The rambunctious UN Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racial Intolerance has ended, and language has finally been adopted to summarize the major points. “We recognize the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent state and we recognize the right to security for all states in the region, including Israel,” the text says.
The statement also recognizes the right of return for refugees. “We recognize the right of the refugees to return voluntarily to their homes and properties in dignity and safety, and urge all states to facilitate such return,” the text continues.
The conference, the largest ever held on racism, unfolded like a soap opera. The issue of Zionism seemed to be the primary focus of the media, though many other issues were addressed. Sadly, the US walked out of the conference because of the Zionism issue. This upset many African-Americans, who wanted to see our nation finally address the issue of slavery and reparations. The US role was never to be seen. The European Union had also threatened to walk if specific references were made to Israel and racism. Ultimately, the Europeans agreed to stay, after it viewed and agreed to a South-African-brokered compromise.
It was all truly mind-boggling. How could anyone claim that Israel is not a racist state? It is even called the Jewish state of Israel. It is a state for one religion and the founders of Zionism simply intended for such a homogenous state. Racism is defined as:
1) The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
2) Discrimination or prejudice based on race.
More water is given to Jewish citizens than to Palestinians; jobs are more plentiful for Jewish citizens than Israeli Palestinians; Jewish citizens are not subjected to torture while in prison; Israeli citizens and illegal Jewish settlers drive with yellow license plates, which allow them freedom to travel throughout the Holy Land; non-Jewish Israelis cannot buy or lease land in Israel; Israel’s policies have involved planning regulations – prohibiting Palestinian building on 40% of Gaza, 70% of the West Bank and 80% of Jerusalem. While restricting Palestinian development, Israel builds on the same land in the Occupied Territories to house Israelis alone.
According to an Amnesty International report, released shortly before the Conference, “prejudice against Palestinian citizens of Israel is widespread in the criminal justice system, both in the courts and law enforcement methods.” How can we forget the use of live ammunition, which killed 13 Israeli Palestinians last fall? Live ammunition was not used on Jewish rioters.
A few years ago, the Israeli government was even shown to have a 70:30 policy in the City of Jerusalem. Efforts to maintain a 70% Jewish population over 29% Muslim and 1% Christian populations. This has been accomplished through home demolitions, denial of building permits, ID card confiscations, and residency revocations.
Is their any question as to whether these would be considered racist policies in other regions of the world?
A survey was even taken a few years back in the Israeli daily newspaper, Yediot Ahranot, which showed that the majority of Israeli teens believed that Palestinians do not deserve the same rights as them. One shudders to think what they are learning from their parents. One would think that more than most individuals, Jews who survived or descended from Jewish Holocaust victims would be among the greatest teachers of tolerance. Not as it pertains to Palestinians. Here lies another of the great tragedies stemming from this horrific event: the Palestinians have been expected to pay the price for the ills of the Europeans and Americans é enablers of the Jewish Holocaust to begin with.
Further, for decades, we have seen the West try to wipe away its sins on the backs of Palestinians. Often turning history upside down, or trying to solve problems by essentially creating other problems. Be it the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which apportioned 55% of the land to the Jewish community who owned less than 10% of Palestine, or whether it is condoning the use of F16 bombers and Apache helicopters on Palestinians with no army, there seems to be no end in trying to alleviate the guilty consciousness of the West. The UN Conference was yet another extension of these amelioration tactics. When does it stop? And when do these same countries begin to look within themselves and realize that just as they enabled the Jewish Holocaust, so they have and continue to enable another catastrophe.
It is understandable that the term “racist” bothers Israelis. Nobody wants to be called a racist, particularly those who were forced to wear patches to identify them for discrimination and/or death. But the policies Israel pursues are exactly this. If it doesn’t like the well-deserved label, then they should stop their racist practices. As to the West, which seems to suffer from the endless guilt and fear of the word anti-Semitic, it’s time to ask how they are advancing justice by refusing to call a spade a spade? How many Palestinians have to die or suffer from Israel’s policies before futile condemnations are translated into the kind of punitive policies that became commonplace with apartheid South Africa?
It was Henry Katzew, a former South African journalist now living in Israel, who once stated in “South Africa: a Country Without Friends,” — “What is the difference between the way in which the Jewish people struggles to remain what it is in the midst of a non-Jewish population, and the way the Afrikaners try to stay what they are?”
There is no difference.
Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.