Democracy never came to Israel
Finally, it is here: the masquerade of advocating Jewishness and democracy has been given up by Israel. Israel chose the Zionist state over democracy. The recent declaration, through a basic law, confirms that Israel is the “nation-state of the Jewish people,” and hence essentially defines Israel first and foremost as a Jewish state. This is indeed a legislation of apartheid: outrageous, exclusionary and discriminatory. The basic law is basically codified discrimination.
The charade of democracy was defeated by Zionism, which stripped Israel of its vague nationalism and exposed its true character: A Zionist state built on the land, displacement and bodies of indigenous Palestinian people. The Zionist regime had tried to be deceptive from the beginning by acting as democratic, but in reality, privileging only Jews in every aspect. It was a farce from its inception, a contradiction in its form and value. Democracy never existed in Israel. How can an occupation, transformed into a ‘military state’ by the power of weaponry, be a democracy? Unfortunately, many have accepted the discourse that Israel is a state, a democracy, has citizenship laws, etc. They tend to overlook it is a military state which is made and remade everyday by depriving the local population their rights.
How can democracy, by its fundamental virtue, bestow privilege based on religion or ethnicity? And if it does, is it a democracy? Isn’t it outrageous for democracies to discriminate on the basis of race, religion and nationality? The declaration of Israel as a Jewish state underlined the fact that it was never a country with citizenship laws or human rights provisions, among the crucial aspects of any modern nation state. The latest stage can be said to be just one more decree by the Zionist regime to desensitise the whole narrative of rights given to non-Jewish people. Now those in charge declared that Israel is Jewish first. Not a state of its citizens, but a state of the “chosen” people, the Jewish people.
Back in 1948, during the Nakba, the Israeli declaration of independence stated that there would be “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”. However, it was clear from the beginning that there was a parallel agenda which was preferred – to cleanse Palestine/Israel of the indigenous inhabitants in what Professor Ilan Pappé called the “Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”. Israel’s ultimate aim is explicit: It wants to annex the remaining part of the territory which is already under its occupation and to establish Eretz Israel from the river the sea. The Israeli right-wing has been persistently calling for control over the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) and its annexation.
On all this, the international community and the West, in general, have been silent spectators. Despite seventy years of ongoing genocide against the Palestinians, Israel’s gatekeepers in the west have no mercy but have become partners in crime. The international community shows no signs of concern about the worst kind of genocide in modern history.
The Jewish state and repugnant racism
Since Israel does not have a constitution, its Knesset passes basic laws which hold constitution-like status. The Nation-State Law is the fourteenth basic law. The basic law calls Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people and declares: “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” It adds that “the state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation”. Arabic was downgraded from an official language to one with “special status”.
By declaring Israel a state for the Jews and completing the Zionist agenda, Netanyahu and his ultra-right-wing government believe that the fight of Palestinians for their rights will end. Unsurprisingly, Netanyahu told the Knesset: “This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel”. However, that is not going to be the case. It is not that Palestinians resist out of choice. They are subjected to genocide, torture and displaced from their lands. They can do anything but give up the fight for their lives and their land. Dr Mohammed Saeed Idris, an Egyptian political analyst, said: “Netanyahu is committing a fatal mistake when he thinks the announcement of the Jewish state will lead to the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict”. It is also a fatal mistake that he believes this will finally get rid of the Palestinian burden, either by forcing those inside Israel to leave their homeland or allowing them only to dwell in racial ghettos in their own country and live without identity and equal national rights. Such steps would undoubtedly agitate and escalate the internal conflict with the Palestinians or the so-called Israeli Arabs, who represent more than twenty per cent of the total population of Israel.
Nation-State Law: Never ending ethnic cleansing
According to historical Zionist aspirations, “fewer inhabitants […] and more land” guides quotidian racist manoeuvres of the now-open apartheid regime. The existing regime in Palestine/Israel, in its racist practices, even surpasses the practices of apartheid in South Africa. Dr. Asaad Abdel-Rahman, head of the PLO’s refugee department, said that the Nation-State Law perpetuates racial discrimination and deprives the Palestinians of their national and cultural rights and aims to uproot the spirit of the Palestinian people in their struggle. The occupying authorities are implementing a plan of settlement which isolates the southern West Bank from the north and centre and undermines the opportunity to establish a Palestinian state based on a two-state solution, if ever possible. The main purpose of the Netanyahu government is to erase Palestinian rights and any political solutions that can culminate in the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state within the historic land of Palestine. Settlement policy has brought de facto apartheid to the occupied Palestinian territories. Apartheid is made formal with the nation-state law.
When Hamas issued its charter in 1988 in response to the barbaric policies of the Israeli occupation, the accusations against the charter were that some of its clauses could be interpreted as racial discrimination and anti-Semitism. On this basis, Hamas was demonised and placed on the list of global terrorist organisations. Hamas responded in its new political paper, issued in June 2017, to the remarks of many of its friends and sympathisers in the west and presented a new vision consistent with the spirit of international law. However, the western world did nothing to change its position or remove Hamas from the terrorism list. The west, and especially the United States, continued to follow the same path of hypocrisy and double standards.
If only Jews are exclusively eligible for the right to self-determination, and settlements become a national value, this is only killing the peace process. The new law makes Israel’s commitment to the peace process unambiguously clear: It never wants a solution to the conflict. By declaring Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist state and now by passing the Jewish state law, Israel has violated all international treaties, human rights declarations and paid no attention to those voices asking it to stop. This has also made it clear for the Palestinians: Their fight for their rights and land is going to continue.
Lastly, since the Jewish citizens of Israel are more privileged than others, Israeli chutzpah could be defined in Orwellian terms as “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.