Ilan Pappe: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy — And Never Was

Ilan Pappe, Jacobin: No, Israel Is Not a Democracy – And Never Was

Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East.
In fact, it’s not a democracy at all.

Ilan Pappe, Jacobin, May 5, 2017
Excerpted from Ten Myths About Israel, Verso Books

In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide — even those who might criticize some of its policies — Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.

Those who do criticize Israel assume that if anything went wrong in this democracy then it was due to the 1967 war. In this view, the war corrupted an honest and hardworking society by offering easy money in the occupied territories, allowing messianic groups to enter Israeli politics, and above all else turning Israel into an occupying and oppressive entity in the new territories.

The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars — but it has no historical foundation.

Israel Before 1967 Was Not a Democracy

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Justice for Palestine

War On Want logo    Justice for Palestine, War on Want

The catastrophe facing the Palestinian people is a defining global justice issue of our time. It is not an intractable conflict between two equal sides. It is an Occupation by a powerful military state, armed and supported by the West, against an impoverished, stateless and displaced people.

  • A fourth generation of Palestinian children is now being brought up in refugee camps inside and outside Palestine, living in chronic poverty and denied the right to return to their family homes.
  • Hundreds of thousands more Palestinians suffer discrimination over access to public services, land rights and employment within Israel itself.
  • Israel’s siege of Gaza has condemned its 1.9 million inhabitants to poverty and psychological violence on a daily basis as movement is restricted and there is an ever present threat of military force.
  • In the West Bank, the expansion of Israeli settlements, the continued construction of the Apartheid Wall, the military closure of the Jordan Valley and the annexation of East Jerusalem are creating an irreversible reality of permanent Occupation.
  • This brutal Occupation, the building of the Apartheid Wall and ongoing military oppression can only be continued with the support of countries and companies that continue to back Israel through business and investment.

Stop Arming Israel

UK banks and financial institutions hold billions of pounds worth of shares in companies that sell weapons, military equipment and technology to Israel. We can’t allow banks on our high streets to continue lending support to Israel’s militarised repression of Palestinians. Stay tuned for our new report and campaign focused on the role played by HSBC in financing the sale of weapons to Israel. Take action.

The UK government is complicit in Israel’s continuing violations of human rights and international law. By purchasing arms from and selling arms to Israel, the UK government is giving direct material support for Israel’s aggression and sending a clear message of approval for its actions.Take action.

Political Prisoners

A political prisoner is someone who is arrested and detained because of their beliefs or political activities. Israel holds thousands of Palestinian men, women and children as political prisoners. Israel’s system of arrest and detention is an integral part of Israel’s Apartheid system, under which Palestinians are governed under a separate set of laws than Israelis.

We’ve successfully campaigned to get G4S to stop providing services to Israeli prisons, but others are still directly complicit in the occupation of Palestine and the unlawful imprisonment of Palestinians, including children. The UK government has a responsibility under international law not to aid and abet war crimes like torture, which is routine in the Israeli prison system.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)

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Alison Weir: Israel’s New Travel Ban

I want to go to Palestine – a country recognized by 136 countries around the world. But your law, astoundingly, prevents me from visiting that country. You control entry and exit to the places I want to visit, even though they’re not part of your territory, or included in your exclusive democracy.

Palestinian women, overseen by Israeli guards, crowd around the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank as they try to enter Jerusalem to attend Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque. (BBC News Image 8 of 10, Sept 22, 2009.)

Alison Weir, Dissident Voice, March 20, 2017

Dear Israeli Government:

You’ve recently banned foreigners who support boycotts against Israel or Israeli settlements from being allowed to enter Israel – even Jewish foreigners, a first for the self-proclaimed Jewish state. After all, your “Law of Return” has allowed (and encouraged) Jewish foreigners to freely immigrate to Israel, even as multitudes of Palestinians have been banned from returning to their homes.

People throughout the Western world have objected in outrage to your new law, particularly Jewish Westerners who have family and connections in Israel from whom they’ll be cut off in retaliation for their political positions.

Critics, even some who oppose boycotting Israel and who have had no problem with excluding Palestinians, have called out the law for diverse reasons: its quashing of free debate and political expression, its anti-democratic nature, how it will affect them and others personally.

