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Israel's Right to Be Racist By: Joseph Massad*
Posted Posted on May 5, 2007

Faluja-Gaza, 1949, Ethnically Cleansed Palestinians on their way to Hebron
Israel's struggle for peace is a sincere one. In fact, Israel desires to live at peace not only with its neighbors, but also and especially with its own Palestinian population, and with Palestinians whose lands it military occupies by force. Israel's desire for peace is not only rhetorical but also substantive and deeply psychological. With few exceptions, prominent Zionist leaders since the inception of colonial Zionism have desired to establish peace with the Palestinians and other Arabs whose lands they slated for colonization and settlement. The only thing Israel has asked for, and continues to ask for in order to end the state of war with the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors, is that all recognize its right to be a racist state that discriminates by law against Palestinians and other Arabs and grants differential legal rights and privileges to its own Jewish citizens and to all other Jews anywhere. The resistance that the Palestinian people and other Arabs have launched against Israel's right to be a racist state is what continues to stand between Israel and the peace for which it has struggled and to which it has been committed for decades. Indeed, this resistance is nothing less than the "New anti-Semitism".

Israel is willing to do anything to convince Palestinians and other Arabs of why it needs and deserves to have the right to be racist. Even at the level of theory, and before it began to realise itself on the ground, the Zionist colonial project sought different means by which it could convince the people whose lands it wanted to steal and against whom it wanted to discriminate to accept as understandable its need to be racist. All it required was that the Palestinians "recognize its right to exist" as a racist state. Military methods were by no means the only persuasive tools available; there were others, including economic and cultural incentives.

After all, Israeli racism only manifests in its flag, its national anthem, and a bunch of laws that are necessary to safeguard Jewish privilege
Zionism from the start offered some Palestinians financial benefits if they would accede to its demand that it should have the right to be racist. Indeed, the State of Israel still does. Many Palestinian officials in the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization have been offered and have accepted numerous financial incentives to recognize this crucial Israeli need. Those among the Palestinians who regrettably continue to resist are being penalized for their intransigence by economic choking and starvation, supplemented by regular bombardment and raids, as well as international isolation. These persuasive methods, Israel hopes, will finally convince a recalcitrant population to recognize the dire need of Israel to be a racist state. After all, Israeli racism only manifests in its flag, its national anthem, and a bunch of laws that are necessary to safeguard Jewish privilege, including the Law of Return (1950), the Law of Absentee Property (1950), the Law of the State's Property (1951), the Law of Citizenship (1952), the Status Law (1952), the Israel Lands Administration Law (1960), the Construction and Building Law (1965), and the 2002 temporary law banning marriage between Israelis and Palestinians of the occupied territories.

Let us start with why Israel and Zionism need to ensure that Israel remains a racist state by law and why it deserves to have that right. The rationale is primarily threefold and is based on the following claims.

  1. Jews are always in danger out in the wide world; only in a state that privileges them racially and religiously can they be safe from gentile oppression and can prosper. If Israel removed its racist laws and symbols and became a non-racist democratic state, Jews would cease to be a majority and would be like Diaspora Jews, a minority in a non-Jewish state. These concerns are stated clearly by Israeli leaders individually and collectively. Shimon Peres, for example, the dove of official Israel, has been worried for some time about the Palestinian demographic "danger", as the Green Line, which separates Israel from the West Bank, is beginning to "disappear ... which may lead to the linking of the futures of West Bank Palestinians with Israeli Arabs". He hoped that the arrival of 100,000 Jews in Israel would postpone this demographic "danger" for 10 more years, as ultimately, he stressed, "demography will defeat geography".

