+972 Magazine » +972 Blog http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sat, 06 Feb 2016 17:30:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Women of the Wall victory can teach us a few things http://972mag.com/women-of-the-wall-victory-can-teach-us-a-few-things/116697/ http://972mag.com/women-of-the-wall-victory-can-teach-us-a-few-things/116697/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 12:05:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116697 If we succeeded at pushing the government to find a solution on a matter as sensitive as the Western Wall, then we can also push Israel’s leadership — from a perspective of self interest — to make other, equally positive decisions.

By Batya Kallus

Women of the Wall pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. March 12, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Women of the Wall pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. March 12, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Last Sunday, following a 27-year struggle by Women of the Wall, the Israeli government approved a plan to create a new pluralistic, egalitarian and feminist plaza alongside the ultra-Orthodox prayer plaza at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. This is first and foremost a victory for Jewish feminists. But imagine — a group of Jewish religious women engaged in grassroots feminist activism, who really only wanted to pray together on Rosh Hodesh according to their custom and never imagined themselves as heroines, have upset the balance of power in the battle of religion and state, and catalyzed transformative social and political change.

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Together with representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements, I was one of two women who, for two-and-a-half years, negotiated this agreement to achieve equality and justice for Women of the Wall (WOW). My participation in the negotiations gave me insights that were more far-reaching than simply where and in what way Women of the Wall would pray at the Western Wall.

As I sat at the negotiating table, I thought about the significance and meaning of recognition. The government recognized the legitimacy of Women of the Wall. It recognized the Reform and Conservative movements, and by doing so, it recognized the majority of Jews who don’t fit the standard Israeli belief that orthodoxy is the exclusive legitimate form of Jewish religious expression.

I learned that the government had a very strong self-interest in achieving an agreement, and this was a powerful motivating force. The government hated that there was an ongoing conflict between ultra-Orthodox prayer goers and women attending WOW services at the Wall. The arrests of more than 50 women, including two American rabbis, provoked a deep crisis with Diaspora Jewry, who were appalled by the thought of women being arrested for wearing tallitot and singing out loud.

A member of 'Women of the Wall' is arrested for wearing a Talit at the Western Wall. April 11, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A member of ‘Women of the Wall’ is arrested for wearing a ‘talit’ prayer shawl at the Western Wall, April 11, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

If it were only a matter of a few annoying women, perhaps the government would not have stepped up to the plate. However, our refusal to be silenced, and the international outrage over these arrests between 2012-2013, compelled the government to invite us to the table to find a solution — together. From this I learned that external pressure on the Israeli government can be very effective, even when the religious and right-wing establishment pushes back. It was that pressure which created the motivation to solve the issue and reach an agreement.

The government’s representative in the negotiations, then cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit, recognized our legitimacy and wanted to find a solution that would not be imposed from above, but rather, one agreed to by all sides. It was the combination of those two elements that ultimately enabled us to reach an agreement.

Numerous other (non-religious) cabinet secretaries, with whom WOW had years of bitter experiences, could not identify with our motivation to pray at the Western Wall according to our custom. It was not coincidental that it was Mandelblit who insisted, up until his last day on the job (he has since been appointed attorney general), that this deal must pass. Mandelblit, a religious Jew, would not shake the hands of the women in the room during the early days of negotiations. Yet, it was exactly because of his religious observance that he was able to legitimate our struggle.

The advantage of being an insider

Something else I learned in the negotiations was about the dynamics of being an insider or an outsider. It is monumentally more difficult for a negotiator to succeed if he or she is a total outsider. The informal dynamics of negotiations demand being able to joke around on common subjects — in this case, about the army. Language can also be a major challenge. Negotiating in a second language, as was the case for me, one will almost always struggle to keep up when the negotiations become intense. Having others in the room who shared a common language and common experiences with the other side was critical.

The conversations in the cabinet secretary’s meeting room were first and foremost among and between Jews. Despite the arguments about Jewish pluralism, there was a shared assumption about our power as Jews, and our ability to wield this power in Israeli society.

I couldn’t help thinking about how much Arab citizens negotiating with the government — on various issues like unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, or the inequalities in resource allocations for Arab municipalities — must have to constantly fight to overcome those issues. The lack of a common first language and the inability to recognize Arab citizens, both literally and figuratively, makes it very challenging to identify with the person and their struggle — especially in the context of a deeply entrenched conflict.

On the other hand, as was true in our case, the outsider can bring a fresh perspective and new thinking that the insider lacks. This allows difference to legitimately dwell in any negotiations.

What else is possible

Sitting in that negotiation room, I frequently thought that if we are able to push the government to reach a solution on a matter as sensitive as the Western Wall, when so many inside the government are opposed, then we can also push the government — from a perspective of self interest — to make other, equally positive decisions.

For example, just a few weeks ago, the government approved a game-changing plan to correct discriminatory financing mechanisms that have been one of the major impediments to equality for Israel’s Arab citizens. After many years of pressure from Arab citizens and civil society, the government finally recognized its own self interest in reducing the inequities and was able to agree upon a solution together with Arab municipal and political leaders. (For more about this see Ron Gerlitz’s article).

Activists of all stripes are working day and night to get the government to pay attention and recognize their struggles, and implement policies to create the change they are seeking. The easiest thing is to be critical. One strategy is to stand outside government buildings and demonstrate. However, it takes more than that to change the world around us.

The ability to get the government to figuratively raise its head and take notice depends on our ability to do something much more complicated: to bring together the insiders among us (those who speak the language and with whom the government can identify) and the outsiders (those who bring a different voice and life experience to the table). It is this capacity to work together that can lead to recognition and achieving just solutions.

Batya Kallus has been a member of the board of Women of the Wall for more than 25 years. She works as the senior program officer at the Moriah Fund, a private American foundation, and as a philanthropic consultant advancing equality between Arab and Jewish citizens. She lives in Jerusalem.

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Economic equality is an unconditional right http://972mag.com/economic-equality-is-an-unconditional-right/116664/ http://972mag.com/economic-equality-is-an-unconditional-right/116664/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:54:39 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116664 Right-wing ministers in Israel’s government are putting their own political interests over the economic and social needs of the country’s Arab citizens.

