Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians are also being criticized by prominent Israeli politicians. The below comments are from the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, on systemic racism in Israeli society and published in The Times of Israel.
Israel’s president fills a largely ceremonial role — meeting with foreign dignitaries, representing the government at state funerals and other official gatherings. But the office’s new occupant has embraced a challenge not inherent to the job: curbing what he sees as an epidemic of anti-Arab racism.
“Israeli society is sick, and it is our duty to treat this disease,” Reuven Rivlin, 75, told a group of Israeli academics this week.
Here is another comment from the award winning Israeli journalist Gideon Levy.
Now Israel is discovering that it’s no longer the center of attention as it always was before, and that the fate of its kidnapping victims no longer stops the world in its tracks, not even in the United States. The world is sick of Israel and its insanities. Unfortunately, the world has also lost interest in what happens here. When Israel was a more just country, the world identified with its victims. It continued to do so even when Israel became less just. But now, when Israeli rejectionism is hitting new heights and its oppression of the Palestinians is returning to what it was during the very worst periods, the world has started getting tired of it all…
President Rivlin is not the only senior Israeli politician that has spoken out about racism against Arabs in Israel. In 2008 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is quoted in the largest circulation newspaper in Israel, at the time, as follows:
The prime minister said that over the years the State maintained a policy of discrimination, thereby creating a vicious cycle. On the one hand, the Arab community was unable to create management mechanisms, while on the other hand, Israeli governments deprived Arabs of rights that could help them improve their quality of life, he said.
“I feel great discomfort over the fact that the State conducted itself improperly for many years, and should have made a fundamental change,” he said. “We have not yet overcome the obstacle of discrimination. This is deliberate discrimination, and the gap is intolerable. There is no arguing that some government ministries did not hire Arabs for years.”
There is lots of other evidence about racism and discriminatory views towards Muslims and Palestinians in Israel.
The Palestinian Arabs also complain about laws in the “Jewish State” that discriminate against non-Jews. There is a Palestinian human rights organization called Adalah which documents Israel laws which are discriminatory. The following quote is taken from their website.
Adalah’s Discriminatory Laws Database (DLD) is an online resource comprising a list of over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate directly or indirectly against Palestinian citizens in Israel and/or Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) on the basis of their national belonging. The discrimination in these laws is either explicit – “discrimination on its face” – or, more often, the laws are worded in a seemingly neutral manner, but have or will likely have a disparate impact on Palestinians in their implementation.
These laws limit the rights of Palestinians in all areas of life, from citizenship rights to the right to political participation, land and housing rights, education rights, cultural and language rights, religious rights, and due process rights during detention. Some of the laws also discriminate against other groups such as gays, non-religious Jews, and Palestinian refuge
Here is one article written by a prominent Israeli academic on the rise of fascism in Israel.
Like every ideology, the Nazi race theory developed over the years. At first it only deprived Jews of their civil and human rights. It’s possible that without World War II the “Jewish problem” would have ended only with the “voluntary” expulsion of Jews from Reich lands. After all, most of Austria and Germany’s Jews made it out in time. It’s possible that this is the future facing Palestinians.
Indeed, Smotrich and Zohar [two members of the Israeli Knessetviii] don’t wish to physically harm Palestinians, on condition that they don’t rise against their Jewish masters. They only wish to deprive them of their basic human rights, such as self-rule in their own state and freedom from oppression, or equal rights in case the territories are officially annexed to Israel. For these two representatives of the Knesset majority, the Palestinians are doomed to remain under occupation forever. It’s likely that the Likud’s Central Committee also thinks this way. The reasoning is simple: The Arabs aren’t Jews, so they cannot demand ownership over any part of the land that was promised to the Jewish people.
According to the concepts of Smotrich, Zohar and Shaked, a Jew from Brooklyn who has never set foot in this country is the legitimate owner of this land, while a Palestinian whose family has lived here for generations is a stranger, living here only by the grace of the Jews. “A Palestinian,” Zohar tells Hecht, “has no right to national self-determination since he doesn’t own the land in this country. Out of decency I want him here as a resident, since he was born here and lives here – I won’t tell him to leave. I’m sorry to say this but they have one major disadvantage – they weren’t born as Jews.”
