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Just another exclusionary democracy in the Mideast

This state has never truly recognized the injustices it is responsible for: the Nakba, the occupation or the poor treatment of Mizrahim. And yet, we still have an obligation to try and make this a place worth living in. 

Palestinians protest at the entrance to the city of Umm al-Fahm, against the recent attack against a mosque in the city, April 21, 2014. On April 18, the door of a mosque in the city was set on fire and graffiti reading "Arabs out" was sprayed outside.

Palestinians protest at the entrance to the city of Umm al-Fahm, against the recent attack against a mosque in the city, April 21, 2014. On April 18, the door of a mosque in the city was set on fire and graffiti reading “Arabs out” was sprayed outside. (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli society isn’t ready for a political party with “too many women,” said one female political analyst on Channel 2. The country isn’t ready for too many Mizrahim in its elitist Jewish parties. The country isn’t ripe for more blacks or Russians. And let’s not even get started on Arabs, especially at a time when everyone is arguing over who is more Zionist.

Will someone explain to this Arab woman what exactly Israeli society is ready for, and who it is willing to include? Who’s in and who’s out? Who is constantly fighting to get, yet gets kicked out at every opportunity? And who gets dragged in even when they don’t truly feel a sense of belonging.

If there is such a thing as Israeli society, it’s in deep trouble. Especially if you think it has anything to do with the term “democracy.” But how could I truly expect the last 67 years to bring about a modern, principled and inclusive democracy when its founding was based on a racist mentality that established that Jews of a specific kind deserve more?

A state in perpetual establishment

The occupation and the establishment of the state were, from the beginning, an injustice. That very injustice follows us until this very day. In establishing the State of Israel, Israel trampled over and expelled the local Palestinians, who lived side-by-side with Jews for many years. This process never stopped; to this day the state is still being “established.”

This all stems, in my opinion, from the racist ideology of Zionism. The same worldview that divides the world into Jews and non-Jews, where Jews are “the chosen people” who have the God-given right to take over this land in the name of Judaism, all while using colonial tools of occupation and war, and aided by an international community that is ashamed of the Holocaust.

Think about this: can you think of one Israeli leader who did not start a war? Or perhaps of one leader who actually did good things for the people here? Ask yourself what the state did to Jewish immigrants from Yemen, Morocco or Iraq. What it did to Ethiopians or Russians. Or what kind of treatment Arabs have received here all these years.

But before we get dragged into the endless eternal victim debate, let’s look at what is happening today. Look at how our leaders treat asylum seekers and foreign workers. Discrimination is everywhere and corruption is becoming rampant. The situation is no different when we look at housing, education or welfare. Israel is still killing Palestinians on a daily basis, and a soldier at a checkpoint can still harass the helpless at a checkpoint without being held accountable.

‘Equality is a Western invention’

This state neither recognized nor strove to fix the injustices it was responsible for. It does not try and do anything about its racism. On the contrary, racism is rearing its ugly head and running in the upcoming elections, in the form of Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party. Because he who occupies, steals public funds and harasses Arabs in the name of security, all the while being constantly protected by the IDF – why should he think about equality, justice or, God forbid, even peace? As a settler once told me: “Equality is a Western invention – a bone they throw to all those who will never be equal. This is nature, there is no equality and there never will be.”

As long as this ideology takes advantage of the mechanisms of democracy in order to stay in power, the occupation will only continue, and the internal power relations between Jews and non-Jews, as well as between Jews of different ethnic backgrounds, will remain intact. But for now, as long as the right to vote and be elected is available to us, we have a responsibility to use it to try and change our fate – to take advantage of the opportunity and work to make a change as a first step that will lead to building a country that is truly worthy of all who live in it.

Samah Salaime Egbariya is a social worker, a director of AWC (Arab Women in the Center) in Lod/Lyd and a graduate of the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

Related:
To maintain democracy, citizenship must be guaranteed
Why I oppose recognizing Israel as a Jewish state
Liberating Israeli Jews from the dark legacy of the Nakba

Special Coverage: 2015 Elections

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    1. Pedro X

      A poll taken by 2014 Democracy Index found that 65% of Arabs in Israel were proud to Israeli. 19.9% polled said they were not proud to be Israeli. Samah Egbariya is one of those in the minority camp.

      Samah comes with a giant chip on her shoulder, Zionism is racism and Israel is responsible for the Naqba. The simple truth is that Zionism was legitimate self determination of the Jewish people and the establishment of a Jewish state. There is nothing racist in the desire of a people to self determine. There are 22 Arab states which have self determined and some 57 Islamic states.

      The Naqba of the Arab people was a result of Arab rejectionism of the Jewish people’s right of self determination and the fulfillment of that right by the establishment of the state of Israel. Instead of accepting the partition plan the Arab people of Mandate Palestine sought to destroy the emerging Jewish state and commit a genocide against the Jewish people. In this endeavor they were supported by the Arab world.