By Rawnak Natour and Abed Kanaaneh

A damaged section of the wall separating Lod’s Palestinian neighborhood of Pardes Shanir and the Jewish town of Nir Tzvi, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A damaged section of the wall separating Lod’s Palestinian neighborhood of Pardes Shanir and the Jewish town of Nir Tzvi, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Arab citizens of the State of Israel have suffered from discrimination by the establishment since the day the country declared independence in 1948, discrimination that is reflected in almost every aspect of their lives: land confiscation, discrimination in housing and employment, extreme disparities in health and educational services, and an absence of infrastructure and proper sources of funding for local government councils. This has given rise to serious problems such as poverty, violence and environmental harm. In recent years this historical discrimination has been joined by a series of racist and anti-democratic laws passed by the far-right government.

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Under these complex conditions, the present government, which we see as the most racist ever towards Arab citizens, recently approved an economic plan to support the Arab sectors of Israeli society. The plan has been described as historic and unprecedented, but has also aroused surprise and suspicion. As expected, reactions in Arab society were mixed, ranging from sweeping support to profound skepticism regarding the plan’s implementation and its real intentions.

Still, not a single official or member of the Arab establishment in Israel has opposed the plan unequivocally. Despite the many difficulties involved in approving it in a series of cabinet meetings, all in all it was welcomed.

The Israeli Right, on the other hand, had reservations about the plan and even opposed it. The objections were primarily rooted in the realization that the big difference between this and previous plans lies in the principle of introducing a change in the budgetary mechanisms on which it is based – as opposed to topical remedies like one-time grants, as was done in the past.

This important principle, that the entire system itself needs to be changed, along with the structures that created the institutionalized discrimination and disparities in the first place, is the main and most important message of the new plan, and that is why it also frightens opponents of equality and partnership. For years The Arab leadership, as well as Sikkuy and many other civil society organizations, have demanded the advancement of full equality in all areas of life by means of this principle.

Genuine equality cannot be achieved with one-time grants. Only a profound change in the very system that created the disparities, and even the use of affirmative action in certain areas, can create genuine equality over the long term. We are therefore pleased that this time around senior Finance Ministry officials and the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab Sector understood that, and insisted on it – even if in effect the plan is still partial and doesn’t deal with all the necessary areas.

Still, we will see the significant results of this plan only in the medium and long term. We believe that a change in the 15 budgeting mechanisms spelled out in the plan – including public transportation, informal education, day-care centers, industrial areas and infrastructure – will allocate about NIS 10 billion in the next five years, in addition to the NIS 2.1 billion designated to be transferred directly to the local councils. But that will take time and requires patience.

Applying public pressure

Yet we must not ignore the shortcomings and weaknesses of this plan, and should try to change them as soon as possible. Our next step in the struggle for equality is applying public, professional and legal pressure to expand the plan to the many areas that are still not included in it. Additionally, we will be watching closely to ensure the plan is fully will be implemented and that the local authorities receive what was promised to them.

Despite the declarations of various ministers about imposing conditions and stipulations on the plan’s implementation, we insist that it be implemented without stipulations – as it was planned and approved by the government. The professionals who created the plan did so out of concern for the future of Israel’s economy, and never imagined that elements of it would be made conditional on the conduct of Arab local authorities. Those professionals understand the urgent need to close gaps and the extent of the discrimination and underdevelopment in the local councils.

Statements by various right-wing ministers about conditioning the plan’s implementation, which arose only after the recent terror attack in Tel Aviv, are not related to the economic and social needs of Arab citizens or to the Israeli economy, but mainly to the political needs of the ministers themselves, who see the plan as a threat to their parliamentary future.

We will stand in the breach, and together with the professionals in the government ministries and in civil society, we will ensure that the plan is implemented – unconditionally and without reservations. It won’t solve all the problems of Arab society, and it will certainly take time, but the long road to equality of rights and resources to which the Arab public is entitled as a basic civil right, begins with these steps by this government, in spite of its infuriating and inciting attitude.

Rawnak Natour is Co-Executive Director of Sikkuy – the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality and Abed Kanaaneh is the co-director of Sikkuy’s Equality Policy Department.

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The best response to Israel’s new stop-and-frisk law: Stop showering http://972mag.com/the-best-response-to-israels-new-stop-and-frisk-law-stop-showering/116657/ http://972mag.com/the-best-response-to-israels-new-stop-and-frisk-law-stop-showering/116657/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 11:14:22 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116657 A new law in Israel gives police broad powers to search anyone in an area they say there’s a fear of ‘hostile terrorist activities.’ Or in other words: anywhere with a critical mass of Arabs. Here’s how to fight back.

By Fady Khoury

Israeli policemen search a Palestinian man at Damascus gate, in Jerusalem's old city, October 18, 2015. Israel set up checkpoints in the Palestinian neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem and mobilised hundreds of soldiers as a collective punishment after recent attacks by Palestinians. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli police search a Palestinian man at Damascus Gate, in Jerusalem’s Old City, October 18, 2015. Police set up checkpoints in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem after recent attacks by Palestinians. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

What does Israel’s new stop-and-frisk law mean? What should you do about it?

Prior to the new law, which was passed in the Knesset on Tuesday, police were authorized to search anyone without a warrant if they had reasonable suspicion (probable cause) that the person was carrying a weapon illegally (on their person or in their car), or was planning to commit a crime with a weapon.

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One can question what constitutes reasonable suspicion within that framework, but in short, at least there existed an objective element the officer needed to seek: a weapon. The suspicion that someone is carrying a weapon can’t just be made up, although we know there has always been an element of arbitrariness — after all, we are talking about the Israeli Police.

The “Stop and Frisk Law,” or its official name, the Authorities for Preserving Public Safety Law (Amendment No. 5 and Temporary Provision), 2016, adds to the existing law, and grants police officers the authority to search anyone without a warrant in order to determine whether they are in possession of a weapon, if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person is going to commit a violent crime against somebody else.

I can live with that. But a clause attached to the new amendment adds: “For the purposes of this amendment reasonable suspicion shall be, among others, if the person is acting aggressively in a public place, or employs verbal violence or threats, or acts alarmingly or otherwise frighteningly.” In other words: any behavior that might piss off a cop.

