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Understanding Israel’s War as Racist Is Crucial to Ending Occupation
Posted on Jul 31, 2014
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The nearly month-long attack by Israeli forces on Gaza has revealed that anti-Arab racism permeates many levels of Israeli society. Indeed, to acknowledge Palestinians as humans worthy of a state, a home and basic necessities such as medical care, electricity, food and water, would undermine the brutality of Operation Protective Edge.
Racism among the Israeli population is either stronger than ever, or simply more visible today thanks to social media and the proliferation of online means of expression.
Some Israelis are openly thrilled that Gaza is being leveled. A Danish reporter came upon a cheery group of people who gathered outdoors in the southern Israeli town of Sderot with folding chairs and popcorn to watch the air war, clapping each time a bomb dropped on Gaza. Other Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to celebrate the killing of Gaza’s children. They were videotaped singing a song whose words included, “In Gaza there’s no studying; No children are left there,” and calling for violence against two of the Israeli Knesset’s Arab members.
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But the racism has gone beyond mere celebrations of war and death. While the horrific revenge killing of 15-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir is being dismissed as an extremist act, and the police beating of his cousin Tariq Abu Khdeir is being “investigated,” more attacks have followed with little U.S. media attention. For example, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz noted that “two Palestinian youths were reportedly assaulted by a Jewish mob in Jerusalem.”
Professor David Shulman, who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, went further, writing in a July 12 column that “Israel has witnessed a wave of racist hatred on a scale perhaps not known before.” Shulman also cited the advent of “Israeli lynch gangs prowling the streets of downtown Jerusalem ... and organized Fascist groups attacking any Palestinians unlucky enough to be going home late at night, after work.”
According to reports, a former soldier posted on Facebook that he was told that Israeli troops have been encouraged to gun down unarmed Palestinians in Gaza to satisfy their thirst for revenge. The former soldier reportedly says he was told “the unofficial reason was to enable the soldiers to take out their frustrations and pain at losing their fellow soldiers.”
But it’s not just certain soldiers and citizens who are reportedly embracing a lynch-mob culture. Some Israeli politicians have also made clear declarations of Jewish superiority, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this May pushing for Israel to be formally defined as for Jews only. Israel has long distinguished itself from Muslim monarchies, saying it is a democracy where Arab Israelis have equal rights. Now that facade seems to be crumbling with Netanyahu declaring that Israel ought to be “the nation state of one people only—the Jewish people—and of no other people.” His logic is actually sound; those who refuse to accept a one-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians cannot concurrently maintain a nation of two people: Jews and Arabs. But Israel also cannot have it both ways, setting itself apart from Islamic totalitarian states such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain while claiming it is a Jewish-only nation.
Other politicians have gone even further. On July 1, Ayelet Shaked, a Knesset member from the far-right Jewish Home Party, one of Israel’s ruling coalition parties, posted what she said was a 12-year-old essay by right-wing politician and journalist Uri Elitzur that referred to Palestinians as “snakes” and essentially called for Palestinians and their mothers to be killed. After asserting that the entire Palestinian population is part of the enemy because “behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism,” the essay that Shaked posted went on to call for what sounds disturbingly like genocide: “They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
Another far right-wing Israeli politician, Moshe Feiglin, wrote an editorial in an online newspaper outlining a seven-step “solution” for Gaza. The head of a faction in the Likud Party and also a member of the Israeli Knesset, Feiglin called for attacking “all military and infrastructural targets” in Gaza “with no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage,’ ” and “using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations.”
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