From this one may assume that even if they all converted, grew side-curls and studied Torah, it would not help. This is the situation with regard to Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers and their children, who are Israeli for all intents and purposes. This is how it was with the Nazis. Later comes apartheid, which could apply under certain circumstances to Arabs who are citizens of Israel. Most Israelis don’t seem worried.
Henry Siegman published a long article in the National Interest on the subject of Zionism and on US President Trump’s decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. It is important because he is a prominent Jewish leader and a Holocaust survivor now in his late 80s. He was a Zionist leader and former head of the World Jewish Congress and is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Siegman endorsed the struggle for equal rights for the Palestinians and the end of Zionism. He says it is the right choice, for their struggle for a state of their own is one Palestinians cannot win, while a struggle to maintain an apartheid regime is one Israel cannot win. He sheds no tears for Zionism and issues a warning to American Jews to abandon Zionism. Siegman wrote:
If after what undoubtedly would be a long and bitter anti-apartheid struggle Palestinians prevail, they will be in the clear majority. Having established the principle that the majority can impose on the minority the religious and cultural identity of the State, Israel will not be in a strong position to deny Palestinians that same right. That will lead in time to a significant exodus of Israel’s Jews.
If Palestinians do not prevail, then the undeniable apartheid character of the state and the cost of the ongoing struggle will lead to the same result—an exodus of Israel’s Jews over time, creating an even greater demographic imbalance between the country’s Jewish and Arab populations. Palestinians will not leave because they will have nowhere to go.
The outcome is therefore likely to be the end of Israel as a Jewish state. If so, it will be an outcome brought about not by BDS movements but by Israelis themselves, not only because of their rejection of the two-state solution, but because of their insistence on defining Israel’s national identity and territorial claims in religious terms. A state that fast-tracks citizenship through government-sponsored religious conversion to Judaism, as Israel’s government now does, cannot for long hide that it privileges its Jewish citizens—just as the United States could not have claimed to be a democracy if conversion to Christianity were a path to U.S. citizenship.
On the issue of differential treatment for non-Jews in the “Jewish State” the Israeli Minister of Justice Aydet Shaked made the following statement in a speech to the Congress on Judaism and Democracy, The following is quoted from an article published in the Israeli daily Haaretz.
Shaked said, “I think that ‘Judaizing the Galilee’ is not an offensive term. We used to talk like that. In recent years we’ve stopped talking like that. I think it’s legitimate without violating the full rights of the Arab residents of Israel.”
The justice minister made the remarks in a wide-ranging speech on the controversy over the Jewish nation-state bill.
She further said, “There is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights.” She added, however, that maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel and acting democratically “must be parallel and one must not outweigh the other.”
Regarding the nation-state bill, Shaked said, “I was disturbed at both the position of the state and the reasoning of the justices. The state did not defend the law for national demographic reasons, it claimed only security reasons.” Shaked told the conference that “the state should say that there is place to maintain the Jewish majority even if it violates rights.”
Shaked said she believed Judaism and democracy are values that can coexist. “From a constitutional point of view there is an advantage to democracy and it must be balanced and the Supreme Court should be given another constitutional tool that will also give power to Judaism.”
The purpose of the nation-state bill, she said, was to prevent rulings interpreting the Entry to Israel Law, or a ruling like the one in the Ka’adan case in 2000 that banned discrimination against an Arab family who wanted to move to a small Jewish community that sought to bar them.
Gideon Levy writing in Haaretz made the following comment about Israeli Justice Minister Shaked’s position on the Jewish Nation State Bill.
Thank you, Ayelet Shaked, for telling the truth. Thank you for speaking honestly. The justice minister has proved once again that Israel’s extreme right is better than the deceivers of the center-left: It speaks honestly.