And yet that still doesn’t really raise a red flag for me, especially due to the fact that existing laws already grant broad powers to police. What does set off the alarm bells? Clause 6.B, titled “Police powers to conduct a body search of a person in a location thought to be a target for hostile terrorist activities.” The clause authorizes a police district commander to declare any area as one in which there is a real fear that “hostile terrorist activities” will take place, and then police can search people without having to satisfy a requirement of reasonable suspicion. What the law does is it replaces the necessity of reasonable suspicion about an individual with a suspicion about a group in a geographic area. That is tantamount to the authority to declare martial law geographically and temporally, which allows authorities to conduct arbitrary searches for weapons.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of familiarity with Israeli history to reach the conclusion that the powers granted by this new law won’t be limited to matters related to terrorism; it is likely that in any situation where enough Arabs gather to protest a war, policy, or anything else, we will see a police commander exercising the authorities granted by this law. Or, let’s imagine for a moment that a stabbing takes place in East Jerusalem, and suddenly entire neighborhoods are declared areas in which police can conduct arbitrary searches in accordance with the new law. (It should be self evident why that is problematic. I’m not going to even discuss the legitimacy – or lack thereof – of collective punishment.)

The solution

So what should one do? Unless, and until the law is successfully challenged in the Supreme Court, the only course of action is individualistic and should take the form of what I’ll call a “dignity redeeming protest.”

If you live in an area that has been declared, or which you expect might be declared as “an area thought to be a target for “hostile terrorist activities” because some event occurred there, any form of resistance to police officers exercising their new search powers will be futile and likely end with you spending the night in a prison cell.

The most non-violent way (or the least-violent way) I can think of is stink up whoever dares touching you. Be filthy. Really filthy. As filthy and stinky as you can get. That way, anybody who decides to touch you and your personal belongings will be forced to suffer your noxious wrath — a stink tax if you will. Do so until this, too, is outlawed by a law that defines it as obstructing a police officer carrying out his duties.

After all, if there’s one thing that could possibly mitigate the humiliation of being searched in the middle of the street for no legitimate reason, it’s having the knowledge that the person carrying out that search is dying for it to be over even more than you are.

Fady Khoury is a human rights lawyer and a doctoral candidate at Harvard Law School.

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‘Ethics c’tee mulls forcing treatment on hunger striking journalist’ http://972mag.com/ethics-committee-mulls-forced-treatment-for-hunger-striking-journalist/116643/ http://972mag.com/ethics-committee-mulls-forced-treatment-for-hunger-striking-journalist/116643/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 13:00:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116643 Palestinian reporter Muhammad al-Qiq has been on hunger strike for some 70 days in protest of his administrative detention — a tool Israeli authorities use to imprison people without charge or trial. Ethics committee considers treating him against his will.

By Yael Marom and Noam Rotem

Hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq (Facebook)

Hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq (Facebook)

The medical ethics committee at Emek Medical Center reportedly met on Thursday to discuss forcefully administering medical treatment to hunger striking Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq. Israel passed a law last summer allowing the force-feeding of hunger striking prisoners under some conditions, something that directly contradicts established medical ethics and international conventions. It has never been used.

Doctors at the Emek Medical Center reportedly sent two medical updates within the span of a few hours to the Supreme Court on Tuesday about the deterioration of Palestinian al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for some 70 days in protest of his administrative detention. In its ruling denying al-Qiq’s release last week, the Supeme Court said it would follow his health on a daily basis. The panel of three justices said that if his condition worsened, the State would need to revisit its position.

The journalist’s attorneys argued against him being held in administrative detention at all, but also that due to his medical state he could no longer be considered dangerous.

Israel uses administrative detention to imprison Palestinians, and sometimes Jews, without charge or trial. Administrative detention orders are generally for six months but can be renewed indefinitely. The only way administrative detainees can challenge their detention, aside from court challenges that almost always fail, is to go on hunger strike.

A number of Palestinians have won their release from Israeli administrative detention in recent years after lengthy hunger strike. Many have nearly died.

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who is on hunger strike in protest of his administrative detention, Tulkarem, West Bank, January 30, 2016. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who is on hunger strike in protest of his administrative detention, Tulkarem, West Bank, January 30, 2016. (Ahmad al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

One of al-Qiq’s attorneys, Jawad Boulus, head of the legal department at the Palestinian Prisoners Club, said that according to the second medical report submitted to the court on Tuesday, the hunger striking journalist is in tremendous pain and it will soon be too late to give him any meaningful medical treatment. His attorney, who visited al-Qiq on Thursday, said he looks like a “skeleton.”

Against the recommendation of his doctors, al-Qiq is reportedly refusing all medical treatment and tests and is not taking any dietary supplements. Earlier this week, al-Qiq’s attorneys reported that he had lost his ability to hear and 60 percent of his sight.

Al-Qiq, 33, from the West Bank village of Dura near Hebron, worked as a reporter for the Saudi news channel “Almajd.” He was arrested on the night of November 21, 2015 when Israeli soldiers arrested him at his home. He was not allowed to make contact with either his wife or his attorney for many days.

Al-Qiq began his hunger strike four days after the beginning of his interrogation, when the latter reportedly understood that his interrogation was politically motivated. Sources close to Al-Qiq state that he was interrogated for “journalistic incitement,” and when he refused to cooperate, he was put in administrative detention for a period of six months.

The Shin Bet claims he is a member of Hamas who was previously jailed several times due to his activities in the organization. His current detention, according to the Shin Bet, came following “founded suspicions of involvement in terror activities with Hamas.”

He has not been charge with committing a crime. His attorneys are not allowed to see the evidence being used to justify his continued administrative detention.

Israel is currently imprisoning without charge or trial hundreds of Palestinians and at least one Jewish Israeli. The authority to issue administrative detention orders is drawn from pre-state colonial laws that are only valid as long as Israel is officially in a state of emergency, which it has been continuously since its establishment in 1948.

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‘But you don’t look like an Arab’ http://972mag.com/but-you-dont-look-like-an-arab/116476/ http://972mag.com/but-you-dont-look-like-an-arab/116476/#comments Sun, 31 Jan 2016 18:08:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116476 Years of failed coexistence projects between Jews and Palestinians, which were always intended to show Jews that we too are human beings, made me realize that enough is enough.

By Muhammad Kabha

Palestinians, many of whom came from the West Bank, are seen in Haifa during the last day of the Eid al-Fitr, July 19, 2015. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Palestinians, many of whom came from the West Bank, are seen in Haifa during the last day of the Eid al-Fitr, July 19, 2015. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Years of failed coexistence projects between Jews and Palestinians, which were always intended to show Jews that we too are human beings, brought me to the conclusion that enough is enough.

