Monday, January 12, 2009

More on "the only democracy in the Middle East"

by 'Lenin' for Lenin's Tomb

The news is that Israel has banned Arab parties from standing in the upcoming elections:

Parliament spokesman Giora Pordes said the election committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of the motion, accusing the country's Arab parties of incitement, supporting terrorist groups and refusing to recognize Israel's right to exist.

This can't be a complete surprise since a) there are many Israeli politicians who would like the chance to dispose of the Arab minority permanently, and b) there are always moves to repress Arab political expression during one of Israel's periodic wars against, well, other Arabs. It will be recalled that during the 2006 Lebanon invasion, the Israeli press was filled with stories concerning the unpatriotic attitude of the country's Arab population. Ehud Olmert complained of Israeli Arab parliamentarians were guilty of treason and should be put on trial. Subsequently, some Arab parliamentarians were the subject of investigations by Israeli police, as they were accused of travelling to Lebanon and Syria and providing information to the enemy in September 2006. Reports last year showed a serious rise in racism toward Israeli Arabs, demonstrated in part by killings on the part of the police, the army, and Jewish Israeli civilians. It is increasingly clear that mainstream Israeli politicians do not view Israeli Arabs as proper citizens of the country. Only last December, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni advocated the transfer of Israeli Arabs. Her 'clarification' was interesting. She said:

I am willing to give up a part of the country over which I believe we have rights so that Israel will remain a Jewish and democratic state in which citizens have equal rights, whatever their religion.

How sweet. But even the far right Avigdor Lieberman doesn't talk about violent transfer: he talks precisely about the kinds of 'peaceful' transfer that Livni does. This has always been the way in which the Zionist idea of 'tihur' has been expressed. But what if Israeli Arabs don't want to go anywhere? What if they insist on their rights as citizens in what is supposed to be, but never has been, a democratic state? Moreover, doesn't this illustrate an inherent problem with the two-state position? Allowing Israel to exist in its current form, qua "Jewish state", is a racist proposition. It means that Israel cannot stomach too many Arabs, that Jews and Arabs can't live together.

The current repression isn't only directed against Arabs. As the Israeli philosopher Avi Ophir points out, this war has unleashed a serious crackdown on all internal dissent (his reflections on the nature of the war are also well worth taking time to read). But, seriously, after this disgrace, can anyone be left in doubt that Israel - from its inception to this denouement - is a racist state?