21 August 2018

If I Were a Member of the Knesset I Would Have Had No Hesitation in Voting for the Jewish Nation State Bill

The Open Racism of Netanyahu is Preferable to the Platitudes of Liberal Zionism

7,000 Protestors in Tel Aviv demonstrating against Jewish nation state bill - only 1% of Tel Aviv's inhabitants are Arabs 
This blogpost was first published in the Weekly Worker as Clarity as to the reality It is a satirical post about the 'opposition' of many good liberal Zionists and their bleeding heart chorus to Netanyahu's Jewish Nation State law.  I wrote it because of the hypocrisy of those whose main objection to the Law is that they object to putting down in writing what are already extant practices in Israel.  In other words their objection is not to the practices but the open admission as to what is happening.

I realise that this may shock some of my friends. Why, some may ask, would someone whom the Jewish Chronicle calls a veteran Jewish anti-Zionist and whom the President of the Board of Deputies attacked for his ‘long record of noxious behavior’ support Netanyahu’s flagship policy of legislative apartheid?
Yes the Jewish Nation State Bill is racist and it is an official declaration that Israel is an apartheid state. However I prefer that Israel openly admits to what kind of state it is rather than hiding behind circumlocutions such as ‘The only democratic state in the Middle East’ or ‘a Jewish democratic state.’
I agree with Abed Azab [As an Arab, I Support Israel's Jewish Nation-state Bill] when I say that I prefer the enemy who is an honest racist rather than one who speaks of equality and practices discrimination.
In May I wrote Israel has officially declared itself an apartheid state. I stand by what I wrote. Which was more preferable in South Africa?  The hidden apartheid of Jan Smuts before 1948 or the open apartheid of Dr Malan and the Nationalists after 1948?
Forgive me if I am wrong but isn’t Israel already a Jewish state? Isn’t that what it has always done? When given the choice between the Democratic and the Jewish road Zionism has always chosen the latter.
We are told that ‘One controversial clause, which would permit the establishment of communities that are segregated by religion or nationality, was criticized last week by President Reuven Rivlin. Perhaps President Rivlin knows something that I don’t. Haven’t Jewish only communities always been the norm in Israel? How many Arabs have belonged to the Jewish only kibbutzim or moshavim? One I believe in over a century. Or the hundreds of Jewish-only communities that have been established in Israel post-1948. Did Rivlin call for disbandment of the Jewish National Fund whose sole purpose is to ensure that 93% of Israeli land is reserved for the use of Jews? Have any of the left Zionist parties, from the Israeli Labour Party to Meretz called for the winding up of the Jewish Agency and the repeal of the 1952 Jewish Agency Status Law?
To be a member of Mitzpe Aviv you have to undergo an ideological purity test and affirm you are a Zionist - which is one way to keep out Arabs
We have been here before. Did the Supreme Court not rule in 2000 in Ka'adan against the practice of refusing Arabs admission to Jewish  only communities and force Katzir to accept the Kaadan family? Was the response of the Knesset not to pass the Acceptance Committees Law which effectively overturned Ka'adan, with the blessing of the Supreme Court? Of course this law did not specifically mention that Arabs were not acceptable. It merely allowed the Committees to adopt whatever criteria they liked to in order to preserve their ‘character’. So settlements like Mitzpe Aviv, Manof and Yuvalim, require prospective members to declare that they believe in the values of Zionism, Jewish tradition and Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, something which most Arabs find a little difficult!
Eight years ago Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu, the Director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, wrote an article Segregation of Jews and Arabs in 2010 Israel Is Almost Absolute describing how the innocuously titled Amendment to the Cooperative Associations Bill, was about to be passed by the Knesset. Its purpose being to bypass the ruling in Kaadan. Amnon wrote of how:
Segregation of Jews and Arabs in Israel of 2010 is almost absolute. For those of us who live here, it is something we take for granted. But visitors from abroad cannot believe their eyes: segregated education, segregated businesses, separate entertainment venues, different languages, separate political parties ... and of course, segregated housing. In many senses, this is the way members of both groups want things to be, but such separation only contributes to the growing mutual alienation of Jews and Arabs.
Yet according to Rabbi Gilad Kariv, CEO of the Israeli Reform movement 'the nation-station bill is going to tarnish the Israeli law book.’ This is a law book that includes, according to Adalah, over 65 racist and discriminatory laws. Apparently it is going to be tarnished by this one law.  Surely this is a cause for celebration?
Has Rabbi Kariv not heard of the 1950 Law of Return which grants me, the right to ‘return’ to a land I have only visited once but denies that right to Palestinians whose families since time immemorial resided in Palestine?  Or perhaps the good rabbi has not heard of the 1950 Absentee Property Law which allowed property belonging to Arabs, even if they were in Israel during its War of Independence, to be confiscated and its owners to be classified as the Orwellian Present Absentees’?
According to Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund the bill is a ‘danger to Israel’s future’.  How can this be?  What Sokatch means is that the Bill is a threat to the Jewish nature of the Israeli state.  It helps reveal the racist structure behind the democratic facade. Sokatch recited a familiar fairy tale. 
Beginning with Israel’s Declaration of Independence... the principle of the equality of all people have formed the democratic foundation of the state. This law is completely incompatible with those values. It ... provides a legal basis to discriminate based on religion, race and sex.”
Israel’s Declaration of Independence is a favourite with liberal Zionists. The only problem is that it has never been incorporated into law.  Not by Mapai nor by Likud.
Who would have guessed that at the very moment that David Ben Gurion was reading out these noble sentiments over 300,000 Arabs had already been expelled from their homes and villages and that another half million were destined to share the same fate, accompanied by up to 30 massacres? That Israel’s Arab population would continue to live under military law until 1966?
Netanyahu’s Bill is welcome if only in order to lay Sokatch’s myths to rest.  To bury the lie about Israel’s formation. The Declaration of Independence waxed lyrical about developing Israel ‘for the benefit of all its inhabitants’ and a state ‘based on freedom, justice and peace’ which would ‘ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex’ as well as being ‘faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.’ It can be safely said that all this and more was honoured in the breach.
If there is one thing at which Zionism excels it is public relations. It has long since mastered the art of saying one thing and doing another. If only half its pious declarations had been put into practice then Israel would indeed have become a light unto the nations. Instead we have to be content with the dark deeds of half-century’s military occupation.
Israel’s Arab citizens enjoyed none of the rights that Ben Gurion talked about in the Declaration. On the contrary the Israeli Labour Party (Mapai) government proceeded to enact a series of racist laws whose purpose was to legalise the theft of their land.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, explained the motivation behind his criticism.  The Jewish Nation State Bill “will make Israel an open target on the world stage for all those who seek to deny the Jewish people our right to a homeland.” Precisely.  His criticism is made in defence of the status quo in Israel not in order to change that status quo.
In other words his real concern is that the Bill will make explicit that which has always been implicit. When Rabbi Jacobs speaks of denying Jews their ‘right to a homeland’ what he really means is their right to continue to colonise Israel and Palestine.  Because I and millions of Jews in the diaspora already have a home.  It is where we live – in Britain, America, France etc. We do not need a second home when Palestinians are being thrown out of their only home. The ‘Jewish people’, a construction of anti-Semites and Zionists through the ages, does not need a Jewish state. What would be of benefit though is that in the 21st century the Israeli state normalises itself and transforms itself from a State of the Jews to a State of its own people. Ethno- nationalist states died out in the Europe of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the defeat of fascism.  It was only in places like Israel and South Africa that such a political formation survived.

