Why a settler colonial Jewish State is Inevitably a Racist State
A few years ago ex-President Jimmy Carter was pilloried for suggesting that Israel was pursuing a policy of Apartheid in the Occupied Territories.[i] Today even ex-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak says that without a peace agreement Israel will become an apartheid state.[ii] Yet this should not blind us to the differences between Zionism in Israel and Apartheid in South Africa in terms of political economy. Whereas Apartheid sought to exploit the labour power of Black South Africans, Zionism seeks to exclude it altogether.
The other major difference is that, until recently, Israel did not engage – at least openly – in ‘petty Apartheid’. There were no signs saying ‘Jews Only’. Institutional and state discrimination remained hidden beneath the surface although it was just as real. Even today in the West Bank there are no ‘Jews only’ signs on the road. It’s just that the Army doesn’t need a sign to enforce what is Military Law
Racial segregation ‘separate development’ was integral to the political and legal doctrine of South African Apartheid.[iii] There is however more than one way of skinning a cat. In Israel, the same principles that Apartheid South Africa stood for have been achieved, without the need to declare them openly.
In a survey of 400 teenagers, 35% of Jewish youth had never spoken to an Arab teenager and 27% of Arab youth had never spoken to a Jewish teenager.[iv] Israeli Jews and Palestinians are educated separately, live separately and socialise separately. The instruments of power in Israel are in the hands of the Jewish majority not the Palestinian minority
The roots of Israeli Apartheid go back to before the British Mandate. The JNF bought land and then expelled the peasants who were farming it. The policies of the Zionist colonisers were Jewish Labour, Land and Produce. First the Zionists expelled the Arabs from the economy and then from the country altogether. It was this which caused the riots of 1929. As the Hope-Simpson Report reported:
‘the result of the purchase of land in Palestine by the Jewish National Fund has been that land has been extra-territorialised. It ceases to be land from which the Arab can gain any advantage either now or at any time in the future. Not only can he never hope to lease or to cultivate it, but, by the stringent provisions of the lease of the Jewish National Fund, he is deprived for ever from employment on that land. … It is for this reason that Arabs discount the professions of friendship and good will on the part of the Zionists…’ ‘That this replacement of Arab labour by Jewish labour is a definite policy of the Zionist Organisation is also evident from the following quotation, taken from A Guide to Jewish Palestine, published by the Head Office of the Keren-Kayemeth Leisrael –The Jewish National Fund – and the Keren-Hayesod, in Jerusalem in the 1930s…The Arab population already regards the transfer of lands to Zionist hands with dismay and alarm. These cannot be dismissed as baseless in light of the Zionist policy described above…. The policy of the Jewish Labour Federation is successful in impeding the employment of Arabs in Jewish colonies and in Jewish enterprises of every kind.’ [v]
The Jewish Labour Federation was Histadrut, founded in 1920 as the General Federation of Hebrew Labour. It was a Jewish only ‘trade union’.
In South Africa the Group Areas Act 1950 forbade Black people from living in the same town as Whites. In Israel the same objective was achieved through indirect means. Land in towns such as Kiryat Shmona was owned by the JNF and could not therefore be rented by non-Jews. Legislation was not needed to prevent Arabs from renting flats in Safed. An edict by its Chief Rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, that Jews were forbidden to rent apartments to Arabs, was sufficient.[vi]
In 2000 Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in the case of Ka’adan that it was illegal to refuse to sell state lands, including those owned by the JNF, to non-Jews. The Court hadn’t wanted to reach this ruling, however it was left with no choice.[vii]In 2005 Attorney General Mazuz decided that the 93% of state land which is controlled by the Israel Lands Administration, including that owned by the JNF, could be sold to non-Jews.[viii] This undermined the whole basis on which the Zionist movement had colonized Palestine.[ix]
In 2011 the government responded to the concerns of those who believed that selling ‘Jewish’ land to non-Jews undermined the very basis of Zionism by introducing the Reception Committees Law. This allowed small communities, under 500, (now increased to 700) to determine whether or not someone ‘fitted in’ to their community based on a set of social criteria. Instead of direct discrimination there would be what we know as indirect discrimination. Ostensibly Arabs would be rejected, not because they were non-Jews but because they didn’t fit in with existing Jewish communities. It is a distinction without a difference. This is how racism in Israel has traditionally operated. Instead of following the example of Apartheid South Africa and introducing legislation that forbade Arabs from leasing or buying ‘Jewish’ land, , Israel left it to the good sense of Jewish communities to reject Arabs who wanted to access Jewish land and to the regulations of para-state groups like the JNF.[x]
In the United States, the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, ruled that racially separate facilities did not violate the Constitution.[xi] Segregation, the Court said, was not discrimination. In practice separation has always meant inequality, otherwise why have it? It was not until Brown v Board of Education 1954 that the ruling in Plessy was overturned. In Israel separation is not decreed in law but comes about as the consequence of administrative practices, regulations, land, social and employment policies that are guided by Zionism, which is a state ideology. A Jewish state cannot be other than a racist state because of the settler colonialist context in which it was established. Being Jewish in Israel is as important as being White was in South Africa.
