Finally somebody has had the courage to call Israel by what it truly is: a racist state. But the official United Nations conference on racism convened in Durban, South Africa was very hesitant to apply international law to the Israeli case. Still, Palestinians are encouraged by the recommendations of the non-government international forum in Durban because, for the first time since the beginning of the Intifada, somebody has dared to point out the Israeli atrocities and its violation of international humanitarian laws.
From the point of view of the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, or the Palestinians living inside Israel, the discussions and debates over whether Israel is racist or not that took place between the governments meeting in Durban are rather irrelevant and even odd.
Israel is practicing racism openly and legally. Israel even defines itself as “the state of the Jews” in spite of the fact that one fifth of its indigenous population is not Jewish. Israelis do not deny that the Arabs are discriminated against. They do argue, however, that they are trying to bridge the gap between Jews and Arabs resulting from the policy of discrimination.
Israeli researchers have shown that two-thirds of the younger Israeli generation, those in schools and universities, hold racist attitudes against Arabs. The Israeli law of land discriminates openly against Arabs; Israel confiscated more than 90 percent of the land that once belonged to Palestinians that are now “Israeli citizens.” That land is now used by Jews. Israeli law grants the right to return to Israel to any Jew anywhere on earth on the basis that his forefathers 2000 years ago were living in Palestine, at the same time that it denies the right of return for the Palestinian refugees who are either the children of those forced to leave Palestine or were themselves forced to leave Palestine only 50 years ago.
Even the Israeli argument against United Nations Resolution 194, which calls for the Palestinian refugee’s right of return is a racist argument. Israel says that this return will affect “the purity” of the Jewish state by tilting the demographic balance away from a Jewish majority.
Finally, prominent and top-level Israeli religious, political and security leaders such as Shas Rabbi Ovadia Yousef and government minister Rahavam Zeevi are able to use racist statements against the Arabs (calling them serpents, for example) without any change in their official religious or public positions, simply because such racist statements fit directly into the Israeli system.
In the Palestinian occupied territories, Israel has openly and intentionally established a situation where two communities are living in two separate sets of residential areas, under two separate and different sets of laws and rights, in addition to using two separate road networks. On top of this, one community is living on land that was forcefully confiscated from the other. The way that Israel established its settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories has created for a typical apartheid situation, one very similar to that which the entire world fought in South Africa.
It is an international responsibility to fight against racism in Israel because Israel is able to continue with this racist intent, structure and practice only because of the support of the most prominent and powerful countries in the world, especially the United States. This fact should not allow anyone to ignore or escape the other cases of racism in the world, whether it is in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa or the Arab world.
Mr. Ghassan Khatib is the publisher of the Palestine Report.