Thursday, June 04, 2009

As Israel Prepares Laws to Deepen its Discrimination, the World Must hold Israeli Racism to Account

As Israel Prepares Laws to Deepen its Discrimination, the World Must
hold Israeli Racism to Account

4 June 2009, Bethlehem, Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency
and Refugee Rights - For decades Israel has practiced discrimination and
forced displacement against its Palestinian citizenry with impunity. But
now it seeks to impose consent for its crimes upon its Palestinian victims.

Three bills currently making rounds in the Israeli Knesset reveal an
obscene and dangerous targeting of the individual and collective rights
of Palestinian citizens.

One bill seeks to prohibit marking the day Israel declared its
independence as a day of mourning. A second prohibits negating the
existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The third requires
Israeli citizens to sign oaths of loyalty to the state, its flag and
national anthem, and to perform military or civil service. Though still
at an early stage, if the bills pass, violators could face harsh
sentences including imprisonment and revocation of citizenship.

Palestinian citizens of Israel are part of the indigenous inhabitants of
Palestine who were made a minority in their homeland through the
expulsion of two thirds of their people in 1948 by Zionist militias
during Israel's establishment – events Palestinians commemorate as the
Nakba (Arabic for Catastrophe.)

Their leaders have likened the potential approval of the bills to a
declaration of war. The bills "require the Arab minority to deny its
history and Arab-Palestinian identity on one hand and to identify with
Zionist values that negate its national identity on the other," in the
words of Mohammed Zeidan, head of the Higher Arab Follow-Up Committee,
an informal collective leadership body of Palestinian citizens.

Attempts to force compliance with the Zionist narrative, character and
practice of the state is equivalent to demanding that Palestinians
sanction their own historical dispossession while rubber stamping their
contemporary second-class citizenship as "non-Jews" in the Jewish state.

Moreover these attempts come in the context of an escalating campaign
against this community that seeks to paint it as a "demographic time
bomb" and a "fifth column." Yuval Diskin, Director of the General
Security Service has described Palestinian citizens' demands for
equality as constituting "a strategic danger to the state", that must be
thwarted "even if their activity is conducted through democratic means”;
Israeli politicians and "peace proposals" speak openly of "population
exchanges" between Palestinian citizens and Israeli settlers in the West
Bank; and the Hebrew press has even made recent revelations that the
Israeli army is engaged in training special units to occupy Palestinian
towns and villages inside Israel in the event of a regional war, to
prevent protests and access to highways.

A broader campaign of incitement is at play here. These laws aim to
polarize the situation between Jewish and Palestinian citizens, while
justifying the quashing of legitimate Palestinian demands. Israel also
appears intent to extend elements of its military practices against
Palestinians in the OPT to those who are its citizens.

Given Israel's historical record of repeatedly dispossessing
Palestinians – be it beneath the 'fog of war' or through incremental
bureaucratic means - the initiation of these laws can only be seen as
strengthening Israel's de jure policies of apartheid to compliment its
de facto apartheid practices on both sides of the Green Line.

In this context, instead of trying to engage the new Israeli government,
it is time for the world to boycott, divest and sanction the Israeli
regime until it abandons all racist policies and practices and
implements international law.

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