Israel – rainbow nation. Arab neighbours practice apartheid.

The claim that Israel is an apartheid state has always been a malicious falsehood. The origins of the falsehood lie in the 1970s and the deliberate manufacture by authoritarian Russia (in its guise then as the Soviet Union), the Arab states (none of which was democratic), and the non-aligned Countries (with ‘non-aligned’ more of a joke than fact).  The objective of the malicious lie was to make Israel a pariah state, a condition that was supposed to lead to the country’s elimination.  What couldn’t be achieved on the battlefield was to be achieved through subversive machination.

By 2014, all that the libellous falsehood had achieved was, simply put, to create a hindrance to peace talks and a barrier to the advancement of peace talks which might have ended the Arab conflict with, and aggression against, the Jewish state.

What the lie also managed to do, however, was create a smokescreen which blinded us to the reality in the countries of the Arab world surrounding Israel and in those states that created the falsehood. It is in the Arab world that apartheid exists, not in Israel.

If Israel were an apartheid state the following could not have happened:

  • an Israeli Arab judge sitting in the High Court
  • an Arab judge presiding over the trial at which a former president of Israel was convicted
  • a Druze, Majali Wahabi, serving as acting president of Israel
  • an Arab captain of the Hapoel Tel Aviv soccer team
  • an Arab member of the Israeli National Football Team
  • an Arab women, Yityish Aynaur, becoming Miss Israel
  • a Druze historian and poet serving as Israel’s ambassador to Ecuador
  • an Arab director of the Emergency Medicine Hadassah Medical Centre in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem
  • a popular Bedouin pop singer reaching the top of the Israeli charts
  • a half-Arab and half-Russian Christian becoming Miss Israel Universe
  • a Druze becoming a major-general in the Israel Defence Force (IDF)
  • a trio, composed of an Arab Israeli woman, a male German convert to Judaism, and a Jewish Orthodox woman, competing in 2014 to be Israel’s Master Chef.

It is not simply that little cross-section of daily achievement that expresses the lie that Israel is an apartheid state. Simon Deng has also exposed the lie.

But who is Simon Deng?  Simon Deng is a Sudanese human rights activist and victim of child slavery. In September 2011 he managed to defy the anti-Israel lobby at the UN and spoke up at the 3rd United Nations Durban Conference (Durban III) held in New York and praised Israel as a state of people forming a rainbow nation.  By contrast, he held that Africans are the ‘victims of Arab/Islamic apartheid’. The Arab response to events in Darfur was genocide he said, and ‘nobody at the U.N. tells the truth about Darfur’.

So then… Is it the Arab countries rather than Israel that should be considered apartheid states ?  Probably.

Almost to the last one, they are certainly guilty of flouting the provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (adopted in 1998 and coming into force in 2002).  Among other things, their policies and practices include depriving or limiting people of civil, religious, and political rights; practicing discrimination; infringing on freedom and dignity of people; subjecting them to arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment; and preventing groups from participating in the political, social, economic, and cultural life of their countries.

It is easy enough to illustrate the general picture in Arab countries showing racial, ethnic, religious, and gender discrimination against black Africans, the Kurds, Christians and Jews, and women, but there is also the more specific denial of rights to ‘Palestinians’ living in Arab countries. This can even come down to denying medical treatment for Palestinians in hospitals. Compare this with the very real hospitality of Israeli hospitals that have treated thousands of Palestinians every year, even wounded would-be suicide bombers, from the West Bank and Gaza.

The policy of Arab apartheid was made clear by Resolution 1457 of the Arab League in 1959.  Although there is supposed to be an ‘Arab nation’ and the concept of ‘ummat al-Islamiyah’ (the Islamic nation), the Arab countries through Resolution 1457 would not grant citizenship to applicants of Palestinian origin deliberately in order to prevent their assimilation into their host countries.  The Resolution placed Palestinians into a permanent state of limbo. This was confirmed and complained about by the current Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) , in a statement published in the official PLO journal in March 1976. He said that the Arab armies that invaded Israel ‘forced [the Palestinians] to leave their homeland, imposed on them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Eastern Europe’.