On the day I first opened my eyes I met my dad’s Jewish friends. They were very nice. “Kiffi,” the blonde soldier who worked as a server in the wedding hall where my dad cooked, loved me. To this day, I remember how one day I went with him on errands throughout the town of Pardes Hannah. Kiffi let me play with his gun. When I was curious, he let me have my first gulp of beer. I was told by many that I was a good-looking but mischievous child. The compliments had an added value when they came from Jews. I never asked myself why.

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I had fun on the days when “al-Hawajeh” (“the mister”), my uncle’s friend, was supposed to visit us. There was a festive atmosphere in the house and the entire neighborhood knew it. Mom, grandma and the uncles would be busy preparing food starting in the morning. I would watch Dr. Yona eat from afar. I would sit there relaxed and satisfied when he complimented my grandmother on the food she had prepared.

Everyone was surprised by the ability of my uncle, the trader, to connect to Jews. He was always praised for it. He taught them at Kfar Hayarok, an agricultural youth village and boarding school near Tel Aviv, so he knew them well and knew how to win over their hearts.

During the olive harvest each year he would always bring labneh, za’atar, fresh-baked bread and olive oil to some of his Jewish friends’ homes. That’s how you do business with them, I deduced.

We watched the Israel-Jordan peace treaty signing on live television at our school. Just a year later, my friend Bader told me that Prime Minister Rabin had been murdered the night before. We didn’t study that day. We sat and mourned in our classroom, with its asbestos ceiling, broken windows and no door. “Ustaz” Afif, our music teacher, handed out the lyrics that began “Let the sun rise, and give the morning light,” and played the classic Israeli “Song for Peace” on his oud. We sang with him, we sang from our hearts. Tears dripped from my eyes every time I saw Israeli musician Aviv Geffen sing, “I am going to cry for you, be strong up there,” a song that became synonymous with Rabin’s death.

When I was 14 they took us to the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace at Givat Haviva to participate in a special project between my school and another school from the Jewish city of Bat Yam. Sivan’s green eyes and brown curls drew me in. We exchanged glances, I approached her smiling. She smiled back. I felt her classmate’s muscular shoulder push into my back. “Leave her alone, she has a boyfriend,” he whispered to me threateningly and furiously.

After a few introductory meetings at Givat Haviva, which took place entirely in Hebrew, it was time to visit each other in our homes. From the get-go we understood that there had been kids from Bat Yam who had refused to participate in the project. Furthermore, not everyone who came to the meetings at Givat Haviva agreed to the home visits. Including Sivan.

Nevertheless, the teachers asked us to host them like we know how to, the way it is customary in our culture. Khaled and I welcomed Dudu and Yossi at Khaled’s house. As is customary, Khaled’s mother cooked good Arab food. Dudu and Yossi weren’t afraid to come to our homes in the village — quite the opposite, they were very curious. They were surprised when they realized that we sleep on beds. They were even more surprised when they saw a computer in Khaled’s room. After mulling the question for a while, Dudu asked about the animals that are supposed to live with us in our homes.

When we went to Bat Yam two weeks later, they didn’t invite us to their homes. Instead they hosted us at their school where they prepared a special buffet of hummus, falafel, pastas, salads — and cake. When the school bell rang they all rushed home and left their guests at the school.

That’s how the coexistence project ended, the project in which our teachers and moderators unintentionally taught us it is our responsibility to prove that we, almost like our Jewish counterparts, are human beings. The coexistence project only made more apparent the master-slave dynamic created by the occupation. Until that day I had loved hearing the phrase: “But you don’t look Arab.” Not anymore.

Years later my boss sat across from me at the table where we ate at work. Her appetite was whet by the sight of the stuffed grape leaves that my mother prepared for me. She asked if my mother might cook for her because she and her family love Arab food. This time I knew what to say.

Muhammad Kahba is an activist with the Palestinian youth group, Al-Hiraq Al-Shababi. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Being a Mizrahi woman in the Left http://972mag.com/being-a-mizrahi-woman-in-the-left/116415/ http://972mag.com/being-a-mizrahi-woman-in-the-left/116415/#comments Sun, 31 Jan 2016 08:30:40 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116415 My leftism is beyond the establishment, and it stems first and foremost from my experiences as an outsider.

By Netta Amar-Shiff

My community did not include brothers of, parents of, or children of celebrities or political activists who went out to change the world. I was just another Mizrahi girl in the heart of the consensus. (Illustrative photo by Activestills.org)

My community did not include brothers of, parents of, or children of celebrities or political activists who went out to change the world. I was just another Mizrahi girl in the heart of the consensus. (Illustrative photo by Activestills.org)

I grew up in a house that was mostly involved in maintaining family unity and keeping the mitzvot, all within the geographical radius of my home, my synagogue, and my school. Although I never knew who or what Arabs were, I knew a little bit of Arabic, since I lived with my grandmother, may her memory be a blessing, for several years. When I was young knowledge of the language did not serve as a bridge for anyone in my neighborhood, since I lived in a Mizrahi ghetto, for all its beauty and hardships.

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My leftism did not come from Marx, Stalin, World War II, or the Holocaust, though I read many books about the latter as I grew up. My leftism stemmed neither from theories of universalism, humanism or pacifism nor from years-long knowledge of the occupation, or the public debate about the tension between Jewish and democratic. I read and learned about all these over the years.

My leftism is not committed to parties or organizations, although I do have political preferences and I have worked and volunteered with human rights organizations over the years. My leftism is not defiantly secular, although I have drifted away from religion while holding on to family traditions.

My leftism is beyond the establishment, and it stems first and foremost from my experiences as an outsider, even when I was deep in the Israeli-religious-Mizrahi experience. My leftism mainly stems from my very personal experiences of mourning, of my father whose life came to an end in a helicopter accident in the army. My leftist stems from a spring of Mizrahiness, with all its pain and humanity, but also with respect — respect for myself and others. All of these things became a part of me without ever knowing — whether from the home or from the community that surrounded me. My community did not include brothers of, parents of, or children of celebrities or political activists who went out to change the world. I was just another Mizrahi girl in the heart of the consensus.

