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Part 2. Ten Myths on Israel: Not how a “Democratic State” behave (by Ian Pappe)

No, Israel Is Not a Democracy

Subjugation of Minorities in Israel Is Not Democratic

By lan Pappe

From Ten Myths About Israel, out now from Verso Books.

June 12, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –  Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not a democracy at all.

In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide — even those who might criticize some of its policies — Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.

Those who do criticize Israel assume that, if anything went wrong in this democracy, then it was due to the 1967 war.

Subjugation of Minorities in Israel Is Not Democratic

The litmus test of any democracy is the level of tolerance it is willing to extend towards the minorities living in it. In this respect, Israel falls far short of being a true democracy.

For example, after the new territorial gains several laws were passed ensuring a superior position for the majority: the laws governing citizenship, the laws concerning land ownership, and most important of all, the law of return.

The latter grants automatic citizenship to every Jew in the world, wherever he or she was born.

This law in particular is a flagrantly undemocratic one, for it was accompanied by a total rejection of the Palestinian right of return — recognized internationally by the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948.

This rejection refuses to allow the Palestinian citizens of Israel to unite with their immediate families or with those who were expelled in 1948.

Denying people the right of return to their homeland, and at the same time offering this right to others who have no connection to the land, is a model of undemocratic practice.

Added to this was a further layering of denial of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Almost every discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel is justified by the fact that they do Not serve in the army.

The association between democratic rights and military duties is better understood if we revisit the formative years in which Israeli policy makers were trying to make up their minds about how to treat one-fifth of the population.

Their assumption was that Palestinian citizens did not want to join the army anyway, and that assumed refusal, in turn, justified the discriminatory policy against them.

This was put to the test in 1954 when the Israeli ministry of defense decided to call up those Palestinian citizens eligible for conscription to serve in the army. The secret service assured the government that there would be a widespread rejection of the call-up.

To their great surprise, all those summoned went to the recruiting office, with the blessing of the Communist Party, the biggest and most important political force in the community at the time.

The secret service later explained that the main reason was the teenagers’ boredom with life in the countryside and their desire for some action and adventure.

Notwithstanding this episode, the ministry of defense continued to peddle a narrative that depicted the Palestinian community as unwilling to serve in the military.

Inevitably, in time, the Palestinians did indeed turn against the Israeli army, who had become their perpetual oppressors, but the government’s exploitation of this as a pretext for discrimination casts huge doubt on the state’s pretense to being a democracy.

If you are a Palestinian citizen and you did not serve in the army, your rights to government assistance as a worker, student, parent, or as part of a couple, are severely restricted. This affects housing in particular, as well as employment — where 70% of all Israeli industry is considered to be security-sensitive and therefore closed to these citizens as a place to find work.

The underlying assumption of the ministry of defense was not only that Palestinians do not wish to serve but that they are potentially an enemy within who cannot be trusted. The problem with this argument is that in all the major wars between Israel and the Arab world the Palestinian minority did not behave as expected. They did not form a fifth column or rise up against the regime.

This, however, did not help them: to this day they are seen as a “demographic” problem that has to be solved.

The only consolation is that, still today, most Israeli politicians do not believe that the way to solve “the problem” is by the transfer or expulsion of the Palestinians (at least not in peacetime).

Note: Israel is emulating the USA incremental genocide strategy on the “other minorities”

Only one thing will make Israel stop brutalizing Palestinians

On August 26, Israel and the Palestinian Authority both accepted a cease-fire agreement after a 50-day Israeli assault on Gaza that left 2,100 Palestinians dead, 11,000 injured and vast landscapes of destruction behind.

The agreement calls for an end to military action by Israel and Hamas as well as an easing of the Israeli siege that has strangled Gaza for many years.

As long as the United States provides the necessary military, economic, diplomatic and ideological support for Israel’s illegal occupation and siege nothing will change.

 Noam Chomsky Posted in News  this October 5, 2014
Gaza in rubble after Israeli onslaught

Israel’s ‘mowing the lawn’ in its Operation Protective Edge.  50-day onslaught in Gaza, July/August 2014

The most recent of a series of cease-fire agreements reached after each of Israel’s periodic escalations of its unremitting assault on Gaza has not changed since the 2005 agreement, that Israel refused to apply.

Since November 2005 the terms of these agreements have remained essentially the same.

The regular pattern is for Israel to disregard whatever agreement is in place, while Hamas observes it—as Israel has conceded—until a sharp increase in Israeli violence elicits a Hamas response, followed by even fiercer brutality.

These escalations are called “mowing the lawn” in Israeli parlance.

