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Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

The Israeli Exception is a Colonial and Racist State

The Israeli Exception
Israeli security forces use a crane to remove illegally built modular homes as they evacuate settlers in the Beit Dror outpost, in the hills south of the West Bank city of Hebron, on July 27, 2021. HAZEM BADER/ AFP.

Majed Kayali

It was, by all means, no surprise that Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, tore up the report of the Commission on Human Rights in the special session of the UN General Assembly on 29 October 2021, during his speech in which he attacked the committee’s annual report.

The report condemned Israel with 95 resolutions out of 142 against other countries combined. It also addressed the situation of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, the human rights situation in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, and the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.

What is more interesting is that the ambassador considered the rightful place of that report to be the dustbin of antisemitism, an approach Israel is now adopting to enlist any opposition to its colonial and racist policies against the Palestinians as a form of antisemitism!

That was not surprising for the simple reason that Israel does not care about any international organisation. A few days ago, Israel outlawed six human rights groups defending Palestinian human rights, labelling them as terrorist groups.

Those organisations are Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Defense for Children International – Palestine, Al-Haq Human rights organisation, Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, and Bisan Center for Research and Development.

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has torn up all the resolutions issued by the UN against it, be it the Security Council, the General Assembly, or its affiliated bodies. Noting that Israel’s international recognition as a member state of the UN (according to Resolution 273 of 1949) was conditional on its approval of the General Assembly Resolutions No. 181 of 1947 regarding the partition of Palestine into two Arab and Jewish states, and Resolution No.194 of 1948 regarding the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Neither did Israel allow the establishment of the Palestinian state, nor did the refugees return due to Israel’s refusal.

Later on, in 1967, Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. To this day, Israel still refuses to comply with the UN Resolution No. 242 of 1967 that stipulates the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war, Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and enabling the Palestinians’ right to political independence.

Even when the PLO agreed to a settlement treaty with Israel, according to the Oslo Agreement in 1993, Israel didn’t comply with its obligations for nearly three decades. Instead, it has been doing everything to consolidate its presence as a belligerent colonial state in the Palestinian territories through settlement, changing the demographic composition of Jerusalem, and imposing its security, administrative and economic control over the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, apart from being an occupying state, Israel practices racial discrimination against Palestinians, whether the Palestinians inside Israel or in the West Bank or Gaza, which has been subject to a tight blockade for 14 years. That was documented by issuing the Jewish Nation-State Law in 2018, which states that only Jews have the right to self-determination because it is their state. In addition to its racist, discriminatory policies, Israel uses brute force to control and persecute the Palestinians, as indicated by human rights reports issued by international human rights organisations.

Israel indeed would not have dared to defy all these international resolutions and covenants had it not been for its enormous military power, the political, moral, economic and military support from the US, and the exploitation of the Holocaust. Israel intentionally mixes between opposing Israel’s colonial and racist policies, which is legitimate in terms of truth and justice, and anti-Judaism or antisemitism, which is one of the essential sources of incitement against Israel. And this is what the Israeli ambassador to the UN exactly did.

As a result of all this, an increasing tendency in Western public opinion indicates a decline in supporting Israel, heads towards isolating it and refuses to confuse this tendency with anti-Judaism. That is evident in the subsequent international reports, which monitor Israel’s violations of the Palestinians’ rights and perpetration of war crimes against them. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the reports of the United Nations and its specialised committees are among the organisations issuing such reports.

Furthermore, one of the most important reports was issued from Israel itself by B’Tselem. It caused a great stir a few months ago, primarily since an Israeli organisation published it. It also came in parallel with statements and reports issued by public figures, including academics, artists, writers and thinkers, condemning Israel’s oppressive and racist policies against the Palestinians.

Above all, there are Israeli Jews who oppose their state’s discriminatory policies. For example, the Jewish musician Daniel Barenboim openly said: “70 years later, the Israeli government has just passed a new law that replaces the principle of equality and universal values with nationalism and racism. we now have a law that confirms the Arab population as second-class citizens. It therefore is a very clear form of apartheid. That is why I am ashamed of being an Israeli today.”