If in 1975, Chaim Herzog dramatically tore up a copy of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, equating Zionism with racism, the justice minister has now admitted the truthfulness of the resolution (which was later revoked). Shaked said, loud and clear: Zionism contradicts human rights, and thus is indeed an ultranationalist, colonialist and perhaps even racist movement, as proponents of justice worldwide maintain.
At the core of this issue is the contradiction between a “Jewish State” and a democratic state that treats all of its citizens as equals. Here is how one Israeli Political Sociologist Lev Grinberg explains the problem.
Just like the story about the late Israeli politician Moshe Sneh, who raised the tone of his voice because his arguments were not persuasive, Professor Shlomo Avineri raises the tone in his reply to Salman Masalha, both of whose opinion pieces appeared on these pages earlier this month, and paints him as a racist. But Masalha did not claim that there is no Jewish people or that Jews do not have the right to self-determination. His argument is simple: If the state is defined by religion, it cannot treat all its citizens equally, as required of a democratic system of government.
Its true that from its inception, Zionism intended to turn the Jewish people from a religious community into a modern nation, but Avineri ignores the regrettable fact that the project of secularizing the Jewish people has failed. Israel has no legal definition for Judaism other than the religious definition, it does not recognize an Israeli national identity defined on the basis of citizenship, and it does not recognize a Hebrew nationality that is culturally defined.
The comparison to other countries where religion and nationality are linked is irrelevant, because those countries have a secular definition of the state and citizenship. You can be a Polish Jew or an Egyptian Jew, but you can’t be a Jewish Muslim or a Jewish Christian.
In the attempt to make the Jewish people a nation like all others, Zionism strove to unite it through one language and concentrate it in one territory. There were arguments and struggles over this, and they were decided in favor of preserving the centrality of religion in the definition of the national collective. Instead of picking one of the languages that Jews spoke day in and day out, Hebrew, the holy tongue, was chosen.
Regarding territory as well, absolute secularists did indeed think that Jews could be settled in Uganda or Argentina, but the gravitational pull of the Land of Israel was decisive. The Bible was transformed from a religious text into Zionism’s title deed, the justification for the demand for ownership of the territory. In other words, instead of bringing about the secularization of Judaism, Zionism turned religion into the central element of the definition of national identity, and turned the State of Israel into a tool of the religious redemption project, especially after the capture and settlement of biblical areas since 1967.
Defining the State of Israel solely as democratic and revoking the special privileges of Jews does not contradict Zionism, and certainly not Judaism. The connection to Judaism will remain in the calendar and the Hebrew language, in the name of the state and in the Jewish majority (if we manage to free ourselves from our rule over the Palestinians in the territories).
Democracy is based on universalist Jewish values, such as “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” and “Ye shall have one statute, both for the stranger, and for him that is born in the land.” That requires separation of religion and state, something that will be good for both. Because in the current situation, not only does religion corrupt the state, but the state corrupts religion and pushes it toward nationalistic extremism.”
The definition of what is a “Jewish State” and “what is a Jew” is a fundamental part of this debate. The “Jewish State” is like no other. It uses a concept of Jewish nationality which is like no other definition of nationality. It is the Jewish character of the State that is given preference to all other considerations and gives superior rights to Jews over the non-Jewish population in Israel.
The data on population in Israel for 2017 is that 74.7% is Jewish and 25.3% is non-Jewish. When you count the territories occupied or controlled by Israel there is already, or soon will be, a Palestinian majority. This fact helps explain the Jewish State’s obsession over demographics.
Here is how journalist Jonathan Cook, who resides in Nazareth, Israel, describes the issue and the implications of living in a Jewish State. He is reporting on a decision of the Israeli Supreme Court which refused to recognize an Israeli nationality as it would undermine the “Jewish” character of the State.
Israel officially defines itself as a Jewish state, and authorities classify Israelis by their ethnic group
Nazareth, Israel – A court decision this month that rejected Israelis’ right to a shared nationality has highlighted serious problems caused by Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state, say lawyers and human rights activists.
