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'Judaization' of the Galilee means racism

Haaretz Editorial        2 December 2013

Upper Galilee

Upper Galilee Photo by Dror Artzi

Living in Israel are the members of two peoples, Jewish and Arab, majority and minority. All are citizens who must be treated equally. This basic truth, the cornerstone of any democratic regime, is being undermined yet again.

The World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division, part of the executive branch of the government, is formulating a plan to “Judaize the Galilee” and create a “demographic balance” vis-à-vis the Arab population. Zafrir Rinat reported yesterday in Haaretz that the goal is to attract 100,000 new Jewish residents to the Galilee, with the objective, in the agency's words, of “giving expression to Israeli sovereignty through settlement activity.”

This program must be scrapped immediately. Israeli sovereignty over the Galilee is not being questioned in any way. Whether most of the residents are Jews or Arabs, every resident of the Galilee is a citizen of the state and must be treated as such. A state that encourages members of one people to settle in any region, while at the same time imposing harsh restrictions on the growth of the other, is acting in a racist manner. There is no other way to describe such behavior.

Since 1948, Israel has blocked the establishment of new Arab communities in the Galilee, even though the older communities are bursting at the seams for lack of land reserves, while it has expropriated huge tracts of Arab land. It has developed industrial zones almost exclusively in the Jewish communities. Now it is calling for the “Judaization” of the region. This is a state acting unjustly toward its citizens.

“Since the ‘tower and stockade’ period, nothing has changed,” wrote Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on his Facebook page Saturday night, during the demonstrations  against the Prawer plan for the Negev that is expected to force tens of thousands of Bedouin out of the unrecognized villages where they live. “We are fighting for the national lands of the Jewish people,” he argued.

Whether the Prawer initiative will benefit the Bedouin, as the government claims, or harm them, as its opponents argue, the foreign minister’s remarks are intolerable. Since the days of the tower and stockade, the expulsion of Arabs from their villages and the expropriation of land in the Negev and the Galilee, a state was established. The state’s sovereignty over its lands needs no "reinforcement." What is in desperate need of reinforcement, however, is the egalitarian, non-racist, nondiscriminatory character of the state.

The government must develop the Negev and the Galilee for all its citizens, Jews and Arabs alike. Anything else could further exacerbate the alienation already felt by Israeli Arabs citizens and escalate their protests.


Odour of injustice fills the Negev

Israel's government is a sort if hive for extremists: for this government, screwing the Arabs  is a 'mitzvah'. (good deed sic)

Police at a protest against Bedouin resettlement.

Police at a protest against Bedouin resettlement at the Negev's Hura Junction, Nov. 30, 2013.               Photo by Eliyahu Hershkovitz
by  Oudeh Basharat    2 December 2013       Haaretz

Is there a volunteer who will explain to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that the “tower and stockade” method of settlement was, in practice, a plan of the Jewish yishuv in the 1930s to put facts on the ground? In other words, to build as many Jewish communities as possible in improvised structures - which is to say, quasi-structures - in an attempt to deceive the British? So why did Lieberman mention this fraud and cast its shadow on the Arabs, writing off as he did the weekend protests against the Prawer-Begin plan: “Nothing has changed since the tower and stockade days. We are fighting for the lands of the Jewish people and there are those who intentionally try to rob and seize them"?

Moreover, we need to explain to Mr. Lieberman that he is functioning in the role of foreign minister of Israel, and instead of dealing with the Negev, which is part of this country, maybe it would be preferable if he spoke with Catherine Ashton, the foreign minister of the European Union, with an eye toward settling the disagreement over the boycott of the settlements. It can be assumed that if Lieberman took the reins of the negotiations with the Palestinians, instead of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, the boycott would have included all of Israel.

Maybe that would have paid off for Lieberman - why, oh why should only Nokdim, Lieberman’s community in the occupied territories, suffer? The spoiled Tel Avivians should also suffer. If I were prime minister, one who was worried about Israel’s independence, I would try to find a job for Lieberman in which the damage he could cause would be minimized. What is wrong with the Tourism Ministry, for example?

In any case, the heart yearns for the sound of Lieberman’s complaints about the crime the Arabs committed when they stole the lands that did not belong to them. In fact, I appealed to the Customs Authority, and after an intensive investigation, the authorities there flatly denied that Avigdor Lieberman, when he arrived as a new immigrant from Kishinev, Moldova, brought with him suitcases filled with land.

But Lieberman’s distortion of history will not hide the force of the present government’s attack on the Arab population. This government is a sort of hive of extremists, who feel like Omar al-Khayyam felt when he wrote in his Rubaiyat al-Khayyam: “The day is lost if it passes and if I have not loved and I have not yearned.” For the society here, on the other hand, the day is lost if it passes without screwing the Arabs. For this government, screwing the Arabs is a mitzvah.

When the injustice is outrageous, and there is no one for the Arabs to trust except out father in heaven; and when the main parties that put themselves forward as an alternative to the coalition are paralyzed; and when the leadership of the Arab population is conflicted from within and its members are suffering from inflated egos and are busy with the never-ending pursuit after a good place on this Knesset list or that; and when everyone tells you: “Go, you and your God, to fight,” as the Koran says, then the people arise. And the people here are the masses of democratic Arabs and Jews, for whom the smell of injustice has already filled their nostrils. When the Jewish Hiran arises on the ruins of the Arab Umm al-Hiran, when the transfer of over 40,000 Bedouins in the Negev awaits, and when the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, which the government defines as one of its executive arms, declares another plan for the “Judaization” of the Galilee (as Zafrir Rinat reported yesterday in Haaretz), then the people rise.

The new people that has arisen, armed with the miracle tool Facebook, is a people that does not cry, but fights. It is fighting for its home, for its livelihood and for its human dignity. And so, fortunately, the early spring has arrived this year, actually just at the beginning of the winter. What can you do, as David Grossman wrote in his poem, spring here is short and to manage to do a few things you need to wake up early.

Benjamin Netanyahu, who has suffered defeat after defeat in his aggressive foreign policy, is leading the same policy of force and abuse domestically, over the Arabs and the weak. The correct step from the point of Hatnuah and Yesh Atid is to leave the ship that is sinking under the delusions of its coalition partners, and to hook up with the Arabs and Jews. Netanyahu is the sinking yesterday, the “new people” is the tomorrow.

Welcome to the intoxicating spring!