Saturday, January 1, 2011

Israelis Resist Their Own Arabs

By Mel Frykberg

RAMALLAH, Jan 1, 2011 (IPS) - A number of recent incidents discriminating against Israel’s Palestinian minority has prompted Israeli Knesset (parliament) members to debate whether Israel is becoming increasingly racist.

Ronit Sela from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (Acri) has no doubts. "Israel’s democracy is under threat as an increasingly large racist element raises its collective head. A number of racist occurrences have taken place in a climate conducive to racism. This wouldn’t have happened prior to the current right-wing Israeli government," Sela told IPS.

Recently an organisation called Jews for a Jewish Bat Yam (a suburb near Tel Aviv) held a protest against "assimilation of young Jewish women with Arabs living in the city or in nearby Jaffa."....

Haneen Zoabi, an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset who participated in the ill-fated Mavi Marmara attempt to break the siege of Gaza in May, expressed outrage that some Israeli parliamentarians were feigning shock at recent developments.

"Three months ago the Knesset approved a law that villages with populations smaller than 500 residents could remain Jewish to ‘maintain their cultural identity’. Furthermore, there have been approximately ten laws passed during the last year aimed against the Arab minority," Zoabi told IPS.

"Israel has double standards. Some Knesset members accused the rabbis of being racist despite the loyalty oath they supported and passed several months earlier. This calls for the Israeli citizenship of the Palestinian minority to be dependent on swearing allegiance to Zionism and Israel’s Jewish character despite this conflicting with their rights as an ethnic minority," she said.

"These rabbis authored the letter despite the fact they are Israeli public servants and on the government payroll. We wrote to the justice minister and got a legal injunction asking the minister to look into the matter. We have received no reply and nothing has been done about it," added Sela.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not rebuked the rabbis. The fact that public servants are able to incite to this degree, despite there being no major changes in Israel’s judiciary in the country’s 62-year history, speaks volumes about the current political climate in Israel," Sela told IPS.

Adalah, has meticulously documented the discrimination against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

This includes over 30 laws ranging from the law of return applying only to Jews; the ease with which Palestinians can be stripped of their citizenship; under-representation in the judiciary and politics; under-funding of Arab education and social services; higher rates of unemployment; and inadequate access to land and planning rights."

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