Israel's culture of racism

Buried under a story about Israeli naturalization and Ethiopian Jews in last weeks New York Times was a four-sentence blurb. The first sentence: "An 11 year-old Palestinian girl was killed Monday by a gunshot to the face while she stood outside her school in the southern Gaza Strip."

Four sentences. The reader does not even get to know the girl's name. I will share her name; Ghadir Mukhaimar. May she rest in peace.

This is a sample of the brutal occupation. Every day it continues and the signs of hope, which are boasted, get shot down on a school yard's step.

Ghadir's story can bring anger to the most peaceful of men, yet it was the story above her empty blurb that inspired this column.

The State of Israel has decided to expedite the naturalization process for certain Ethiopian Jews. Since its inception, the State of Israel hoped to be a home for all Jews.

At some point in history, these Ethiopian Jews had converted from Judaism to other religions. Now, back to their Jewish ways, they are seeking refuge in Israel. Initially Israel was skeptical about the authenticity of the "Jewishness" in question. Most recently, however, they have come to a decision to make the process easier.

The theme here is "anyone but the Palestinians". Israel has been engaged in a campaign to take as much land as possible from the Palestinians who have been living on it for centuries.

The lax immigration laws for non-Palestinians are not the only instance. Several months ago, when I arrived in Ben Gurion Airport in Lod, I noticed something different. Next to the word "welcome", written in English, Hebrew and Arabic, it was also written in Russian. The population of Russians in Israel totals near one million, many of which falsify their "Jewishness" for entry to Israel.

The local experts, surprisingly enough, are gravediggers. Christian Arabs who remained in Israel during the expulsion in 1948 have their own cemeteries because non-Jews cannot be buried in Jewish cemeteries. (Inequality in Israel continues even beyond death.) The Arab Orthodox cemeteries, which used to be less active, are beginning to fill up with Orthodox Christian Russians.

The Russians also introduce a more dangerous element. Many supporters of Israel will be quick to tell you about how western the "only democracy in the Middle East is" but recent human rights reports show appalling contradictions. Just last week, news surfaced about possible U.S. sanctions against Israel for human rights abuses. Not for shooting at schoolgirls, but for trafficking women!

Amnesty International reported, "in many instances, women trafficked from [Former Soviet Union] countries are literally bought and sold for large sums of money, often in auctions where they are purchased by the highest bidder." The horrifying report also states that in Israel "slavery and the buying and selling of persons are not criminal offences."

It was also recently exposed that Israel had been using a 55 year-old law to steal land in East Jerusalem. The law provides that any land from which the owner is absent becomes property of the state's custodian. Arabs in the West Bank, whose livelihood is brought to a stand still by the racist apartheid wall, cannot get to their farmlands. Israel would then declare them absent and confiscate the land. Fortunately, this secret policy has recently been exposed and this practice was supposed to cease in East Jerusalem, but it has not stopped everywhere.

On my last trip to Israel, I met a remarkable old man. Abu George is a devout Arab living in Israel. He used to reside in a village in the Galilee, near the Lebanese boarder, and travel to work his fields a few miles south. Now, because of the absentee law, he has moved to a shack on his farmland so Israel will not declare him absent.

Yet this is just a sample of the racist policies which exist in Israel. A shockwave was sent through Israel recently when the Attorney General changed policy regarding the Jewish National Fund. The function of this organization is to manage land in Israel and sell it to Jews only. It is the principle force behind the systematic ethnic cleansing which Israel has legalized and embraced since its inception. Land which the JNF obtains can only be sold to Jews. Attorney General Meni Mazuz recently said that this policy was illegal and against the democratic ideal. Though this seemed like a step in the right direction, he also added that land, which the JNF ends up selling to non-Jews, would be compensated for with other land. So the JNF will continue its goal of wiping Arabs out of their lands completely.

Israel's policies are saying "anything but Palestinians" in an effort to change the demographic catastrophe it is facing. They are willing to permit human rights abuses, accept quasi-Jews and confiscate Palestinian land so they can put off a reality that any educated person can understand: racism can not coexist with peace.

Ghadir was trying to get an education. At 11 years old, she too could have understood that simple human principle.

Why can't Israel?

This story was printed from The Massachusetts Daily Collegian.
By Yousef Munayyer, Collegian editor February 08, 2005

© 2005 The Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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