A group of 21 Israelis had appealed to the Supreme Court to demand the state recognise their wish to be classified as “Israeli nationals”.
Since Israel’s founding in 1948, authorities have refused to recognize such a nationality, instead classifying Israelis according to the ethnic group to which each belongs. The overwhelming majority are registered as either “Jewish” or “Arab” nationals, though there are more than 130 such categories in total.
Critics say the system, while seemingly a technical matter, has far-reaching effects. The citizenship laws, they say, undergird a system of systematic discrimination against the one-fifth of Israel’s population who are non-Jews – most of them belonging to Israel’s Palestinian minority.
Cook also quotes Uzi Ornan, a retired linguist from northern Israel, the leader of “I am an Israeli” movement, The group includes both Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, and they argued that they should be allowed to change their nationality to “Israeli”. “This ruling is very dangerous,” said Ornan. “It allows Israel to continue being a very peculiar country indeed, one that refuses to recognise the nationality of its own people. I don’t know of another country that does such a thing. It is entirely anti-democratic.”
Ornan also is quoted as follows:
The “I am an Israeli” movement objects to Israel’s system of laws that separate citizenship from nationality. While Israelis enjoy a common citizenship, they have separate nationalities based on their ethnic identity. Only the Jewish majority has been awarded national rights, meaning that Palestinian citizens face institutionalised discrimination, said Ornan.
Ornan added: “It tells the country’s Arab citizens that they have no real recognition in their own country — that they will always be treated as foreigners and they will always face discrimination.”
Cook writes as follows on this issue:
Leading Israeli politicians — including a recent prime minister, Ehud Olmert — have admitted that discrimination against Palestinians exists. However, they have suggested that it is informal and similar to the iscrimination faced by minorities in many democratic western countries.
Civil rights groups, on the other hand, claim that the discrimination is structural to Israel’s definition as a Jewish state. One member of parliament, Ahmed Tibi, has pointedly commented: “This country is Jewish and democratic: Democratic towards Jews, and Jewish toward Arabs.”
There certainly has been a vigorous debate within the Jewish community over the question of political Zionism, which is a political ideology, and the creation of a “Jewish State.” The dark underbelly of Zionism is what to do with the Christian and Muslim Palestinian inhabitants of the land chosen to be the territory for the “Jewish State.” There are many questions about what rights Palestinians are to have in the “Jewish State” and the occupied territories that the “Jewish State” declares for itself and gives at best token lip service to the civil and national rights of the Palestinians.
Ben Ehrenreich, is a prominent Jewish American author of The Way to the Spring, the chronicle of heroic resistance to occupation in a Palestinian village. He spoke at Columbia’s Center for Palestine Studies and described Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as an “incremental genocide.” As reported by Philip Weiss a questioner asked about the Movement for Black Lives statement saying Palestinians are experiencing “genocide,” and asked Ehrenreich, would you agree? Ehrenrich said he agreed.
The question about genocide – yes, it’s an incremental genocide. And I think that’s a word that gives a lot of people pause and it certainly should. We don’t see the absolutely mass slaughters, although in Gaza I think we’ve seen something very much like it that we usually associate with genocide. But– the attempts to erase a people, to just erase them, to erase their history, I think follow a logic that can only be called genocidal. I mean, every time someone says– and people say it all the time, I get it on twitter all the time– “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian,” or “There was nobody there when the Zionists arrived”– these are genocidal statements, these are attempts to erase a culture, erase a history, decimate a people and I think they should be recognized as that.
As a result of these questions that go to the heart of the Zionist project there are many criticisms over the treatment of the Palestinians in the “Jewish State” from Jews and many others who express concern over human rights violations. Palestinians, the victims of Zionism also have many criticism on how they are treated and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, the massacres, the destruction of 531 villages and the theft of their land and property for which they hold the legal title to.