  2. In December 2000, the Institute of Policy and Strategy at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Centre in Israel held its first of a projected series of annual conferences dealing with the strength and security of Israel, especially with regards to maintaining Jewish demographic majority. Israel's president and current and former prime ministers and cabinet ministers were all in attendance. One of the "Main Points" identified in the 52-page conference report is concern over the numbers needed to maintain Jewish demographic and political supremacy of Israel: "The high birth rate [of 'Israeli Arabs'] brings into question the future of Israel as a Jewish state ... The present demographic trends, should they continue, challenge the future of Israel as a Jewish state. Israel has two alternative strategies: adaptation or containment. The latter requires a long-term energetic Zionist demographic policy whose political, economic, and educational effects would guarantee the Jewish character of Israel." The report adds affirmatively that, "those who support the preservation of Israel's character as ... a Jewish state for the Jewish nation ... constitute a majority among the Jewish population in Israel." Of course, this means the maintenance of all the racist laws that guarantee the Jewish character of the state. Subsequent annual meetings have confirmed this commitment.

  3. Jews are carriers of Western civilization and constitute an Asian station defending both Western civilization and economic and political interests against Oriental terrorism and barbarism. If Israel transformed itself into a non-racist state, then its Arab population would undermine the commitment to Western civilization and its defense of the West's economic and political interests, and might perhaps transform Jews themselves into a Levantine barbaric population. Here is how Ben Gurion once put it: "We do not want Israelis to become Arabs. We are in duty bound to fight against the spirit of the Levant, which corrupts individuals and societies, and preserve the authentic Jewish values as they crystallized in the [European] Diaspora." Indeed Ben Gurion was clear on the Zionist role of defending these principles: "We are not Arabs, and others measure us by a different standard ... our instruments of war are different from those of the Arabs, and only our instruments can guarantee our victory." More recently, Israel's ambassador to Australia, Naftali Tamir, stressed that: "We are in Asia without the characteristics of Asians. We don't have yellow skin and slanted eyes. Asia is basically the yellow race. Australia and Israel are not -- we are basically the white race."

  4. God has given this land to the Jews and told them to safeguard themselves against gentiles who hate them. To make Israel a non-Jewish state then would run the risk of challenging God Himself. This position is not only upheld by Jewish and Christian fundamentalists, but even by erstwhile secular Zionists (Jews and Christians alike). Ben Gurion himself understood, as does Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, that: "God promised it to us."

Faluja-Gaza, 1949, Ethnically Cleansed Palestinians on their way to Hebron
It is important to stress that this Zionist rationale is correct on all counts if one accepts the proposition of Jewish exceptionalism. Remember that Zionism and Israel are very careful not to generalize the principles that justify Israel's need to be racist but are rather vehement in upholding it as an exceptional principle. It is not that no other people has been oppressed historically, it is that Jews have been oppressed more. It is not that no other people's cultural and physical existence has been threatened; it is that the Jews' cultural and physical existence is threatened more. This quantitative equation is key to why the world, and especially Palestinians, should recognize that Israel needs and deserves to have the right to be a racist state. If the Palestinians, or anyone else, reject this, then they must be committed to the annihilation of the Jewish people physically and culturally, not to mention that they would be standing against the Judeo-Christian God.

It is true that Palestinian and Arab leaders were not easily persuaded of these special needs that Israel has; that it took decades of assiduous efforts on the part of Israel to convince them, especially through "military" means. In the last three decades they have shown signs of coming around. Though Anwar El-Sadat inaugurated that shift in 1977, it would take Yasser Arafat longer to recognize Israel's needs. But Israel remained patient and became more innovative in its persuasive instruments, especially its military ones. When Arafat came to his senses and signed the Oslo Accords in 1993, he finally recognized Israel's right to be racist and to legally discriminate against its own Palestinian citizens. For that belated recognition, a magnanimous Israel, still eager for peace, decided to negotiate with him. He, however, continued to resist on some issues. For Arafat had hoped that his recognition of Israel's need to be racist inside Israel was in exchange for Israel ending its racist apartheid system in the occupied territories. That was clearly a misunderstanding on his part. Israeli leaders explained to him and to his senior peace negotiator Mahmoud Abbas in marathon discussions that lasted seven years, that Israel's needs are not limited to imposing its racist laws inside Israel but must extend to the occupied territories as well. Surprisingly, Arafat was not content with the Bantustans the Israelis offered to carve up for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza around the Jewish colonial settlements that God had granted the Jews. The United States was brought in to persuade the malleable leader that the Bantustan solution was not a bad one. Indeed, equally honorable collaborators as Arafat had enjoyed its benefits, such as Mangosutho Gatcha Buthelezi in Apartheid South Africa. It was no shame to accept it, President Clinton insisted to Arafat at Camp David in the summer of 2000. While Abbas was convinced, Arafat remained unsure.

