One thing Ahmadinejad’s right about – and Desmond Tutu agrees
Israel is racist in its treatment of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians
The Iranian government are wrong on many things. They’ve beaten Iranians, tortured them, jailed them without fair trial and murdered them. Their victims include striking bus drivers and teachers to women’s rights activists, journalists, gay people, students demonstrating for democracy, journalists, editors and unmarried women who have had sex or publicly held their fiancée’s hand (1,2,3,4,5).
Ahmadinejad is also wrong in doubting the scale of the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered, but he’s right about one thing – Israel’s treatment of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs is racist.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and UN special rapporteur Professor John Dugard both visited Israel and the Israeli occupied Palestinian territories. Both compared it to the apartheid system they’d lived under (6, 7).
The current Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has proposed expelling all Arab citizens from Israel and bombing Israel’s ally Egypt (8).
Ehud Barak is Defence Minister in the current Israeli government and was also Defence Minister in the previous one. While his Labor party is seen as progressive and ‘pro-peace’, he has claimed Arabs have a “culture” of lying (9). In 2000, when he was Prime Minister, armed paramilitary police were ordered by his government to fire on Palestinian and Israeli Arab rioters with live ammunition after Ariel Sharon deliberately provoked Palestinians by visiting the disputed Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The anger created by this visit is understandable given that Sharon was personally involved in carrying out the Qibya massacre in 1953 and the architect of the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982 along with many other war crimes against Arab civilians and prisoners of war. The rioters were armed only with bottles and stones (10 -16).
The deaths and injuries caused by this led to widespread riots and demonstrations across Israel and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories by both Palestinians and Israeli Arabs (some of whom consider themselves Palestinians or want a bi-national state with Israeli Jews, Arabs and Palestinians all given citizenship) This was the start of the ‘Second Intifada’ or ‘uprising’ against Israeli occupation (10 – 16).
Israeli police and soldiers responded by shooting unarmed Palestinian and Israeli-Arab protesters, bystanders and peace campaigners, killing large numbers and wounding thousands. The dead included 12 Israeli Arab citizens of Israel, including peaceful demonstrators and bystanders to demonstrations and riots. Aseel or Asel Asleh, a 17 year old Israeli Arab member of the American funded ‘Seeds of Peace’ peace campaign group (whose members include Israelis and Palestinians) was killed by Israeli police who shot him in the neck. He had not been involved even in throwing stones, only peacefully demonstrating. Israeli Arab Ibrahim Suleiman and his daughter Nur Suleiman were both shot by Israeli armed police while watching demonstrators from the flat roof of their house. Marlene Ramadan was shot dead without warning by hidden Israeli snipers as she and her husband Doctor Amr Ramadan drove home. One Israeli Jewish woman was killed by a rock thrown at her car by rioting Israeli Arabs (10 -16).
In the occupied territories the numbers of Palestinians killed when rioting, stone-throwing or merely being unfortunate to be around at the time was far higher (10 – 16).
Not one Israeli policeman, soldier or government minister was jailed or fired for any of this. The Israeli Or Commission, appointed to investigate the deaths was a partial white-wash – but even it criticised Israeli police for opening fire with rubber bullets at point blank range and live ammunition on Israeli Arab demonstrators, especially since they managed to stop Israeli Jewish rioters, who were throwing Molotov cocktails and attacking Arabs, without using deadly force (10 – 16).
When an Arab Knesset member proposed a bi-national state, with equal citizenship for all Jews and Arabs across Israel and the occupied territories, Barak portrayed Israeli Arabs as a ‘fifth column’ inside the ‘Jewish state’. (17).
The long-standing Israeli government policies of refusing any ‘right of return’ to Palestinian refugees and their descendants forced out of their homes at gunpoint in 1948 and 1967 to present also stands in marked contrast to the Israeli ‘law of return’ for Jewish immigrants to Israel. A 1970 amendment to it also allows Israeli citizenship to anyone with one Jewish grandparent. This shows the emptiness of the Israeli government claim that there is ‘no room’ for the Palestinian refugees or that Israel couldn’t support them. Palestinians and Israeli Arabs are seen as ‘a demographic timebomb’ that must be prevented from outnumbering non-Arabs in Israel either by forced transfer of Arabs or by increasing the non-Arab birth rate - notably by very high grants and child benefit provided to all Israeli Jewish (or non-Arab) families but not to Israeli Arab parents. (18) (also click here for more on this and more sources).
