Alarming Racism in Israel – by Stephen Lendman
Mossawa means equality, the Mossawa Advocacy Center promoting it for Israel’s Arab citizens – about 1.5 million, comprising 20% of the population. Established in 1997, it “strives to improve the social, economic and political status of (Israeli Arabs), while preserving their national and cultural rights as Palestinians.” It also promotes gender equality “in all spheres of society.”
Its September 29, 2009 press release headlined the “High Follow-up Committee for Arab citizens (an organization representing Israeli Arabs) call for a general” October 1 one-day work stoppage to protest deteriorating conditions they face, and Israel’s failure “to bring justice to the families of the 13 Arab victims that were killed by security forces during the events of October 2000,” the start of the second Intifada.
The Committee asked all Arab institutions, organizations and businesses to honor it in opposition to Triangle and Negev area home demolitions; Galilee and Triangle area settlement building; discrimination in allocating resources; police violence, intimidation, racial, and political incitement; and the right of Arab citizens “to exist and live in dignity in their historic homeland.”
Mossawa Center Calls the Current Knesset the Most Racist in History
A March 21 Jack Khoury/Dana Weiler-Polark Haaretz article headlined the above accusation, saying Mossawa’s report shows “that in 2008 there were (12) bills (not 11 Haaretz reported) defined as racist,” followed by 12 more in 2009, specifically against Israeli Arabs. Report authors Lizi Sagi and Nidal Othman said:
“There has never been a Knesset as active in proposing discriminating and racist legislation against the country’s Arab citizens.”
They accused right-wing MKs of being “unhindered via proposed legislation,” many in violation of Supreme Court rulings, including cosmetically altering illegal bills to get them passed. Others trying to harm Arab citizens, segregate them from Jews, and “even call for the expulsion of the (entire) Arab population.”
Further discriminatory measures target services, benefits, and imposing a year’s imprisonment for anyone publishing or saying something that would “bring contempt upon or discomfort to the country.”
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz wants road signs traditionally in Hebrew, Arabic and English changed solely to Hebrew to erase their historic identity. But doing so violates the Supreme Court’s recognition of Arabic as an official Israeli language.
Other measures target those who can buy land and the so-called Nakba law, watered down from its original version to exclude imprisonment, but including a provision to withhold public funding for any state-supported body holding Nakba commemorations. Arab school curricula exclude its mention, and outright banning it denies Israeli Arabs their collective identity, memory, and right to freely express opinions, especially about something this important.
The Incitement Law threatens prison for anyone denying Israel’s existence as a Jewish, democratic state, and the proposed Loyalty to Israel Law rescinds citizenship for anyone unwilling to pledge it. Still another measure bans demonstrations near public officials and service provider homes as well as others responsible for public welfare. It’s one step short of prohibiting all demonstrations critical of government policies.
The Prevention of Inflation Law includes provisions denying protections and care for asylum seekers, and long prison terms for convicted “infiltrators” and human rights activists helping them. Other measures affect free expression, housing, political involvement, and Bedouin rights in so-called unrecognized villages, the home for tens of thousands living under appalling conditions, compounded by involuntary dispossessions to Judaize the Negev and Galilee.
Mossawa Center’s 2009 Racism Report
It began saying “almost every day” another Israeli Arab is victimized by racist actions. Mossawa documented 271 cases in various categories, confirmed by media and police reports. “Most documentation refers to events,” not individuals, but their total number far exceeds the events mentioned.
Mossawa was alarmed that Occupied Territory (OPT) abuses have incrementally crossed the Green Line. Since the second Intifada’s onset (after Ariel Sharon’s provocative September 28 Al-Aqsa Mosque visit), few Israeli – Arab citizen confrontations occurred until Acre, Galilee’s October 2008 violence. Incidents now “create separation between communities that used to” coexist peacefully. As a result, Israeli Arab citizens face disruptive social, economic and cultural futures.
Besides Acre, organized groups attacked Arab civilians in Jerusalem, Tiberias, Nazareth Illit, Carmiel and other cities – suggesting more to come unless measures are taken to curb it.
Specific Mossawa Findings
From 2000 through 2008, 42 Arab Israelis were killed. Only once was a police officer indicted and convicted, sentenced only to six months in prison for murder. Another accused officer still serves, “receiving support” from his commander.