In the 2006 Democracy Institute Survey, 62% of Israelis wanted the government to encourage local Arabs to leave the country [xii] and 75% of Jews didn’t approve of sharing apartments with Arabs. Over half of Israeli Jews believed that the marriage of a Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to national treason, according to a survey by the Geocartography Institute. 55% said “Arabs and Jews should be separated at entertainment sites”.’[xiii]
In 2014 the Democracy Institute found that 62.9% Jews disagreed with the statement that ‘Jewish citizens of Israel should have greater rights than non-Jewish citizens.’ But when it came to more concrete questions, such as whether it was acceptable for Israel to allocate more funding to Jewish localities than to Arab ones, then 47.2% agreed compared to 47.5%; who disagreed.
In the 2016 Pew Opinion Survey a plurality (48%) of Israeli Jews wanted Israeli Palestinians to be expelled from the country. 79% believed that Jews are entitled to preferential treatment.[xiv]
An official policy of apartheid and racial segregation would be problematic because of Israel’s political dependence on the West. It would also create difficulties for diaspora Jews. How could one support apartheid in Israel and oppose anti-Semitism in one’s own country? The problem for Zionism is how to achieve an apartheid society without being seen to do so.
Zionism has therefore deployed a number of different strategies to achieve a Jewish supremacist society. One method was the use of para-state organisations such as the JNF to implement discrimination, another was the use of indirect discrimination – using an ostensibly neutral policy that in practice is discriminatory. For example in order to get a job in many areas you have to have served in the army! In Israel Arabs, with the exception of the Druze, do not serve in the Army.[xv]
In Israel all families with more than four children received a special grant. The problem was how to restrict this to Jews. The innocuously titled Discharged Soldier’s (Reinstatement in Employment) (Amendment No. 4) Law 1970 achieved this purpose by restricting such benefits to those who had served in the army or whose relatives had served. Uri Avneri, a member of the Knesset, in a speech opposing the law stated that:
‘The intention is to encourage births among one part of the population of Israel and to effect the opposite among the other part, to pay grants to the hungry children of one part of the population and withhold them from the hungry children of another part, the distinction… being an ethnic one…’
However the Haredi section of Israeli society also didn’t serve in the Army. The solution to this ‘problem’ was to pay a grant equivalent to the benefit directly to the Ministry of Religion which then disbursed it to Orthodox Jews.
Virtually every section of Israeli society – from manufacturing and trade, education (except universities), teaching, the civil service – is segregated. Arab areas of society, be it education or local government are underfunded compared to their Jewish counterparts. For the year 2013/14, per-student funding in high schools was 35 percent to 68 percent higher for Jews than for Arabs.[xvi] Fewer Arabs per head of population go to university.
However when it comes to poverty then Arabs are the winners! As the Jerusalem Post noted, the Annual Poverty Report ‘relayed a startling gap between different population groups in Israel. The incidence of poverty among Arab families in 2012 was a staggering 53.4% compared to 14.1% among Jewish families. 36.6% of poor families in Israel today are Arabs. [xvii]
Because of the Occupation Israel is becoming an openly apartheid society. In the West Bank there are two systems of law – one for Jewish settlers and another for Palestinians. Even in pre-1967 Israel, the calls for an openly apartheid society are increasing. At the ‘peace talks’ Tsipi Livni MK, a “moderate” Zionist, tried to include the areas where Israel’s Arabs live in the areas that would be exchanged for the settlement blocs of the West Bank.[xviii] There has been a whole raft of legislation, such as the 2011 Nakba Law, specifically targeted at Israel’s Arabs. The Zionist Right wish to go from the implicit to the explicit, from hidden to overt discrimination.
