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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Israel: racism « Previous | |Next »
June 26, 2004

Racism is never far from the ongoing debate about how to bring about peace between Israel and Palestine. The history of the birth of Israel is one of European racism towards the Jews, the Nazis attempted genocide of the Jews and the racism of the Israeli's towards those Palestinians who were expelled from their land.

Today criticism of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian land through the tactic of settlements is generally and routinely dismissed as lefty anti-Semitism; whilst Palestinians and Arabs are seen to racist when they say they want Israel wiped off the map.

It's a hot topic. Let me illustrate. If you claim that only the total destruction of Israel will satisfy the Arabs, then you imply that compromise is impossible. Consequently, if such claims are right, then the struggle between the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian Arabs cannot end as long as Israel exists - or until the power of Arabs to threaten Israel is destroyed. Hence some Israel hawks come close to calling for the bombing of Syria, Iran and Eqypt. Presumably, they would have held that Iraq deserved to be bombed.

Racism is one of greatest obstacles to peace. Some even go so far to say that [ethno]nationalism is racism. This kind of misplaced critique says that to preserve the Jewish character of the Israeli state is racist because nationalism is racism. Instead of that understanding of racism we can say that Israeli racism against Arabs is based on a feeling of racial superiority of Israel's over Arabs. An oft-expressed example is that it is impossible to reason with Arabs because they didn't share the same faculties of thought and reason that "civilized human beings" possess.

That is the background. The focus of the Arab- Israeli conflict is mostly on Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. But what about those Palestinians who live inside Israel? How do they fare?

This article in Haaretz explores the topic of racism in Israel from the perspective of the racism of Jews towards Arabs. It says:

"As members of a nation that went through the Holocaust and suffered racial discrimination more than any other, they [Israeli's] wouldn't be willing to be exposed as Arab haters, as people who have no trouble trampling the rights of the Arab citizens of the state, to the point of expelling them from their homeland."

There are Jewish Israeli and Arab Israeli citizens in the functioning democracy of Israel.

However, the article says that some of the former often express racism towards the latter to the point of desiring to have the Arab Israeli citizens expelled from the State of Israel.So racism would be excluding 20% of Israel's citizens who are not Jewish on the grounds that they are not Jewish.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:57 PM | | Comments (8)


Sigh - hate to be a semantic purist, but both Gary and the Israeli - Arab author of that Ha'aretz opinion piece are using the term "racism" out of context.

Racism is the belief that human character traits are genetically determined, and that as a result certain races or ethnic groups are innately superior to others. According to racist dogma these behavioural/physical/intellectual traits are immutable because of biology, and they cannot be affected by environmental factors. It's the basic "nature triumphs over nurture" argument.

Now, how in any way is this relevant to the charges made in that Ha'aretz opinion article by an Israeli Arab writer? Nazir Majali complains that polling indicates that a 60 some odd percent of Israeli Jews would like to see Israeli Arabs encouraged to emigrate from the country. A further 45% apparently believe that Israeli Arabs should be denied the right to suffrage.

These are unfortunate sentiments that I do not endorse. Yet, despite my disapproval I am not willing to abuse the English language by characterizing them as racist.

You, see, a solid majority of Israel's Arab population is vociferous in its support for the Palestinian side in the current war. Numerous Israeli Arabs been implicated in terrorist attacks organized with the support of such groups as HAMAS and Islamic Jihad. Even more numerous Israeli Jews have died as a result of these attacks. Israeli Arab Members of Parliament spend their time in the Knesset issuing pronouncements of support for Yasir Arafat and denouncing the State of Israel in the most incendiary terms. One Arab MP went to Syria, a nation that has consistently refused to make peace with Israel, and gave a speech at a convention of terrorist organizations dedicated to Israel's destruction that received a standing ovation.

Now, for the past 45 months Israel has been embroiled in a war with the Palestinians that has cost 1,000 Jewish lives. Moreover, because of the Palestinian penchant for terrorist attacks that deliberately target non-combatants, 3/4 of those Jewish deaths have been of civilians.

Now, when the average Israeli Jew listens Arab Members of Knesset giving speeches in support of an enemy that deliberately attacks restaurants, buses and other quintessentially Jewish civilian targets;

When the average Israeli Jew sees Israeli Arabs demonstrating on behalf of the Palestinian side of this conflict;

When the average Israeli Jew reads about growing numbers of Israeli Arabs who provide tangible aid and comfort to Palestinian terrorist operatives, and sometimes even participate in terrorist attacks themselves, don't you think that this might engender a little resentment within mainstream Israeli society?

Thus, the attitudes polled in that survey have nothing to do with any racist belief in genetic behavioural predispositions, and everything to do with the suspicion that many Israeli Arabs have chosen sides in this war, and have decided to make common cause with the enemy.

