Juan Cole

‘Racist’: The Report Israel Doesn’t Want You to Read

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This week has seen the promotion of yet more anti-democratic legislation in Israel. A new law that received final approval by the Knesset gives, for the first time, separate representation to Muslim and Christian Palestinian citizens on a national employment commission. The bill’s sponsor, Likud MK Yariv Levin, was clear about his motivation: “[the Christians are] our natural allies, a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the country from within.” An editorial in Israeli newspaper Haaretz described it as “racist legislation” by “nationalist zealots”.

Meanwhile, an amendment has been proposed to the NGO Bill – again, by a member of Netanyahu’s ruling party – which seeks to ban certain groups from registering with the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits. Activities targeted by lawmakers include “advocating the boycott, divestment, or sanctioning of Israel or its citizens” and “denying Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state.” In the words of MK Miri Regev: “Israel is not a regular country that can allow itself to lose its identity”.

These developments take place as the annual Israeli Apartheid Week is marked with dozens of events around the world. The response by the Israeli government and various lobby groups to the accusation of apartheid is a mix of tokenism, whatabouttery, and smears. But there’s one report Israel particularly hopes people don’t read.

The document in question comes from the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and contains the concluding observations following Israel’s periodic review in 2012. It should be read in its entirety, but I will highlight some of its findings. It blows out of water the excuses, obfuscations, and outright denial of international law typically used by Israel and its apologists.

  • “Israeli society maintains Jewish and non-Jewish sectors…[including] two systems of education…as well as separate municipalities: Jewish municipalities and the so-called ‘municipalities of the minorities’”
  • Israel is urged “to make every effort to eradicate all forms of segregation between Jewish and non-Jewish communities.”
  • “A number of discriminatory laws on land issues…disproportionately affect non-Jewish communities.”
  • “Discriminatory laws especially targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel”.
  • “Increasing difficulties faced by members of [Bedouin] communities in gaining access on a basis of equality with Jewish inhabitants to land, housing, education, employment and public health.”
  • “The proliferation of acts and manifestations of racism that particularly target non-Jewish minorities in the territories under the State party’s effective control.”
  • “policies and practices which amount to de facto segregation”, such as Israel’s implementation “in the Occupied Palestinian Territory of two entirely separate legal systems and sets of institutions for Jewish communities grouped in illegal settlements on the one hand and Palestinian populations living in Palestinian towns and villages on the other hand.”
  • “two groups, who live on the same territory but do not enjoy either equal use of roads and infrastructure or equal access to basic services and water resources.”
  • Israel reminded of “the prevention, prohibition and eradication of all policies and practices of racial segregation and apartheid” and urged to “prohibit and eradicate any such policies or practices” which violate Article 3 of the Convention (on “racial segregation and apartheid”).
  • A “discriminatory planning policy, whereby construction permits are rarely if ever granted to Palestinian and Bedouin communities and demolitions principally target property owned by Palestinians and Bedouins.”
  • Israel’s “policy of ‘demographic balance’, which has been a stated aim of official municipal planning documents, particularly in the city of Jerusalem”
  • “two sets of laws, for Palestinians on the one hand and Jewish settlers on the other hand who reside in the same territory, namely the West bank, including East Jerusalem”.
  • Israel urged “to end its current practice of administrative detention, which is discriminatory and constitutes arbitrary detention under international human rights law”.

To which Israel responds with – ‘But, but, we have an Arab in the Supreme Court!’

The reason why the Israeli government sees talk of apartheid as so problematic is because it shifts the discussion from a ‘security’ paradigm to a framework of institutionalised racism. When Netanyahu or AIPAC speak of ‘delegitimizaiton’, what they really mean is that Israel’s pursuit of policies most of the world considers illegitimate – segregation, collective punishment and ethnic cleansing – is being subjected to unprecedented scrutiny and opposition.

Ben White is a writer and researcher for Middle East Monitor and Journal of Palestine Studies. A second edition of his book ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ has just been published. He is also the author of ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’. www.benwhite.org.uk

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