Police violence against Israeli Palestinians is another area of inbuilt and systemic discrimination. When demonstrations took place in Kafr Kanna in response to the killing of 22-year-old Khir Hamdan by the Police, Netanyahu called for the withdrawal of citizenship from Israeli Palestinians who he alleged had rioted. Those taking part in Jewish riots have never been threatened with the loss of citizenship, because Israel is a Jewish state.[xix] The Police killing was captured on video and showed the Police had lied and deliberately murdered an Arab teenager. About this Netanyahu had nothing to say.
By way of contrast, when an Ethiopian soldier was captured on camera being beaten up by the Police, there were riots. Netanyahu’s reaction to this was to invite the soldier to his residence and hug him whilst denouncing anti-Ethiopian racism.[xx]
[i] Jimmy Carter: Israel’s ‘Apartheid’ Policies Worse Than South Africa’s, Ha’aretz 11.12.06.,[ii] Netanyahu policies may turn Israel into apartheid state – former Israeli PM, RT, 17.6.16.[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apartheid[iv] In the survey of 400 Jewish and Israeli teens, 27% of Arab Israelis reported never having spoken with a Jewish youth. http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Survey-35-percent-of-Jewish-Israeli-teens-have-never-interacted-with-Arab-peers-404831[v]Palestine: Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development, SIR JOHN HOPE SIMPSON, October 1930 http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/hope-simpson-report.[vi] Poll: 55% back rabbis’ anti-Arab ruling, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3998010,00.html Dozens of top Israeli rabbis sign ruling to forbid rental of homes to Arabs, http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/dozens-of-top-israeli-rabbis-sign-ruling-to-forbid-rental-of-homes-to-arabs-1.329312, Ha’aretz 7.12.10.[vii] Battling against Israeli ‘apartheid’, BBC News, Lucy Ash, 23.12.04., http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4111915.stm[viii] Ha’aretz, 27.1.05. AG Mazuz Rules JNF Land Can Now Be Sold to Arabs , http://www.haaretz.com/ag-mazuz-rules-jnf-land-can-now-be-sold-to-arabs-1.148348[ix] For hostile reactions see for example Is This Land Still Our Land? The Expropriation of Zionism, Azureonline, No. 36, Spring 2009, Golovensky and Gilboa, http://azure.org.il/article.php?id=492[x] ‘Laws won’t help get rid of Arabs’, YNet, 29.11.10., ‘Laws won’t help get rid of Arabs, http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3990861,00.html[xi] It was not finally overturned until Brown v. Board of Education 1954.[xii] http://en.idi.org.il/tools-and-data/guttman-center-for-surveys/the-israeli-democracy-index/ http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3248693,00.html[xiii] ‘Marriage to an Arab is national treason’ 27.3.07, YNet. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3381978,00.html Roee Nahmias[xiv] Israel’s Religiously Divided Society, Pew Research Centre, https://tinyurl.com/y38wdrnv[xv] The definition of indirect discrimination is where a policy, criteria or practice is imposed, which is ostensibly neutral, but which in practice a whole class of people (for example women) find it more difficult to achieve.[xvi] For Jews and Arabs, Israel’s School System Remains Separate and Unequal, Ha’aretz 7 July 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.729404[xvii] Annual report shows 1.7 million Israelis living below poverty line, 17.12.13. http://www.jpost.com/National-News/Annual-report-shows-17-million-Israelis-living-below-poverty-line-335255[xviii] Palestine Papers, Permanent Revolution, Autumn 2011 see Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera: Introducing the Palestine Papers, https://leaksource.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/al-jazeera-introducing-palestine-papers-live-updates/[xix] Netanyahu: Those who call to destroy Israel should have citizenship revoked, +972 Magazine, 8.11.14., http://972mag.com/bibi-those-who-call-to-destroy-israel-should-have-citizenship-revoked/98537/ Meet the Arab-Israelis living in fear of expulsion, Residents in the flashpoint Israeli town of Kafr Kana fear mass expulsion if a controversial new law designating the country a Jewish state is approved, The Telegraph, 1.12.14, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/11263845/Meet-the-Arab-Israelis-living-in-fear-of-expulsion.html[xx] Netanyahu hugs black Jewish soldier who was assaulted by Israeli police officers sparking riots by Ethiopian Jews, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3067010/Israeli-president-says-Ethiopian-protest-exposes-wound.html