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Israel is well on its way to apartheid

An Israel, now defined by the law as "Jewish," can no longer call itself democratic.


In late July, cartoonist Avi Katz was fired from political magazine The Jerusalem Report. He had made a satirical drawing in which Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu appears as General Napoleon. Netanyahu's politician colleagues are also in attendance, and all of them are pigs with the Orwell quote that "some animals are more equal than others."

The drawing is a pastiche over a press photo which in a short time has become iconic. Here, controversial Bulgarian MP Oren Hazan takes a selfie with Netanyahu & co. as a background, and the confident smile on everyone's faces is due to the adoption of the so-called nation state law. – who on 19 July wrote that the Jewish weight is heavier than the democratic one in the official Israel's definition of its own identity.

"The editor has failed his democratic duty by firing Avi Katz," says journalist Haim Watzman, who protested by resigning from the magazine: "The media is acting in fear of how the environment will react, and that's a danger signal. Both the firing and the law are small steps towards fascism and totalitarianism. ”

Racist law

«The Jewish national state law contains all the basic elements of apartheid. This is not only amoral, but also prohibited and in violation of international law, ”says Hassan Jabareen, a Muslim who is at the head of Adalah, the Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Jabareen is one of the prominent advocates of the 20 percent of Israel's scarcely 9 million non-Jewish population. "I see the law as pure racism," he continues.

"Anyone who doesn't want to live here as a minority can only travel somewhere else!"

According to the legal text, the land now belongs to the Jewish people. With this wording, ownership is extended to, for example, a Jewish Canadian from Vancouver, or a Belgian Jew from Antwerp, while diverting Hassan Jabareen, whose family has lived in Haifa for generations.

"Discrimination has always been a reality in this country, but with this law, Israel has made discrimination a constitutional value," he says: "It completely disregards the binational reality."

The cartoonist Avi Katz, who was cast as a cartoonist, has also given us his earlier drawing of Ariel Sharon, as the historical Napoleon.

Ever since its founding, Israel has portrayed itself as both Jewish and democratic. This is a contradiction, because by defining itself as Jewish, the state has, in advance, disregarded it as a prerequisite for the minorities that are a prerequisite for democracy. This is one of the reasons why Israel has not yet been given a constitution, which deals precisely with such basic conditions. Instead, they adhered to the Declaration of Independence, which came into being at the founding of the state in May 1948. Here, one does not use the phrase "a Jewish state," but speaks of a state for the Jewish people, and with equal rights for all citizens.

"This has always been a thin varnish," Jabareen explains further: "In 1948, 750 Palestinians fled, but 000 chose to stay in what became Israel. It is this group that has turned into 200 million people, and although we have citizenship, we have lived through all these 000 years as second class citizens. In recent years this has gotten worse and now it has become a law. ”

Nothing has changed

We ask Ariel Bulshtein, lawyer and long-time activist in the Likud government, for his opinion on the matter. He hopes to secure a seat in the Knesset at the next election. "The law only confirms what we have always known, namely that this is a Jewish state," he explains: "It is important to emphasize that it only speaks to collective values. At the individual level, every citizen is still equal, so the law does not change anything. ”

The National State Act of July 19 contains all the basic elements of apartheid.

He argues that almost all Western states have a constitution that establishes the common identity. In Norway, he says, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution mentions Christian and humanist as a shared value base, and the Irish constitution similarly mentions Jesus Christ as an integral part of national self-understanding.

"The Declaration of Independence is not legally binding," he continues, "so it was high time that Israel got this in place. As a Jew, I cannot expect to travel to Norway and become an equal part of the Christian community, but I am sure my minority rights will be fully respected. The same is true here, and anyone who does not want to live here as a minority can just travel somewhere else! "

South Africa. "We are both angry and incredibly disappointed," says Drupal Fadel Mansour – and among the distinct profiles of a people group living in both Israel, Lebanon and Syria. The Drusians broke with Shia Islam many years ago and stand out, among other things, by having a religious duty of unconditional loyalty to the government under which they live. As a result, Israeli Drusians are massively voting on Netanyahu's nationalist Likud party, and almost without exception, Drusian men are serving military military service on an equal footing with Israel's Jewish population. Against this background, Mansour's disappointment seems perfectly understandable.

