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Remembering the history Israel swept aside in 1948

In the late 19th century, travelers on the long road from Jaffa to Jerusalem could stop at a rest station to relax and have a cup of (overpriced) coffee. This past, and the story of Jerusalem opening itself to the world, has been lost in the Zionist retelling of history.

By Yonathan Mizrachi

There is an ongoing debate in Israel over whether an Ottoman-era site along the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway should commemorate the actions in 1948 of the late, deeply controversial Rehavam Ze’evi, or the Harel Brigade of the Palmach, the pre-state incarnation of the Israel Defense Forces. But the inn at Bab al-Wad, or Sha’ar Hagai in Hebrew, has a pre-Israeli and pre-military past that has been brushed over in the debate.

Built in 1869 by the Ottoman government, the inn was intended as a rest station on the route from Jaffa to Jerusalem; the journey was made by carriage on a dirt road, and took at least 12 hours. The Turks built the inn as part of their efforts to improve the conditions for travelers on the route after many years of neglect, and its construction attests to the significant political and cultural changes that the land — and in particular Jerusalem — underwent in the second half of the 19th century.

The same period was also marked by the increasing involvement of world powers in the Holy Land, with more and more representatives from European countries arriving for short- and long-term stays. The number of tourists and pilgrims also jumped, and that same route from Jaffa to Jerusalem, renovated by the Ottomans and with the Bab al-Wad inn beside it, became the major highway it is today in Israel, which is once again under renovation.

The work on the route back then included widening the road and establishing refreshment and rest stations along it. Bab al-Wad was the first such station, with a stable and water well on the first floor and a cafe on the second floor, which was later joined by a hostel. Written sources describe free parking at the inn, although patrons were required to purchase an exorbitantly-priced coffee — meaning that even back then, the idea of charging astronomical sums in the middle of nowhere was an accepted one.

Bab al-Wad was managed by various Jewish families who had to pay taxes to the Turkish district governor. But the laying...

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The unknown history of the Palestinian school funded by an Iraqi Jew

Ellis Kadoorie hoped that by establishing an agricultural school in Tulkarm, he would be helping to educate and improve the conditions of Palestinians and Jews alike. Little did he know it would become a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

By Tamar Novick and Arie M. Dubnov

The Kadoorie Agricultural School holds a special place in Israeli national memory; a second home for figures like the poet of the 1948 war, Haim Gouri, the future generals Yigal Allon and Yitzhak Rabin, and many of the Palmach generation, the school is seen as the spiritual soil from which sprouted the mythological Sabra. “Kadoorie was more than just an educational institution,” wrote Allon in his memoir; it was an “educational and life-forging structure,” which molded the character of its students. With the passing years, many students became leading commanders of the Israeli Defense Forces in its first years, and their manners, clothes, speech acts, and celebrated “straightforwardness” supplied the associations and images through which the ideal of the “1948 generation” was constructed.

This generation’s presence in Israeli society only grew stronger as new generations followed. Yosef Milo, who directed the classic Israeli film “He Walked Through the Fields” (1967), pushed this point home in his take on Moshe Shamir’s novel, which tells the story of a paratrooper who upon his return from the battlefield in the Golan Heights, is seen paying a visit to the principal of Kadoorie Agricultural School on his way home to his kibbutz. The new Uri, a brave soldier of the Six Day War, is shown standing in the principal’s office, looking at a wall covered with photos of famous graduates, including that of the old Uri, the mythological Palmachnik who died at war. The choice of Assi Dayan, the son of the one-eyed general Moshe Dayan, for the role of the conflicted and feisty Uri, was not accidental, and established a connection between the generation of the sons and that of the combatant-fathers. The choice of the Kadoorie School as the filming site was also significant. This cinematic act concluded, in fact, the process of turning the school into what historian Pierre Nora calls “a site of memory” (lieu de mémoire) — that is, a space or physical object that codifies, sums up, and anchors national memory.

Rothschilds of the East

Yet only very few Jewish Israelis know about the existence of a twin school, also named after Kadoorie, located in the West Bank...

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A tunnel in the service of nationalism

Israeli politicians use problematic archeological findings to drum up support for exclusionary nationalist narratives under East Jerusalem.

