Saturday, October 16

The Deed is Done

Eli YishaiImage via Wikipedia

The Pledge of Allegiance Bill recognizing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state will be passed into law. This pledge is directed towards potential non-Jewish immigrants who wish to become naturalized Israeli citizens. Jews, who immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return, are exempted from the pledge.

This heinous bit of racist legislation was orchestrated by the Yisrael Beiteinu Party of Avigdor Lieberman. It received overwhelming support from the right wing coalition Knesset members. The spineless, weak, Labor Party made a few ineffectual squeaks of opposition, but is still in the coalition. This comes as no surprise, as the Labour Party under Ehud Barak, has sacrificed its ideological platform for seats in the odious right wing cabinet which includes the likes of right wing Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and Shas leader Eli Yishai, the Minister of Interior, whose dislike for Arabs is no secret.

Their hatred even spreads to non-Jewish foreign workers who are victims of a "revolving door" policy. They are contracted laborers, many of whom look after our aged as caregivers. After a number of years, many of these people marry and raise a family. Their children speak Hebrew as their first language. They are integrated into the Israeli education system, see themselves as Israelis, and have Israeli friends. Now Interior Minister Eli Yishai is trying to get them deported. The reason - foreigners are a threat to the Jewish identity of the State of Israel! How xenophobic can one get? We have been victims of anti-Semitism in the Diaspora. Now we are becoming xenophobic ourselves and are resorting to discriminatory measures to preserve our Jewish identity in Israel whether it be allegiance pledges of loyalty or our attitude towards our Israeli Arab citizens. Even the foreign worker as mentioned is caught up in this weird and unjustified crusade.

Israel seems to be joining a host of Middle East Countries that are using religion as part of the identity of the state. Some examples are: The Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Mauritania

Naturally these Moslem theocracies are not democratic and some of these countries even forbid Jews from living there. Is it appropriate for Israel to follow their example by discriminating against non-Jews whether they are foreign workers or have an Israeli spouse especially if she or he is not Jewish?

Any theocratic state is not democratic. Religion and democracy are not compatible and there is no reason to believe that Israel will be any different in the future. The Pledge of Allegiance is just the first stage in the erosion of democracy in Israel which could become "The Jewish Republic of Israel" with all its ramifications.

The prospect of transfer of Israel's Arab population who has a problem of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state could be the first target. This does not mean that Israel's Arab population does not recognize Israel's right to exist. It is a matter of terminology. Most Israeli Arab citizens have no problem with Israel's Declaration of Independence. Why does the Jewish identity of Israel have to be so aggressively emphasized when this has never been an issue in the past?

Surely this bodes evil and could put every non-Jewish citizen's loyalty under scrutiny.

The Israel Government is occupied in justifying its attitude towards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict while at the same time building in occupied territories and passing a controversial Pledge of Allegiance law.

Israel is moving down the slippery slope of intolerance towards those who are different. This is against the spirit of the Declaration of Independence which stresses equality of Israel's citizens irrespective of race, colour or creed.

Now we arrive at Israel's requirement of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Surely it is sufficient that the Palestinians recognize Israel as an independent state. The nature of Israel as a Jewish state is understood without it being turned into a hot potato.

While both the Palestinian and Israeli side are placing great emphasis on marginal issues that are causes of disagreement between the two sides in order to torpedo the talks and win world support in apportioning the blame for the failure of peace negotiations. The Pledge of Allegiance and the demand by Israel that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is a ploy by Israel to pull out of the peace talks. Ending the moratorium on settlement activity is another excuse.

So there we have it. Intransigence and obstinacy on both sides, coupled with a lack of vision are laying the foundations for further violence between the two sides. The deed is done and another opportunity for achieving peace is slipping away.

A state
That declares war
On a fifth
Of its citizens -
Can it be called

A state
That persecutes
Its minority -
Can it be called

Gush Shalom Ad in Haaretz, October 15, 2010
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Saturday, October 9

Discriminating Pledge of Allegiance?

