Monday, June 7, 2010

Ha'aretz Article on Israeli laws to "purify" Israel


Published 21:44 03.06.10

A scandalous web of laws
A series of bills is meant to 'cleanse' Israel's history and geography of non-Jewish and non-Zionist elements
By Nurit Gertz

Former Knesset member Arie "Lova" Eliav died on Sunday. On that same day, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a proposed law aimed at granting study privileges, employment and allocation of land to those who serve in the army or do national service - "so as to prevent the shirking of duties and to show the state's appreciation to those citizens who are faithful and serve it." The following day, nine people who were on the flotilla to the Gaza Strip were killed by Israeli naval commandos.

These three events incorporate an entire story: The Israel of Lova Eliav no longer exists; another Israel has taken its place and it is continuing to establish itself by means of a series of rational and calculated bills intended to reformulate the Israeli identity and build its geography and history anew.

The proposed legislation acts like the spectacular momentum seen in two swings of a pendulum - one reduces Israeli identity and ejects from it anything that does not belong to the Jewish core, while the second works to expand this same reduced Jewish identity vis-a-vis the entire world. It is possible to laugh at these bills, to be angry and accusative, or one can be impressed with the exemplary order in which these two movements, layer after layer, law after law, have been created.

First and foremost, an attempt is being made in these proposed laws to "cleanse" the geography - to the extent that this is possible - of what is not Jewish or not Zionist. A proposed law about acceptance committees for residential communities is aimed at precisely that: to empower such bodies in rural communities to disqualify prospective homeowners who do not meet a number of requirements. These would include the extent to which the candidate is suited to the way of life and social fabric of the community, as well as his or her compatibility with the basic viewpoints of the residents as defined in the community's regulations. The proposed law is intended "to uphold the ability to fulfill the Zionist vision and put it into practice" - as one of its initiators, MK Israel Hasson (Kadima ), defines it. In the most obvious manner, the proposal strives to prevent from joining these communities anyone who does not recognize the Zionist vision, or in other words, anyone who is Arab.

And while Jewish geography is being shut off to Arab citizens, the Arabic geography is being pushed aside as well. The rejection of a suggested law for an egalitarian allocation of state lands is testimony to this. That bill, which was sponsored by MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), was aimed at correcting the situation in which, over the course of many years, the state has not approved master plans for Arab communities, has not allocated them lands nor created any new communities.

Together with the so-called cleansing of Israeli geography, these laws try to cleanse Israeli history. The framers of two other laws - the "Nakba law" and the law that seeks to inculcate the heritage of Rehavam Ze'evi - have this purpose in mind: They wish to leave the Israeli expanse free of the memory and history of the Arabs who live there.

The Nakba law is intended, on its face, to reduce the scope of support for bodies that are responsible for activity that negates the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state - for example, by marking Independence Day, the day of the state's revival, with ceremonies of mourning. In actual fact, its aim is to outlaw the Arab Palestinian historical memory altogether. Parallel to this, the proposed law for commemorating Rehavam Ze'evi's heritage is intended to strengthen that same history, from which the Arabs will already have been removed by the Nakba law, by means of perpetuating the very heritage of the murdered right-wing MK and minister: the heritage of transfer.

Other laws are aimed at strengthening Jewish existence at the expense of the Arab population by persistently denying the culture, language, education and welfare of the latter. This, for example, is the aim of the transportation minister's proposal to remove the Arabic names of places from road signs; the bill not to accept candidates who have not served in the army or done national service to universities that receive government support; the rejection of proposed laws that would set up universities in areas heavily populated by Arabs; and another bill would curtail study, work and land rights for citizens who have not done military service.

Thus it is that, after the Jewish existence in Israel has been established and cleansed, and the foreign elements have been removed, lawmakers can turn their attention to expanding and strengthening the former while imposing their rule over spaces outside the State of Israel. That is the reason, for example, for the proposed law to give Israeli citizens living outside the country the right to vote there. This in effect would lead to the creation of Israeli polling booths all over the world and enable Israeli emigres to vote in elections and, with Jews in the Diaspora, help determine the identity and fate of a Greater Israel that encompasses the entire globe - an Israel that permits itself to jeopardize itself by shooting civilians and ignoring the non-Jewish and non-Israeli world's reaction to this.

This web of proposed laws should have shocked and scandalized anyone who cares about injustices being done to others, anyone for whom the negation of the existence of his fellow man seems wrong, as a Jew and a human being, and anyone who believes that it is the nature of laws of this kind not to stop where they are now. Along these lines, perhaps it is now fitting to once again reiterate the well-known quotation attributed to the German pastor Martin Niemoller:

When they came for the communists,

I did not speak out because I am not a communist;

When they came for the socialists,

I did not speak out because I am not a socialist;

When they came for the Catholics, I did not speak out because I am not a Catholic;

And when they came for me,

there was no one left to speak out.

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