State of Denial
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is a global campaign which uses economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with the goals of the movement:
- The end of Israeli occupation and colonization of Arab land
- Full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel
- Respect for the right of return of Palestinian refugees
In general the most obvious goal of the campaign is the first (an end to Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and an end to its illegal siege of Gaza). However, the second goal - that of addressing the many ways in which Palestinian and other Arab "citizens" of Israel receive worse treatment than their Jewish countrymen - is beginning to receive considerable attention, possibly because campaigning on "Israeli Apartheid" is both a catchy slogan and a salutory reminder of a previous similar campaign (against South Africa) which proved highly effective in both economic and publicity terms.
Thus it is that the past week, in both the UK and the USA, has been "Israeli Apartheid Week" in universities and colleges up and down both countries. (Other countries hold the week at different times.)
Leaving aside the situation in the occupied territories, where there are "Jews-only" roads and villages, and where Palestinians are forbidden to buy or build houses except in steadily-shrinking enclaves: in Israel itself there is no civil marriage, so Jews are unable to marry non-Jews. (This would of course dilute the genetic purity of the master race so must be forbidden by law.) If a Christian, or Jew, or Muslim wishes to marry outside his or her religion, they must travel outside Israel (if they can obtain permission to do so, which is by no means certain for non-Jews) and marry there, after which their marriage will be grudgingly recognised by the Jewish state. To say that this affects Jews as well as Muslims and Christians is to say no more than that South African apartheid applied to whites as well as blacks. In no country except Israel do the official state identity documents list the holder's religion, because no country except Israel bases its entire constitution on religious discrimination.
Once again, if a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel wishes to bring his family - including his wife - from their home a mile or so away in Palestine to live with him in Israel, he will find that this is forbidden by law. An Israeli Jew, however, may import dozens of family members from as far away as Australia with hardly any paperwork, let alone legal restrictions. Never mind that the imported Jews may have no previous connection with Israel, and that they may have nothing to contribute to Israeli life or Israel's economy. If you are a non-Jew in "equal", "democratic" Israel, being allowed to live with your wife and children is of less importance to "your" government than the importation of random Jews from around the world to "improve" the demographics of the nation (i.e increase the proportion of Jews).
Then of course there are the restrictions on where non-Jews can own property in Israel; the ban on any Arab political parties not approved by the government; the severe restrictions applied to non-Jewish members of the Knesset (barred from sitting on any parliamentary committees or working groups); the ban on gun ownership by Israeli Arabs; the humiliatingly unequal treatment at airports. Israel is a two-tier society, with Jews in the top tier and everyone else (mostly comprising Palestinian Muslims) in the lower.
Returning to Israeli Apartheid Week, one may take a few things for granted. Any criticism of the state of Israel and its policies, and any campaign intended to alter those policies, will be overwhelmingly portrayed in the media as "anti-semitic" (a word which nowadays has almost totally lost its original meaning of "hating Jews" and been diluted to mean only "critical of the Israeli government"). Also, the Israeli regime runs the best-funded propaganda machine on history, so it is inevitable that a slick campaign will appear to rebut any suggestion of unequal treatment of Israel's Jews and Arabs. And of course such a campaign has appeared.
I rather like the poster that shows Palestinians attending a seminar at Ariel University, which is located in an illegal settlement. Gosh, Israel allows a few Palestinians to spend hours queuing at checkpoints to visit an encampment where they are forbidden to live (or stay overnight), and to glimpse a university built on stolen Palestinian land which permits almost 5% of its (otherwise Jewish) students to be Arabs. I'm even more amused by the posters which show Israeli Arabs who actually agree that Israel is a viciously discriminatory society (Jamal Zahalka) or who call for a boycott of Israel (Omar Barghouti). They make it clear that the other posters are simply tokenism. In 1936, Josef Goebbels could have produced a poster showing the two Jewish athletes on the Germman Olympic team and labelled it "Anti-Semitism?" Another might have shown the financial and other support (including arms shipments) to the Zionists in Palestine attempting to create a Jewish homeland there. "Anti-Semitism?" And then of course there was the more deliberate fakery, such as the film depicting the Theresienstadt concentration camp as "the town Hitler gave to the Jews". "Anti-Semitism?"
Campaigns such as the one hosted by the "Elder of Ziyon" blog are the sick Israeli government equivalent of Holocaust denial. And of course the other Holocaust, the one visited by the Zionists on their Arab victims in 1948, is indeed officially denied by the Israeli state, and may not be taught to Israeli Arab children.
To all of which the BDS campaign says "Never again".