One major study done in Israel reviewed all of the articles and books written on the Israeli War of Independence and examined the issue of the expulsion of the Palestinians:
… study showed that significant critical research on the Palestinian exodus was undertaken by Jewish scholars outside Israel in the 1950s, three decades before the emergence of the New Historians. In effect, this early use of the critical narrative led to the declassification of archival materials, the sources that were then used in books by Segev, Morris and others.
The study refutes the widespread claim that until the 1980s the Jewish-Israeli media were entirely beholden to the Zionist narrative. The paper shows that the vast majority of studies recognized that Israel had expelled Palestinians in 1948.
Defenders of the Jewish State’s policies and treatment of the Palestinians do not want to discuss these questions and in an aggressive manner accuse Israel’s critics and critics of Zionism as being anti-Semites and try to silence any debate on these issues. The charge of anti-Semitism against critics is the preferred weapon, and perhaps the only weapon, as the evidence does not support the Zionist argument. Many prominent Israelis and many others have raised the specter of Apartheid to describe Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Here is how Richard Falk describes the issue of Apartheid in relation to the Jewish State’s treatment of the Palestinians. Falk is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, where he taught for forty years. He is also the author of 20 books on International law and human rights. From 2008 to 2014 Falk served as United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The following is taken from an article based on a talk given by Professor Falk.
… it is only correct to look at the Palestinians as a coherent people, wherever they live, and not provide tacit consent to the fragmentation both geographical and political to which Israel has subjected them. Viewed in those terms, ending the Occupation alone, without addressing the larger issue afflicting the Palestinian nation, is “a misunderstood pragmatism.”
That larger issue… is the structure of oppression itself, including physical displacement and all the policies and practices Israel promotes toward the Palestinian people. “The conflict is not purely territorial,” Falk says. The UN report that he co-authored with Virginia Tilley, professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, names that structure “apartheid,” meaning “separation” in Afrikaans.
The 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid does not speak only of South Africa. There the term is defined as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.”
In his capacity of special rapporteur for the Palestinian occupied territories Falk co-authored a report on the question of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with Professor Virginia Tilley. The following is an excerpt from the article.
The Falk-Tilley report, “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” was released March 15, 2017, under the aegis of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). Its release caused an immediate firestorm, raising accusations of anti-Semitism against the authors (Falk is Jewish incidentally), and providing space for more UN-bashing especially on the part of Israel and the United States. Although the ESCWA countries unanimously endorsed the report, and although the report was issued as representing the view of the authors alone and not the UN per se, it was removed from the UN website under threat of U.S. withdrawal of UN funding; however, it is otherwise available.
Defenders of Israel are particularly sensitive about the word “apartheid,” citing factors that existed in South Africa but which do not exist in Israel, such as separate park benches and Arab representation in the Knesset. But as anyone who follows Israeli politics knows, leading figures in Israeli life, including prime ministers, writers and journalists from both the left and the right, have consistently used this word in Hebrew, addressing fellow Israelis, warning of the consequences of a failure to make peace leading to permanent apartheid. It’s when the word gets uttered in public forums in English that Israelis and their supporters hear the whole Zionist project being attacked. Jimmy Carter and John Kerry are only two American statesmen who have felt the brunt of Israel’s condemnation. In many other ways Israel has flouted the international community, for example, by referring to the occupied West Bank territories as “Judea and Samaria,” ancient Biblical terms which international law does not recognize as legitimate; and insisting on calling the Palestinians “Arabs,” as if to say they belong in other homelands, not in the Jewish state.
Falk went on to say and is quoted in the article:
The problem of Israel,… is that the nationalism born in Europe in the 19th century made its way to the rest of the world by the mid-20th century and helped to create many newly independent countries in the wake of colonialism. But Israel, founded in 1948, came along at the end of the nationalist wave, and the global community had become skeptical of colonial projects in the underdeveloped world.
“The Palestinian people have been made to pay the price for the crimes of the Nazis,” ….