Since trials of two officers began in 2006, judges have delayed ruling, six months after proceedings ended. As a result, 13 families of initial Intifada killings await justice despite clear Or Commission recommendations (established to investigate them) not implemented by the Attorney General.
Two Jews who killed Arabs were admitted to mental hospitals and declared unfit to stand trial. Four years after Natan Zadah killed four Arabs, investigations continue. After his death, 15 Shefaram residents were arrested on suspicion of their involvement. Four East Jerusalem Palestinians were killed after being repeatedly shot “even after they were clearly paralyzed.” No investigation was conducted.
Police attacked and injured 17 Israeli Arabs, a 300% increase since 2008. During the Gaza war, police intensified violence and arrested 700 Arab citizens. Yet a small number of them were indicted.
Jewish civilians were involved in most racist incidents (about 70), up tenfold from the previous year. Most targeted Arabs and involved attacks and property destruction. The October 2008 Acre incidents resulted in over 80 people evacuated from their homes, most after being “repeatedly injured.” Despite making arrests, police “failed to prevent massive confrontations” and didn’t arrest youths involved in Acre and Carmiel attacks.
Knesset members, other public figures, and rabbis were involved in 29 racist incidents, especially during the Gaza war, and in the run-up to elections through mass media reports. The Central Elections Committee (CEC) took no action.
The New Israel Fund and Football Union reported 39 racist incidents during contests, not against Arabs but dark skinned targets – compared to 32 recorded 2008 cases. Another 15 incidents of “racial profiling and discrimination in services” were reported, showing a drop because courts now fine business discrimination on the basis of race.
The Supreme Court, however, hasn’t addressed airport profiling.
Ten cases of religious discrimination were reported, included cemetery destruction and holy book burnings.
The 2008 Knesset introduced 12 discriminatory bills, and the Supreme Court failed to disqualify the 2003 temporary Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, renewed every six months. It makes West Bank and Gaza Palestinians ineligible for residency permits if they marry an Israeli citizen, a measure harmful to thousands of families yearly.
Israeli Arab leaders have been systematically delegitimized. “Israeli political leaders, the government, the police and government legal advisors use the demographic threat to force their political positions on Arab minority leaders,” including prohibiting their visits to regional states that don’t diplomatically recognize Israel. Also forcing them to accept Israel as a Jewish state to qualify as MKs, or in other words, renounce their own heritage.
Arab leaders violating these terms are investigated to persecute and delegitimize them. During the Gaza war, police and security services made numerous arrests as a warning to local Arab leaders. In addition, for the third time since the early 1990s, the Central Elections Committee (CEC) disqualified two Arab political parties from participating in national elections. Though the Supreme Court overruled the decision, the Arab community got a chilling message, suggesting harsher measures to come.
Jews as well experienced racism, specifically Russian and Ethiopian immigrants as well as gays.
Summary of Mossawa’s 2008 and 2009 Racist Incidents
— police violence since October 2000 killing Arab Israelis: in 2008, 41; in 2009, 42;
— other police violence against Arab Israelis: in 2008, 6; in 2009, 17;
— Jewish civilian attacks against Arab Israelis: in 2008, 7; in 2009, 70;
— racial incitement: in 2008, 27; in 2009, 29;
— religious discrimination: in 2008, 8; in 2009, 10;
— discrimination in public services: in 2008, 26; in 2009, 15;
— football related racism: in 2008, 32; in 2009, 39 through March;
— delegitimizations of Israeli Arab political leaders: in 2008, 15; in 2009, 23;
— racist Knesset bills: in 2008, 12; in 2009, 12; and
— discrimination against Russian and Ethiopian immigrants as well as gays: in 2008, 6; in 2009, 14.
Totals: in 2008, 180; in 2009, 271.
Mossawa was alarmed that Israeli Arabs are increasingly being persecuted like Occupied Palestinians – perhaps one step short of facing targeted killings, much greater dispossession rates, mass incarcerations, and torture. They’re already denied rights afforded solely to Jews.
Civilized societies accept all citizens as equals, or are supposed to. Israel rejects that standard, including for disfavored Jews, shunned for more privileged ones the way America treats minorities, the poor, disadvantaged, undocumented Latino immigrants called illegal, and Muslims persecuted as terrorists.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.