Zionism, Racism, and Anti-Semitism Debate in South Africa

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The term anti-semite was coined by anti-Jewish bigot Wilhelm Marr in 1879. According to Yahoo encyclopedia:

Over 130 countries and over 4000 Non-Governmental organizations (NGOs) attended the United Nations Conference on Racism, Racial Intolerance and Xenophobia. We heard much about the US and Israel pulling out. These two increasingly isolated goiovernments have also failed to participate in other international fora on racism. What we did not hear about is that it is not just Islamic and Arabic countries that were incensed at Israel’s practices but also Latin American, African, European, and Asian countries. In fact, the 4000 NGOs (civil rights and human rights organizations from all countries) overwhelmingly voted for the statement condemning Israeli practices and by extension the US government’s blind support of racism. There has never been an issue with such wide support. Perhaps a little background not given in the mainstream media might explain why the US and Israel are getting isolated and why other countries are almost unanimous in condemnation of Israeli practices.

But first an interesting tidbit frequently ignored. Zionists and Nazis both believed early on that Jews should not live in Europe among other people as equal citizens. It is interesting to note that Hitler’s “Mein Kempf” states that Zionists support his theory of Jews as a distinct nation and he described Zionism as a “great movement” in their drive to get Jews into Palestine. This is why Zionists collaborated with the Nazi regime, thwarted some efforts to rescue Jews (unless they are to emigrate to Palestine), and used any means including violence and murder of innocents to achieve their goal. A good discussion and documentation of these facts are found in books by Lenni Brenner, Edwin Black (The Tranfer Agreement), Ben Hecht, Shabbtai Teveth, Noam Giladi, Benjamin Beit-Hallami, and Marc Ellis.

But the biggest issue for Zionists was that they were building a “Jewish state” with the direct support of Britain and later the US on a land already heavily populated and against the wishes of the natives (Muslims, Christians, and Jews). Logically, even if Zionism is not considered racist in theory, the only way to achieve its goals of a “Jewish country” (“as France is French”) would make it racist in practice.

Myths inculcated for many years by Israeli apologists about the history of the state and the so called “Arab-Israeli wars” have been shattered by Israeli historians (Segev, Pappe, Morris, Schlaim etc) based on Israeli archives and through the words of Israeli leaders. Similarly, the racism of the Israeli State is evident by quotes from its own leaders, by existing Israeli laws, and by Israeli actions on the ground.

Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli army stated (NYTimes 4/14/83): “We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel….Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.” Yitshak Rabin published memoires are very instructive. In one passage, Rabin wrote: “We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, ‘What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!'” (New York Times, 23 October 1979). These are just two of the thousands of examples. On a more concrete level, Israel ethnically cleansed over 500 Palestinian villages and towns between 1947 and 1949. The thirst for more land also resulted in the massive settlements

The nascent state then implemented a set of discriminatory basic laws still active to this day. These include the Law of Return which stipulates that any Jew is considered a “national” and has automatic rights of citizenship. Israel is the only country in the world where nationality and citizenship are separate categories and the country is considered “a trust” of nationals including extra-territorial members of this “nation.” Ofcourse Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed were not allowed to return and instead a specific set of laws were adopted to ensure in Ben Gurion’s words that “they never return, the old will die and the young will forget.” They also include the “absentee law” whereby all non-Jews who are considered by the state “absent” have their property transferred to ownership by the “Jewish nation” and is leased to Jews only. One quarter of Israel’s Palestinian population are considered “present absentees” by law even while they have Israeli citizenship. Many live a few yards away from their own homes which they cannot even lease their lands. Many live in “unrecognized villages.” Israeli laws were very clever in using an amalgam of Ottoman, British, Jordanian, Israeli, and even Biblical laws that managed through the past 53 years in creating and maintaining the largest refugee problem in the world. Israel prevents their return to their homes and lands based on nothing less than the wishful thinking of maintaining the “Jewish character” of the state of Israel. I say wishfull because even if Israel manages to put Palestinians in Bantustans in teh West Bank and Gaza, there are remaining 1.2 million Palestinians with a high birth rate within Israel “proper.”

Finally, anyone can travel to the occupied areas, to refugee camps within and outside Israel, and to unrecognized Palestinian villages, to see first hand Israeli racism in practice today. The International community (including many Jews) is finally awakening to the fact that to have a “Jewish character” to a state is no different than having a “white” or “Aryan” character. It is no wonder that many Israelis and Palestinians are now working towards a Post-Zionist era analogous to the post-Apartheid era of South Africa. In the same vein, the International community should facilitate the peaceful transformation of Israel to peaceful, secular democratic state for all its people regardless of their religion. And yes, this means giving the Palestinian refugees the Internationally recognized right to return to their homes and lands. Based on International law and human rights, this is the only way to real peace.

(Dr. Mazin B. Qumsiyeh is Chair of the Media Committee, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition)

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