      An October 11, 1947 report on the pan-Arab summit in the Lebanese town of Aley, by Akhbar al-Yom’s editor Mustafa Amin, contained an interview he held with Arab League secretary-general Azzam. Titled, “A War of Extermination.” In that report Azzam laid out the Arab desire to massacre the Jewish people. He said:

      “this will be a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Tartar massacre or the Crusader wars.”

      and

      “This war will be distinguished by three serious matters. First—faith: as each fighter deems his death on behalf of Palestine as the shortest road to paradise; second, [the war] will be an opportunity for vast plunder. Third, it will be impossible to contain the zealous volunteers arriving from all corners of the world to avenge the martyrdom of the Palestine Arabs…”

      Arabs made the war an existential and religious war of Arab against Jew and Islam against Judaism. The Arabs lost. In course of losing the war, the Arabs suffered a self inflicted hammer blow to their society. Arabs fled en masse rather than fight for the notion of an Arab country of Arabs known as Palestinians. There simply was no such attachment.

      The war saw plenty of tragedies and atrocities. After the war Israel incorporated over a million refugees, including over 600,000 Jews from Arab states. The Jewish state built its state while the Arabs did not. The Arabs have continually sought to pull down the state of Israel instead of building an free and democratic country of their own.

      Arab rejectionism still continues to prevent the establishment of an Arab Palestinian state and the acceptance by some Arabs of the Israeli state as their state. Unfortunately some Arabs in Israel and many Arabs elsewhere are unable to come to grips with their own participation in the Naqba and problems in their modern day societies.

      Reply to Comment
      • That is the longest delusional response to an article that I have ever seen. You readily quote the Democracy Poll of 2014 but leave out the contradictory parts evinced by the Jewish population – majorities believe criticism of Israel should be forbidden- and majorities hold the contradictory opinions that everyone should be equal but major policy decisions should be left to Jews alone.
        Bottom Line: your occupation is illegal, your land grabs illegal, the responsibility for any violence from either side squarely lies on the occupiers’ shoulders, and the world increasingly views you as a Goliath much as South Africa was in the 20th Century. No moral beacon- just racism and corruption of diaspora Jewish ideals.
        This American Jew is sick of hearing that you represent me- and if you speak in my name I will speak out against you.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Israel cannot occupy its own lands. Shimon Maccabee when faced with the ultimatum from Antiochus (IV) Epiphanies to end “occupation of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Gaza, Gezer and Ekron, said:

          “We have not occupied a foreign land; we have not ruled a foreign land; we have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation.”

          In 1947 the Jewish population of Mandate Palestine sought self determination by peaceful means to liberate themselves but the Arabs in Mandate Palestine and the Arab countries attempted to destroy the emerging state of Israel and commit a genocide against the Jewish people. They failed but Jordan succeeded in illegally occupying Judea and Samaria. In 1967 Israel liberated their lands of Judea and Samaria. Israelis cannot occupy their own lands.

          Maybe you have heard of or have celebrated the Jewish holiday of Chanukah which commemorates Israel’s national liberation struggle. Chanukah highlights the moral-high-ground of Jews in their ancestral land.

          BTW I have never claimed to speak for Americans or American Jews. American Jews and Americans are entitled to their own opinions but they have no right to dictate or impose their policy, law, culture or society on the only Jewish state in the world. Such matters are in the sole purview of the citizens of the state of Israel.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Ben Zakkai

      Voting for positive change is theoretically a great idea, but I see no party on the left or center-left that actually presents a bold, just, creative and intelligent national agenda. I just see midget wheeler-dealer politicians vying for comparative advantage in the race for power, lucre and face time. Buzhi-Tzipi have no campaign because essentially their agenda is Occupation-lite and tycoon-friendly; the Arab party(ies) are occupying their usual space of bitching about this, or refusing to particate in that, without developing any real vision; Meretz is apparently primarily devoted to keeping new blood out of its leadership while focusing on transgender issues; and Lapid&Kahlon, who may be right-wingers in centrist clothing anyway, are basing their appeal on who has the prettiest hair of the nicest smile, respectively. So I guess we might as well get Netanyahu again, if that’s the best we can do.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Bruce Gould

      Maybe U.S. citizens could drop a gentle hint to the Israelis that it’s time to adopt a constitution that gives more than lip service to the idea of equality under the law? Would that help?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn4

      You are welcome to leave if living in this country bothers you so much. I can guarantee that you will never be happy here.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Tomer

      The author is right. Israel insufficiently recognises the Nakba – the Jewish Nakba that is. The major ethin cleansing of 1 million Mizrachi Jews in the 50s & 60s needs to be highlighted for the international media. Perhaps we should hold a memorial day to this tragedy. May 15th might be good.

