Israel, Racist, Really?
Imagine a thousand people demonstrating in central London, shouting “Blacks out!” and a Member of Parliament describing asylum seekers and refugees as a “cancer in our body”. Now imagine the Prime Minister warning us that the presence of these asylum seekers could eradicate the state and its character and that the ‘problem’ needs to be sorted. All this and more happened last week in the Israeli capital, Tel Aviv, when a thousand people violently demonstrated, demanding Africans be deported from Israel. African civilians were attacked in the streets as well as in their vehicles. The attacks also extended to anyone seen to be assisting them including journalists and any shops and businesses suspected of serving anyone with black skin.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that “60,000 infiltrators are liable to become 600,000, and lead to the eradication of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," whilst Likud Member of the Knesset Miri Regev, described the Sudanese as “a cancer in our body” and participated in the demonstration along with other Likud colleagues. In a population of nearly 8 million, 60,000 equates to less than 1% of the total Israeli population. The Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, described most African migrants as criminals and called for their deportation, even suggesting that they be provided financial assistance to leave. He continued his tirade: “Why should we provide them with jobs? Jobs would settle them here, they'll make babies, and that offer will only result in hundreds of thousands more coming over here." All this will sound familiar to Muslim readers in the UK, France and other parts of Europe – repatriation policies are a feature of almost all right-wing parties which have seen increased electoral successes over the last ten years and more across Europe (though the BNP’s repatriation policy in its manifesto has been watered-down somewhat over the years, to only feature a halt of non-White immigration).
Back to Israel. The Guardian quoted that “According to [Israeli] police data quoted by the Hotline for Migrant Workers, the crime rate among foreigners in Israel was 2.04% in 2010, compared with 4.99% among Israelis.” This echoes recent cases in Britain, where crimes committed by a relatively small number of British Muslims are used to taint all British Muslims – even prominent Muslim politicians have fallen for the smear and undermine the Muslim community in Britain – could this be for political gain? This is where British Muslims need to step up and be vocal against the injustice.
“It's the crumbling of the Zionist dream,” continued Yishai. But racism is nothing new in Israel. Zionism, the underpinning of the Israeli state, was recognised as racist back in 1975 by the UN, in a Resolution (though later dubiously revoked in 1991). Superiority complexes exist even between Jews. A high-profile religious-Zionist rabbi asserted that Jews from North Africa and the Middle East are "purer" than European Jews, but are no match for them intellectually. Moroccan Jews and other non-white Jews, predominantly those from Arab and African lands, have suffered extensive discrimination in the past and generally reside in poorer areas of Israeli cities and are denied the opportunities available to European and western Jews. This even resulted in an Israeli version of the Black Panthers being created, to fight social inequality. The BBC and other British media reported in January this year of a demonstration by Ethiopian Jews of discrimination in Israel (maybe the Ethiopian Jews are expected to remain forever grateful that the Israelis airlifted thousands of them from Africa in the 1980s and 1990s?) and last year another demonstration against blacks took place in the same Tel Aviv area, as last week’s violent demonstration. And not to mention the famously staunch right-wing Beitar Jerusalem Football Club, where no Arabs are allowed to play.
All this is in addition to the harsh treatment meted out to Palestinians by the Israelis. Driven by ideology, the Zionist Law of Return trumps the recognised Palestinian Right of Return. Thousands of Palestinians, young and old remain locked up in prisons across Israel (hunger strikes are the latest tool against these oppressors) and Israel’s tentacles even reach as far as the USA (the powerful Israeli lobby backed by an active Christian Right) and the UK – think back to the case of Raed Salah and of the continued US financial and military aid to Israel, for example. Imagine going to school via a checkpoint or two. Each way. Then imagine sitting in class with the lights out. No electricity. Imagine being denied emergency healthcare because an ambulance can’t reach you, because you’re deemed a 'threat'. You may even be a pregnant mother, but rules are rules and Israeli soldiers can’t and won’t let you through.
This is why the news of racist sentiment and hate coming out of Israel is no surprise.