August 30, 2011

People and justice in a racist state

I just got this from Independent Jewish Voices.
“The People Want Social Justice” was the main slogan of the masses. But who are the people and what is the justice called for?

The Hebrew word for People (“‘Am“) is usually associated with another word – Israel.  “‘Am Yisrael” is the people of Israel, a religious and national term that relates to the Jewish people who live in biblical Eretz Yisrael or in modern Israel. Citizens of the state who are not Jewish, for example more than one million Arab-Palestinians, never consider themselves as part of the Israeli people (ha-’Am ha-Yisraeli) or of the people of Israel (‘Am Yisrael), as they are not part of the Jewish collective. This works also vice versa. When an Israeli-Jewish person says “we are all one people” it is obvious that the “we” includes Israeli-Jewish society only.
The “justice” desired by the vast majority of the demonstrators is also far from being inclusive. It is a good term, very catchy, and many in Israel want to be associated with the struggle to achieve it. But the fact that the protests began in 2011 – in a period of increasing privatisation in Israel and relative economic prosperity – proves again that the justice is actually “Jewish justice”, or at least a desire to stop processes of economic injustice alone. It is, however, by no means a genuine call for justice. If that was the case then the demonstrators would have been more willing to speak about the most obvious Israeli injustices, which began as soon as the state was established: the discrimination against its Arab-Palestinian citizens. Even with regards to the issue of building and accommodation alone, one can realise how severe is the situation: the lack of Master Plans for Arab villages in Israel, discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel with regards to infrastructures, the letter signed by 50 state rabbis calling for Jewish citizens  ”not to rent apartments to Arabs”, continuous house demolitions in Arab villages and cities in Israel, the refusal to grant building licenses to Israeli-Arab citizens, state-projects whose declared goal is to offend the Arab population in Israel (such as the project of “Judaising the Galilee”) and many more.
All these issues remain unheard in the current protest, and even the activity of one courageous tent (titled “Tent-1948″ or the “Arab-Jewish tent”) that tries to speak about these matters, seems like a drop in the ocean of the Israeli-Jewish protest. Instead, the leaders of the demonstration, so we heard, want the protests to remain a-political. In other words, please do not mention the Palestinian citizens of the state, and also not the 44 years of occupation, and not the money poured into Israeli military establishment and industry. Try to protest only about the common denominator of Israeli-Jewish-Zionist discourse. And if possible, also call it “justice”.
The article is by a Yoni. Whoever they are they certainly burst the bubble of the Israel advocates who are quite proud of the protests because they make Israel look kind of normal.

Ami Kaufman formerly of Ha'aretz complained on 972.mag that the protests in Israel weren't being covered by the mainstream media like for example violence between Israel and its natives and neighbours might be covered. As it happens  the protests had been covered in the LA Times, the New York Times and the Guardian  days before Kaufman's article but perhaps he would have liked an article like Yoni's to set out how a protest over housing can play in the racist political culture of the State of Israel.

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