      With respect to Mizrachi discrimination today, we are overcoming this problem since 1/3 of israelis have both Askenazi & Mizrachi parents. The issue is gradually improving due to increasing marriage between Jews of different ancestries.

      As far as the Arabs – they have 21 different countries where they are busy killing each other in bloody civil wars and religious unrest. IT IS NOT FOR US (ISRAELIS) TO GET INVOLVED WITH THIS ARAB MESS.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        The centrepiece of the marvel of hasbara is that the Arabs have 21 different countries, so that ethnic cleansing is not a problem – just upsticks from the land you have owned and lived in for centuries and you will be just as happy. The Europeans have over 50 countries, so that if for instance the Icelanders were to be driven from their land, that would be OK then? How many countries do the Jews have? Wikipedia says 98% of the world Jewish population is concentrated in 18 countries; so if the Jews of Israel were to be driven into the sea, they could simply rejoin their compatriots in America, France, Australia or elsewhere – is that what you are saying?

        Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        It’s true of course that the Middle East is crawling with state and non-state actors who are homicidal maniacs. The Zionists who created and maintain Israel happen to be illustrious members of this gang.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Tomer

      Bryan’s problem is explaining away the Jewish Nakba.

      The Jewish Nakba won’t go away. Its the pesky detail that lingers on in history, upsetting those who cannot fit it in their simple cowboys & indian paradigm.

      Reply to Comment
      • andrew r

        If you’ve ever read “The Iron Wall” by Jabotinsky, you’d know a few Zionists themselves indulged in cowboys & indians rhetoric. So did Churchill in defending his support for Jewish settlement.[*] Of course Herzl infamously said Der Judenstaat would be an outpost of civilization.

        Whatever problems were faced by Mideastern Jews in the 20th century, Zionism wasn’t the answer. Many Jewish emigrants from Arab countries did not go to Israel anyway.

        [*]
        https://books.google.com/books?id=helhVh_dG0sC&pg=PA120

        Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        I do not have a problem Tomer. The Jewish Nakba (an excellent term by the way recognising a prior historic injustice) seems to have been largely self-inflicted, the result of Mossad agents in Morocco telling people to come home, and bombs in Baghdad and Cairo urging people to leave their homes for their own security. When did this Nakba begin and was it directly triggered by the expulsion of Palestinians? All ethnic cleansing is horrific and an atrocity, but some of the “refugees” seem to have been forcefully expelled and some seem to have voluntarily moved.

        Reply to Comment
    7. Tomer

      Ah, the Jewish Nakba was largely self-inflicted – their leaders planned it all along.

      What do people like you say when you hear it about another ethnic group?

      You would argue that:
      1. There is no real evidence that their leaders did it.
      2. In anycase, what their leaders did / did not do should have no bearing on the rights of the refugees.

      This is our claim on the Jewish Nakba.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        You want to have it both ways do you Tomer? (1) Israel is the rightful and historic state of the Jewish people to which all Jews have a duty to make aliyah and thus Jews in North Africa and the Middle East joined with their European and American co-religionists in eagerly returning to their “homeland”. (2) The wicked Arabs expelled all Jews.

        Surely there is a distinction between push and pull – one set of Arabs were pushed out to be replaced by another set who were pulled in; (rather like an unfortunate shoal of fish pulled onto the deck of a trawler, there to slowly suffocate – in development towns and peripheral regions far from the privileged zones reserved for the Ashkenazi elite)

        Reply to Comment
    8. MIkesailor

      I always enjoy how Zionists keep pulling out the old lie that they were given the land under San Remo in 1922. It is pure crap. The only operative international legitimacy given to Israel was the UN General Assembly Resolution 181. Even the Israelis acknowledged that as the basis for their state. Anything else was superseded by the UN and rendered as a cute artifact of history and nothing more. Actually, Balfour was BS because at the time of Balfour, Great Britain had no say over Palestine. And after the war, Great Britain still did not have sovereignty because they were merely a trustee, not the “owners” of the territory. San Remo was a futile attempt to lend a veneer of legitimacy to attempt to British extra-legal actions but after WWII, even the British admitted it was all BS, withdrew and slunk away as the hypocritical criminals they were. The only land Israel has which is internationally recognized are the 1948 borders accepted by the UN in the partition plan. Nothing else. As a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, the acquisition of property by force of arms is strictly forbidden. Which is one of the reasons that Israel is considered by most international jurists to be in violation of international law. Annexation is BS, so is the settlement of the West Bank, the Golan and Jerusalem. Why do you think nobody has agreed to recognize Israel’s annexation of territory. Because they are thieves and serial criminals. Nothing more.

      Reply to Comment