It is true that in 2002 Arafat came around some more and reaffirmed his recognition of Israel's need for racist laws inside the country when he gave up the right of return of the six million exiled Palestinians who, by virtue of Israel's racist law of return, are barred from returning to the homeland from which Israel had expelled them while Jewish citizens of any other countries obtain automatic citizenship in an Israel most of them have never before seen. In an op-ed piece in The New York Times, Arafat declared:

"We understand Israel's demographic concerns and understand that the right of return of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns." He proceeded to state that he was looking to negotiate with Israel on "creative solutions to the plight of the refugees while respecting Israel's demographic concerns".

This however, was not sufficient, as Arafat remained unpersuaded of Israel's need to set up its racist apartheid in the occupied territories. Israel had no choice but to isolate him, keep him under house arrest, and possibly poison him at the end.

Tantura-Haifa, May 1948, Ethnically Cleansed Palestinians on their way to Jinin & Tulkarm as the massacre was happening
President Abbas, however, learned well from the mistakes of his predecessor and has shown more openness to Israeli arguments about its dire need to have a racist apartheid system set up in the West Bank and Gaza and that the legitimacy of this apartheid must also be recognized by the Palestinians as a precondition for peace. Abbas was not the only Palestinian leader to be beguiled. Several other Palestinian leaders were so convinced that they offered to help build the infrastructure of Israeli apartheid by providing Israel with most of the cement it needed to build its Jews-only colonies and the apartheid wall.

Tantura-Haifa, May 1940, Note how men, women & children were seperated just before the massacre
The problem now was Hamas, who, while willing to recognize Israel, still refused to recognize its special needs to be racist inside the Green Line and to set up an apartheid system inside the occupied territories. This is where Saudi Arabia was brought in last month in the holy city of Mecca. Where else, pondered the Saudis, could one broker an agreement where the leadership of the victims of Israeli racism and oppression can be brought to solemnly swear that they recognize their oppressor's special need to oppress them? Well, Hamas has been resisting the formula, which Fatah has upheld for five years, namely to "commit" to this crucial recognition. Hamas said that all it could do was "respect" past agreements that the PA had signed with Israel and which recognized its need to be racist. This, Israel and the United States insist, is insufficient and the Palestinians will continue to be isolated despite Hamas's "respect" for Israel's right to be racist. The condition for peace as far as Israel and the US are concerned is that both Hamas and Fatah recognize and be committed to Israel's right to be an apartheid state inside the Green Line as well as its imposition of apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza. Short of this, there will be no deal. The ensuing summit between Condie Rice, Ehud Olmert and the exalted PA President Abbas was spent with Olmert interrogating Abbas on how much he remains committed to Israel's need for apartheid in the occupied territories. A minor replay summit was concluded on the same basis a few days ago. Abbas had hoped that the two summits could coax Israel to finalize arrangements for the Bantustans over which he wants to rule, but Israel, understandably, felt insecure and had to ensure that Abbas himself was still committed to its right to impose apartheid first. Meanwhile, ongoing "secret" Israeli-Saudi talks have filled Israel with the hope and expectation that the Arab League's upcoming summit in Riyadh might very well cancel the Palestinian right of return that is guaranteed by international law and affirm the inviolability of Israel's right to be a racist state as guaranteed by international diplomacy. All of Israel's efforts to achieve peace might finally bear fruit if the Arabs finally concede to what international mediation had already conceded to Israel before them.