By Yonathan Mizrahi

“I didn’t think I would be so excited,” said Culture Minister Miri Regev. “Mr. President Obama, I am standing here on the path that my forefathers walked 2,000 years ago. There is not another nation on earth that has such an attachment to its country. Not the Ukrainians, not the New Zealanders, not the English. There is not a nation on earth that has a connection to its land like the Jewish people do to the Land of Israel.”

Regev said these words in East Jerusalem at the opening ceremony for “Olei Ha’regel” (“The Pilgrims”) in the City of David — a network of tunnels that have been dug over the past few years under the Palestinian village of Silwan. The goal of the ceremony was to mark 50 years since the unification of Jerusalem, to strengthen Jewish settlements in the eastern part of the city and rally its supporters — from under the ground — with political declarations against the Jewish people’s token enemy (in this case, Obama).

From below the ground it is so easy to forget the crowded, derelict village that for years has been struggling for basic rights. The tunnels, which were dug by the Israel Antiquities Authority for settler organization Elad, expose parts of an ancient street that, according to the diggers as well as the politicians who frequently attend ceremonies at the site, dates back to the Second Temple period. During these ceremonies, politicians tend to speak about the right of the Jewish people to its land. The two politicians present at this ceremony — Miri Regev and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who these days is running a campaign to lead the Likud party from the mayor’s office — focused on this historical connection in order to justify the occupation. They argued that the entire world needs to come see the remains of the streets, which are surely enough to prove to whom this country truly belongs.

But the Roman street that was dug was a main road on which many walked — not only Jews. It was a busy place that did not necessarily have much to do with holiness or Judaism — yet these aspects of daily life aren’t good enough for the politicians. The street that was exposed in Silwan is...

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Israel opens files on disappeared Yemenite children. But is it enough?

The declassification of hundreds of thousands of documents on one of the most chilling and tragic chapters in Israeli history is a victory for Mizrahi activists. But many files, including on alleged kidnappings of Yemenite children, are still out of reach for the public.

Yemenite children's affair.

Israel’s State Archives last week released over 200,000 previously classified documents on to the disappearance of Yemenite children during the early years of Israeli statehood. The documents, which were supposed to be declassified only in 2031, have now been made accessible on the state archives website.

The declassified documents provide us with an opportunity to gain some insight into the atmosphere that surrounded the now famous Cohen-Kedmi Commission, which was established in 1995 to investigate the disappearance of hundreds of newborn Jewish babies — including allegations of kidnappings — most of them children to immigrants from Yemen to the nascent state of Israel between 1948 and 1954.

Beyond the heartbreaking stories of disappeared children, the documents also allow us to better understand the power relations between the commission’s investigators and the testifiers, as well as between the Zionist establishment and the new immigrants during the years of the disappearances.

Haokets sat down with Racheli Said, an activist with Amram, an NGO that has been fighting for the state to open up its archives on the Yemenite Children Affair — and which actively documents hundreds of cases of missing children — to discuss the significance of the state’s decision.

After such a long struggle to open the archives, do you consider last week a historic one? Was it a victory?

This was a huge step for the struggle, for the families, and for civil society in general. The first serious step that was taken toward recognition and understanding of the injustices that took place here. Until now, many families had not seen the documents that led to the commission’s conclusion, and were supposed to be classified for dozens more years. Once you see them with your own eyes, you can understand what happened here. This is information that needs to be available to the public — these are things that were done here, they are part of this state’s history. There is no need...

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Bid to expel Arab Knesset member an ominous sign of what's to come

After a year in which the government incited against Arab society and the media pandered to the Right’s agenda, the attempt to expel Joint List MK Basel Ghattas points to a worrying future.

By Abed Abu Shehada

When the Knesset passed the so-called “expulsion law” last summer, widely seen as targeting Arab lawmakers, many believed it didn’t matter, because no vote on expelling a member of the Knesset would reach the two-thirds majority (90 MKs) needed. They also said it was the media’s role to be objective and to cover the news reliably, so as not to become a tool in the hands of the government against its opponents.

But in the past few days, the exact opposite has happened: the media has mobilized and created a wall-to-wall consensus along with lawmakers from the Left and Right, who are working to expel Joint List MK Basel Ghattas — accused of smuggling cell phones to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails — from the Knesset. On Wednesday, the Knesset House Committee voted to strip Ghattas of his parliamentary immunity. They are setting an example for the rest of the Arab Knesset members — that if they don’t toe the line, they too will be out. 