If the Israeli Arab community wants to promote a true sense of comity within Israel, then those within it who see themselves as Palestinians with Israeli passports need perhaps to rethink their position.

If in early 1942 an ethnically distinct portion of the Australian population was vociferously supporting the oncoming Japanese, don't you think that would have made the average Aussie a little bit resentful?

Finally, the sentiments reflected in that poll are not having any impact on Israel's democratic nature. No one is seriously considering denying the franchise to Israeli Arabs. It's nowhere to be seen on the Israeli political radar screen.

But, it's worth pondering the fact that the only Arab inhabitants of the Middle East who enjoy the fruits of democracy are Israeli Arabs, because freedom of speech, religious worship and the press are utterly unknown throughout the Arab world - with the exception of liberated Iraq.

I wrote before about the promicuous overuse of the term racism. Well, this is a classic example of that propensity. It cheapens the word and dilutes its puissance and impact.

I gave a link to a definition of racism. It says two things:
1.Racism is "any action or attitude, conscious or unconscious that subordinates an individual or group based on skin colour or race."
2.Institutional Racism is "a system of procedures/patterns in all walks of life, i.e. education, housing, businesses, employment, professional associations, religion, media, etc., whose effect is to perpetuate and maintain the power, influence and well being of one group over another."

That means it does not have to be genetically determined as you suggest. I talked in terms of racial superiority and gave an example.

Secondly, the article does not say "encourage to emigrate." It talks in terms of trampling the rights of Palestinian-Israeli citizens and expelling them from Israel because of their ethnicity.

Sorry, Gary, but I don't buy into that newfangled redefinition of the term that appears as item two in your posting. I am not surprised it comes from the United Nations, about which I have many times made my views known.

The problems with this definition of "institutional racism" are several-fold. First and foremost, it asserts that inequalities in group social outcomes are ipso facto the result of racism, ignoring a raft of other factors that might require more introspection on the part of minority groups.

Thus, for example, the fact that african-american kids who excell academically are often ridiculed in their communities for trying to "act white." This is a well-known social phenomenon, conceded even by such lefty public figures as Jesse Jackson. Yet, in public policy debates the lamentably lackluster level of academic achievement is invariably attributed to the influence of an irredemably racist white society. Thus, so goes this logic, aggressive affirmative action programs are needed to rectify the fact that only a few hundred Black PHDs are minted in the US every year, and most of them specialize in "soft" disciplines such as afro-american studies.

Forget about the fact that affirmative action is a regime of racial discrimination that patronizes minorities by assuming that they can't be expected to live up to the standards required of society as a whole.

Forget about the ethical problems caused by forcing 17-year old white university applicants to pay the price for the purported sins of their grandparents or great grandparents.

Forget about the utter absurdity in penalizing academically outstanding first generation Asian immigrant kids who apply to UC Berkeley so that Black or Hispanic kids with mediocre marks and test scores can get in.

Your definition of racism lays the foundations for quite a convenient gambit that waives the uncomfortable necessity of coming to grips with some of the self-inflicted social pathologies that plague parts of the Black community in the US.

Moreover, your nouveau definition of racism asserts that a Jew-bating, white-hating demagogue like Louis Farakhan is somehow less dangerous than the purported "institutional racism" that takes place naturally on the 18th green of the country club.

But, I digress.

Having categorically rejected your PC redefinition of the term, I can return to the issue at hand.

Eh, sorry Gary, but the article that you linked DOES talk about the desire of some Israeli Jews to ENCOURAGE the emigration of Arabs. Go back and read the precise wording of the survey question, not Nazir Mijali's spin on it. While I disagree with this sentiment, encouragement does NOT equal compulsion.

When you go into a store the salesperson encourages you to buy things, but doesn't stand behind you with a locked and loaded .45 making you whip out your visa card. These are two distinct words that describe two distinct concepts. One is far more harsh than the other.

Your penchant for semantic inexactitude is telling.

And, if Israel Arabs are truly discomfited about the fact that many Israeli Jews consider them to be a fifth column, perhaps they need to rethink their vociferous support for the Palestinian side in the current conflict. They can't have it both ways.

If Israeli Arabs keep voting into office parliamentarians who give stem winding speeches of condemnation towards Israel and justification towards the suicide bombers of Hamas;

If they keep conducting violent riots in support of the Palestinian intifada;

If the Israeli Arab community continues to produce people who enlist in Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in order to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians;

do you really think that a backlash on the part of Israel's Jewish community is so surprising? After all, there's a shooting war going on and the Israeli Arab community, as a rule, has sided with the enemy.

