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New Israeli campaign pushes racism in guise of two-state solution

Former top generals and commanders in Israel have launched a new campaign that pushes for unilateral separation from Palestinians. But their messaging reminds us just how racist the notion of a Palestinian ‘demographic threat’ really is.

An image from a Commanders for Israeli security campaign calling for a two-state solution. The Arabic text reads, "We will soon be the majority." (CIS)

An image from a Commanders for Israeli security campaign calling for a two-state solution. The Arabic text reads, “We will soon be the majority.” (CIS)

A new campaign in Israel by a group of former top military and security officials warns that Palestinians will soon be the majority in the country. It is billed as a centrist, pragmatist approach to enhance Israel’s security in lieu of a peace process, which it may be — but it is also blatantly racist.

Launched Sunday to coincide with the Paris Peace summit that Netanyahu is boycotting, the campaign by the group, “Commanders for Israel’s Security,” (CIS) features signs in Arabic across the country that read “We will soon be the majority.” At the bottom it says to call a number for Hebrew, where you can hear the group’s founder, retired IDF major general Amon Reshef telling you: “Are you sick of these Palestinian billboards? We are too. But they will disappear in a matter of days. What will not disappear are the millions of Palestinians who live in the West Bank. They want to be a majority. And we are supposed to annex them? If we don’t separate from them we will be less Jewish and less secure. We must separate from Palestinians now!”

This is an anti-annexation campaign, meant to counter the right-wing elements in the government pushing to annex the West Bank and legalize the unequal one-state reality we currently live in. The CIS is made up of former top IDF generals, Shin Bet, Mossad and police chiefs. Out of the 248 members, I believe there are two women.

Their vision, as presented on their website, is to push a “security first” plan which advocates Israel unilaterally separate from Palestinians east of the separation barrier (deep into the West Bank, beyond the internationally-recognized pre-1967 borders), continue to have military control over the entire West Bank and keep the two-state solution in mind as a distant but ideal principle.

The campaign strategy is apparently to be provocative by using Arabic so as to wake Israelis from their apathy. But it’s not provocative, it’s just inhumane. It describes an entire people — people who are native to this land — as an existential threat, simply for living. It dehumanizes the entire Palestinian population that has been  living under military rule for half a century, portraying them as a disease Israeli Jews must get rid of. It totally absolves Israel of any responsibility for the future of all the Palestinians who have become entirely dependent on Israel for their livelihood over decades and decades of occupation, and it makes no mention of what would happen to all these Palestinians once Israel “gets rid of them.”

This kind of campaign is not new. The Palestinian “demographic threat” argument has been central to much of the thinking and many of the campaigns by Israelis on both the Right and Left since the state was founded. Recently, an initiative called “Save Jewish Jerusalem” released a horribly offensive video portraying all residents of East Jerusalem — who live under occupation and whose residency status is constantly being threatened by Israel — as violent predators intent on wiping Israel out.

This approach, by groups and individuals who consider themselves rational, liberal, centrists, is no different from Netanyahu’s declaration on election day in 2015 that the “Arabs are heading to the polls in droves.” It’s also similar to campaigns broadcast by the anti-Arab, anti-miscegenation group Lehava, who published posters in 2012 calling on Arab men to keep out of Jerusalem and stay away from Jewish girls.

It is also reminiscent of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s election sloganeering back in 2009, when his motto was, “Only Lieberman understands Arabs” — which is basically adopting the tone of those former security officials who indeed believe they know Arabs best and how to handle them best because their careers revolved around controlling their lives. How perfectly ironic that Lieberman is now in fact heading the entire security establishment.

As my fellow blogger Amjad Iraqi wrote here last year: “This obsession over the Palestinian ‘demographic threat’ has become so normalized in both Israeli and international discourse that people have forgotten that at its core, it is both a sinister and racist concept. A Palestinian’s personal character, their advancement in society, and even their indifference to politics mean little to the state — it is their blood that determines their status and defines them as a danger.”

Israeli officials, politicians and policymakers clearly believe the best way to get through to Israelis is to appeal to their anti-Arab sentiments. That speaks volumes about the reality we are living in.

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    1. Richard Flantz

      South Africa used to distinguish between two types of apartheid. The first, called “petty” apartheid, included the separation of public amenities like public benches, bathrooms and public transportation. The second, called “grand” apartheid, included the division of territory and political rights under which separate areas were allocated in which blacks were forced to live. Residents of these areas were deprived of South African citizenship, with the government claiming that these territories, known as Bantustans, were essentially independent states.’ Aeyal Gross/Haaretz May 26 2015 .

      Reply to Comment
      • Mark

        Two states has been a key part of the Palestinian demand for ages. The objection is whether it is just a tool for the destruction of Israel, or part of a peace settlement.

        Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      Nothing new here. This has always been the policy of the Zionist Left…you know, a Jewish state. What’s so surprising?
      Another thing that should not surprise you is that Israelis are well aware of the virulent antisemitism spewed out by official Palestinian sources, celebrations when terrorist attacks take place, PA officials honoring any Arab who kills any Jew under any circumstances and the such. Thus, what these security people are pushing will speak more to the Israeli public than fatuous claims that we are all going to live here in brotherhood….you know like the multicultural, multi-confessional states like Iraq and Syria.