The suspicions against Ghattas, who is a member of the Balad faction in the Joint List, first came to light on Sunday, when the police and Israel Prison Service (IPS) announced that they suspected him of passing cellphones and slips of paper to political prisoners. Ynet reported that Ghattas was “already being followed when he arrived at the prison” because the IPS’ intelligence unit had been tipped off that he was planning to smuggle phones to security prisoners. The next day, it was claimed that Ghattas had already gone underground and heavy hints were dropped about his family ties to former MK Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel after being accused of espionage and passing information to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In one article after another journalists are forgetting to note that they’ve received false reports, such as that of Ghattas fleeing, rather than appearing for questioning as he was ordered to. Or they suggest that they have already figured out what is happening inside the party, despite the party itself not yet knowing.

Most bizarre of all is that no one cares that Ghattas never...

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Syrian blood is worth no less than Palestinian blood

It is time to boycott all Palestinian leaders in Israel who support Assad’s war crimes or do not publicly take a stand against them.

By Marzuq Al-Halabi

There is not much left to say about Aleppo. But there is still much left to say about the campaign of destruction of the city. The disaster befalling the city has many faces, some of them reach me, in my office, especially as the descendent of a family who lived in Kufr Rum, one of the small villages surrounding the city. Every aspect of the destruction deserves its own comment:

1. According to reports coming out of Aleppo, a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing is taking place in the eastern part of the city, under the guise of humanitarian help. The Sunni population is being uprooted and sent to hell, after four years of living through the murderous attacks by the regime, Russia, Iran, and 50 well-armed militias under the control of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Ayatollah Khamenei. Ethnic cleansing also took place in many other places in Syria — in Al-Qusayr near the border with Lebanon, in Darayya near Damascus, etc. Ethnic cleansing is always accompanied with massacres, whether out in the open or the kind in which mass graves are unearthed in the days or weeks to come. According to reports, the forces fighting on behalf of the regime have “no God,” and are massacring the armed rebels and the civilian population in order to sow fear and force them to “flee willingly.”

2. It is now obvious that Bashar al-Assad has become a tool in the hands of two powers: Iran, which is looking for a direct passage to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean — in order to ensure a Shiite presence in a Sunni-majority area (and as part of a stated plan whose goal is to control strategic areas near the sea in the region) — and Russia, which has adopted a brutal doctrine vis-a-vis the countries and nations that surround it. Both these powers, along with China, have laid the diplomatic groundwork for the atrocities that we have seen in Syria since 2011, in which they have taken an active role. This has paralyzed the UN Security Council, and subsequently created the conditions for the massacres we are seeing in Aleppo.

3. The tragedy of Aleppo is an expression of the helplessness of the contemporary world and its...

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Towards a new understanding of Arab-Jewish culture

The severed ties between Arab-Jewish culture and the wider history and culture of Judaism and the Arab world are being repaired by a groundbreaking new university degree in Israel.

By Hadas Shabat-Nadir and Almog Behar

In the 1950s, Professor Shlomo Dov Goitein suggested establishing a chair of Arab-Jewish culture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. But what place does Arabic-Jewish culture have at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem? What does a school for Jewish studies have to do with Arab-Jewish tradition? Or with a course on Arabic literature, classical Arabic from the pre-Islamic period, the Quran and the Caliphate, and the Judeo-Arabic language?

Professor Goitein’s suggestion was rejected in line with the spirit of the age and its desire to build a west-facing Hebrew-Jewish-Zionist-Israeli national culture, while in parallel engaging in classical studies of Arabic and Judaism. Neither of these topics gave much standing to Arab-Jewish heritage, either as a language, a culture, or a linguistic-theological dialogue that stretched over many years — and in particular not to the later Arab-Jewish culture that came after the expulsion from Spain.

Like in Goitein’s time, the encounter between Jewish and Arab culture today can seem strange, threatening or undesirable. But with a 60-year delay, we are now in the founding year of the Program for Arab-Jewish Cultural Studies as a bachelor’s degree, which will begin in October 2017 at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva and at Tel Aviv University.