In the slaughter-house which is modern Syria, Palestinian refugees had been granted partial rights in 1954, though not political rights.  For many years they were not allowed to hold property, and they have never been allowed to become citizens.  The Assad regime – controlled by the Alawites, 14% of the population – is in charge of not only the government, but of a considerable part of business.  The Kurds too have traditionally been excluded from the political, economic, and cultural life of the country and have been subjected to denial of basic human rights, to persecution, to mass murder, and to arbitrary police behaviour.

In Lebanon, Palestinians do not have Lebanese citizenship and so do not have Lebanese identity cards. They are barred from owning property and until late-2010, employment required a government-issued work permit. In spite of these recent amendments, other legal restrictions bar them from employment in at least 25 professions, including law, medicine, and engineering.

Although Jordan has been the only Arab country to grant citizenship to Palestinians, from 1988 it began arbitrarily withdrawing nationality, without any notice, from thousands of them.  In 1983, Jordan also introduced different colour-coded travel cards for Palestinians travelling to and from the West Bank. This has created different levels of citizenship rights for access to all levels of education, and in fees for drivers’ licenses.  Above all, Palestinian non-nationals require a residency permit, thus suffering in the job market.  They are still not generally allowed to practice in some of the organised professions.

And so, once again, back to Israel and the falsehood of ‘apartheid’ levelled against it. Today, within Israel, Jews of multi-various origin form a majority in the country, but the Arab minority are full citizens with full voting rights and representation in the government.  As said above, a truly rainbow nation.

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Honouring Ariel Sharon in some controversial thoughts

On the announcement of his death, and since his death, much has been written about Ariel Sharon (1928-2014), not least about the Sabra and Shatila incident in September 1982 when Lebanese Christian Phalangist militias massacred more than 762 Palestinian and Lebanese Shi’ites. Sharon and Israel’s defence forces were heavily criticised for doing nothing to prevent the slaughter. Indeed Sharon himself was forced to resign from the post of Defence Minister after being found indirectly responsible. The Kahan Commission which had been tasked by Israel to examine the incident stated that he bore personal responsibility for ignoring the danger of bloodshed and revenge.

Ever anxious to blight the memory of a great soldier of course, few writers had bothered to place the Sabra and Shatila Incident into its real context – that of yet another massacre and incident of revenge in a long line of such grisly events. These aren’t too difficult to find.

Read about Black Saturday which was a series of killings and armed clashes in Beirut ! After four Phalangists were found murdered in a car in December 1975, Phalangist militia in the city went into a frenzy and blamed the killings on the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) dominated by Moslems and Palestinians. Phalangists attacked Moslems throughout Christian-dominated East Beirut in an orgy of bloodletting and several hundred people were murdered in a few hours, most of them civilian. The number of victims range between 200 and 600.

Read about Karantina ! On 18 January 1976, around six weeks after Black Saturday, the Karantina Massacre took place. Karantina had been a predominantly Moslem slum district in Christian-dominated East Beirut, and was controlled by the PLO (the Palestine Liberation Organisation). On the day in question, Karantina was overrun by the Lebanese Christian militias resulting in the deaths of approximately 1,000-1,500 people.

Read about Damour, a Christian town just south of Beirut ! The Damour Massacre took place a couple of days after Karantina on 20 January 1976. The town was attacked by PLO units aligned with the LNM. Part of its population died in battle or in the killings that followed, and the remainder were forced to flee.  Twenty Phalangist militiamen were executed, and then Damour civilians were lined up against a wall and sprayed with machine-gun fire. An estimated 582 civilians died.

Read about the Tel al-Zaatar Massacre in August 1976 ! These killings at the UN administered Palestinian refugee camps on the ‘Hill of Thyme’ were the result of belligerency between the Lebanese and the Syrians on one side, and the PLO on the other. Some 1,000-1,500 Palestinians died.