You seem to think that the fifth column activies of the Israeli Arab community should be accepted with good cheer by Israel's Jews. This expectation on your part is both silly and reflective of your inherent bias when it comes to the Middle East. It also is emblematic of your "affirmative action mentality" that never requires PC minority groups to take responsibility for their actions. It's always the fault of

A) Whitey
B) those evil Zionist Jews
C) those malign capitalist plutocrats whose drive for profit (what a shocking concept) is responsible for all that's ill in the world.

Pure, unadulterated taurine excrement.

Of course VOS a simplistic definition of Racism cannot exist in regards to the Israel/palestinians because they are the same people. That is they are both Semitic people, as a matter of fact the Palestinians have exactly the same genetic background as most of their jewish neighbours. Therefore It is a sad irony when people accuse Palestinians and Arabs of antisemitism. It is a comment on the marginalisation of the Palestinians that they are not often recognised as the same people as jewish israels.
However in the state of Israel, non jewish Israels are not seen as the same or as equal as their jewish neighbours. It is for this reason that the following definition stated by Gary is applicable.
Institutional Racism is "a system of procedures/patterns in all walks of life, i.e. education, housing, businesses, employment, professional associations, religion, media, etc., whose effect is to perpetuate and maintain the power, influence and well being of one group over another.

There's nothing simplistic about the traditional definition of racism. In fact, for reasons cited above, the nouveau redefinition is racially discriminatory because it employs different standards of expectation towards different groups.

As for your remarks about Arab antisemitism, you are expressing a widespread misunderstanding as to the meaning of the term. The term "antisemitism" was coined in 1879 by a German Jew-hater names Wilhelm Marr. Marr invented the term to describe one thing and one thing only - racial hatred towards Jews. That is what the term was designed to mean, and that is what it means now. Etymology is important in comprehending these things.

Thus, it is entirely legitimate to describe the rabid Jew-hatred that dominates public discourse throughout the Arab world as antisemitic, even though the Arabs are Semites themselves.

Question: Is it racist to expel Jewish residents from their homes in Gaza whilst Arab Gazans get to stay?

VOS I understand your definition of racism however I do think that Gary's definition, whether that is 'real' racism or not, is probably something just as unacceptable. Same as the anti-semetism/Jew-hating thing. It's just semantics we all should know what the terms really mean.


Sure some Israeli Jews don't like Arabs. You can't impose mind control on people, as much as lefties like Gary might like. The test, however, is whether individual bigoted thoughts are manifest in the official policies of the state. In Israel they are not. Israel is the only nation in the Middle East in which Arabs enjoy the fruits of democracy - free elections, freedom of religion and speech, freedom from fear of the knock on the door at night by the secret police.

Contrast that with the A) utter lack of democracy in the Arab world and B) the antisemitic bile that is regularly exuded by government controlled media organs throughout the Arab world.

A few examples are in order:

An article in the Egyptian GOVERNMENT daily Al-Gumhouriyya titled 'The Secret Israeli Weapon,' deputy editor Abd Al-Wahhab 'Adas accused the Jews of perpetrating all terrorism throughout the world, including the Madrid bombings. The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

'The Zionist Jews are Behind All the Violent and Terror Operations that have Occurred Everywhere In the World.'

'It Is the Jews, with their Hidden Filthy Hands, Who Play their Part with Expertise In Order to Harm the Arabs and Muslims.'

'The Jews are Behind 9/11.'

And, then, there's a sermon broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV in March 2004:

The Friday sermon of March 12, 2004 in the Sheikh 'Ijlin Mosque in Gaza was delivered by Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris , an employee of the Awqaf (Religious Affairs) ministry of the Palestinian Authority. The following are excerpts from the sermon :

"The Prophet received an instruction from the Lord of heaven and earth, Who knows the nature of the Jews, who forever live off the fire of civil strife and disseminating their venom among the brothers, Muslims, and friends...

"The Jews today there is no doubt are avenging their ancient forefathers, the sons of apes and pigs. Some of the extremist Jews are demanding today their property in Al-Madina. There are even those who have requested to be buried at the southern edge of Palestine. When the one-eyed Dayan was on his deathbed, he instructed that he be buried at the southern edge of Palestine. When asked why, he said, 'So that I will be close to Al-Madina.' This is the extremist tendency of the Jews. They are the extremists, they are the terrorists. They deserve death, and we deserve life, because we are the people of Truth.

This preservation of life roots miserliness and cowardice in them. The Jews are disseminating their venom, and history repeats itself. They disseminate their venom in the Arab countries, because they cannot live in the Middle East like a cancer, spreading in this land, unless they spark the fire of civil strife and war among the Arabs and the Muslims. And indeed, they spark this fire."

When Gary begins to post about this sort of crap, then perhaps I'll begin to take him seriously.

Don't worry VOS you I don't need any convincing as to who is the rabidly racist party in this conflict.