Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Israel as South Africa

While it may be an exaggeration to say that Israel is like South Africa during Apartheid, there certainly seem to be practices in Israel that are offensive to American (and Western) sensibilities.

For example, Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs are treated quite differently by the criminal justice system of Israel:
Security prisoners who are Israeli Arabs are subject to discrimination, on three levels, compared with Israeli Jews who have harmed Arabs: In the severity of the punishment meted out by Israeli judges; in their chances for early parole (as a result of amnesty or time off for good behavior after serving two thirds of their sentence); and their conditions of incarceration.

In 1993, Yoram Skolnik murdered an Arab who was bound hand and foot, and was given a life sentence. President Ezer Weizman twice reduced his sentence: first to 15 years, and then to 11 years and three months. He was ultimately released seven years after his arrest.

Skolnik is part of a list of Jews who murdered Arabs and were released by the judicial system. In contrast, Arab prisoners are sentenced to life or lengthy prison terms, even if they were not convicted of murder. For example, Mukhles Burghal and Mohammad Ziade were given life sentences 18 years ago. They were convicted of tossing a grenade at a bus carrying soldiers. The grenade failed to explode. Burghal, who threw the grenade, had his sentence reduced to 40 years. The sentence imposed on Ziade, who had signaled him when the bus approached, remained unchanged: life in prison.

In another example we see a housing development that is not available for Palestinians:
Nof Zion, due to open in 2007, is not your average suburb. Built amid 10,000 Palestinian residents of the East Jerusalem village Jabel Mukhaber, the 395 new housing units of Nof Zion will comprise a Jewish settlement in the heart of the area that every internationally recognized peace plan considers the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Backed by discriminatory housing laws and demographic-manipulation policies that favor new Jewish residents over Palestinians with centuries of direct heritage there, Nof Zion’s developers and future residents will be the beneficiaries of the Israeli push to lay permanent claim to as much of the West Bank as possible.

I would like to think that my tax dollars are not supporting activities such as these.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

And of course, blacks and whites are treated equally in our criminal justice system.

Yeah right.

Poor Brian, trying to live up to the original gorilla shouldn't have been too tough. Yet you manage to underwhelm daily.

8/17/2005 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Yeah, lay off Israel. Sure they treat Arabs worse than Jews, but then Blacks get discriminated against too in some parts of the world.

(You ever think of becoming a lawyer, anonymous?)

8/17/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous r said...

There is discrimination everywhere..the point is most of us don't try to justify it by whining that "Johnny does it too".....

And the US has at least enacted laws against dicrimination, Israel hasn't...there is nothing democratic in their marriage and land ownership laws either...

The other point being don't try to claim you are a democracy if you aren' yourself what you are, a religious state not a democratic state.

8/17/2005 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous ECMpuke said...

There's a big difference between incidental racism and state-sponsored,
institutionalized racism.
Israel makes a big deal of being the only democracy in the Middle East. They are the functional equivalent of an Islamic republic such as Saudi Arabia or Iran. They certainly don't qualify as the only democracy in the Middle East. Actually, Lebanon comes closer to that description than Israel.
As to a Jewish state...who needs one? The upper West Side or Great Neck serve well...and who needs a majority anyway? All you need is control of the levers of power.

8/17/2005 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny you say that David, I AM a lawyer. In fact, I am a civil rights lawyer, who knows real discrimination when he sees it. I have represented, among other people, muslims in employment discrimination cases, as well as immigrant muslim workers exploited in wage and hour cases.

Israel has its discrimination, no doubt, but it is nevertheless an incredibly diverse and pluralistic society where its Arab citizens have a greater chance to prosper than in any of the surrounding Arab nations.

Arabs can and do serve in the Knesset, either as part of the dominant parties or as part of their own exclusivist parties. Arabs can and do serve on the Supreme Court. Arabs can and do serve in prestigious positions throughout society such as doctors and lawyers. Arabs can and have reached levels of celebrity where they are adored by the nation.