I came to understand the Left only after I happened to meet others who identified, more or less, as leftists. I saw their pain and humanity, along with their Ashkenazi arrogance. But once I got to know them, I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t go back because getting to know them was conditioned on reading, learning, and always asking critical questions. I entered paradise and was struck with its wisdom. It wasn’t like I hadn’t read or found meaning in religious texts beforehand. It wasn’t like I hadn’t read Zionist texts that filled me with pride and a sense of purpose. This time was different — I was independent, reading the text like the outsider I was. The goal was to develop my own insights, while at the same time refusing to disconnect myself from my home. The goal was to open a door in my own world to words and concepts that helped explain my past experiences, places I had visited, pictures I had seen, and mostly why people like me could be both on the inside and the outside.

My community did not include brothers of, parents of, or children of celebrities or political activists who went out to change the world. I was just another Mizrahi girl in the heart of the consensus. (Illustrative photo by Activestills.org)

My community did not include brothers of, parents of, or children of celebrities or political activists who went out to change the world. I was just another Mizrahi girl in the heart of the consensus. (Illustrative photo by Activestills.org)

This language, made up of terms like “hierarchy of power,” “equal opportunities,” ” the denial and internalization of oppression,” “social justice,” and also — “end the occupation” and the right to self-determination for the “other”— could not be found anywhere but in the history of the Left. I don’t need the Right to love myself, my homeland, for the right to defend myself or oppose terrorism. These concepts are well-imbued in every human being.

Seeing the truth for what it is

As I read more and more I also met and listened to other women and men, those who I suddenly saw as standing with me, on the margins. All of a sudden we became a loving home for one another, even when we shed tears over differences of opinions. When we realized the meaning of power together, including those who have it and those who don’t. And this loving home cannot be forgotten. It cannot be abandoned. We must protect it from those who attack it.

I found myself demanding respect for other women, men, and myself. I understood that there are those who are respected more, and those who are respected less. And there, in this otherness I understood that this loving home was called the Left. This home did not belong to anyone specifically. This was my Left. I remembered those who I had met until then, those who were put behind a fence and became, like myself, outsiders. Because I had to see the humanity in those who were called subhuman by everyone. Beyond the slogans there are people who belong to a nation — and we cannot simply decide to see only some, and dismiss or forget the others.

It’s not like I don’t have firm opinions on how I would like this country to look, and it’s not like the answers are always easy. God may rest the soul but religions are also the source of misery for many, and Mizrahi identity is important but can also be used against Arabs. I am the outsider Left, the one that still believes in the ability of human beings to belong without ever losing our independent thinking or our understanding of power relations. Ever.

I believe that the greatest challenge for every 18-year-old in this divided country is to look seriously at all the political options and decide which one suits him or her to achieve a better future. Not only by hugging those who are already on the inside, but to go out and listen to the outsiders, a much more difficult act to take. By crossing the lines and not be those who mark them and name others the outsiders. There are those amazing people who do this within the home, and others who dare to do it outside of it, with their neighbors, beyond the home, school, and synagogue We must give our respect to all of them.

Those who made big changes in this world and in this country were either those who carried the sword or those who carried the banner of peace. Together or apart and sometimes by switching sides. I made a choice not innocently but looking straight forward the complex reality – the hopeful yet threatening one. I believe that we can change reality, not all at once, but only if there will be enough people willing to look that reality, and the people who make it, in the face and create a new one. Being a leftist in Israel today is not an easy choice, and it’s certainly far from joining the masses. Every leftist who is labeled an Israel-hater has a name. I do, so do you.

Netta Amar-Shiff is a human rights attorney. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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Netanyahu’s race-baiting was long-planned, not a ‘lapse in judgement’ http://972mag.com/netanyahus-race-baiting-was-long-planned-not-a-lapse-in-judgement/116313/ http://972mag.com/netanyahus-race-baiting-was-long-planned-not-a-lapse-in-judgement/116313/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 11:59:34 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116313 The prime minister’s Election Day warning that ‘Arabs are coming out in droves to the polls’ was the culmination of months of focus groups and a clear-eyed strategy from Likud operatives, a new Channel 2 report reveals.

By Mitchell Plitnick

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Benjamin Netanyahu gives a victory speech on election night, March 18, 2015. (Photo: +972 Magazine)

Controversial comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about heavy voter turnout in Israel’s Arab sector were not one-time mistakes but part of a broader strategy executed by the Likud campaign, a report broadcast Monday by Israel’s Channel 2 News demonstrated.

Netanyahu was heavily criticized, at home and abroad, for his last-minute plea for right-wing voters to support him at the polls in order to block Arab electoral strength. “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls,” Netanyahu declared in a video message broadcast on Facebook. “Left-wing organizations are busing them out.”

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The comment drew a rebuke from the Obama administration and Netanyahu expressed his “regret” in an apology to Israel’s Arab community after the election, casting the race-baiting remark as a simple lapse in judgment during a heated campaign.

But the new report by Amit Segal, a well-known religious and right-wing political commentator, casts a sharp and unflattering light on the last days of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign for re-election in 2015.

Segal describes a process, including polling and focus groups, which had shown the Likud that dealing with economic matters, or going after Bennett was not a winning strategy. Rather, their research had suggested that Likud does best when voters are afraid of the consequences of a left-wing victory and that the issue of security, being tough with relation to the conflict with the Palestinians, was Netanyahu’s greatest strength. Fear, in other words, was the best way for Likud to get votes.

An SMS sent out on Election Day: “Voter turnout triples in the Arab sector! The fear is coming true: Abu Mazen’s calls and American money are bringing the Arabs to the polls. Go vote!”

A text message sent out to millions of people on Election Day: “Voter turnout triples in the Arab sector! The fear is coming true: Abu Mazen’s calls and American money are bringing the Arabs to the polls. Go vote!”

For much of the campaign, Netanyahu and other leaders did not fully heed this advice. While they did focus on security, they did so in a way that looked more beyond the borders than within the country. Even when Netanyahu was using fear in his campaign, it was much more focused on external threats like ISIL, like in the ad reported on in this piece, casting Israel’s left wing and Arab voters as too weak to oppose such forces.

They also tried to engage with Bennett from the right and on the economy from the center. It was only on the last day that they employed their anti-Left and anti-Arab strategy to its fullest. As Segal writes, “Focus group results from three months earlier materialized at the end.”