Portrait of Avigdor LiebermanImage via Wikipedia
The settlement freeze will not continue in order to jump start the faltering Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. PM Netanyahu risks a coalition break up if he acquiesces to US and international pressure. FM Avigdor Lieberman's address from the UN General Assembly podium was an opportunity for him to present his Israel Beitenu Party agenda which has racist and discriminatory undertones.

There are trends in the Israeli Government which ought to be a concern to those who value freedom and democracy. FM Lieberman never represented official government policy (or maybe he did?). He was not fired for this speech. He was advocating transfer of Arab populations in Israel in a soft-serve style, but the message was obvious. It is business as usual in the Foreign Ministry with Avigdor Lieberman remaining at the helm.

A national paranoia is setting in as the Israeli Government is seeking ways to justify Israel's existence as if the whole world is seen as seeking the deligitimization of Israel. Israel's identity as a Jewish and democratic state is written in the Declaration of Independence which is recognized by the High Court of Justice. A new bill formulated by the Minister of Justice, Yaakov Neeman, will be passed for non-Jews who wish to become naturalized Israeli citizens - an oath of allegiance stating loyalty to Israel as "a Jewish and democratic state”. This awkward and unnecessary pledge of allegiance will create problems for Israel's non-Jewish naturalized citizens. It has discriminatory undertones. It also gives rise to the notion that Israeli Arabs will forever remain second class citizens in a Jewish and democratic state. There are countries who demand a pledge of allegiance from citizens who are naturalized and this is legitimate. Can one imagine what would happen if the US demanded its naturalized citizens who are not Christians to plead allegiance to the US as a Christian and democratic country? It would not go down well with Jews who would view this as anti-Semitic, Moslems who would see the US as anti-Moslem, and a xenophobic tint towards other faiths.

We are all aware that Israel is a state for all its citizens, irrespective of race, colour or creed. We are also aware that the majority of Israel's citizens are Jews and 20% are non-Jews. The character of Israel is determined by the majority of its inhabitants who are Jewish. So why is it necessary to emphasize this in the Pledge of Allegiance? Surely there is a discriminatory intention to dissuade non-Jews from becoming naturalized citizens? A pledge of loyalty to the State of Israel is sufficient and is no danger to Israel's existence? The pledge of allegiance to the State of Israel should be applicable to all its naturalized citizens including those who arrived under the Law of Return.

Perhaps it is Likud strategy to appease the right wing parties in the coalition, including Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu Party which is also a very strong coalition partner and is very much part of the ideology behind this declaration-citizen law.

The introduction of this strange law could also be a form of digression to free Netanyahu from making a decision over extending the settlement freeze. Here he can score points from the right wing that is unanimous in their support of the citizen allegiance law.

It is certain that despite Israel's claim to the contrary, it is not interested in wrapping up a peace agreement with the Palestinians. The continuation of building settlements in the occupied territories is proof that the Israeli Government wishes to continue to annex the occupied territories. Continuous building means the negation of the two state solution and the Palestinians can forget about ever getting their own state. Would there be any point in building new settlements if in the end there will be a withdrawal from the occupied territories? One must remember that the situation in the West Bank is far more complex than in the occupied Gaza Strip when Israel withdrew unilaterally in August 2005.Many of the settlers who were forced to leave their homes still have not found alternative housing and are living in temporary homes.

The Israeli Government is creating a situation on the ground whereby there will be movement towards a bi-national state that will subject the Palestinians to an apartheid-like situation of being second class citizens who will have to plead allegiance to the State of Israel being a Jewish and democratic state. This catastrophic scenario could be the result in the future.

Surely it would be beneficial to both Palestinians and Israelis if the moratorium on settlements continues to allow both parties to negotiate a solution to the conflict. Both sides are not interested in a solution for the reasons I have already mentioned in a previous article.

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