence of the anti-African mob in Israel is not truly a sign of Israeli racism (which exists, as it does everywhere). The bad news is that it is evidence of the poisonous, zero-sum atmosphere in Israel today and the brutalization and coarsening of growing segments of Israeli society within it. Failure to recognize this painful reality is self-delusion and denial, and will only result in Israel sliding deeper down the slippery slope toward authoritarianism.
Lara Friedman is a leading authority on US foreign policy in the Middle East, Israeli settlements policy, and Jerusalem. Formerly a U.S. Foreign Service Officer serving in the Middle East. Lara is today the Director of Policy and Government Relations for Americans for Peace Now, and she works closely with Jerusalem expert Daniel Seidemann and his NGO, Terrestrial Jerusalem

Netanyahu condemns violence against African migrants, promises to solveproblem 

PM: We will soon begin sending infiltrators back to their countries of origin; Peres: Hatred of foreigners contradicts foundations of Judaism; dozens demonstrate in south Tel Aviv, Jerusalem against anti-foreigner violence.

By Barak Ravid, Yaniv Kubovich and Ophir Bar-Zohar 

An African migrant's plea for a few basic rights

By Adam Ibrahim | May.24,2012 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on Thursday that his government would address the issue of African migrants in Israel, one day after a protest against them by residents of south Tel Aviv turned violent.

"The infiltrator problem must be solved, and we will solve it," Netanyahu said on Thursday afternoon, speaking at an event in Tel Aviv. 

He also refered to the construction of a fence on the Egypt-Israel border, saying, "We will complete construction of the fence within two months, and soon we will begin sending infiltrators back to their countries of origin."

The prime minister also condemned the actions of demonstrators and Knesset members on Wednesday, when demonstrators attacked African migrants in South Tel Aviv. 

"I want to make it clear that there is no place for the statements and actions that we witnessed yesterday. I say these things to the public figures and to the residents of south Tel Aviv, whose pain I understand," he said.

President Shimon Peres said Thursday that "hatred of foreigners contradicts the foundations of Judaism."

"I am very much aware of the difficulties encountered by residents of the neighborhoods of south Tel Aviv," he said. "The state must deal urgently with the issue of the infiltrators, while meticulously protecting their honor and rights as human beings… Violence is not the solution to the problem."

Meanwhile, dozens of Israelis and Africans demonstrated in south Tel Aviv against Wednesday's anti-migrant violence on Thursday evening.

In Jerusalem, some 150 people demonstrated outside the Prime Minister's Residence. An additional protest against incitement to violence against migrants is planned to take place on Friday.

A number of Likud MKs addressed Wednesday's rally in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood, including Miri Regev, Danny Danon and Yariv Levin.

Following the rally, angry demonstrators went on a rampage, attacking African passers-by and journalists, breaking into and looting shops associated with the African migrant community and shattering car windshields.

Seventeen Israelis were arrested during the protest. Twelve of them were later released to house arrest.

Regev, who said during the rally that "the Sudanese are a cancer in our body," told Haaretz, "I condemn any violence from any side, but I understand the rage and hurt of the residents, of the families that live there. They tell us: 'Help us. We are being humiliated, look how we live, we are afraid to leave the house.'"

Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid also weighed in on the issue on Thursday, writing on his Facebook page, "I support arresting and expelling infiltrators, completing the fence and preventing their entry into Israel, and I think the human rights organizations need to think first of all about the residents of the neighborhoods, because charity starts at home. But when I see a pogrom in the State of Israel… I wonder how these people have the gall to call themselves Jews."

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