I support these objections.

But I’m not trying to visit Israel.

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Congress’s Anti-Boycott Act Threatens More Than Free Speech

Churches for Middle East Peace, July 28, 2017

In The News

Democratic Senators Rethink Bill Criminalizing Support for Israel Boycott [Roll Call]
Roll Call reports, “Democratic senators are thinking twice about the proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act after an outcry by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which considers it a ‘serious threat to free speech.’ While Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the bill’s lead author, said that the ACLU had misinterpreted the piece of legislation, he expressed his intention to ‘make it clearer.’ The act targets the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, an international effort to boycott businesses in Israel and occupied Palestinian territories in order to pressure Israel to comply with international law and stop the further construction of settlements.”

This Piece of Pro-Israel Legislation Is a Serious Threat to Free Speech [The Washington Post]
“The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is designed to stifle efforts to protest Israel’s settlement policies by boycotting businesses in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. … Whether one approves or disapproves of the BDS movement itself, people should have a right to make up their own minds about it. … By using their power in the marketplace, consumers can act collectively to express their political points of view. There is nothing illegal about such collective action; indeed, it is constitutionally protected,” write the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Legal Director David Cole and National Political Director Faiz Shakir.

Read The Small Print. How Nearly 200 Congressmen Could’ve Signed on a Bill Criminalizing Free Speech And Legitimizing Israel’s Occupation Of Palestine [Huffpost]
Political consultant Marilyn Katz writes, “Hidden behind the benign language of the [Israel Anti-Boycott Act] legislation … are laws that would criminalize even speaking out about a boycott while legitimizing Israel’s 50-year occupation of the West Bank ― an occupation considered illegal by the world, and condemned even by the United States.”


J Street, a Reliable Foe Of BDS, Urges Congress to Oppose Israel Anti-Boycott Act For Now [The Intercept]
“J Street, founded in late 2007 to promote a two-state solution, opposes the Israeli occupation and general treatment of the Palestinians, but also has refused to endorse the Palestinian-led nonviolent boycott movement. Its activists regularly find themselves at odds with left-wing groups such as Jewish Voices for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine who view BDS as the best way to end the occupation of the Palestinians. Thus J Street often lobbies in favor of anti-BDS legislation. However, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a step too far for even these reliable opponents of BDS,” reports The Intercept.

Israel Anti-Boycott Bill Does Not Violate Free Speech [The Washington Post]
Northwestern University School of Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich writes, “The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a minor updating of a venerable statute that has been at the center of the U.S. consensus on Israel policy — the laws designed to counteract Arab states’ boycott of Israel by barring Americans from joining such boycotts. … Current law prohibits U.S. entities from participating in or cooperating with international boycotts organized by foreign countries. These measures, first adopted in 1977, were explicitly aimed at the Arab states’ boycott of Israel, but its language is far broader, not mentioning any particular countries.”

Jewish, Muslim & Christian Leaders Denied Entry to Israel for Supporting Palestinian Human Rights [Presbyterian News Service]
“Five leaders on an interfaith delegation to Israel/Palestine were refused permission to board their plane in the United States, in what appears to be an implementation of Israel’s travel ban on supporters of Palestinian rights and Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS). … ‘I am part of a Jewish, Muslim and Christian delegation of committed, nonviolent peacemakers whose plan is to meet with those in both Israel and Palestine who are working every day for a Just Peace in the Holy Lands,’ [stated] Rick Ufford-Chase, Moderator of the 216th General Assembly, PC(USA) and member of the Activist Council of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. ‘At this time when tension and violence are rising once again, the work we are doing to build trust and work for a viable peace is more important than ever, and I stand ready to go the moment the State of Israel gives us permission to fly,’” reported Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in a statement released Monday.


I’m The First Jew Banned From Israel For Supporting BDS [The Forward]
Deputy Director of Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbi Alissa Wise was one of five members of an interfaith delegation refused permission to board a flight to Israel at the Israeli government’s request. Wise writes that she “became a rabbi for one core reason: to build toward justice and liberation for all people by organizing with Jews in deep partnership with directly impacted communities across borders and faiths. Our delegation planned to spend 12 days in Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories, meeting with Palestinian and Israeli grassroots activists and faith leaders and visiting our respective holy sites.”