We began our studies around 15 years ago in various literature courses. We gradually noticed two things: a lack of academic engagement with Mizrahi literature in Israel, and a fixed discussion that featured Mizrahi representation solely in relation to Israeliness and Zionism, while being disconnected from the writing and tradition of the past. We also felt a lack of connection and continuity between the different creative works of Jews from across the Arab, Muslim and Ottoman worlds — whether between religious and secular, between Jewish languages (e.g. Judeo-Arabic, Ladino, Judeo-Persian etc) and Hebrew, or between Rabbinic and modern Hebrew.       

Literary works from entire periods of Eastern Jewish history, such as the lengthy stretch between the Spanish Golden Age and the beginning of the 20th century, have disappeared and are barely taught in literature courses. Even major works such as those of Rabbi Israel ben Moses...

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Silencing our mosques is the next stage in our dispossession

Moti Yogev’s ‘muezzin law’ is yet another step toward creating a public atmosphere that could lead to expelling Arabs from Israel.

By Abed Abu Shehadeh

As it does every year, the sounds of the muezzin reached the Knesset this past week. Last time it was Yisrael Beiteinu’s Anastasia Michaeli who brought the “muezzin law” before the Knesset; this time it was MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home). The dangerous bill, which was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, leaves little room for the imagination: “Houses of worship will be forbidden from using loudspeakers to call the worshippers to prayer or to transmit religious, national or sometimes inciting messages.” Yogev is the same member of Knesset who cares so much about the public interest that he previously proposed bulldozing Israel’s High Court of Justice. After all, why would the public need to defend itself from the tyranny of the regime once Yogev’s Jewish Home party gets into power?

Cynicism aside, time and again we have heard these kinds of remarks by Jewish Home MKs, and each time we have been astounded by the degree of ignorance and cruelty that has come to characterize the party: from Bezalel Smotrich, who does not believe a single Arab passed the psychometric entrance exams, to Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who gloated about killing Arabs during his military career.

Regardless of the ease with which we automatically pay attention to their comments, this law could not have even been proposed in the first place had it not received widespread public support, as part of a continuing attempt by Jewish Israeli society to mold the public sphere in its image. Or as Yogev put it: for the sake of “the quality of life of the state’s citizens” (as a military man, Yogev must know that should the bill pass, there would be massive demonstrations across the country that could actually harm the public’s “quality of life”). Therefore, it is clear to all that the main impetus for such a law is the feeling of supremacy of Israel’s Jewish citizens, such that the only their religious symbols are acceptable.

What is astounding to Arab society about this public discussion is not that we were caught off guard, but rather that the entire is issue is foreign to us: in Jaffa, especially in the Arab neighborhoods, there exists an Arab social fabric that includes both Christians and Muslims. Never did we imagine Jaffa...

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200 Israeli cultural icons call to release Palestinian poet under house arrest

Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour has been in Israeli custody for over a year — all for publishing a poem against the occupation.

On October 11, 2015, Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour was arrested by Israeli police during a night raid on her home in the village Al-Reineh, near Nazareth. On November 2, 2015, an Israeli court indicted her for incitement to violence. At the center of the indictment was a poem Tatour wrote in protest of the killing of Muhammad Abu KhdeirHadeel al-Shalamon, and members of the Dawabshe family in Duma. The indictment cites the full translation of the song, which was edited by an officer who has no prior experience in translation or poetry. Even according to the translation — which is fully of inaccuracies, most of them giving the poem an extremist tone — there is a call to resist the occupation, but there is no incitement to violence.

Dareen spent three months imprisoned in various jails. After that she was transferred to house arrest far from her home, where she was forced to live with an ankle monitor and under severe restrictions. After more than half a year exiled from home, and only after numerous court hearings, was Dareen allowed to continue her house arrest in Al-Reineh (she was forced to continue wearing the ankle monitor and is not allowed to use the internet). She cannot work, and even in the six hours that she is allowed to leave her home, she must be accompanied by “overseers.” This cruelty continues all because she dared to publish a poem.

A situation in which a poet is arrested and put on trial for writing a poem contradicts the very foundations of democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of artistic expression. Over a year has passed since Tatour’s arrest, and over the past few months we have organized two events, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Haifa, in order to demonstrate against the criminal policy taken against an Israeli citizen.

