Below is a reply by British journalist Jonathan Cook, who lives in Nazareth to the nonsense spouted by Uri Avnery. Avnery, of Gush Shalom, has a record of opposing the occupation and repression of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. He risked jail when it was a crime to meet the Palestine Liberation Organisation. He is also a veteran of
1948 and the expulsions, which he sees as a clean war, and was a member of the Irgun, the fighting wing of the Zionist Revisionists under Menachem Begin.
Avnery’s problem is that he has never made the connections between Zionism and the inevitable racism of a Jewish state that seeks to maintain its racial purity. This is why be believes that the position of Arabs in Israel (a position taken by Norman Finkelstein) is no different to any other national minority.
He cannot see that the racism experienced by those who live under the heel of a settler colonial state is qualitatively different to that in Europe, where racism is bad enough but isn’t an integral part of the very state itself.
One of my concerns about Uri Avnery is that, whatever the good work he has done as a journalist and peace activist, especially in regard to the occupied territories, he still has an ability to write utter nonsense when it comes to what is happening inside Israel. It is difficult to know whether this is simple ignorance or a bad case of ideological blinkers. But it is also hard to believe a man who has studied his own society for so long can really know so little about what is going on there.
There is a lot to challenge in his latest piece, on the comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa, but the following paragraph really assaults the intellect:
On the whole, the situation of the Arab minority inside Israel proper is much like that of many national minorities in Europe and elsewhere. They enjoy equality under the law, vote for parliament, are represented by very lively parties of their own, but in practice suffer discrimination in many areas. To call this apartheid would be grossly misleading.
I’d love Avnery to point out the European state where, like Israel, 93 per cent of the land has been nationalised for one ethnic group (Jews) to the exclusion of another ethnic group (Palestinian Arabs). Or where vetting committees operate by law in hundreds of communities precisely to prevent one ethnic group (Palestinian Arabs) from living in these communities.
Or the European state, like Israel, where two separate citizenship laws exist – the Law of Return (1950) and the Citizenship Law (1952) – which are designed to confer rights on members of an ethnic group (Jews) who are not actually yet citizens or present in the state, privileging them over a group (Palestinian Arabs) who do have citizenship and are present in the state.
Or a European state that has 55 laws that explicitly discriminate based on which ethnic group you belong to.
Or a European state that, like Israel, defers some of what should be its sovereign powers to extra-territorial bodies such as the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund whose charters obligate them to discriminate based on ethnic belonging.
Or the European state that denies its citizens access to any civil institutions on personal status matters such as marriage, divorce and burial, requiring all citizens to submit to the whims and prejudices of religious leaders.
Or a European state which does not recognise its own nationality, and where the only way to join the dominant national group (Jews) or to immigrate is through conversion.
I’d be surprised if he could find one European state that has a single one of these characteristics. Even if he could, it would not have more than one of those characteristics. Israel has them all and many more.