It should be clear then that in this international context, all existing solutions to what is called the Palestinian-Israeli "conflict" guarantee Israel's need to maintain its racist laws and its racist character and ensure its right to impose apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza. What Abbas and the Palestinians are allowed to negotiate on, and what the Palestinian people and other Arabs are being invited to partake of, in these projected negotiations is the political and economic (but not the geographic) character of the Bantustans that Israel is carving up for them in the West Bank, and the conditions of the siege around the Big Prison called Gaza and the smaller ones in the West Bank. Make no mistake about it, Israel will not negotiate about anything else, as to do so would be tantamount to giving up its racist rule.

As for those among us who insist that no resolution will ever be possible before Israel revokes all its racist laws and does away with all its racist symbols, thus opening the way for a non-racist future for Palestinians and Jews in a decolonized bi-national state, Israel and its apologists have a ready-made response that has redefined the meaning of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is no longer the hatred of and discrimination against Jews as a religious or ethnic group; in the age of Zionism, we are told, anti-Semitism has metamorphosed into something that is more insidious. Today, Israel and its Western defenders insist, genocidal anti-Semitism consists mainly of any attempt to take away and to refuse to uphold the absolute right of Israel to be a racist Jewish state.

* The writer is associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University. His latest book is The Persistence of the Palestinian Question; Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians. This commentary was originally published by Al-Ahram Weekly and is reprinted with the author's permission.

Related Links

  • Op-ed piece in NY Time: The Palestinian Vision of Peace By Yasir Arafat (if you ready carefully, you will see how implicitly Arafat renounced R.O.R based on UNGA 194)
  • Zionist Quotes: Jewish Majority By All Means
  • Quiz yourself in Israeli Democracy
  • Zionist FAQ: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East
  • Zionist Quotes: Apartheid & Racist
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    Pan-Arabism (Fatah) and Pan-Islamism (Hamas), are the only two political streams to command any following among the Arabs of Palestine. True since before the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. Both hold that all Lands belong to Arab Blood or a Muslim Ummah only. The new 1920 Arab states all declared themselves Arab and Muslim and disenfranchised the local Turkmen, Jewish, Christian, Armenian, Bahai, Kurdish communities, before attacking and expelling them. Now, having run out of non-Arabs to attack, they have turned on one another in a Sunni versus Shia conflict. Only in Palestine did they fail, because the local Yahud were more desperate and determined than they were. Waa poor Arabs! The Yahud are breathing Arab Air, a great crime. And Arabs are so nice, they hardly ever suicide bomb anyone, or Honor Kill their own children, or murder minority group members at all. And Hurt Feelings, no one has Hurt Feelings like Arab hurt feelings. Arab Hurt Feelings are only the most important thing in the world, after gravity and oxygen.
    All forms of racism are disgusting. That's why so many people have a problem with how Jews have constructed their homeland. Claiming that Jews are somehow special because of their recent and horrible experience is insulting to all non Jews. Claiming that Jews were given stewardship of this patch of land by a fairy in the sky is a joke, unless of course, you believe in old fairies.
    if israel is by its own definition a racist state you have to accept that the world treats you as the world has treated southafrica when it was racist. in the long run there will be one state called palestine with jews as a minority.
    During the Nazi reign of terror in Germany 1933-1945 all Jews were forced to wear a yellow Star of David on the clothes, thus clearly marking them, for all to see, as despised sub humans. This symbol has become a very powerful sign representing, to all Jews, the Holocaust and ‘Never Again’.
    I call upon all Palestinians to adopt this sign and wear it on their every item of clothing. This will be an eerie reminder to the Jews that they have been replaced as ‘the Oppressed Other ‘ by the Palestinians and that their own role is now that of the Oppressor, the Nazi ‘Übermensch’. It will also send an explosive message to the West of the atrocities persistently perpetrated on the Legal Owners of Palestine.
    As a Jew, I can say straight out I do not like Israel's racism. I do not like any racism. Israel is however put into a perplexing situation where if they gave Palestinians the same rights and opportunities to live and to immigrant in Israel, then consequently, Israel, the Jewish state, would be overwhelmingly Palestinian, thus controlling the Government and culture...and basically Israel would merely be Palestine, not a Jewish state. What is interesting about this is if the Jews end their racist rule of law and immigration policy, we may see the end of a conflict. But at the same time, we may see the end of the Jewish state. Nevertheless, what is interesting is Jews refuse to see peace cease, if it means compromising their state. But this should be understandable.