Those focus groups led Likud campaigners to undertake a massive campaign of fear on Election Day. The fear of Arabs, and by implication, the involvement of Palestinian citizens of Israel in a government led by the Zionist Union, was used to drive right-wing voters to the polls and ensure that they would vote Likud rather than one of the other right-wing parties.

“At 11 a.m. on Election Day, it dawned on the Likud that they were trailing the Zionist Union,” Segal reports. “That was the signal to begin the bombardment. On Election Day alone, some five million text messages were sent…It cost eight million shekels more than they had planned, but to the Likud it was worth every penny.”

“On that last day,” Segal continued, “all the messages and status updates were on one subject. It was not about [Isaac] Herzog or [Jewish Home Leader Naftali] Bennett, but only about Arabs and the specter of the power of the Joint List (a mostly Arab coalition of parties).”

Segal reports that the messages sent included: “Voter turnout triples in the Arab sector,” “Arab residents of Be’ersheva vote en masse. Don’t let them appoint the ministers in the next government,” “Commentator Ehud Ya’ari on Channel 2 just now: Hamas calls on Arabs in Israel to get out and vote.”

At 8:00 p.m. that night, Israeli television projected the final exit polls. But, Segal reports, “In the next two hours between the end of projections and the actual closing of polls, a really dramatic thing happened: in the previous election, about 230,000 people voted between the hours of 8 and 10 p.m. In 2015, however, a huge turnout of almost 600,000 people flooded the polls—the vast majority, Likud voters.”

It’s clear from this report that, far from a simple, heat of the moment mistake, Netanyahu’s racist rhetoric was part of a strategy that was planned well in advance, one that was activated when the prime minister feared his re-election was slipping away.

Mitchell Plitnick is the vice president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Follow him on Twitter at @MJPlitnick.

Watch the full Channel 2 report:

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We need a center-left political alternative in Israel http://972mag.com/we-need-a-center-left-political-alternative-in-israel/116272/ http://972mag.com/we-need-a-center-left-political-alternative-in-israel/116272/#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2016 14:38:59 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116272 This is not a time for ideological purity. There is an overriding goal and that is ending the Occupation.

By Jeremiah Haber

Labor chairman Isaac Herzog (Photo by Activestills.org)

Labor chairman Isaac Herzog (Photo by Activestills.org). Instead of portraying the Zionist Camp as an alternative to Netanyahu, Herzog presents himself as just a more efficient leader with the same policies.

Since the election of Ehud Barak as prime minister in 1999, if not earlier, there has been no center-left in Israel. Of course, there has been something referred to as “center-left” but that was only relative to the so-called Right of the Likud, Kadima, Shinui, Yesh Atid, and defunct parties whose names I forget. Former prime minister Ehud Barak managed almost single-handedly to destroy the center-left, which had supported recognition of the rights of the Palestinians to self-determination, and which had viewed moderate Israelis and Palestinians as partners for peace against the extremists of both sides. With Barak, even before the total collapse of the peace process, the motivation for a settlement with the Palestinians was to separate the populations, to keep the West Bank and Gaza under direct security and indirect economic control of Israel, and to grant limited autonomy to Palestinians. Barak’s views differed little from Netanyahu, which explains in part his ability to serve as defense minister in Netanyahu’s government.

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The Barak Doctrine was simple: separation from the Palestinians (“We are here; they are there”); Israeli security and economic control over the West Bank and Gaza; limited Palestinian autonomy with Israel’s security being contracted out, in part, to the Palestinian Authority. Israel would help facilitate, or at least would not stand in the way, of Palestinian economic growth in areas that did not threaten the Israeli economy. The difference, perhaps, between Barak and Netanyahu was the extent of expansion into the West Bank they thought possible. Both were willing to allow settlements — even outside the settlement blocs — to grow without taking steps to curb them.

The Barak Doctrine should now be known as the Herzog Doctrine; in fact, I cannot see any difference between them. From Barak’s Labor Party to Herzog’s Zionist Union, there has been a consistent vision of the status quo and the endgame; the party’s criticisms against the Right have generally been more of style than of substance. Herzog has often criticized Netanyahu for alienating Israel’s allies, and for his relying on the extreme right wing. Instead of presenting the Zionist Camp as an ideological alternative to the Likud and the other right-wing parties, he has presented himself as a more effective political leader than Bibi. He will do what Bibi would like to do, only better – because he will do it with the understanding of the U.S. and Europe.

Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog meets with EU Foreign Policy Chief Frederica Mogherini in Jerusalem, May 20, 2015. (EU Photo)

Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog meets with EU Foreign Policy Chief Frederica Mogherini in Jerusalem, May 20, 2015. (EU Photo)

It is the failure of the Zionist Camp to offer a center-left alternative that has led people like Haaretz’s owner, Amos Schocken, to suggest that only international intervention will preserve the State of Israel. Were there to be a center-left, even were it to be in the opposition, Schocken would not have written his powerful piece.

So one should not blame the left-wing activists, intellectuals, and journalists who call for international intervention, or who display Israel’s human rights abuses for all the world to see, for the demise of Israel’s center-left. That is getting the story backwards. Were the Zionist Camp to offer a party around which people could rally – not because the party doesn’t like Bibi and the right wing, but because it doesn’t like his vision and his policies – then there would be an address for political action within Israel. Even the so-called extreme left would support it, as it supported Rabin in the early stages of Oslo.

Can there be a center-left political alternative in Israel? Some people think that it is not possible. I am not sure, but I don’t think giving up on it is a good idea. For the Palestinians to achieve even partial liberty, for the current phase of the Occupation to end, there must be a political constituency in Israel that articulates a different vision from that of the Likud and its various imitator policies.

Personally, I cannot accept the ideology of even a reformed, progressive, Zionist Left. But I can recognize its practical importance in the evolution of Israeli thinking toward the Palestinians. So any steps that are taken to create a real ideological and political alternative to the anti-Palestinian Center should have the support not only of the Zionist Left, but of all people who want justice for the Palestinians.

This is not a time for ideological purity. There is an overriding goal and that is ending the Occupation, and bringing justice and security to the Palestinian people. For this to happen, there must be at least three things: a strong Palestinian movement; a strong Israeli political movement advocating for change; and international incentives and pressure, including boycotts and sanctions. These three groups will have different aims, and they certainly will not be coordinated. For example, the Israeli political movement cannot and should not call for international intervention. But it has the obligation of warning the Israeli public of that intervention.