Israeli government adviser Arnon Soffer once suggested that the only solution is to “kill and kill and kill. All day, every day.” to keep Arabs’ numbers down within Israel and the occupied territories (19).
While the Israeli government are certainly not putting Israeli Arabs or Palestinians to the gas chambers there are uncomfortable echoes of the 1930s German government’s policy of encouraging ‘Aryan’ Germans to have lots of children and discouraging non-Aryan ones.
The American Jewish professor Norman Finkelstein has also pointed out the similarities between the South African Apartheid system of autonomous, poor, inner-city ‘homelands’ or ‘Bantustans’ for black and coloured people and the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords which granted the Palestinian Authority very limited autonomy in mostly poor urban areas cut off from one another by Israeli occupied territory, while reserving most good farmland and water for Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The role Israel’s government intended for the PA also parallels that intended by South African Apartheid governments for black ‘homeland’ governments – they are to help oppress their own people in return for being allowed to pocket some money for themselves. Ehud Barak’s later offer to Arafat at Taba in 2001 was little different from the Oslo offer, forcing Arafat to reject it. (Click here to read more and for source notes on this).
Corruption among Arafat and Abbas’ Fatah party was one of the major reasons for Hamas winning the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections – the others being Israeli violence against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs and the mass unemployment and poverty caused by the Israeli occupation and Fatah corruption.
Many Israeli Jews fear that if they are not the majority in a Jewish state they will face massacres like the pogroms and Holocaust. This however can’t justify their brutality towards and repression of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. The only way to guarantee peace is to end the cycle of violence and hatred by granting equality.
Even former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that if Israel does not allow Palestinians their own state soon the result will be the overthrow of the current ‘Jewish state’ by a binational one supported by the majority of the population, much as happened with South African Apartheid (20). As in Apartheid South Africa there are many of the currently ‘dominant’ group – Israeli Jews rather than whites in this case -who oppose the racism of their government and society. Whether the solution found is two-state or one binational state, it’s clear that the status quo is not morally or politically tenable in the long run.
(1) = Guardian 17 Mar 2007 ‘Iran crushes teachers' pay protest’,
(2) = BBC News 22 July 2003 ‘Canada tackles Iran over reporter’,
(3) = Human Rights Watch 06 Jun 2004 ‘"Like the Dead in Their Coffins"
- Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran ‘,
(4) = Human Rights Watch 30 May 2008 ‘The Issue is Torture’,
(5) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2009 – Iran,
(6) = BBC News 29 Apr 2002 ‘Tutu condemns Israeli 'apartheid',
(7) = BBC News 23 Feb 2007 ‘UN envoy hits Israel 'apartheid'’,
(8) = Times 17 Mar 2009 ‘Avigdor Lieberman - branded Arab-hating racist - set to be Israeli foreign minister’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5920555.ece
(9) = Guardian 23 May 2002 ‘Lying is cultural trait of Arabs, says Barak’,
(10) = New York Times 15 Jun 2001 ‘Police Killings of Israeli Arabs Being Questioned by Inquiry’, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/15/world/police-killings-of-israeli-arabs-being-questioned-by-inquiry.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjects/A/Arabs
(11) = Seeds of Peace – Tribute to Asel Asleh,
(12) = New York Times 02 Sep 2003 ‘Police Used Excessive Force on Israeli Arabs, Panel Says’, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/02/world/police-used-excessive-force-on-israeli-arabs-panel-says.html
(13) = B’Tselem March 2002 ‘Trigger Happy: Unjustified Gunfire and the IDF's Open-Fire Regulations during the al-Aqsa Intifada’, http://www.btselem.org/Download/200203_Trigger_Happy_Eng.pdf
(14) = Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel ‘Special report: Official Commission of Inquiry into the October 2000 Events’, http://www.adalah.org/eng/commission.php
(15) = The official summation of the Or Commission report, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=335594&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y
(16) = Jonathan Cook (2006) ‘Blood and Religion – The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State’ , Pluto Press, London, 2006 , pages 38-40, 43-44, 51-54, 66-70
(17) = Jonathan Cook (2006) ‘Blood and Religion : The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State’, Pluto Press, London , 2006, Chapter 1 , especially pages 55 & 57
(18) = Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs ‘The Law of Return’,
(19) = John Pilger (2006) , ‘Freedom Next Time’ , Bantam, London, 2006 , page 152
(20) = Guardian 30 Nov 2007 ‘Israel risks apartheid-like struggle if two-state solution fails, says Olmert • Jewish state is finished without deal, warns PM’,