    But I would like to compare this to a very similar conflict that exists at my home in America. Neighbors in cities full of wealthy white citizens don't like to see black families move into their neighborhoods. Up until a 1954 Supreme Court Decision, blacks and whites were not allowed to integrate. The white communities obviously saw this as "protecting their neighborhoods" from blight, lowering the real estate value, and crime. Even after the law was no longer racist, the people still were. As a result, large communities fled from cities and lived in suburbs. This left major American cities filled blighted with deprived black communities. This is not the solution. Such racism attacks the self-esteem of the individuality. Also, taking away the economic opportunity, where politicians ignore struggling communities because they simply don't vote or contribute, leaves children to grow up in harsh environments. Harsh environments, inevitably spawn bitter people.

    Overall, Racism is not the answer. As a Jew, I feel it is probably more responsible if Israel compromises simply living as a minority in a Palestine in peace, as oppose to what you find often, a rule by a racist, secular, minority (as seen in early Turkey and South Africa).

    I would like to throw out a few thoughts. (Sorry, but I read neither Arabic or Hebrew.)

    If you give credance to the Bible story in Genesis:

    1. It was already called the land of Canaan before Abram arrived Gen 11:21, 12:5

    2. The people who lived there were Canaanites a sub group of the Phoenician culture.

    3. Abram claims that his God appeared to him and promised to give the land of Canaan to his seed.
    Gen 12:7, 17:2

    4. Who are Abram’s seed? Eight Sons
    By Hagar, first born, Ishmael, who married a Canaanite wife, was blessed by God to be a great nation. Gen 17:20
    By Sarah, 2nd born, Isaac who married a Chaldian wife, Rebekah.
    By Keturah, Zimran,, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Gen 25:1.

    5. All these sons lived in the Land of Canaan and took wives from the existing local inhabitants, except for Isaac who sent for a wife from Ur of the Chaldees. (now Iraq).

    6. Isaac’s first son Esau, also lived and married in the land.

    7. Jacob went back to Iraq and eventually married 4 Chaldian wives by which he had twelve sons.

    8. Jacob returned to Canaan and all of his sons married local women, except Joseph who married an Egyptian woman, the daughter of an Egyptian priest.

    9. When Jacob moved to Egypt, the family including servants numbered 70.(Gen 46:27) Therefore, in order to reach the numbers which later left Egypt, most of the Israelites intermarried with the local people in Egypt. 40,000 fighting men which meant that there must have been several hundred thousand including women and children. Josh 4:13

    When Joshua came storming out of the desert with his hordes 400 years later, who did he murder? His own kin folk!

    Who REALLY was this “god” that told Joshua to kill all the people of Canaan because they worshiped other “gods”? A jealous god? An evil god which said, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods” then recommends genocide and theft of their neighbors lands and goods? If nothing else, certainly a “God of War”, a “God of hatred”, and a “God of Division”

    And unfortunately it may be that the jihadists and many others in the world including the current administration in the US, worship the same “God of War”.

