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Netanyahu's Jewish Republic of Israel

January 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm

The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has started its latest session full of racism and hatred. It is scheduled to discuss a number of laws devoted to the country’s supposed “Jewish identity”.

The first of these is the “citizenship law”, which is backed by the Netanyahu government with the support of the majority of his ministers. It imposes a requirement upon everyone seeking or having Israeli citizenship “to pledge allegiance” to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. This prompted Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz to publish an article entitled “The Jewish Republic of Israel” which, ironically, has a certain resonance with “Islamic Republic of Iran”. Dan Meridor of Likud has described the proposed law as “harmful and excessive”, having repercussions for Israel’s reputation and prestige, in particular, he said, on its relationship with Israel’s own Arab citizens who are the main targets of the law.

The second discriminatory law is “the law of the Nakba”, which was approved on its first reading and will be put before the winter session for final approval. This particular law will cut off any government funding to any party or organization which dares to mention the “plight of Palestine”, or commemorate the start of the Palestinian refugee crisis in 1948, known in Arabic as the Nakba (“Catastrophe”). This law is also drafted primarily to target parties and Arab groups in the areas of land occupied when the state of Israel was created.

The third law is the law “to prevent incitement” which will allow for the detention of any person and punishment for any party denying “the right of Israel to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people”. This law is the “local” embodiment, so to speak, of the demand for recognition of Israel as a “Jewish State” that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to impose on the Palestinian leadership as part of a quid pro quo arrangement to consider another “settlement freeze”.

A fourth racist law brings about “approval committees”, from which any Israeli Arab citizen will have to get permission to live in a Jewish neighbourhood; contracts of sale or lease will need to have such permission in advance. This is following the principles of the discredited apartheid system used to maintain the racial dominance of Europeans in South Africa until 1994; it provides for harassment of the indigenous population.

This is the result of the right-wing hysteria and wave of racism that is sweeping the country, the political class and the ruling elite in Israel, taking the Zionist state into an unparalleled quagmire. Politics based on hatred, rejection of the Other and racial discrimination afflicts not only the usual suspects on the political right; when the proposed laws are discussed in parliament they also attract support from across the political spectrum.

The insistence of the current Israeli government on recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as a “Jewish state”, as a new condition for the continuation of peace negotiations is remarkable, given that the country’s parliament hasn’t yet passed the citizenship bill into law. Moreover, the text of the draft bill is more rigid and exclusionary than the infamous Balfour Declaration of 1917.

A society from which such laws can arise with cross-party support is not interested in making peace or accepting co-existence; it clearly does not know how to make adjustments and compromises between communities of equal status; nor does it understand the language of dialogue and pluralism. Such a society’s make-up is reflected in the recent “war games” conducted by the Israel Defence Forces, which imitated the ethnic cleansing operations of 1948 when enforced massive population “transfer” was carried out. This reality is there for all to see, but it seems as if the message did not get through to the Arab rulers and ministers meeting in Sirte whose silence, and thus complicity, illustrates that they exist in a different world to that of their people.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.