Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
THE violent demonstrations that shook Israel on July 2nd had all the reflection on race riots. A young black man had been shot dead by an off-duty policeman in unclear circumstances. Thousands of Ethiopian Jews took to the street— throwing stones at police officers, blocking roads and overturning police cars. Their claims of being systematic ally subjected to racism and police brutality were justified, on the whole, with condescending denial. Politicians merely chided them for the violence, albeit issuing vague expressions of sympathy. In order to envisage its Zionist dream of being a haven for Jews, the Jewish state embarked on risky and expensive rescue operations in the 1980s and 1990s. Because of the exodus, tens of thousands of Jews from remote parts of Ethiopia, who had suffered from religious persecution, famine and civil wars, migrated to Israel. Yet, when they arrived in Israel, these distinctive people faced appalling discrimination, racism and a lack of empathy for their hardships in Ethiopia and during their journey to Israel.
Thousands of African migrants in Israel have taken to the streets to voice their frustration at tough new immigration policies. They demonstrated outside Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, seeking recognition as refugees. Some 60,000 migrants, mainly from Eritrea and Sudan, have poured across the border with Egypt since 2006. Many hope for asylum but Israel says they are illegal job-seekers. “Over the years Israel has welcomed 100,000 black Africans from Ethiopia who claim Jewish ancestry,” said Al Jazeera’s Tom Ackerman, reporting from Jerusalem. “But the thousands more Africans who’ve reached Israel in search of work and physical security have never won legal recognition.” Historically put, Africans have interacted with the ancient mythological sub-strata, western and African idea of Jews in order to develop a distinct Jewish identity. It exclusively desires to identify and to assess colonial influence and consequently embracing their internalization by African societies in the shaping of new African religious identities entailed by the eminently malleable accounts of Jewish lineage, motivated many Ethiopians to migrate to Israel.
Israel’s repression meted out to the Palestinian citizens, African refugees and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza has become more brutal over time in terms of Israeli government political, cultural and social policies—characterised by ethnic cleansing, land seizure, home demolition, military occupation, bombing of Gaza and international law violations led Archbishop Tutu to justifiably believe that the treatment of Palestinians reminded him of apartheid, only worse. Apartheid is active and absolutely thriving in occupied Palestine. Palestinians know this. South Africans know this. Many Israelis have accepted this as part of their political debate. Americans are coming to terms with this, with new voices in Congress and NGOs like Jewish Voice for Peace unafraid of speaking this truth.
By calling that the Palestinians in Israel are not equal citizens, Netanyahu has endorsed the view that apartheid is indeed an exclusive feature of the Zionist State. In effect, he has destroyed the arguments used and levelled by pro-Israel lobby groups the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the UK Zionist Federation and the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), as well as many of British MPs, who have had been urging the Government in Westminster to ban Israel Apartheid Week on university campuses, citing the IHRA definition.
Groups created out of the Zionist movement— ardently believe in Jews a superior race and God’s chosen people”, while targeting Arabs as backward. And yet not surprisingly, Israeli leaders, top army officers, Knesset members and cabinet ministers appearing in the public life have embraced the beliefs of these groups. Shown by the updated recordings published by the Israeli Channel 13 news at the Bnei David Religious Academy—has much proof of promoting racism and harbouring Jewish supremacy. In one recording, Rabbi Eliezer Kashtiel, head of the Academy was heard indoctrinating his students: “Being a slave to a Jew is the best. They’re [the Arabs] glad to be slaves, they want to be slaves.”
Whilst many of the governmental proposals, such as the prohibition of sexual relationships between Jews and Arabs and the forced dissolution of intermarriages, rightly come straight from the Third Reich, 1935 Nazi Nuremberg Laws and appear extreme and unrealistic on the surface, thereby offering little more than further codification and compartmentalisation of the existing practices of the Israeli state. Obviously, there is no civil marriage in Israel and since religious authorities do not perform interfaith marriages between a Jew and a member of another religion, they are not allowable in Israel.
There are least more than 65 Israeli laws that currently discriminate against Palestinian citizens in Israel and Palestinian residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), according to Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. And more than half of these laws have been adopted since 2000. From 2009 to present, elections have brought to power the most right-wing government coalitions— in the history of Israel— orchestrated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Adalah noted. “Auschwitz is here in every city in Palestine because of [Israel’s] systematic policy with barbaric and racist living conditions and conduct in order to cause physical and mental harm to these prisoners’ ‘said Fatah Central Committee Secretary Jibril Rajoub while giving interview to the Kuwait TV. The most disturbing feature of the apartheid-inflicted treatment towards the Palestinians and Black Jews is causing the cult of hatred in the minds of both the communities, the black Jews and the deprived Palestinians.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.