And, as light follows day, so too did inter- and intra-communal violence in Lebanon throughout the late-1970s and into the 1980s, and indeed after Sabra and Shatila too. You can read about Sabra and Shatila everywhere but rarely is it placed in context. Some articles continue to blame the outrage on Israel’s armed forces rather than on the Lebanese Christian Phalangists. These pieces are invariably written by those with an anti-Israeli if not anti-Semitic agenda… and not always by those on the fascist-fringe. Often they are copied pieces, perpetuating initial biased reporting from the first few hours after the September 1982 events.

Another shaky area that few writers ever explore when writing about Sharon is the matter of what the other national soldiers in the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF) were doing on the day of the Phalangist outrage in 1982. Where were these other foreign forces that included Italian and British soldiers, the US Marines and US Navy SEALs, and elite units of the French forces? What had happened to their intelligence on the activities of the Lebanese groups?

Another event in the colourful life of Ariel Sharon was his visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in 2000, a visit that has been described as outrageous and inflammatory, but a visit nonetheless to the holiest place in the world for Jews. Again though, few writers ever bother to ask why Ariel Sharon shouldn’t have visited the Temple Mount. The writer of this blog himself – a nominal Christian – visited the Temple Mount in the 1970s. So, why can’t a Jew? Why is it that Christians, Hindus, Moslems, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and those of no-religion at all can view visitors at the Jewish precinct at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem (ha-kotel ha-ma’aravi), but non-Moslems cannot even enter the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, let alone stroll the famous mosques and holy sites and precincts of these cities? Why shouldn’t Ariel Sharon have visited the Temple Mount? Why can’t a Jew go into the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa Mosque?

Eat against fascism… Buy Israeli products, boycott Palestinian produce!!

It is nearly March and on university campuses across the land it is time for the annual Israel-hate fest, otherwise known as Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). On the central campus in Edinburgh, the rather cheap looking posters proclaiming this event, and slapped across lampposts and bins (best place for them, bins), have in many cases been part-ripped or scratched over. In Aberdeen, the local web-based ‘Aberdeen Voice’ has carried a media clip profiling the event – the title of the tawdry piece being ‘Roadmap to Apartheid’. In Edinburgh, IAW has coincided with the appearance in the city of the play, ‘My name is Rachel Corrie’.

The preamble to the clip that appears on the ‘Aberdeen Voice’ states that ‘Palestinians feel that they are living in an apartheid system today’. Well… correct me if I am wrong… but ‘feeling’ that something is the case, doesn’t MAKE it the case.

As ever the content, on dissection, offers the usual mix of crude propaganda, hypocrisy and cynical manipulation. It offers clips showing  – in quite large part – conditions in the former Apartheid South Africa and provides erratically chosen clips of life in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, and with Goebbels-like editing, the viewer is supposed to make comparisons between former South Africa and life in these territories today. The idea being that you get so upset about Israel that you stop buying its produce and using its services, and want to boycott it. If you get upset about Hamas and Fatah instead  – the fascist organisations that ACTUALLY  control the daily lives of Palestinians and which have denied the people elections for over 7-years  – then you’d be seriously off-message and Israel Apartheid Week would have failed.

To counter the malicious hate-fest, and the at times crude anti-semitic nature of IAW, perhaps it is time there was an Arab Apartheid Week as well. It wouldn’t be hard to find a focus. Try Lebanon for example. In Lebanon, Palestinians have the special legal status of ‘foreign’. This status denies them access to health care, social services, property ownership and education. Indeed many jobs are closed to Palestinians: in public service for example, and in government institutions such as schools and hospitals. On a daily basis, Israel provides access to Palestinians for its emergency services and services offered by public hospitals… Not so in Lebanon where Palestinians are denied access to medical treatment or surgery. In Lebanon, Palestinians have to rely on the health and educational services offered by the UN/UNRWA.

Then there is Kuwait. This little country, rescued by an international military force a few years ago, has 300,000 bedouin residents who are denied citizenship and the right to vote. And there are Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates too… there, thousands of children are born every year and they are denied citizenship simply because their parents are not citizens. In large part, these parents are immigrants from South Asia with no rights whatsoever, but they keep their ‘host’ countries running.

My own answer to IAW is to boycott Palestinian produce. For me, olives, olive-oil and other produce from ‘Zaytoun’ is out. I am going to eat against fascism and buy Israeli produce where possible.