There has to be an Israeli political movement that is truly center-left. I don’t know how or whether that will come about. But I can tell you right now, I will support it, despite any skepticism I may have.

Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber is the nom de plume of an Orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor, who divides his time between Israel and the United States. This post was originally published on his blog, The Magnes Zionist.

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Hunger striking Palestinian journalist accuses hospital of forced treatment http://972mag.com/hunger-striking-palestinian-journalist-accuses-hospital-of-treating-him-against-his-will/116235/ http://972mag.com/hunger-striking-palestinian-journalist-accuses-hospital-of-treating-him-against-his-will/116235/#comments Sun, 24 Jan 2016 15:45:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116235 Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq, who began his hunger strike 60 days ago, claims hospital staff have been forcing him to receive liquids intravenously against his will.

By Noam Rotem (translated by Einat Adar)

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the journalist Muhammad Al-Qiq, 33, who has been on hunger strike for 36 days in Israeli prisons, since Israeli forces arrested him from his home last month, Nablus, West Bank, December 31, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz)

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the journalist Muhammad Al-Qiq, 33, who has been on hunger strike for 36 days in Israeli prisons, since Israeli forces arrested him from his home last month, Nablus, West Bank, December 31, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz)

In Afula’s Haemek Medical Center, a 33-year-old Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq is being shackled to his bed 24 hours a day. Next to him stand two prison guards. Although it is unclear what he is being accused of, al-Qiq was put under administrative detention and violently interrogated for weeks without being allowed to see a lawyer. After realizing that his arrest was political, al-Qiq declared a hunger strike. Sixty days have passed since he began refusing food, and according to those around him, his life is in danger.

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It is reasonable to assume that most people have never heard of al-Qiq or his struggle against his arbitrary arrest, a struggle that is ongoing despite the fact that the state has not charged him with a crime. Perhaps it is because his name is Muhammad, or perhaps it is because he is Palestinian and this is just the kind of thing that happens to Palestinians under Israeli military rule. Whatever the reason, al-Qiq is slowly dying in a hospital in Afula and the media takes no interest.

Al-Qiq and his attorney, Samer Sam’an, claim that the doctors at Haemek Medical Center are forcing him to receive liquids through an IV. According to Sam’an, who visited him on January 18 on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), al-Qiq’s feet and hands were tied to the bed while the guards held him down and a staff member forcefully injected liquids into his arm through an IV. Al-Qiq was kept in this state for four days; only on the fifth day was he allowed to remove the IV and shower.

According to al-Qiq, the medical staff put heavy pressure on him to take liquid food two weeks ago, and only ceased after his attorney intervened in the matter.

Medical staff at hospitals are committed to certain ethical rules. The actions allegedly undertaken by the staff at Haemek Medical Center violate these rules and raise serious concerns about violations of medical ethics.

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the journalist Muhammad Al-Qiq, 33, who has been on hunger strike for 36 days in Israeli prisons, since Israeli forces arrested him from his home last month, Nablus, West Bank, December 31, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz)

Palestinians demonstrate in solidarity with the journalist Muhammad Al-Qiq, 33, who has been on hunger strike for 36 days in Israeli prisons, since Israeli forces arrested him from his home last month, Nablus, West Bank, December 31, 2015. (photo: Ahmad Al-Bazz)

PHR claim the alleged administration of medical treatment against al-Qiq’s will violates several rules, treaties and agreements, including the Patient’s Rights Law — which requires a conscious agreement by the patient in order to undertake treatment. Since al-Qiq was fully conscious during the four days he was forcefully treated, there is concern that the physicians’ actions violate the law and even amount to abuse. For instance, the Malta Declaration forbids using pressure to end a hunger strike, as well as forced treatment; the Istanbul Protocol places special emphasis on a willing and conscious agreement by the patient to every treatment and examination he/she undergoes.

Add to these the passive, and by al-Qiq’s testimony, active cooperation of hospital physicians — which includes the shackling of a weak and helpless person to his bed — and you get a bleak picture of how Haemek Medical Center is treating a patient in its care.

The hospital’s ethics committee, which is supposed to decide whether or not to force feed al-Qiq, announced that “force feeding has never been performed in this hospital and we have no wish or intention to do so.” This resolution will be put to the test following a decision by the Ofer Military Court to deny an appeal against al-Qiq’s arrest. Al-Qiq’s lawyers are now preparing a petition to the High Court of Justice, which will likely be submitted in the next few days.

Al-Qiq, from the West Bank village of Dura near Hebron, works as a reporter for the Saudi news channel “Almajd.” He was arrested on the night of November 21, 2015 when Israeli soldiers blew up the front door of his house and took him in for interrogation at Israel’s Kishon (Jalame) detention center. He was not allowed to make contact with either his wife or his attorney for many days.

Al-Qiq began his hunger strike four days after the beginning of his interrogation, when the latter understood that his interrogation was politically-motivated. Sources close to Al-Qeeq state that he was interrogated for “journalistic incitement,” and when he refused to cooperate, he was put in administrative detention for a period of six months, which can be renewed indefinitely.

Al-Qiq’s hunger strike has thus far been answered with silence from all sides. The Israeli media is silent, while the Palestinian Authority’s prisoner organizations are not going out of their way to cover the strike as they did with previous detainees — possibly because Al-Qiq is a known critic of the PA, and they want to avoid turning him into a martyr.

The Shin Bet claims he is a member of Hamas who was previously jailed several times due to his activities in the organization. His current arrest, according to the Shin Bet, came following “founded suspicions of involvement in terror activities with Hamas.”

The criticism of the alleged actions of physicians at Haemek Medical Center, who took part in the attempt to break the spirit of a hunger striker by forcing treatment on him, should not obscure the original reason for the hunger strike: administrative detention. This is an extrajudicial tool that allows Shin Bet agents to take away freedoms without ever having to press charges, present evidence, or give the accused an opportunity to defend him or herself against arbitrary arrest.

Despite repeated attempts to obtain a response from the Israeli Medical Association, the organization has so far chosen not to answer our questions regarding the hospital’s alleged violation of ethics.

Noam Rotem is an Israeli activist, high-tech executive and author of the blog o139.org, subtitled “Godwin doesn’t live here any more.” A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is also a blogger. Read it here.