The treatment of Dareen Tatour by the authorities expresses a policy of severe discrimination vis-a-vis Palestinian citizens’ freedom of expression. The attempt to present legitimate political protest as a criminal act prevents the possibility of honest discourse, and is intended to block dialogue between Jews and Arabs. The protest against Tatour’s persecution has spread throughout the world, turning her from an anonymous poet into...

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Israel's Black Panthers remind us what their struggle was about

Back in the 1970s, the deep socioeconomic divide between Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews in Israel led to a massive protest movement and the rise of the Israeli Black Panthers. A newly approved official civics textbook in Israel portrays the movement as violent and criminal. We called up three Black Panthers to remind us all of the true nature of their struggle.

The following is a chapter in the Education Ministry’s newly-approved civics textbook, To be Citizens in Israel:

Criminality motivated by ideology — political violence

“Political violence is the use of force by an individual of a group in order to attain political goals such as influence, protection of the government, protest against the government, or struggle against another group which has social or political power.

Political violence can begin with verbal violence, through demonstrations and protests without a permit, physical confrontation with security forces, property damage, beatings, causing bodily injury and wounds, and can go as far as murder. In some cases, political violence has as its goal the intimidation of opponents or enemies, at which point it constitutes terrorist activity.”

Expressions of political violence in Israeli society

Violence in the context of the national divide, as manifested during “Land Day” and the events of October 2000 by Arabs against Jews (in contrast, the Or Commission found that the police, too, reacted with excessive force in some cases, and 13 Arab citizens were killed), “price tag” activities and the murder of the boy Mohammad Abu Khdeir in 2014 which were carried out by Jews agains Arabs.

Ideological-political violence, such as the murder of Emil Grunzweig in 1983 during a Peace Now demonstration, and the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Violence based on a feeling of ethnic discrimination, for example the events of Wadi Salib in the 1950s, and the demonstrations of the Black Panthers in the 70s.

Violence in the context of the religious divide, such as throwing stones at cars driven on the Sabbath, and the murder of the young girl Shira Banki during the Pride Parade in 2015.”

Ethnic discrimination is based on “a feeling?” Perhaps it is just a figment of that famous Oriental imagination? And criminality? Is this how Israeli children will learn about one of the most important events in the history of the Mizrahi and social struggles in Israel? Not to mention the fact that the textbook frames Shira Banki’s murder at the Jerusalem Pride parade in the context of religion, or that so-called price tag violence is framed as “ideological-political” — but...

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How we learned to forget the villages we destroyed

‘Erased from Space and Consciousness’ is the product of years of meticulous research to raise awareness of the hundreds of villages Israel destroyed during and following the 1948 war. But is awareness enough to remedy the injustices of the past?

By Tom Pessah

Kadman, Noga: Erased From Space and Consciousness – Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948. 2015. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 256 pp.

Noga Kadman’s Erased from Space and Consciousness is one of those rare books that profoundly re-shapes your perspective. Growing up inside the Zionist education system meant that even when I did eventually hear about the “Palestinian narrative,” it seemed distant — not connected directly to my life experiences as an Israeli.

Kadman’s book, a product of visits to the sites of 230 former villages and extensive archival work, traces the points at which the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 was submerged and normalized, until this massive break in the country’s history became almost imperceptible to younger generations of Israelis. Through documenting the points at which these Palestinian experiences were re-coded, the book enabled me to de-familiarize the familiar – to finally notice the ruins and the cacti I regularly passed on bus rides, and to start asking questions about their former inhabitants. As Edward Said notes, “there can be no hope of peace unless the stronger community, the Israeli Jews, acknowledges the most powerful memory for the Palestinians, namely the dispossession of an entire people” (p. 145-6). This acknowledgement can only happen once we re-read our surroundings and fully perceive what has always been there — in the background.

After a useful forward by Prof. Oren Yiftachel and an in-depth review of the scholarship on the Nakba and its erasure, the book runs through three empirical chapters. The first examines publications from 25 rural Jewish communities that took over the lands of ruined villages, and describes how this transition was narrated there. The second describes in detail two government bodies established following the state’s founding — the Government Names Committee, and the Survey of Israel (the agency responsible for mapping) — both of which determined how the sites of former Palestinian localities would be officially named in Hebrew.