The most recent was more accurately described as “removing the topsoil” by a senior US military officer, quoted in Al Jazeera America.

The first of this series was the Agreement on Movement and Access between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in November 2005.

It called for:

1. a crossing between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah for the export of goods and the transit of people;

2.  crossings between Israel and Gaza for goods and people;

3. the reduction of obstacles to movement within the West Bank;

4.  bus and truck convoys between the West Bank and Gaza;

5. the building of a seaport in Gaza; and

6. the reopening of the airport in Gaza that Israeli bombing had demolished.

That agreement was reached shortly after Israel withdrew its settlers and military forces from Gaza. The motive for the disengagement was explained by Dov Weisglass, a confidant of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who was in charge of negotiating and implementing it.

“The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,” Weisglass told Haaretz.

“And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a [US] presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”

“The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,” Weisglass added. “It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”

This pattern has continued to the present: through Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 to Pillar of Defense in 2012 to this summer’s Protective Edge, the most extreme exercise in mowing the lawn—so far.

For more than 20 years, Israel has been committed to separating Gaza from the West Bank in violation of the Oslo Accords it signed in 1993, which declare Gaza and the West Bank to be an inseparable territorial unity.

A look at a map explains the rationale.

Separated from Gaza, any West Bank enclaves left to Palestinians have no access to the outside world. They are contained by two hostile powers, Israel and Jordan, both close US allies—and contrary to illusions, the US is very far from a neutral “honest broker.”

Furthermore, Israel has been systematically taking over the Jordan Valley, driving out Palestinians, establishing settlements, sinking wells and otherwise ensuring that the region—about one-third of the West Bank, with much of its arable land—will ultimately be integrated into Israel along with the other regions being taken over.

The remaining Palestinian cantons will be completely imprisoned.

Unification with Gaza would interfere with these plans, which trace back to the early days of the occupation and have had steady support from the major Israeli political blocs.

Israel might feel that its takeover of Palestinian territory in the West Bank has proceeded so far that there is little to fear from some limited form of autonomy for the enclaves that remain to Palestinians.

There is also some truth to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s observation: “Many elements in the region understand today that, in the struggle in which they are threatened, Israel is not an enemy but a partner.” Presumably he was alluding to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates.

Israel’s leading diplomatic correspondent Akiva Eldar adds, however, that “all those ‘many elements in the region’ also understand that there is no brave and comprehensive diplomatic move on the horizon without an agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and a just, agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem.”

That is not on Israel’s agenda, he points out, and is in fact in direct conflict with the 1999 electoral program of the governing Likud coalition, never rescinded, which “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River.”

Some knowledgeable Israeli commentators, notably columnist Danny Rubinstein, believe that Israel is poised to reverse course and relax its stranglehold on Gaza.

We’ll see.

The record of these past years suggests otherwise and the first signs are not auspicious.

As Operation Protective Edge ended, Israel announced its largest appropriation of West Bank land in 30 years, almost 1,000 acres.

It is commonly claimed on all sides that, if the two-state settlement is dead as a result of Israel’s takeover of Palestinian lands, then the outcome will be one state west of the Jordan.

Some Palestinians welcome this outcome, anticipating that they can then engage in a fight for equal rights modeled on the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

Many Israeli commentators warn that the resulting “demographic problem” of more Arab than Jewish births and diminishing Jewish immigration will undermine their hope for a “democratic Jewish state.”

But these widespread beliefs are dubious.

The realistic alternative to a two-state settlement is that Israel will continue to carry forward the plans it has been implementing for years: taking over whatever is of value to it in the West Bank, while avoiding Palestinian population concentrations and removing Palestinians from the areas that it is absorbing.

That should avoid the dreaded “demographic problem.”

The areas being taken over include a vastly expanded Greater Jerusalem, the area within the illegal separation wall, corridors cutting through the regions to the east and probably the Jordan Valley.

Gaza will likely remain under its usual harsh siege, separated from the West Bank.

And the Syrian Golan Heights—like Jerusalem, annexed in violation of Security Council orders—will quietly become part of Greater Israel.

In the meantime, West Bank Palestinians will be contained in unviable cantons, with special accommodation for elites in standard neocolonial style.

For a century, the Zionist colonization of Palestine has proceeded primarily on the pragmatic principle of the quiet establishment of facts on the ground, which the world was to ultimately come to accept.

This principle has been a highly successful policy.

There is every reason to expect it to persist as long as the United States provides the necessary military, economic, diplomatic and ideological support.

For those concerned with the rights of the brutalized Palestinians, there can be no higher priority than working to change US policies, not an idle dream by any means.

Source: In These Times


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