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In the Jewish state, equality for Arabs is impossible by definition http://972mag.com/in-the-jewish-state-equality-for-arabs-is-impossible-by-definition/116225/ http://972mag.com/in-the-jewish-state-equality-for-arabs-is-impossible-by-definition/116225/#comments Sun, 24 Jan 2016 12:34:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=116225 Isn’t it time to finally ask why every single attempt to achieve full equality for Palestinian citizens has failed?

By Umar al-Ghubari (translated by Richard Flantz)

Palestinian citizens of Israel stand on a car during clashes in Umm al Fahem, Israel, October 27, 2010. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinian citizens of Israel stand on a car during clashes in Umm al Fahem, Israel, October 27, 2010. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

This week the Israeli army radio, Galei Tzahal, conducted a survey which, among other things, polled the attitude of Israeli Jews regarding full equal rights for Arab citizens of Israel. The results of the survey, conducted among 503 Jews, revealed that the Jewish public in this country is almost equally divided on this issue. 45 percent oppose full equal rights for the state’s Arab citizens, 43 percent are in favor, 6 percent replied “it depends” (it’s unclear on what) and six percent do not know their position on this.

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Two interesting points arise from the way this survey was conducted. First, in a militaristic society like Israel, it is not surprising that an army radio station intervenes in the civil realm without question, reflecting the clear overlap between (Jewish) civil society and the military in Israel. Secondly, those conducting the survey only asked Jews, and are thus acting on the idea that Jews in this country have the sole authority to determine whether and how equal the Arab can be. By doing so they continue to shape public opinion such that it is completely natural that Jews have the final word.

68 years of failure

Because of these deeply-rooted conceptions, which stem from the very definition of the state as the state of the Jewish people, there is no chance of achieving equality in the State of Israel — even if the results of the survey were to show that a large majority of Jews supported equality in principle. This is not just about what people want, it is a question of whether it is even possible. The State of Israel, with its self-definition, its mission, the way it was established, its priorities, its symbols, name and national anthem, cannot — even if it wanted to — bring about equality between Jews and non-Jews.

The state of the Jews is by necessity a racist state. It cannot be anything else. This is structured and rooted in its very definition. It was founded on Jewish privilege, supremacy and sovereignty, and many of its laws were legislated and many of its goals were formulated on the basis of giving preference to its Jewish citizens.

Since the establishment of the state, Palestinian citizens, as well as a small portion of the Jewish citizens, have struggled to achieve equality for “Israel’s Arabs.” We can assume that some of the leaders of the state indeed believed in equality as a value. But the outcome has only been 68 years of failure. Discrimination continues while equality seems very far away. Is it possible that all these people failed because they weren’t good enough, or talented enough, or resolute enough?

Isn’t it time, after all these years, to ask what doesn’t work? What makes all attempts at equality fail?

Palestinians citizens of Israel shout slogans during a protest against the Prawer-Begin plan, Jaffa, November 28, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians citizens of Israel shout slogans during a protest against the Prawer-Begin plan, Jaffa, November 28, 2013. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

What haven’t they tried and what haven’t they invested in? Energy, time, discussions, speeches, promises, meetings, demonstrations, arrests, violence, people killed, people wounded, strikes, assemblies, reporting, research studies, committees, High Court injunctions, recommendations, resolutions, plans and even budgets, but equality hasn’t come. Nor will equality come. Because how can you do two contrary things — discriminate while guaranteeing equality — at the same time?

In a state that defines itself, for example, as the state of men, women will never be equal — even if their equality is enshrined in the first paragraph of its declaration of independence. A state that is, from the outset, established for whites will never manage to secure equality for blacks, even if it claims to do so. Even if its white leaders negotiate with the black leaders, even if they speak together and declare that they are determined to achieve equality and co-existence between blacks and whites in the state of the whites, they won’t succeed. The discriminatory foundation upon which the state is based is stronger than any plan or any budget. This is what is happening to the Palestinians in the state of the Jews, which in addition to its racist self-definition insists on preserving an overwhelming Jewish majority at any price, which means keeping the Arabs as a minority on the margins at any price. It shows that turning the Palestinians into a minority in the state was not accidental, and certainly was not the result of circumstance. This is a practical translation of the meaning of a Jewish state.

Its name too, Israel, is a reflection of this conception. Those who chose the name of the state created the deliberate exclusion and alienation of the citizens who are not connected to “Israel,” the great-grandfather of the tribe of Israelites. How could anyone outside this tribe possibly feel they belong or are equal? How abusive is it to forcibly impose an Israeli identity on Palestinians who have just been defeated by the Israelis? And today they’re even being required to not only be Israelis, but to be “Israelis all the way,” as the Prime Minister recently stated.

Change the ideology, not the strategy

Equality in the state of the Jews is unattainable, and the struggle to achieve such equality if a futile one. Even if you will it, it will remain a dream. It’s an illusion. Even if there will be an Arab prime minister in Israel who will operate according to its laws, self-definition and goals as they are today, it would not bring about equality for the Arabs. Because the failure is determined from the outset. It is engraved in the definition of the state and embedded in the character of the regime. This is the meaning of Jewish rule. Those who in the course of 68 years have not built a single Arab town and at the same time have built hundreds of towns for Jews, and those who created a budget nine times greater for Jewish students than for Arab ones cannot claim that this happened by mistake or due to inattention, nor as the result of neglect or a failure of policy. This is a worldview. This is an ideology. After all, it is clear that a Jew is preferred over an Arab here, and it is clear that this will find expression in every sphere of life: in the state’s budgets, in the attitude of the police, in security checks at the airfields, in the master plans, in the railway lines, etc.

To eliminate discrimination and change the power relations between Jews and Arabs toward real equality, it is necessary to give up on the ideology that produces inequality. Those who carry the banner of the struggle need to change direction and to demand the establishment of a truly democratic political framework — one that will not give preference to one race over another. This will pave the way for a struggle that has a chance of implementing the principle of equality. Full equality, not as a gesture or nicety on the part of the majority – regardless of who the majority is — and not as a prize for good behavior on the part of the minority, regardless of who the minority is. Equality without without reservations, which eliminates the equation of rulers and ruled, occupiers and occupied, expellers and expelled.

That is where the struggle has to go.

Umar al Ghubari is group facilitator, a political educator, and he documents and photographs the Palestinian Nakba. This article was first published published in Hebrew on Local Call — read it here.

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