Kfar Vradim halts tender because too many Arabs have won bids
When Rabbi Jacobs complains that the Bill ‘hurts the delicate balance between the Jewish majority and Arab minority’ he is engaged in sophistry. What balance would that be? The balance that led to the uprooting and demolition of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev in order to make way for the Jewish town of Hiran? Or perhaps he means the edict of Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Safed, forbidding Jews to rent apartments to Arabs? Perhaps this ‘delicate balance’ was evidenced in the freezing of plans for expansion in Kfar Vradim after Arabs were successful in nearly half the bids for new housing? Or was it the demonstrations in Afula after an Arab family successfully bought a house there?
The 14 groups making up the Jewish Federation of North America argued that the Bill would eliminate “the defining characteristic of a modern democracy” such as ‘protecting rights for all.’ The problem is that the rights of Israeli Arabs have long since gone unprotected.
Kfar Vridim
In the history of the Israeli state just one Jewish demonstrator has been killed by the Police (in 1951) but the police have repeatedly killed Arab demonstrators. Jewish stone throwers are never shot at, Arab demonstrators are invariably gunned down.
The murder of school teacher Yakub Musa Abu al-Kiyan in Umm al Hiran last year, who was left to bleed to death, was particularly egregious. In any normal democratic state the village would not of course have been demolished. The police firing on an innocent man would have led to a judicial inquiry. Instead the murdered man was first demonised as an ISIS terrorist by Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and when it was proven that the policeman who died was killed as a result of Yakub Musa losing control of his car, after having been shot, there was a cover up. The life of Arabs in the Israeli state is cheap compared to Jewish life.
What has aroused the ire and anger of the major American Jewish organisations is not the systematic discrimination that Palestinians, have suffered.  Their real concerns are for the damage that is being caused to the reputation of Israel by Netanyahu’s open racism.
The American Jewish Federation’s objection is not to separation and segregation but to writing this segregation down in law. From schooling to maternity wards, Israel is a segregated society. It is a society where an Arab poet Dareen Tatour can be arrested and gaoled for writing a poem yet the leader of Lehava, Benzi Gopstein remains free despite threatening to burn down churches and mosques. Israel is a society where the leader of the Northern Islamic Leagues, Raed Salah can be gaoled on disputed evidence for alleged incitement yet the authors of Torat HeMelech which explains how to kill non-Jews legally, according to halachah, remain at liberty.
It is therefore to be regretted that the clause which sanctioned Jewish only communities has been replaced with a clause calling for ‘strengthening the Jewish presence in predominantly Arab Israeli areas.’ The latter refers to the policy of Jewish only settlement, Judaisation, of areas such as the Negev and Galilee, where there are too many Arabs.  However is it not better to spell this out?
The Jewish Nation State Bill offers unprecedented clarity as to the reality of what a Jewish state means in practice.  That is why the Jewish Federation of North America, which has not been known for championing the rights of Palestinians took fright at the Bill.  We should not be afraid.
Tony Greenstein
This article is also printed as Clarity as to the reality in Weekly Worker Issue 212.
Some 7,000 demonstrators in Tel Aviv march from Rabin Square to an 'emergency rally' to protest the bill ■ New Israel Fund CEO: 'This is tribalism at its worst'
  Jul 15, 2018 9:53 AM

