As I have noted many times Israel gives a bad name to democracy. In spite of all its pretensions, it has always been an apartheid state with rules and laws that discriminate people based on religion and ethnicity. Israel’s ‘equality under law’ simply doesn’t apply to Palestinians, even to juveniles. According to a report published last week by B’Tselem (the Israeli human rights group), just one Palestinian juvenile defendant out of 835 was acquitted of stone-throwing over the past six years. (That is like 0.1 percent! Even the murderers in the USA have a much better statistics on getting acquitted!) The others were convicted, mostly through plea bargains. About 60 percent of the convicted minors served prison terms of four months or more. Among those who served sentences of a few days and up to two months in prison were 19 defendants who were 12 to 13 years old.
It should be noted here that the Palestinian juveniles are not the only ones throwing rocks. The Israelis do throw, too, against the Palestinians, and sometimes against their own security forces. But when was the last time you read or heard about an Israeli juvenile or adult put behind the prison for rock-throwing against Palestinians? The violent Israeli youth who attacked soldiers and policemen who had been sent at the government’s behest to Gaza and the northern West Bank to evacuate settlements six years ago did not have to wait long before their sentences were mitigated. As noted in a recent Haaretz editorial, Israel’s pretension to be a country in which equality under the law prevails appears ridiculous in the face of the other justice system that applies to juveniles that are not Palestinian.
The Arab citizens of the state of Israel are routinely discriminated in everything from the housing permits and share of water and natural resources to the wages earned, and from job opportunities to jail sentences. This discriminatory practice is not just limited to the leading rabbis who routinely call on their followers not to hire Arabs for work, but also to the government sector. Last week, Israel’s Civil Service Commission’s annual report on employment of Arabs in the service, unveiled the fact that only 7.52 percent of Israel’s 62,719 civil-service employees are Arabs. This figure is far below the Arab citizens’ 20-percent representation in the population as a whole. More disturbingly, most of those employed in civil service are in the lower echelons of the job. The proportion of Arabs in the top three pay grades of the service is below 1.5 percent. Arab women are massively underrepresented, constituting less than 3 percent of civil-service employees.
Recently the government of Israel passed a politically opportunistic and antidemocratic law that is sure to transform Israel’s legal code into an alarmingly dictatorial document. The Boycott Law, approved in a 47-to-38 vote by the Knesset, effectively bans any public call for a boycott –” economic, cultural or academic –” against Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense. This law would enable Israeli citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations instigating such boycotts, and subject violators to monetary penalties. Companies and organizations supporting a boycott could be barred from bidding on government contracts. Nonprofit groups could lose tax benefits. The NGO probes bill will investigate the funding sources and activities of leftist NGOs deemed by Israeli hardliners as harmful to Israel. This McCarthite bill will allow Knesset members to serve as both investigators and prosecutors, and also judges.
It is obvious that Israel’s ultra-conservative and racist government is determined to catapult the state into an era in which gagging people becomes accepted legal practice. It also aims to crush a growing push by Palestinians and their international supporters for boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel. Since last year, many Israeli artists and intellectuals, as well international artists, have canceled performances and programs in Israel and the West Bank to protest the illegal settlements. The advocates said the law was needed to prevent efforts to “delegitimize” Israel. Why should anyone be concerned about delegitimization of Israel, if it was a true democracy and not a fake one since no country can be delegitimized if it holds true to its democratic principles?
Anastasia Michaeli, an MK from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, speaking of herself and her many party colleagues born in the former U.S.S.R., declared that the NGO probe bill "shows how patriotic we are." Like her communist ancestors in the days of Lenin, she and her Soviet expatriate colleagues are obviously more ‘patriotic’ than the indigenous people for the ‘good’ of the nation!
There is no shortage of ghosts of Joseph McCarthy in the ruling coalition. Danny Danon, who is a member of the ruling party and an MK, has been the guests of the loonies of the American right – Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck – during their visits to Israel. He got a law passed: Security prisoners who have been pardoned and have committed any sort of offense will be returned to prison without trial. He also called for throwing Balad MK Hanin Zuabi in prison, with or without trial. As for the Palestinians who are already there, he has demanded the cessation of their visits and "benefits.” So much chatter for the Middle East’s ‘only democracy!’
Well, in spite of such monumental failings with democracy, the state of Israel still enjoys much support within the Christian evangelicals who believe that their selfish support for the apartheid state will expedite the second coming of Jesus Christ. For the last few years they have been hosting an annual event in Washington D.C. This year is no different.
Over 5000 Christians, mainly Evangelicals, gathered this week at the Convention Center in Washington for the annual conference of the organization CUFI (Christians United For Israel). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Christian Zionist conference via satellite, telling them to support Israel. Michael Oren, Ambassador to the U.S., compared the participants’ support of Israel to British military officer Orde Wingate’s training of Jewish paramilitary units before the establishment of the State of Israel. News commentator Glenn Beck worked the audience into a frenzy calling upon the conference attendees to declare that they, too, are Jewish. He exhorted, "Let us declare ‘I am a Jew’.” Pastor John Hagee, the founder of CUFI, told the audience, many of whom were waving both Israeli and American flags, “We gathered here with one message: Israel today, Israel tomorrow, and Israel forever.” "If the US Administration forces Israel to divide Jerusalem –” God will turn his back to the United States of America. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is watching America," Hagee continued.
For the Zionist heirs of Jabotinsky and Begin, the founding dream has been two-fold: First, a vision of Israel as an authentic democracy; second, doing everything possible to see to it that the West Bank and East Jerusalem remain in Israeli hands forever (as part of Jewish ‘real estate’ handed over by God). As noted by many area experts, however, Israel cannot be a democracy and a Jewish state at the same time when it refuses to return to the 1967 border. And this is where a serious debate is necessary for the world Jewry. Already many progressive minded Jews –” living both inside and outside the apartheid state — are refusing to accept the utterly suicidal and wickedly chauvinistic narratives scripted by their chauvinist friends inside Israel and the vultures and hyenas of the Christian Zionism waiting in the fringe.
A J Street poll published last Thursday shows that 57% of U.S. Jews back a Middle East peace plan based on 1967 borders with mutually agreed-upon land swaps, while 43% oppose such a move. According to the poll, 83% of the American Jews support a U.S.-brokered solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while 70% want the administration to offer a peace plan that proposes set borders and security arrangements. J Street’s poll, which was conducted in mid-July among 800 American Jews, showed nearly a third in favor of recognizing a Palestinian state in the UN, while another 18% who are hesitant of American recognition.
Suffice it to say that the tides are changing, hopefully, for the right reason.