    The last sentence of the article speaks out what happens to somebody who talks about it in european,especially german public. He is attacked and accused of being antisemitic,mainly by jews that do not even have semitic roots. One bad example is the german politician Juergen Moellemann who was speaking in the year 2003 against zionism and the military course of action of Israel against the palestineans and against german zionists like Michel Friedman,who may be the most hated man in Germany. Juergen Moellemann was systematically driven to death,after his political immunity was teared away from him, charged of tax fraud and violation of the political parties law. Many politicians used this to make front against him in the election campaign. We still don't know if his death during a parachute jump was murder,self murder or an accident. Our german police like always can't find the truth and the german public stood there with open mouth not able to find out what was going on. It was all a great mess and they swept it under the carpet quickly. The jew Michel Friedman,whom i personally hate a lot for his arrogance, was caught taking cocaine and having sex with prostitutes while being married,but can now have talkshows again on german television. I hope for all of us that this kind of "taking for a ride" ends soon. In my opinion everybody can have his religion - i don't have one myself and i don't believe in god - bot nobody should have privilegues for his or her way of thinking. I say believe in yourself!
    Why cant the world just open there eyes, and see that America and Israel are working together to remap the Middle east.. Afghanistan is the country where most cocaine trafficing is done and Guess what American millitary have full control.. 2ndly Iraq was taken over also where petrol is the best thing, And whats next Iran? People need to realise there are alot of things going on that the Government is hiding from people a deep undeground organization.. 911 Is even an Inside job.. Do more research and dont let the media brainwash you.. After every terrorist attack Muslims are labeled as Terrorists and Extremists for one thing Islam in english means Peace so how so are we considered terrorists i ask the media.
    Do the Palestinians have the right to be racist also?
    I never thought that truth could exist without justice or honor, but here it is, wearing a soiled garment for an arrogant parade that seeks to prove that Jesus never fulfilled the promise, and the saddest part is the massive crowd of American Christians who follow the seductive Scofield folly.
    In the book ؟Ropes of Sand America؟s Failure in the Middle East؟ by Wilbur Crane Eveland on page 47 it says, ؟Yet, with these Iraqis as with others, I cannot recall ever hearing disparaging remarks about Jews as a people. Having once outnumbered the Arab residents of Baghdad, even the poorest Jew lived better that the average Iraqi.؟

    On page 48 it says ؟Just after I arrived in Baghdad, an Israeli citizen had been recognized in the city؟s largest department store: his interrogation led to the discovery of fifteen arms caches brought into Iraq by an underground Zionist movement. In attempts to portray the Iraqis as anti-American and to terrorize the Jews, the Zionist planted bombs in the U.S. Information Service library and in synagogues.؟

    There is a book written by Naeim Giladi, an Iraqi Jew, called ؟Ben Gurion؟s Scandals How the Haganah and the Mossad Eliminated the Jews.؟ This book also discusses the role of Zionists in using terrorism to scare the Jews out of Iraq.
    You have provided a well laid out, logical argument as to how and why Israel is racist and apartheid. But given that most of the Israeli population (at least until the arrval of the Russian Jews) are from Arab and North African origin, please explain how their existence in their origina homelands were as Dhimis, or second class citizens, subject to harsh restrictions and high taxation. Add to this the fact that most Arab nations, and most specifically the center of Muslim tradition, Saudi Arabia, do not allow entry of Jews to their territories.
    In addition to the right to be a "Jewish state," requiring denial of the Palestinian refugees right to return to their homes in perpetuity, the Israeli regional superpower are also demands annexation of a hefty chunk of the West Bank, including the Jordan valley, the best farmlands and control of all water; all of Jerusalem, and acceptance of a collection of disarmed bantustans in a whittled core of the WB formed by the Wall and a matrix of Israeli only roads and army bases as an "independant state." Israel is a colonialist state founded by and ruled by mainly "white" ie, European and US Jewish immigrants and their descendants. Israel is a small imperialist power, an oppressor nation. (with vast strategic significance because of its immense military power and location). Yet I wonder if the ideology is best described as racist, or is it rather national or religious chauvanist? Or is simply all three at once?