Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Fighting Jim Crow in Israel By Mike Whitney

ICH 13 August 2006

March on Lebanon and also on Gaza with ploughs and salt. Destroy them to the last inhabitant…. Save your people and make bombs, and rain them on villages and towns and houses till they collapse. Kill them, shed their blood, terrify their lives, lest they try again To destroy us…. Whoever scorns a day of bloodshed, He should be scorned. Save your people, and make war.Ilan Shenfeld; Israeli poet, Ynet, July 30, 2006

The raw logic of Israel’s distorted self-image and racist doctrines is exposed beyond confusion by the now-stark reality: the moonscape rubble of once-lovely Lebanese villages; a million desperate people trying to survive Israeli aerial attacks as they carry children and wheel disabled grandparents down cratered roads; limp bodies of children pulled from the dusty basements of crushed buildings. This is the reality of Israel’s national doctrine, the direct outcome of its racist worldview.” Virginia Tilley The Case for Boycotting Israel Counterpunch

Ideas have consequences, and the effects of a racist ideology are suffering and destruction. The growing similarity between the debris-strewn Levant and the Gaza Strip are not accidental; they are the predictable results of a world-view which places the value of one people above another. In Israel, there is a two-tiered system of justice; one for Jews and another for non Jews; full-citizenship for Israeli-Jews and “Jim Crow” for Arabs.

Is that acceptable?

Property rights, marriage, citizenship and nearly every other area of legal protection are corrupted by the effects of institutionalized racism.

We believe that there are no “second class” citizens, that every man deserves equal protection under the law. That is the fundamental principle of democracy.

Israel calls itself a democracy, but its prevailing ethos of Zionism precludes an evenhanded application of the law. This explains why Zionism was denounced in United Nations Resolution 3379 (vote 72 to 35) in 1975 which stated:

“Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”

The resolution has since been repealed due to the persistent efforts of the US, but the effects are not so easily erased.

There cannot be a second set of laws for minorities; that is racism pure and simple.

The abhorrent treatment of Palestinians is the most striking example of Israeli chauvinism, but the current aggression in Lebanon is equally revealing. The massive ethnic cleansing of 750,000 mostly poor Shia Muslims in the south of Lebanon carries the same racist overtones as Israel’s conduct in the occupied territories.

When the heart of government is poisoned by prejudice, it expresses itself in erratic convulsions of violence. So it is with Israel. Zionism is not simply repressive for its victims in the territories, but also, for those who stand in the way of its territorial ambitions. Currently, Lebanon is in the crosshairs, but next year it will be Syria or Iran. Racism is a disease which radiates outwards always seeking new objects of abuse. It allows governments’ to rationalize their perverse addiction to power by demonizing the imaginary enemies of the state.

The term “Zionism” confuses many Americans and obscures the deeper issues.

Are we against discrimination and bigotry in all its forms or are we not?

Are we against territorial expansion that violates internationally accepted borders or are we not?

If we are, (and the vast majority of Jews are as well) then we are anti-Zionist. This means that we are committed to universally accepted standards of human rights and national sovereignty.

How can we watch the relentless humiliation of the Palestinians day after day and fail to identify the root cause? This is not a relationship between equals, but the cruel and disdainful behavior of people who believe they are inherently superior to their victims.

Jews would never treat other Jews in the manner they have treated the Palestinians.

Occupation breeds contempt; it is a spawning ground for racism.

How could Israel plunge 1 million Palestinians into darkness, cut off medical and food supplies, block all financial aid, and kill nearly 200 people in their scattershot military operations if they had the slightest regard for them as human beings.

Bigotry strips men of their dignity and humanity; leaving them at the mercy of the wealthy and powerful.

Isn’t that what we’re seeing in Palestine?

The Palestinians have become prisoners of a twisted dogma that is as real as the walls and checkpoints that encircle their Bantustans.

The West Bank and Gaza have become a farrago of gulags stitched together by “Jewish-only” roads where generation after generation languishes in unemployable misery.

These are the inescapable effects of endemic racism.

In America, the same cancer has infected all parts of the body-politic creating a vast network of Muslim-only concentration camps at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Force Base, and countless other spots across the globe. The war on terror has become the flimsy curtain that barely conceals the monster of xenophobia and racial hatred.

The real measure of a nation’s commitment to principle is seen in the way it treats the most vulnerable people. What does this say about Israel, where fully one-half of the population are locked behind a monolithic wall which protects the racial purity of the powerful.

Those who live beyond the wall are not people at all, but a “demographic threat” posing a numeric challenge to the untainted pedigree of the overlords.

Even the biological exigencies of procreation are seen as a threat to the Jewish state.

How much crazier can it get?

What used to be disparaged as “apartheid” is now revered as “democracy”, a bizarre Orwellian interpretation of discriminatory practices which justify the ongoing subjugation of 4 million people.

When prejudice is enshrined in the law, the results are invariably disastrous. The same rule applies to Israel as it did to South Africa and the United States.

The world provided a loophole for Israel because of the genocidal persecution the Jews faced during the WW2. But, how has that worked out? 60 years of nonstop conflict with no hope of peace in the near future and the looming prospect of a region-wide conflagration.

Is that a sign of success?

Perhaps, there’s a better way. Israel should consider the same path that every other democratic, pluralistic society has taken; tear down the walls, amend the laws so that everyone’s rights are respected equally, and move towards an integrated, multi-ethnic society.

As a practical matter, the model of the Jewish state has failed. It has become a paranoid, war-mongering menace to itself and its neighbors. Israel’s abortive offensive in Lebanon only accentuates this point.

Israelis are less safe today than anytime in their history; their dogma-driven aggression has brought the entire Middle East to the brink of Armageddon.

The expansionist adventurism of their Prime Minister and the ideologues that surround him, are placing Israel at greater and greater risk all the time. Non-state actors, guerilla militias and terrorists are proliferating at a rate that was unimaginable just 6 years ago. Their means of lashing out grows more sophisticated and lethal all the time. Neither Israel nor the US is prepared for the generational war they are inciting by their reckless belligerence.

Nations, like people, can change their behavior if they see it is in their own best interests. No one wants their children to grow up in fear of random violence. There’s a path away from the two-tiered, discriminating legal system to equal protection, due process, and social justice. But the walls will have to come down, the dialogue will have to begin, the grievances will have to be addressed, and the state will have to de-militarize. Israel’s 200 nuclear missile-arsenal and high-tech war machine haven’t produced a day of peace since the inception of the state.

It’s time to abandon the demographic warfare, the discriminatory laws, and the expansionistic dream of Greater Israel. The road to peace and security must be built on a foundation of evenhandedness and fair play. There has to one law for everyone, Christian, Muslim, and Jew.

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"