There is an inherent tension… between Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state and its claim to be a democratic society. Especially as more and more Palestinians fall under direct or indirect Israeli control in the variously segmented entities between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, the contradiction between these two professed ideals becomes ever sharper.
In almost every case… where an oppressed people, with inferior arms and weak social institutions, sets out to oppose their colonial or neocolonial masters, they eventually win. The Palestinians will continue to resist, “and they are right to resist,”… From the Israeli point of view, the resistance is a challenge to the established order and must be put down. The United States, more substantively than anyone else in the world, gives Israel this unconditional mandate.
“Until that mandate is lifted there will be no peace. It’s our struggle here to end this destructive policy.”
Most supporters of the Jewish State get incensed when the term “Apartheid” is used to describe the situation the Palestinians under the control of the “Jewish State.” They point to the absence of petty Apartheid structures like separate washrooms and benches for Jews and Palestinians and the fact that Arabs can vote in Israel and have members in the Knesset. They conveniently ignore the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza they cannot vote in the Israeli elections that control their lives and while Jewish Settlers living in the West Bank can vote in Israeli elections. Here is how one commentator describes the situation.
The irony is that the idea of evoking the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians was not invented by Israel’s enemies, let alone Arabs and Palestinians, but by Israel itself. For decades, Israeli officials have employed the Hebrew term Hafrada (“Separation” or “Segregation”) to describe Israel’s governing policy in the West Bank and Gaza, and its attempts to separate the Palestinian population from both the Israeli population and the Jewish settlers population in the occupied Palestinian territories. The so-called Israeli West Bank Barrier, known in Hebrew as “Gader Ha-Hafrada” (“Separation Fence”), was built on this Hafrada vision….
The current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shares his predecessors’ infatuation with the principle of Hafrada. In 2011, he told members of his cabinet: “The debate over how many Jews and how many Palestinians will be between the Jordan and the sea is irrelevant. It does not matter to me whether there are half a million more Palestinians or less because I have no wish to annex them into Israel. I want to separate from them so that they will not be Israeli citizens.”
While some Israelis tend to distinguish between “hard separation” (Rabin and Barak) and “soft separation” (Perez and Olmert) the result has been one and the same: A rigid form of physical separation where one ethnic group enjoys more freedom than the other.
This is not to suggest that Israel’s Hafrada is identical to South Africa’s apartheid, but that apartheid, or separateness, as a system of enforced segregation based on ethnicity and imposed by a sovereign and dominant group over an impoverished one, can take myriad forms.
The term “Hafrada” has rapidly dropped from official use, apparently to avoid association with the notorious term “apartheid.” In Israel’s public discourse, though, the term has lost none of its force. Today, “Hafrada” is used as a broad term to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, be they in the West Bank, Gaza, exile, or even in Israel. Indeed, as the U.N. report put it, Hafrada is no longer limited to describing Israel’s policy towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, but also applies to its treatment of its own Palestinian citizens.
This form of internal Hafrada has its origins in the military regime period (1948-1966), when Israel imposed a formal military administration on the majority of its Arab citizenry, putting in place a repressive apparatus of ethnic and economic segregation, land appropriation, and restrictions on movement and political activity. While less visible, internal Hafrada persists today in various forms. In 2005, an art exhibition organized by an association of Israeli architects in the city of Jaffa, aptly titled “Hafrada” (“Separation”), featured images of a dozen separation sites inside Israel, not only between Jewish and Arab towns, but between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods within Israel’s so-called mixed cities, including Haifa, Jerusalem and Lod.
Hafrada, Israel’s equivalent for ethnic segregation, is a purely Israeli invention whose basic etymology was coined for want of a practical and descriptive term that would better account for Israel’s policy towards Palestinians on both sides of the border. In Israel, the term is evoked by supporters and opponents of segregation alike. While in official discourse the term has been cloaked in softer and gentler expressions–– such as “convergence” and “disengagement”––to the average Israeli, the term simply meant, and continues to mean, one thing: “Separation” and “segregation.” In other words, “apartheid.”