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Gaza Unlocked

American Friends Service Committee
Gaza Unlocked
What is Gaza Unlocked?

For over a decade, two million Palestinians in Gaza have lived under a brutal military blockade imposed by Israel.

Media stories about Gaza primarily focus on violence and politics, while stories of how the blockade impacts everyday life remain largely untold.

Gaza Unlocked gives you access to first-hand accounts from Palestinians living in Gaza, information about the blockade, and opportunities to make a difference. Learn more.

Raise awareness. Bring Gaza to your Farmer’s Market

Strawberry farmers in Gaza
Join our summer engagement effort to raise awareness about the Gaza blockade.


Water and Sanitation
Osama Khalili, 46
Head of the Nutrition Department,
Palestinian Ministry of Health

 


Health care
Movement
Rana Joudeh, 42
Employee, NGO

 

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2 Million Palestinians Denied due to Closure of Gaza Border Crossing

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, June 19, 2017

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up with concern and sorrow the deterioration of humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing Israeli closure imposed on the movement of persons from and to the Gaza Strip, in addition to the additional restrictions imposed at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing that denies over 95% of the Gaza Strip population from traveling to the West Bank and abroad. The closure of Rafah International Crossing Point at the Egyptian borders has been ongoing for over 3 months, inflicting more suffering over the Gaza Strip population, especially thousands of humanitarian cases whose health conditions aggravated or their business obstructed. There are over 30,000 persons waiting for the crossing to reopen, most of them are patients who have no proper treatment at Gaza hospitals; university students in Egypt and abroad; and holders of residence permits or visas in countries abroad.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Rafah International Crossing Point has been closed for 156 days since the beginning of this year, while it was open for 10 days in both directions and for 4 days for persons only returning to Gaza. During this period, around 6,209 persons were able to travel while 9,052 persons returned to Gaza. The same period last year witnessed the closure of the crossing for 173 days, while it was open for 9 days. During that period, around 6,595 persons were able to travel via the crossing, while 2,822 persons returned to the Gaza Strip. As a result of the closure, the health conditions of hundreds of patients, who had received referrals for treatment in Egyptian hospitals, deteriorated. In addition, thousands of other persons and families, including university students, holders of residence permits in countries abroad, and businessmen, experienced hardships as a result.

PCHR realizes that the current suffering endured by the Gaza Strip population goes back mainly to the illegal and inhumane Israeli closure imposed on Gaza for the 11th consecutive year, which constitutes a collective punishment against 2 million Palestinians. The Gaza Strip is a part of the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) under the international humanitarian law. Therefore, Israel as an occupying power is responsible for the main obligations towards the population of the occupied territory. Accordingly, the Israeli occupying authorities should declare ending the illegal closure immediately and allow the freedom of movement of individuals and goods, as the closure constitutes a grave violation of the international humanitarian law and amounts to a crime against humanity. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions 1949 to oblige the occupying authorities to abide by the rules of international humanitarian law and to open all border crossings of the Gaza Strip, including Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, without any restrictions like age restrictions, because Erez is the only crossing that gives importance to the geographical unity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, so it would allow the Gaza Strip residents to move freely between Palestinian cities and travel abroad.

PCHR is aware of the security situation in Sinai and understands the security measures taken by Egypt to preserve its sovereignty and national security. PCHR takes in consideration the significant role played by Egypt towards the Gaza Strip population to alleviate their suffering, including opening Rafah crossing and allowing them to move and travel freely. PCHR demands Egypt to respond to the humanitarian needs of the Gaza Strip population and to provide the necessary facilitations for their travel and transportation to and from the Gaza Strip via Egypt, especially in view of the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.

A letter from Gaza to the Natives of Standing Rock

Israa Suliman, WE ARE NOT NUMBERS, November 15, 2016

Dear Native Americans,

Although we are of different color, religion, culture and place, I have learned, as I read about the protests at Standing Rock, that we have much more in common than differences. When I read your history, I can see myself and my people reflected in yours. I feel in my core that your fight is my fight, and that I am not alone in the battle against injustice.