The Israeli poet B. Michael confirms that “the project of crushing the rights of Arabs by discrimination in the land, infrastructure, education, opportunities, representation, employment, development and culture began the day after the declaration of Israel. This discrimination continues to exist until today.” What is new for him is that discrimination has become “finally legitimate and completely permissible.” (Haaretz, 14/8/2018).

The list of figures opposed to the state of Israel, for example, includes Avraham Burg, Israel Shamir, Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Ilan Pappé, Norman Finkelstein, Uri Avnery, Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, Isaac Lior, Amnon Raz, Ella Shohat, Judith Butler, Henry Siegman, and Yossi Beilin.

In an interview with the “Israeli Affairs” magazine, Avraham Burg, former leader of the Labor Party and speaker of the Knesset said that Israel “has become a spokesperson on behalf of the dead.” In the interview meant to cover translating his book “Victory Over Hitler”, Burg added: “It also turned to be a spokesperson for all those who don’t exist, more than all those who are here.”

“a country that lives by the sword and prostrates itself to the dead is doomed to live in a state of permanent emergency,” Burg said. Regarding Israel’s definition of itself as a Jewish state, he believes it is “impossible to coexist under the same roof while defining itself as a democratic state.” As for the Palestinians, Burg asserts that “Jews were often displaced in the past. However, they are now the cause of the displacement of the Palestinians.” In his opinion, if “the Israelis must not forget the Holocaust … they should learn that what happened should not be repeated to themselves or others.”

Judith Butler, an American Jewish academic, a member of the Advisory Council of the Jewish Voice for Peace, a member of the Executive Committee of FFIPP in the United States, a founding member of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in Belgium, and a member in the BDS movement, stresses the need to distinguish between criticism of Israel and its brutal, racist and colonial policies against Palestinians and antisemitism. Butler has long been critical of Israel’s attempts to monopolise the status of the eternal victim, using the thesis of the Frankfurt School from Walter Benjamin and Adorno to Hannah Arendt and Primo Levi.

Israeli writers are sharply criticising even Israel’s exploitation of the Holocaust. Israel Shamir says: “Our crimes have exceeded Russia’s crimes in Chechnya and Afghanistan, America’s crimes in Vietnam, Serbia’s crimes in Bosnia, and our racism – against the Palestinians – is no less prevalent than German racism.” (Haaretz, 7/14/2011)

Several factors led to these developments, including a path to isolate Israel in world public opinion.

The first factor is the revolution in the media, communications, and IT. This revolution allowed the world to see Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinians.

The second factor is the rising role of civil society networks at the global level due to globalisation. These networks play a significant role in promoting freedom, justice and equality values and fighting against discrimination, racism and injustice.

The third factor is the aggravation of internal contradictions in Israel due to the rise of the national-religious current and the decline of the secular-religious one.

In reality, since its establishment more than seven decades ago, Israel, by its nature, policies and positions, has represented a kind of an exception state, above normal countries and above international norms and conventions.

Regardless of the exceptional circumstances of its establishment (immigration, force, and international support), Israel, which has occupied the lands of others since 1967, insists on its “right” to colonise. For example, it considers the lands of the West Bank as a part of the homeland or the “Promised Land” in its biblical terms. And that it is not permissible to withdraw from it. Also, Israel is the only country in the world that still evades defining its geographical borders.

What is even worse is that its human borders also violate citizenship rights in many countries of the world, where there are Jewish groups.

Thus, despite Israel’s manifestation as a colonial, racist and religious state at the same time, it promotes itself as a democratic and modern state or an oasis in the desert. Although it is a colonial, harsh and aggressive state that exercises military-like control over other people, it presents itself as a targeted, weak state defending itself. On a more macro scale, it is even seen in some American and Western circles as a victim of the people it occupies’ resistance to its committed atrocities.

What is even worse is that the international community, represented by several major powers, offers rewards, apologies and encouragement to Israel for any response, even if minimal, to international demands. As if it had relinquished its right, instead of being held accountable for its occupation, at least, of Palestinians’ lands and others’, and dominating them through military force.

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The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our bloggers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.

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written by
Dima Elayache
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