American Jewish leaders, alarmed by the prospect of the controversial nation-state Basic Law, have intensified their lobbying efforts, strongly urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider his government’s desire to pass it in the Knesset this week.

Jerry Silverman, president of the Jewish Federations of North America, was expected to arrive in Israel Sunday to express his organization’s concerns to top Israeli officials.

In Tel Aviv on Saturday night, meanwhile, some 7,000 demonstrators marched from Rabin Square to an “emergency rally” at the intersection of Dizengoff and Bar Giora streets, where they listened to speeches by politicians and social activists.
The New Israel Fund took part in the rally – organized by a number of Israeli advocacy organizations, as well as groups affiliated with the Meretz, Hadash, Ta’al and Labor parties – to protest what it called a “racist, discriminatory” bill. 
The bill, which would have a Constitution-like status, would prioritize Jewish values over democratic ones in the state. One controversial clause, which would permit the establishment of communities that are segregated by religion or nationality, was criticized last week by President Reuven Rivlin.

Also participating in the protest were several Israeli lawmakers: Ayman Odeh, who chairs the predominantly Arab Joint List, slammed the bill as a "law whose purpose is to stick a finger in the eyes of a fifth of Israel's population, spark a dispute and polarize in order to make political gain for the Netanyahu tyranny."

Speaking at the demonstration, Odeh said that "in a government that has lost all shame, that fears its own shadow, the majority tramples the minority, legislation is racist and the democratic space is under constant threat."

MK Tamar Zandberg, who heads Meretz, charged that Netanyahu's government was attempting to push the law through in order to distract Israelis from the dire situation in the Gaza Strip.

"Today, we see what happens when the government doesn't have a solution facing Gaza – all it can offer are racist laws," she said.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, CEO of the Reform Movement in Israel, echoed the criticism, blasting the bill as "contemptible."

"The real score we need to settle is with those elected by the public [Knesset members] who know deep inside how much the nation-state bill is going to tarnish the Israeli law book – and remain silent nonetheless," he said.

New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch is among a growing number of American Jewish leaders issuing strong public statements against the bill, calling it a “danger to Israel’s future.”

“This is tribalism at its worst,” said Sokatch. “Beginning with Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Jewish value of human dignity and the principle of the equality of all people have formed the democratic foundation of the state. This law is completely incompatible with those values. It is a slap in the face to Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel and provides a legal basis to discriminate based on religion, race and sex.

“If racism, sexism and religious fundamentalism are to be protected in Israel’s Basic Laws, it should be no surprise when the country embodies those values,” he added. “This bill and the government that supported it are a danger to Israel’s future.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, also spoke out, saying that such a law “will make Israel an open target on the world stage for all those who seek to deny the Jewish people our right to a homeland.

“If passed, it will create a dangerous precedent for democracy in Israel,” said Jacobs in a statement. “It is a 180-degree turn from Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which enshrines freedom and democracy for all Israelis. This bill would instead upend democratic norms and create an Israel that is unequal. It is a grave threat to Israeli democracy,” Jacobs added.