Facsimile from Haaretz

"We are full citizens and want this state as our home, but it does not seem to want us," he says.

When the Drusians organized a protest demonstration in Tel Aviv in late summer, 50 people showed up, many of whom were non-Drusian sympathizers. But as several critics pointed out, this almost only made it worse. Commentator Gideon Levy of Haaretz newspaper wrote that Jewish Israel sought to cover the law by giving a privileged minority like the Druse even more privileges. Of course, the Druze must have their equality, but this requirement applies equally to the Muslims, who make up the vast majority of Israel's minority population.

"We have always said to ourselves that we would never end up as South Africa, but now it is nevertheless becoming a reality," says Riad Kabha. He is a Muslim and head of the Judeo-Arab Dialogue programs at Givat Haviva, a training center closely linked to the Kibbutz Movement and the Israeli Peace Wing. He has always known that many Israelis regard him as a second-class citizen, but he has nevertheless believed that democracy would prevail. He sees discrimination in the labor market, where Jews consistently come first in line for the good jobs, and in the housing market, where a similar sorting takes place. But anyway.

A Vancouver Canadian Canadian who has never been there now has ownership of Israel, while a Muslim family that has lived there for generations has been sorted away.

“Here at the center, we do a lot for mutual understanding and respect, but on the whole, the population is apathetic. It's incredibly frustrating, and now we see the result, ”he says.

He is very concerned about the section of the law that makes
raisk to Israel's only official language. Until now, Arabic has been sidelined, but now it has been reduced to a minority language "of special status", as the legal text states.

"It's my language and my identity," Kabha explains. “Despite the many obstacles, I have always felt like Israelis, but I am not able to do that anymore. Who am I? Palæstinenser? Arab? I have no idea. My belief in coexistence rests on an illusion. ”

Destructive nationalism. For Knesset member Zouheir Bahloul, who comes from the Christian minority, the law became the preliminary culmination of long-standing frustration. In parliament, he represented the Labor Party, which today is part of the Zionist Union center movement, and he chose that path in the belief of coexistence. He sent the first of his three children in Jewish school like this, but when he understood what the costs would be for the child's identity, the others came in Arabic.

"If I had to live my life around, I would go a whole different way," Bahloul told the Israeli press. He objected to the law by abandoning his mandate in the Knesset.

From other political teams, the protests are even sharper. "This is a malicious, colonial and racial law," says Jamal Zahalka of the Arab Commonwealth. “But Netanyahu has equipped us with a tool we didn't have before. So far, we have not had any law that shows the world how much racism there is in Israel. We have that now, and we don't have to say anything, because the law speaks for itself. "

"I can't expect to go to Norway and become an equal part of the Christian community." 

In addition to the disastrous consequences for the internal dynamics of Israel, a number of voices point out the larger perspectives in the adoption of the law. 

"The Palestinians in the occupied territories are not directly affected by the law," says Mahdi Abdel Hadi of the Palestinian think tank PASSIA: "But for us it is a signal of Israeli isolationism, and in that atmosphere the prospects for a new peace dialogue go even further. »

This position is shared by Yedidia Stern, albeit on another link. He is a professor of forensic science at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv as well as at the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem, and sees it as a manifestation of a worrying trend throughout the Western world that the law is being passed right now. "We live in a time where many people miss life content and basic values," says Stern, himself a religious Jew: "This has led Trump to power in the United States, and with Orbán to power in Hungary – and Netanyahu is moving forward with that same destructive nationalism. " 

Hans Henrik Fafner
Hans Henrik Fafner
Fafner is a regular critic in Ny Tid. Residing in Tel Aviv.

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