The third chapter discusses signs and publications by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which help mold the public’s perceptions of what became nature reserves and holiday resorts, which mask the sites of former villages. Extensive...

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With one viral video, Netanyahu rewrote Israeli history

By accusing Palestinians of attempting to ‘ethnically cleanse’ Jews, Netanyahu is not only distorting history, he is actively delegitimizing both the Palestinians and the Israeli Left.

By Na’aman Hirschfeld

“Ethnic cleansing is the forced removal of ethnic or religious groups from a particular territory with the intent of making it ethnically or religiously homogeneous. That’s the generally accepted definition of the phrase, and there are no differences of opinion on that.” These words were written by Moshe Arens in an op-ed published in Haaretz last month.

Arens went on to ask: “So why did Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent use of that phrase cause such an uproar?” After all, he argues, several ethnic cleansings have been carried out against Jews in Eretz Yisrael in the past, the last and largest one during the disengagement from Gaza, “when all Jewish settlers were forcibly removed from their homes. But that was a case where Jews uprooted Jews, you’ll say. Does that make it any less a case of ethnic cleansing? The objective of that “disengagement” was to leave the Gaza Strip without Jews.”

The questions raised by Arens should be addressed, because like Netanyahu’s claims, they are only made possible by a substantial lack of knowledge among Israelis about what “ethnic cleansing” actually is, and its relevance to the Israeli-Palestinian reality.

So what is ethnic cleansing? The Final Report of the Commission of Experts Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 (submitted in May 1994) — a seminal document vis-a-vis the definition of the term, asserts that ethnic cleansing:

The violent means used in ethnic cleansing include: “murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, extra-judicial executions, rape and sexual assaults, confinement of civilian population in ghetto areas, forcible removal, displacement and deportation of civilian population, deliberate military attacks or threats of attacks on civilians and civilian areas, and wanton destruction of property.” And since these acts are part of a coherent policy, the report asserts that: “Those practices constitute crimes against humanity and can be assimilated to specific war crimes. Furthermore, such acts could also fall within the meaning of the Genocide Convention.”

Following this definition, it is clear that Arens’ assertions are simply wrong: the violent events he describes could be considered as war crimes, but they were in no way instances of ethnic cleansing, i.e. of a coherent policy meant to “cleanse” an area of Jews. The only case of an explicit policy to remove Jewish civilians...

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There is nothing 'natural' about police racism

Israel’s police chief angered Israelis when he claimed it is ‘natural’ to suspect Ethiopians. But his remarks are simply a reflection of where Israeli society is at today.

By Galia Boneh

Police Chief Roni Alsheikh’s recent comments, according to which it is “natural” for police to be suspicious of Ethiopian Israelis, stirred much controversy. They also lead to an important public discussion, exemplifying how structural racism works, and how racist acts in the name of public service gain legitimacy from the top echelon.

In parallel, however, they also allowed the public to characterize Alsheikh as a racist, to renounce him while absolving ourselves of responsibility. In his book Between the World and Me, African-American journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates writes the following:

Although Coates is writing about the situation in the United States, his words resonate here as well. It is easy to be outraged and shirk responsibility for the police chief’s remarks. It is less comfortable to think about how they reflect and represent us, and to remember that all the injustices carried out by Israel’s police against Ethiopians — was well as against Arabs, asylum seekers, and other persecuted groups — are the result of our desires as a society.

Coates continues:

Natural law. It is no coincidence that the police chief enlisted natural law to justify the police’s racist conduct. “Nature” is the ultimate justification — one cannot become angry over something natural. Like an earthquake or a tsunami, one can feel a deep pain over loss, but the forces of nature are not something we can judge; there is no one to get angry at, since they are out of our control. Thus the attempt to change natural law is doomed to failure, despite the fact that any attempt to do so is greatly appreciated. At least someone is trying.

But Alsheikh is not the only one who says racism is natural. This was the most common argument I heard over the past year, during which I analyzed the issue of racism as part of my studies at the Mandel School for Educational Leadership. For example, at a conference toted “Are We Racist?” at Hebrew University in April, one of the speakers said that skin color is a symbol that naturally distinguishes between groups, and that a group’s natural proclivity is to despise and deny “the other.” Thus, it was said, without constant intervention...

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