Ethnic Cleansing and Israel
The Ultimate Aim is the Transfer
by Conn Hallinan, Counterpunch
March 5, 2009
One of the more disturbing developments
in the Middle East is a growing consensus among Israelis that
it would acceptable to expel-in the words of advocates "transfer"-its
Arab citizens to either a yet as unformed Palestinian state or
the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt.
Such sentiment is hardly new among Israeli
extremists, and it has long been advocated by racist Jewish organizations
like Kach, the party of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, as well as
groups like the National Union, which doubled its Knesset representation
in the last election.
But "transfer" is no longer
the exclusive policy of extremists, as it has increasingly become
a part of mainstream political dialogue. "My solution for
maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have
two nation-states with certain concessions and with clear red
lines," Kadima leader and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi
Livni told a group of Tel Aviv high school students last December,
"and among other things, I will be able to approach the Palestinian
residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell
them, ' your national solution lies elsewhere.'"
Such talk has consequences.
According to the Israeli Association for
Civil Rights, anti-Arab incidents have risen sharply. "Israeli
society is reaching new heights of racism that damages freedom
of expression and privacy," says Sami Michael, the organization's
president. Among the Association's findings:
* Some 55 percent of Jewish Israelis say
that the state should encourage Arab emigration;
* 78 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose
including Arab parties in the government;
* 56 percent agree with the statement
that "Arabs cannot attain the Jewish level of cultural development";
* 75 percent agree that Arabs are inclined
to be violent. Among Arab-Israelis, 54 percent feel the same way
* 75 percent of Israeli Jews say they
would not live in the same building as Arabs.
The tension between Israeli democracy
and the country's Jewish character was the centerpiece of Avigdor
Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party's campaign in the recent election.
His party increased its Knesset membership from 11 to 15, and
is now the third largest party in the parliament.
Lieberman, who lives in a West Bank settlement
near Bethlehem, calls for a "loyalty oath" from Arab-Israelis,
and for either expelling those who refuse or denying them citizenship
rights. During a Knesset debate last March, Lieberman told Arab
deputies, "You are only temporarily here. One day we will
take care of you."
Such views are increasing, particularly
among young Jewish Israelis, among whom a politicized historical
education and growing hopelessness about the future has fueled
a strong rightward shift.
In a recent article in Haaretz, Yotam
Feldman writes about a journey through Israel's high schools,
where students freely admit to their hatred of Arabs and lack
of concern about the erosion of democracy.
"Sergei Liebliyanich, a senior, draws
a connection between the preparation for military service in school
and student support for the Right" Feldman writes, "'
It gives us motivation against the Arabs. You want to enlist in
the army so you can stick it to themI like Lieberman's thinking
about the Arabs. Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the rightwing
Likud Party] doesn't want to go as far."
Feldman polled 10 high schools and found
that Yisrael Beiteinu was the most popular party, followed by
Likud. The left-wing Meretz Party came in dead last.
In part, the politicalization of the education
system is to blame.
Mariam Darmoni-Sharviot, a former civics
teacher who is helping implement the 1995 Kremnitzar Commission's
recommendations on education and democracy, told Feldman, "When
I talk to a civics class about the Arab minority, and about its
uniqueness in being a majority that became a minority, my students
argue and say it's not true that they [Arabs] were a majority."
She said when she confronted teachers and asked why students didn't
know that Arabs were a majority in 1947, the teachers become "evasive
and say it's not part of the material."
In part, students reflect the culture
that surrounds them.
"Israeli society is speaking in two
voices," says Education Minister Yuli Tamir. "We see
ourselves as a democratic society, yet we often neglect things
that are very basic to democracyIf the students see the Knesset
disqualifying Arab parties, a move that I've adamantly opposed,
how can we expect them to absorb democratic values?"
All the major Israeli parties voted to
remove two Arab parties, United Arab List-Ta'al and Balad, from
the ballot because they opposed the Gaza war. Balad also calls
for equal rights for all Israelis. Kadima spokesperson Maya Jacobs
said, "Balad aims to exterminate Israel as a Jewish state
and turn it into a state for all its citizens." Labor joined
in banning Balad, but not Ta'al.
The Israeli Supreme Court overturned the
move and both parties ended up electing seven Knesset members
in the recent election.