My ancestors were not the only ones who lived in Palestine. Jews, Christians and Arabs all lived side by side in my country. But my ancestors—including my grandparents and great-grandparents—were the indigenous people, just like you. And they suffered the same fate as your people. America's policy of occupation and displacement through forced marches like the Trail of Tears, and the gradual transfer of so many of your people to massive, impoverished reservations, hurts me deeply because it is so similar to the ethnic cleansing of my ancestors by the Israeli military occupation in what we call “al-Nakba” (the catastrophe). We know what you know: that our land is sacred.

In 1948, my ancestors—along with nearly a million other Palestinians—were frightened away or forced off their lands, in some cases at gunpoint. More than 10,000 others were massacred. Hundreds of our villages and cities were completely destroyed in a systemic plan to erase our identity—just as yours has been under continuing assault.

Native Americans' Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears

Palestine today is just 22 percent of our original homeland. Like you, some of my people (an estimated 1.5 million) must live in degrading “camps” (our word for reservations), where living conditions are "comparable to the Third World." Like your reservations, they are characterized by high rates of unemployment, poverty and suicide.

Many other Palestinians (about 6 million)—now including descendants of the original residents—are scattered elsewhere around the world, just as yours are around the United States. Today, not only has the military occupation taken over our land and declared it "the state of Israel," but it continues to carry on a policy of expulsion, demolishing Palestinian houses in the little bit of land we retain, building illegal settlements and preventing free movement with a network of “security checkpoints.”

Nakba
The Palestinian Nakba

Like you, we don’t control our natural resources. Just as you were not consulted about the Dakota Access Pipeline that will traverse your land and contaminate your water supply if installed, we are not consulted by Israel, which wants to mine the gas supply in our harbor for its own use and monopolizes the water supply in the West Bank for the green lawns of its own residents—leaving Palestinians parched and dry. In Gaza, where I live, only 10 percent of our water supply is drinkable due to the conditions in which we must live. We too know that “water is life.”

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Breaking Ground at Cinema Hebron

Rabbi Brant Rosen, Shalom Rav, July 17, 2016

This past Friday, I had the honor to participate in an incredible, unprecedented mass action of civil disobedience in the H2 section of Hebron – in the heart of Israel's unjust and illegal occupation.

I'll start with a little bit of history:

In 1968, a year after Israel conquered the West Bank, a group of radical religious settlers led by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, led a group of followers to a hotel in Hebron – with the government’s support – to observe a Passover seder. When it was over, they refused to leave; and following a negotiation with the government, they were allowed to create a settlement to the east of Hebron that they named Kiryat Arba Since that time, Jewish settlers gradually moved into Hebron proper. Over the years tension gradually increased in Hebron. Things changed drastically in 1995 after Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Muslim worshippers in the Ibrahimi mosque. Fearful of reprisals, the IDF imposed increasing curfews and restriction of movement on the Palestinian population.

In 1996, as part of the Oslo agreement, Hebron was divided into two sections: H1 and H2. H1 is locally governed by the Palestinian Authority and is home to approximately 120,000 Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live in H2 along with 600 Jewish settlers. Since the Second Intifada, Israel increased their security crackdown on this part of the city, blocking off major streets to Palestinians – most notably the main commercial road, Shuhadah Street. (The army refers to them as “sterile roads”).

Virtually every Palestinian shop in H2 has been closed and their doors welded shut by the army. Because the Palestinian residents of Shuhadah St. are not allowed to walk on the road, they must enter and exit through the rear of homes because they cannot leave their own front doors. Because of these measures – and the ongoing harassment and violence at the hands of Jewish settlers – what was once the busting commercial center of Hebron has become a ghost town. 42% of its Palestinian homes are empty and 70% of its Palestinian business have been shut down.

We visited Hebron earlier this week and it was a truly chilling experience. Our group went on a tour led by Breaking the Silence, an organization of Israeli army veterans who are speaking out about the abuses the IDF are committing in Hebron. I did a BTF tour in 2008 during my first real foray into the reality of contemporary Hebron. Today, the situation there is even more dire if such a thing is possible.

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