The fact that Israel has been able to allow such opportunities while surrounded by some of the most virulently racist neighbors one could have is truly amazing.

R.I.P. gorilla. At least he tried to keep away the real morons, unsuccessful as he was.

8/17/2005 08:23:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

"incredibly diverse and pluralistic society"

What you are overlooking is any "pluralism" in the Jewish nation is solely the result of the Zionists having failed in their original bid to thoroughly cleanse the original inhabitants. Don't forget that the "right of return" was (like so much in Israel) a public relations spin--it is actually a law meant to keep non-Jews out! Whether you define it as a racial state or a religious state, the one thing Israel is NOT is pluralistic. Give us a break.

Also: is it actually that case that lawyers "know real discrimination when they see it"? Doesn't it really have more to do with an ability to see beyond sectarian and tribal interests? You know, the universal brotherhood of man and all that?

8/17/2005 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What you are overlooking is any "pluralism" in the Jewish nation is solely the result of the Zionists having failed in their original bid to thoroughly cleanse the original inhabitants.

Israel did not try to "thoroughly cleanse the original inhabitants." They did fight, and in some cases drive out, people that chose to fight on the other side of the war.

"Don't forget that the "right of return" was (like so much in Israel) a public relations spin--it is actually a law meant to keep non-Jews out!"

Nonsense. The right of return gives specific rights to the Jewish diaspora (like many other countries give to their respective diasporas). But Israel also allows citizenship by naturalization, birth, etc.

"Whether you define it as a racial state or a religious state, the one thing Israel is NOT is pluralistic. Give us a break."

I'll give you the facts, which is that Israel has significant ethnic minorities, Jewish and non-Jewish, that play key roles in public life and that have full citizenship.

8/18/2005 07:58:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

You're not following along, anonymous. Pay attention. The fact that Israel still has non-Jewish minorities does not make it a "pluralistic" society. Israel would like very much to get rid of its minorities--witness the frequent discussions of "transfer" (read "ethnic cleansing"). By your definition, apartheid South Africa would rank as a pluralistic society. But it's not the definition most people use.

And what's this about "and that have full citizenship"? Just saying this over and over isn't going to make it true. Didn't your read the article that opened this thread? Haven't you heard of the Israel's land ownership laws? Hasn't anyone told you that Israel won't allow it's Arabs to marry a Palestinian? These are arguments that their citizenship IS NOT FULL, BUT SECOND-CLASS. This two-tiered notion of citizenship is at the very core of Israel's laws and culture.

It's best to try to actually engage with the points that have been raised in a thread. Otherwise people are going to start thinking you're intellectually dishonest.

8/18/2005 10:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the "points" are based on bald faced lies, there is little to "engage."

8/18/2005 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Is there are particular point in the post that you feel is incorrect?

Do you admit that Israel will not allow a jew and non-jew to marry? Does that fit into your definition of a pluralistic society?

8/21/2005 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"Do you admit that Israel will not allow a jew and non-jew to marry?"

No I wont, because that's not the case. There are, in fact, intermarried couples in Israel.

Some explanation is needed, because you have demonstrated to be somewhat ignorant on this topic, which is problematic when you are writing a blog on it.

Prior to the existance of the State of Israel, and prior to the British Mandate, the area known as "Palestine" (a rough term, since there was no Palestinian nation), was administered, mostly incompetantly, by the Ottoman Empire.

Under the Ottomans, matters of "personal status" such as marriage were left to the relevant relgious authorities. When Israel was first forming its government, David Ben-Gurion wanted to create as broad a coalition as possible, with two exceptions. He wanted the Communist parties out of the government, and he wanted the predecessors to the Likud party out of the government.

This meant appealing to, inter alia, the religious parties, which were small but nevertheless an important part of the coalition. The deal was that, like under the Ottomans, religious authorities would have the say in "personal status."

Israel does not ban interfaith marriages. However, neither the Jewish community, the Christian community, or the Muslim community performs these types of marriages.