Jacobs said the bill both “hurts the delicate balance between the Jewish majority and Arab minority, and it enthrones ultra-Orthodox Judaism at the expense of the majority of a pluralistic world Jewry.”

Reform Jewry, he added, was “vehemently opposed” to the bill and vowed to fight it “aggressively.”

A group of 14 American Jewish organizations directed their deep concerns about the bill to incoming Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, who still serves as leader of the Opposition in the Knesset.

The organizations said the bill would eliminate “the defining characteristic of a modern democracy” – protecting rights for all. Instead, its letter said, “this bill would remove that democratic basis and give constitutional protection to policies that could discriminate against minorities, including women, Palestinian citizens, racial minorities, LGBT people, non-Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Druze, Christians and others.

The letter was signed by the New Israel Fund, J Street, T’ruah, Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, Aytzim’s Green Zionist Alliance, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair North America, Keshet, the National Council of Jewish Women, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Right Now: Advocates for Asylum Seekers in Israel, and Tivnu: Building Justice.

The Israel Policy Forum “urged” the Netanyahu government to “drop the bill entirely, or, failing that, to at least amend it, excising any discriminatory elements while incorporating elements that reinforce Israel’s democratic character, without delay.”

In May, two groups – the Anti-Defamation League and J Street – had expressed early opposition to the bill when it was approved by a ministerial committee to return to the Knesset floor for consideration.                

Israel in turmoil over bill allowing Jews and Arabs to be segregated

Law will ‘reveal ugly face of ultranationalist Israel in all its repugnance’, professor says

Oliver HolmesLast modified on Sun 15 Jul 2018 17.40 BST

Israel is in the throes of political upheaval as the country’s ruling party seeks to pass legislation that could allow for Jewish-only communities, which critics have condemned as the end of a democratic state.

For the past half-decade, politicians have been wrangling over the details of the bill that holds constitution-like status and that Benjamin Netanyahu wants passed this month.

The proposed legislation would allow the state to “authorise a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community”.

In its current state, the draft would also permit Jewish religious law to be implemented in certain cases and remove Arabic as an official language.
“In the Israeli democracy, we will continue to protect the rights of both the individual and the group, this is guaranteed. But the majority have rights too, and the majority rules,” the Israeli prime minister said this week.

A vote on the bill is expected next week, although a final draft has yet to be agreed on. The legislation has been compared to South African apartheid by Israeli parliamentarians, and several thousand Israelis protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
The Middle Eastern country sees itself as both a democratic and a Jewish state, saying its legal system protects the rights of Arabs, who make up more than a fifth of the population, and other minorities. However, the “Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people” bill would enshrine the country’s Jewish national and religious character into law.

“Our main concern is that it is changing the nature of the state and it changes the balance of Israel as a nation state,” said Amir Fuchs, the head of the defending democratic values programme at the Israel Democracy Institute. “You can be a nation state and still be a democracy as long as you don’t discriminate,” said Fuchs. “That the state is allowed to create villages that will separate on the basis of race or religion or nationality – this is outrageous.”

The purpose of the bill, he said, was “to change the balance, to make us more of a nation state, more of a Jewish state, and less of a democracy. There is no other way to put it. And this is the biggest problem.”

Netanyahu has lashed out at domestic and international critics, ordering the foreign ministry to reprimand the EU envoy Emanuele Giaufret after he was reported as saying the bill was discriminatory.

Both Israel’s attorney general and president, who holds a symbolic role, also opposed details of the bill. The president, Reuven Rivlin, said it would harm the Jewish people worldwide and “even be used as a weapon by our enemies”. The segregation clause, he said, could also allow towns that exclude Jews of Middle Eastern origin – who have been historically sidelined – or homosexuals.

Legislator Miki Zohar, from the prime minister’s Likud party, said: “Unfortunately, President Rivlin has lost it” and had “forgotten his DNA”.

Many Israeli neighbourhoods and towns are already effectively segregated, with residents either vastly Jewish or Arab. In many places, it is tough for an Arab to move in, although segregation is not legal.

Writing in the progressive-leaning Haaretz newspaper, Mordechai Kremnitzer, from the faculty of law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said the bill would “remove the mask so as to reveal the ugly face of ultranationalist Israel in all its repugnance”.

The debate has also opened a rift with the Jewish diaspora, with fears among more liberal American Jewish groups that it would prioritise Orthodox communities over other denominations.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said the bill was a grave threat to Israeli democracy and hurt “the delicate balance between the Jewish majority and Arab minority, and it enthrones ultra-Orthodox Judaism at the expense of the majority of a pluralistic world Jewry”.

Daniel Sokatch, the chief executive of New Israel Fund, which supports civil rights groups in Israel, decried the bill as “tribalism at its worst”.

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