"The ultimate aim here," says
Dominic Moran, INS Security Watch's senior correspondent in the
Middle East, "is to sever the limited ties that bind Jews
and Arabs, to the point that the idea of the transfer of the Arab-Israeli
population beyond the borders of the state, championed by Yisrael
Beiteinu, gains increasing legitimacy."
This turn toward the Right also reflects
an economic crisis, where poverty is on the rise and the cost
of maintaining the settlements in the Occupied Territories and
Israel's military is a crushing burden. Peace Now estimates that
the occupation costs $1.4 billion a year, not counting the separation
wall. Israel's military budget is just under $10 billion a year.
According to Haartez, the Gaza war cost $374 million.
Some 16 percent of the Jewish population
fall below the poverty line, a designation that includes 50 percent
of Israeli Arabs.
"The Israeli reality can no longer
hide what it has kept hidden up to now-that today no sentient
mother can honestly say to her child: ' Next year things will
be better here,'" says philosophy of education professor,
Ilan Gur-Ze'ev. "The young people are replacing hope for
a better future with a myth of a heroic end. For a heroic end,
Lieberman fits the bill."
Intercommunity tension manifests itself
mainly in the Occupied Territories, where the relentless expansion
of settlements and constant humiliation of hundreds of Israeli
Army roadblocks fuels Palestinian anger.
This past December, settlers in Hebron
attacked Palestinians after the Israeli government removed a group
of Jewish families occuping an Arab-owned building. In response,
the settlers launched "Operation Price Tag" to inflict
punishment on Palestinians in the event the Tel Aviv government
moves against settlers. Rioters torched cars, desecrated a Muslim
cemetery, and gunned down two Arabs.
Settler rampages on the West Bank are
nothing new, even though they receive virtually no coverage in
the U.S. media. But a disturbing trend is the appearance of extremist
settlers in Israel. Late last year Baruch Marzel, a West bank
settler and follower of Kahane, threatened to lead a march through
Umm al-Fahm, a largely Arab-Israeli town near Haifa.
"We have a cancer in our body capable
of destroying the state of Israel," Marzel told The Forward,
"and these people are in the heart of Israel, a force capable
of destroying Israel from the inside. I am going to tell these
people that the land of Israel is ours."
Arab-Israelis charge that settlers-some
of them extremists re-settled from Gaza three years ago- played
a role in last year's Yom Kippur riots in the mixed city of Acre
and forced Arab families our of their houses in the east part
of the city. Arabs make up about 14 percent of Acre and 20 percent
Rabbi Dov Lior, chair of the West Bank
Rabbinical Council, has decreed, "It is completely forbidden
to employ [Arabs] and rent houses to them in Israel."
The Adallah Legal Center for Arab Minority
Rights is urging Israeli Attorney General Mernachem Mazuz to investigate
"Wild incitement to racism against Arabs in general and the
[Arab] residents of Acre in particular."
On Oct. 15, three days after the Acre
riots, two Arab apartments in Tel Aviv were attacked with Molotov
cocktails. Seven Jewish men were arrested. The Arab residents
of Lod and Haifa charge that they too are being pressured to move.
In the case of Lod, municipal authorities
are open about their intentions. Municipal spokesman Yoram Ben-Aroch
denied that the city discriminates against Arabs, but told The
Forward that municipal authorities want Lod, to become "a
more Jewish town. We need to strengthen the Jewish character of
Lod and religious people and Zionists have a big part to play
in this strengthening."
However, the growing lawlessness of West
bank settlers and Jewish nationalists has begun to unsettle the
authorities in Tel Aviv. After rightwing extremists tried to assassinate
Peace Now activist Professor Zeev Sternhell, Shin Bet chief Yuval
Diskin said the intelligence organization was "very concerned"
about the "extremist right" and its willingness to resort
Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said "We
are not willing to live with a significant group of people that
has cast off all authority," and called Operation Price Tag
So far, however, the government and Shin
Bet have done little to rein in the rising tide of rightwing terror,
which is aimed at Jews as well as Arabs.
Ahmad Tibi of the Arab Ta'al Party says
that while Arab Israelis feel threatened by what Ben Gurion University
political scientist Neve Gordan calls a "move toward xenophobic
politics," Tibi warns that, "It is the Jewish majority
that should be afraid of this phenomenon."
Conn Hallinan can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org