How then, do you have interfaith couples in Israel? Two ways. First, Israel recognizes any marriage performed abroad. Interfaith couples can take a quick jaunt over to Cyprus to get married, or get a "marriage by mail" from a country like Paraguay. Of course, you can have whatever ceremony you want in Israel (if you can find someone to perform the rites), but technically, the marriage is recognized as being from abroad.

Israel also recognizes common law relationships as having the affect of marriage. So if you in fact live together, etc, you are considered married. Israel in fact is one of the most "gay friendly" countries in the world in this regard, because gay and lesbian couples can receive all the social incidents of marriage, even though marriage is not formally recognized as such.

There have been calls for civil marriage in Israel, mostly from the centrist Shinui party. Most people in Israel wouldn't mind this, but as long as the conflict is going on, it takes a back seat.

In short, de jure, the marriage laws in Israel are an anachronism. De facto, anyone can marry anyone else.

8/21/2005 07:09:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Just like anonymous says, if you're an Arab citizen of Israel you can marry whomever you want. But if your choice happens to be a fellow Palestinian living in the West Bank, it will have to be marriage-at-a-distance, because Israel won't allow your new spouse to live with you.

The idea, of course, is to try to protect a Jewish numerical majority in "the only democracy in the Middle East".

Any other nations you can think of will policies like this for SOME of their citizens?

(In short, you are shown to be full of crap once again.)

8/22/2005 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Palestinians are at war with Israel. So its not surprising that Israel doesn't give them automatic citizenship via marriage. But for david, apparently there is moral obligation to give citizenship to those individuals who want to strap bombs to their chest and kill you.

For david, killing jews is a fundamental human right.

8/22/2005 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

"But for david, apparently there is moral obligation to give citizenship to those individuals who want to strap bombs to their chest and kill you."

Not so. If someone chooses to live in a ghetto with just people of his own tribe, that's fine with me. Just don't call it a "pluralistic," "democratic" society. And don't use those bogus claims to legitimize attempts to steal another people's land.

PS Since human rights groups across the world have been protesting the racist Citizenship and Entry Law that I quoted, I'm going to go way out on a limb and suggest that anonymous knew perfectly well of it when he posted. If he did, it's difficult to imagine why he didn't mention it.

BTW, just within the last month or two, because of this pressure from the world community, the Knesset tried some image rehabilitation--Arab Israelis can now choose to marry whomever they want, BUT ONLY IF THE MAN IS OVER 35 AND THE WOMAN OVER 25! :)

PPS anonymous, you still haven't addressed some of the other indicators of the second-class status of Arab Israelis--such as land ownership restrictions. Or unequal community funding levels. Or differentials in crime sentencing. And there are many others.

8/22/2005 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not allowing one's enemies in a war to have citizenship is not a racist policy. It would be like if the U.S. chose to disallow Germans, Italians and Japanese nationals to obtain citizenship via marriage in WW II.

As for "land restrictions" the Katzir decision prohibited discrimination in allocation of state land several years ago. As for the others, since you are largely making unsubstantiated assertions, there is nothing to rebut. One of the problems is that an attack on Israel requires a simple inflammatory false statement, while correcting the record requires significantly more rational explanation.

David, Israel, like every other country on the planet with a pluralistic society, has not eliminated all the demons of inequality between groups. America hasn't, France hasn't, England hasn't, and Israel hasn't. Nevertheless, the Israeli political system is a democratic one that allows for the participation necessary to rectify such inequalities so long as people of good faith on both sides work to do so.

Israel has done a tremendous job, considering that it is surrounded by racist and autocratic states that are devoted to its destruction, and that these states share the same ethnicity as Israel's minorities. My guess is that given the discrimination Jews have historically faced, and currently face, amongst Arab majorities, that there is a lot of bad blood that has to be worked over. But they are ahead of the curve in Israel, as opposed to several other western democracies which purport to be "secular." Look at the ghettos of Europe, and you know where true inequality exists.

8/22/2005 03:02:00 PM  

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