      Reply to Comment
    3. AJew

      My vision is one state with Arabs and Jews living side by side in brotherhood and harmony as equals forever. Kumbayah oh kumbayah.

      Then I wake up and see the rest of the middle east and see how Arabs treat minorities and then I am no longer a believer in fairy tales.

      Call me an advocate for apartheid then, I don’t care, even though I never believed in apartheid either, but hey, dear extreme lefties, if it gives you comfort to believe in old style Middle Ages style blood libels then label this Jew, little old moi as a practicioner of apartheid. It reflects more on you lot than on the likes of me.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Ok, I’ll call you an advocate for apartheid. Because you’ve got it framed as the Afirkaners before you had it framed: it’s either one state, and that is unacceptable, or it’s apartheid, and that’s acceptable. Except the South Africans really didn’t ever have a third alternative and you do. And you reject the two state solution staring you in the face because you just gotta have Ariel etc. And to top it all off, you’re hiding behind a special badge of Jewish exemption from the general opprobrium in which apartheid is held, using ridiculous and extremely hackneyed anti-Semitizing rhetoric about blood libels.

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          “And you reject the two state solution staring you in the face”

          Yea, Yea, yea Benny-leh. We reject the two state solution. Blah blah…

          Anyone listening to Benny would inevitably believe that it is we Israelis who always rejected the two state solution and the Arabs were the ones who ALWAYS advocated it.

          Benny and his inverted upside down world.

          Reply to Comment
      • Ben


        “The tragedy of Batan al-Hawa is that the utopian scenario I imagined at the beginning of this article is not actually so far-fetched. It is, broadly, a description of a real chapter in the history of this neighborhood — formerly the village of Silwan — where, by many accounts, Arab residents lived in harmony with Jewish neighbors for many years…If we wish to see the neighborly relations that today may sound imaginary, but in fact are as natural as it gets, we must remember Batan al-Hawa’s past, and we must believe in, and work for, a better future for its children right now.”

        Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          We Benny? I thought you live in America.

          Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          Harmony? Just like the claim we keep hearing from “progressives” that dhimmi Jews lived in “harmony” with their overlord Arab neighbors, yet somehow there aren’t any Jews left in those harmonious Middle Eastern states.

          Reply to Comment
      • Leah Cohen

        Where do you wake up to see so much of the Middle East? just curious.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      Fascinating account of the parallels between South African and Israeli leaders and their “newspapers”:

      “Netanyahu didn’t invent apartheid. Nor did he invent the idea of using a newspaper to shape public opinion. He didn’t even invent the big money-government-newspaper entanglement that could lead to his downfall. It’s all been done before.
      In the mid-1970s, South African Prime Minister B.J. Vorster decided that protection of the apartheid state required the elimination of the Rand Daily Mail. Printed in the English language (as opposed to Afrikaans, the language of the Aryan racists), the newspaper had spearheaded the media battle against apartheid. Enter Louis Luyt, the Adelson of this story. Luyt was a local Afrikaner tycoon, conservative and racist. Vorster approved the secret transfer of public money to Luyt so he could purchase the Rand and silence it forever.
      The Rand was experiencing financial difficulties; opposition to apartheid was not especially popular in South Africa 40 years ago. But the Rand refused to sell to Luyt. In modern Israeli terms, it’s the moment Netanyahu when despaired of being able to take control of Yedioth Ahronoth and bend its editorial line from the inside, so decided to establish a newspaper of his own. And that’s precisely what Vorster resolved to do when he found himself at the same juncture, facing the same dilemma.
      Vorster ordered that a newspaper be founded, which it duly was. It was called The Citizen and was written in English, because it was intended to brainwash millions of English-speaking white people (the government didn’t have a problem with Afrikaans speakers) and English readers worldwide. The publisher was Luyt, and he got the money secretly from the government. (Not everyone is rich like Adelson and able to absorb losses of 730 mill….”
      read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.764996

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        So tell us Benny: why does Abbas refuse to even negotiate with Israel?

        The “settlement building” excuse does not make sense. No, it doesn’t because once final borders would be agreed to, in a peace deal, Israel would have no excuse for building beyond those borders.

        Reply to Comment
        • John Piantanida

          Actually he has cooperated with Israel fully (and well paid to do it) by maintaining the status quo. He is part of the problem.

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            So Abbas has been willing to negotiate with Israel?

            Don’t you people read the news? Or are you just making stuff up on the fly?

            Reply to Comment
    5. Charles

      Wanting to be a majority is not racist. Most minorities have a strong separatist movement precisely because they don’t enjoy being a minority ruled by another people (Catalonia, Scotland, Quebec, the Kurds, the Basques, etc). By the way, Palestinian Arabs opposed Jewish immigration in the 1930’s because they did not want to become a minority in their own country.

      Reply to Comment
    6. R5

      “It describes an entire people — people who are native to this land — as an existential threat, simply for living.”

      More like simply for waging war for a century against their Jewish neighbors. I guess Mairav prefers a bloodbath to political incorrectness, how shocking. But by all means finish the work that Bernie and Corbyn started, and discredit progressive politics in Israel and the United States and the UK for a generation. If Trump winning doesn’t convince you that the public thinks your ideas are bullshit, then nothing will.

      Reply to Comment