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The Stratification of Racism In Israel -- Phyllis Bennis via JA

by Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies Sunday, Jun. 22, 2003 at 10:28 AM

Within Israel there are really 4 levels of citizenship, the first three being various levels of Jewish participation in Israeli society, which are thoroughly racialized. Beneath all these layers of Jews come--4th--the Palestinian citizens.


See: "For Jews Only: Racism Inside Israel:
An Interview with Phyllis Bennis"

http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/51a/093.html

Excerpt: " All Israeli citizens, including Palestinians, have the right to vote in elections for members of the Knesset (parliament) and for the prime minister. But not all rights are citizenship rights. Other rights are defined as “nationality rights,” and are reserved for Jews only. If you are a Jew, you have exclusive use of land, privileged access to private and public employment, special educational loans, home mortgages, preferences for admission to universities, and many other things. Many other special privileges are reserved for those who have served in the Israeli military. And military service is compulsory for all Jews (male and female), except for the ultra-Orthodox who get the same privileges as other Jews, but excludes Palestinians, who do not. "

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(Bennis is an anti-Zionist Jewish-American person of conscience who is a public lecturer and Director of the Middle East Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.)

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Excerpt fm *another* Bennis article (fm Colorlines Mag.):

From its origins in the 19th century, Zionism centered on the idea of creating a specifically Jewish state in which Jews would be protected and privileged over non-Jews. Zionist occupation of Palestine was at first meager, amounting to about 10 percent of the population by 1900. By 1947, Jews were still only about 30 percent of the population of Mandate Palestine and owned only six percent of the land, but the UN Partition Resolution that year still assigned 55 percent of the land to a new Jewish state. However, by means of the 1947-48 war, Israel took over even greater expanses of land and forcibly expelled about 750,000 Palestinians. This travesty was the basis for the official founding of the Israeli state in 1948.

[There is] an Israeli government, with the support of a substantial part of its Jewish population, which aims toward permanent subordination of Palestinian Arabs within its borders, along with domination over something that might be called a Palestinian state, but what would really amount to a dependent Bantustan. Essentially the same vision that motivated apartheid South Africa.

And there are even more complexities. Within Israel there are really 4 levels of citizenship, the first three being various levels of Jewish participation in Israeli society, which are thoroughly racialized.

(1) At the top of the pyramid--1st--are the Ashkenazi, the white European Jews. At the level of power the huge contingent of recent Russian immigrants--now about 20% of Israeli Jews--are being assimilated into the European-Ashkenazi sector, though they are retaining a very distinct cultural identity.

(2) The next--2nd--level down, which is now probably the largest component of the Jewish population, is the Mizrachi or Sephardic Jews, who are from the Arab countries.

(3) At the bottom--3rd-- level of the Jewish pyramid are the Ethiopian Jews, who are black. You can go into the poorest parts of Jewish West Jerusalem and find that it's predominantly Ethiopian.

This social and economic stratification took shape throughout the last 50 years as different groups of Jews from different part of the world came, for very different reasons, to Israel. So while the divisions reflected national origins, they play out in a profoundly racialized way.

The Yemeni Jews in particular faced extraordinary discrimination. They were transported more or less involuntarily from Yemen to Israel. On arrival they were held in primitive camps, and many Yemeni babies were stolen from their mothers and given for adoption to Ashkenazi families. In the early 1990s a high-profile campaign began to try to reunite some of those shattered families.

Over 80 percent of the land within Israel that was once owned by Palestinians has been confiscated. All told, 93 percent of Israel's land can only be leased or owned by Jews or Jewish agencies.

(4) Beneath all these layers of Jews come--4th--the Palestinian citizens.

All Israeli citizens, including Palestinians, have the right to vote in elections for members of the Knesset (parliament) and for the prime minister. But not all rights are citizenship rights. Other rights are defined as nationality rights, and are reserved for Jews only. If you are a Jew, you have exclusive use of land, privileged access to private and public employment, special educational loans, home mortgages, preferences for admission to universities, and many other things. Many other special privileges are reserved for those who have served in the
Israeli military. And military service is compulsory for all Jews (male and female), except for the ultra-Orthodox who get the same privileges as other Jews, but excludes Palestinians, who do not.

Today there are at least 20 laws that specifically provide unequal rights and obligations based on what the Israelis call “nationality”, which in Israel is defined on the basis of religion. Israelis must carry a card which identifies them as either a Jew, a Muslim, or a Christian.

["The distinctness of Zionist racism is the following: that [the] category 'Jew' is a legal category." Under the laws of the Jewish National Fund, "the land of Israel is owned by the Jewish people, it cannot be owned except by the Jewish people, it cannot be sold to non-Jews, they cannot rent it, they cannot work on it."]

A rigid hierarchy, highly racialized both within and between religious or national groups, orchestrates Israeli social life. Much of it is legally enforced. The most significant difference between this scenario and other similar ones is in the world's perception of the Israeli reality. For the overwhelming majority of the world's population, South Africa was always considered a pariah state. But Israel is not in that position. Israel is given a pass, if you will, on the question of racism. Because Jews were victims of the Nazi Holocaust, there's a way in which Israeli Jews are assumed to be incapable of such terrible racialized policies.

_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________

[ At its heart, Zionism is a western phenomenon. And we can understand it within the discourse of settler colonialism in which a block of people is transferred from Europe to somewhere else. The language used vis-à-vis Zionism is typical of nineteenth century imperialist discourse. A country solves its problems by exporting them. Therefore, if you have 'surplus Jews', as they were referred to, then you export them. The colonialists are transferred to the new location with the full awareness that the move involves expelling people who live there. As one of the leading founders of Israel and the state's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion acknowledged: "We are the aggressors. The land is theirs [the Arabs]. They are living in it. We come and take it from them."

Nonetheless, Zionism is not a Jewish phenomenon. Zionist thought was fully formulated by non-Jews and even anti-Semites. This sheds light on the creation of Zionism-it is actually a scheme to rid Europe of its Jews. (The 1917 Balfour Declaration, advocating a Jewish homeland in Palestine, refers to "90 percent of the population of Palestine . . . as non-Jewish communities.") When Arthur James Balfour was prime minister, he sponsored an act to prevent Jews from immigrating to England and later supported their immigration to Palestine through the declaration named after him. Balfour admitted that he was an anti-Semite, that he hated Jews. He referred to Jews as "a burden to western civilization." Moreover, the only member of the Lloyd George cabinet to protest against the Balfour Declaration was the one Jewish member, Edwin Montagu. ]
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