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How Can Israel Be A ‘Democracy’ While Allowing Racism? – OpEd

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Israel has adopted 65 laws that allow it to discriminate against non-Jews, even though its defenders claim that’s a stretch. Some of the laws they assert were actually approved by the British when they controlled Palestine during the post-First World War Mandate given to them by the League of Nations. In those cases, when Israel was founded in 1948 on lands stolen from Christians and Muslims, they re-implemented the laws but only to apply to non-Jews. That is discrimination by Israel.

Pro-Israel propagandists insist that other laws do not directly discriminate against non-Jews. But the truth is that, while a few do not, they do permit Jewish citizens to discriminate “by process.” For example, although Israelis claim it is illegal to deny housing to non-Jews, the laws of Israel do allow that to happen. Just this week, the Israeli government authorized the developers of new homes in a town in the Galilee to deny housing to non-Jewish residents.

The Israelis were building a new neighborhood in Kfar Vradim, nine miles south of the Lebanon border, which is known for its many luxuries. The town is a popular tourist location and many Jewish homeowners there rent their properties through VRBO and Airbnb, which allows them to easily discriminate against non-Jews without punishment by cancelling the rental if the owners determine the renters are not Jewish. It’s not a law but, as Nazareth’s former mayor Tawfiq Zayyad once told me in an interview about Israel’s racist policies, discrimination in Israel is “policy, practice and reality.”

When the mayor or “local council leader” of Kfar Vradim, Sivan Yehiel, started to review the home sale agreements for the properties, he discovered that 50 percent of the homes were being bought by Christians and Muslims, not Jews. Yehiel suspended and revoked the sales, declaring — according to civil rights group Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Rights in Israel — that he would not allow the sales to violate the town’s “Zionist-Jewish-secular character.”

Yehiel explained he would take the issue to the Israeli government. Presumably, Israel will apply the 65 laws that discriminate against non-Jews to allow Kfar Vradim to legally deny new home sales to non-Jews, and allow sales only to Jewish, Zionist Israeli citizens.

Since its founding by military force and the violation of international laws in 1948, Israel’s government has worked hard to pretend to be “democratic,” falsely asserting that it adheres to human rights and the international rule of law. But, in reality, the Israelis have openly sought ways to skirt those principles and apply them only to Jews, denying basic human rights to non-Jews even when they are Israeli citizens.

You can imagine then how Israel can more easily justify racist violations of human rights against non-Jews who live in the Occupied Territories, which it militarily occupied in the 1967 war that it started.

In other words, Israeli leaders pretend to adhere to civil and human rights and to international laws, but do everything possible to deny rights to non-Jews by creating loopholes and special circumstances in their laws. This permits Israel to discriminate against non-Jews who are citizens and be even more punitive to non-Jews whom they oppress in the Occupied West Bank and Occupied Jerusalem.

Israel’s government knows that, if it openly discriminates against non-Jews, its defenders in America would see that it in fact does embrace a new, modernized form of apartheid. That would undermine its defensive strategy, in which Israel’s government denounces the critics who call it an “apartheid state” as being “anti-Semitic.”

Israel’s government hides behind that accusation, which has powerful connotations in America and allows many Americans to defend Israel by closing their eyes to Israel’s racist practices.

In a press release issued this week, Adalah accused Kfar Vradim’s leaders of being “motivated by racism.” It declared that the town’s efforts were clearly intended “to prevent Arab citizens of Israel from purchasing homes due strictly to their national identity,” calling it “an illegitimate act (that) stands in absolute contradiction to the principles of equality to which the local council is obligated.”

Adalah blamed the racism on “a climate in which the Israeli Knesset continues to promote racist legislation targeting Arab citizens.” And it noted that, historically, “successive Israeli governments have confiscated lands from Arab citizens and intentionally prevented the development of Arab communities. This racism continues today via resident selection practices and the exclusion of Arab citizens of Israel.”

Nothing could be clearer about Israel. Instead of revoking its racist laws, Israel’s government works to find ways to rewrite them to allow them to be even more racist and discriminatory. They want to discriminate against Christians and Muslims and hypocritically be able to wrap themselves in a false cloak of being “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Israel’s government propaganda asserts that it is the primary protector of Christian rights in the Middle East — this is an important point that is often used to reinforce its support among supporters in the West, especially in America.

Israeli officials assert Israel is the “only” defender of the fast-disappearing Middle East and Arab Christians when they stand next to American officials at press conferences in rejecting legitimate criticism of Israel’s misconduct. That’s why America’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley can so convincingly defend Israel in her UN speeches and denounce as “lies” charges that Israel is racist.

Under Israeli law, Haley would be denied residence in Kfar Vradim because she is non-Jewish. Although I imagine that reality doesn’t stand in the way of Haley’s own anti-Arab views.


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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

*Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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