By Ray Hanania
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a fearless voice in challenging Israel’s new nation-state law, which subordinates Arab and Muslim rights in the Holy Land and declares the Jewish people to be a superior race above all.
The language of the law was slightly watered down from its original racist rhetoric, but it still defines an apartheid state that discriminates against Christians and Muslims. The Arabic language, once given equal status to “Hebrew,” is officially downgraded. More importantly, the law establishes a new “legal” basis that allows Israel to expand illegal settlements, a process that steals lands from Christians and Muslims to create heavily armed “Jewish-only” encampments.
For years, Israel pretended that non-Jews would be treated equally, although that was never the reality or the practice. Non-Jews have been denied equal rights and the laws constraining their equality in Israel continue to grow. What was previously 65 laws that discriminate against non-Jews now has risen to 66.
Erdogan, who has been a consistent voice in championing the rights of Palestinians and Muslims in the Holy Land, attacked the law in a strongly worded speech on July 19. Erdogan’s criticism received only minimal coverage in the mainstream American media, which often defends Israel and plays down criticism.
Erdogan immediately came under attack from both mainstream American journalists and Israel’s media led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Even Reuters didn’t cover Erdogan’s initial criticism until Netanyahu responded five days later.
Provoked by Netanyahu’s tweets, Erdogan stepped up his criticism of Netanyahu and Israel on Tuesday, asserting that the “spirit of Hitler” has “found its resurgence among some of Israel’s leaders.”
The war of words began when Netanyahu tweeted this statement on July 24: “Turkey, under Erdogan’s rule, is becoming a dark dictatorship whereas Israel scrupulously maintains equal rights for all its citizens, both before and after introducing this law.
“Erdogan is massacring Syrians and Kurds and has jailed tens of thousands of his citizens. The fact that the great ‘democrat’ Erdogan is attacking the nation-state law is the greatest compliment for this law.”
It’s hard to believe that Netanyahu would say such lies in public, but most media simply gobble it up without question.
Not one news organization, in reporting Netanyahu’s tweets about how Israel “scrupulously maintains equal rights for all its citizens,” noted that Israel has now adopted 66 specific laws that establish inequality for non-Jews. For example, settlements and many major cities in Israel have the legal right to prevent non-Jews from living in their communities. Israel provides massive funding to support Jewish communities, while giving non-Jews only token government support.
A recent report by Americans for Peace Now, the Jewish movement supporting two states for Israel and Palestine, released a report describing how Israeli “public lands” are distributed in the Occupied West Bank, with 99.7 percent of the land going to Jewish settlers, leaving non-Jews with less than 0.3 percent.
That’s the kind of equality that Israel means when Netanyahu speaks. The discrimination against Arabs is so pervasive and clever, at times, that the reality is that Arabs living inside Israel are treated almost like Arabs living inside the occupied territories. There is almost no difference.
Ask Ahmad Tibi, the Arab Israeli deputy speaker of the Knesset, who was beaten months ago when he protested against the opening of the US Embassy in occupied Jerusalem, or the 17 other Arab members of the Knesset who are constantly attacked and called “terrorists” for speaking in defense of Palestinian victims of Israeli military violence.
After the passage of the law, in response to Netanyahu’s defense of it, Tibi declared on the floor of the Knesset: “Democracy only for Jews,” adding, “I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy.”
Ask the family of Razan Al-Najjar, the nurse who was shot dead by an Israeli military sniper along the Gaza border as she was providing medical aid to other victims of Israel’s military assaults, or the families of the nearly 200 civilians killed by snipers and the thousands who have been maimed since Land Day, on March 30, 2018.
Erdogan isn’t the only one who knows that civil rights, human rights and democracy are dead in Israel. Everyone knows it, except of course, for the Western news media, which continues to close its eyes to Israel’s misconduct.
So why, among world leaders, does Erdogan stand out as the champion of Palestinian rights? Why hasn’t anyone else stood up as fiercely to take on Israel’s condemnable abuses?
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