Imagine you are an Israeli Arab. You receive a graduate fellowship in an American university. You set there in the campus cafeteria, meet with a Syrian or Lebanese colleague or friend, a fellow Arab who happens to share with you the same religion, nationality and language. You then return home for the summer vacation. You are arrested, stripped of your citizenship and expelled out of your homeland.
This episode is not taken from a satirical novel. It is what the new Knesset law all about. The law already passed in its second and third reading. “Knesset passes law to strip terrorists of Israeli citizenship” was the Haaretz headline. That is, not only does the law make dispossession and transfer of Palestinians legal, but it also labels the entire people terrorists.
On March 28, 2011, the Knesset plenum in Israel gave its final seal of approval to “citizenship loyalty” law that enables Israel’s Supreme Court to revoke the citizenship and the status of any permanent resident convicted of espionage, treason or aiding the enemy during war. We must remember here that Israel considers itself to be in a permanent state of war with Arabs and Palestinians.
“Anyone who betrays the state and carries out acts of terror must know that citizenship and loyalty go together,” said Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem, who initiated the bill. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lauded the Knesset’s decision as a step toward “contending with the phenomenon of exploiting democracy in order to subvert it.”
This is no doubt a modern Israeli version of dispossession and ethnic cleansing. “No citizenship without loyalty” simply means that two million Palestinian Arabs living in Israel today can be immediately expelled or put in prison, by law of course. The absurd irony is that since every Arab Palestinian in Israel is considered a permanent enemy of the state and potential threat of its national security, any discussion involving two Arab citizens can be literally seen as subversive to the state.
One might wonder how could an Arab Palestinian be loyal to a state that continues to define itself as a Jewish state that belongs to the Jewish people, in which native Arab Palestinians are seen as potential enemies? Isn’t the “Jewish democratic” state of Israel after all a state in which democracy and law are goaded into the service of an ethnic hegemony and the suppression of the native community?
One might also wonder what about solidarity with fellow Palestinians under occupation and blockage in the West Bank and Gaza? What about national solidarity with fellow Arab victims of Israeli attacks and massacres? Is that considered treason too? The law is ambiguous enough to include all expressions of national and humanist solidarity under the category of terrorism.
The new law does not tell us whether the category of terrorism includes Israeli Jewish terrorists, such as Kahana’s supporters or Jewish settlers who terrorize Palestinians on a daily basis. Nor does it really explain who the terrorist is. One thing is for sure here; Israel can right now begin a systematic persecution of all Arab Palestinian citizens under the banner of legal and democratic ideals.
There is a famous passage by the French philosopher Roland Barthes named “Dominci, or the Triumph of Literature.” Barthes examines a case in which an inarticulate rural laborer is condemned in terms of legal discourse. The judges describe Dominci’s motives in terms borrowed from literary clichés, jargon and abstract lexicon.
Dominci’s trail is a classic account of how hegemony is produced through interactions between formal institutions and discourses. These notably include language, literature, law and journalism. It is a classic example of how colonial hegemony is exercised over the body of those who can hardly speak back.
So if your Palestinian grandmother would say in her next prayer “May God grant victory to Arabs and Muslims,” she too can be arrested, trailed, condemned and expelled for providing a divine aid to the state’s “enemies.” Perhaps it is time for young Palestinians in Israel to remove all those Gazan, Lebanese and Syrian “enemies” from their Twitter Friends list.
The timing of the law is by no means coincidence. This week marks the 35th anniversary of the Land Day, the annual commemoration of the massacre of six Palestinian citizens by the Israeli police. The approval of the Loyalty Law comes in this historical moment to mark the transition from ethnic cleansing by direct force to one exercise by law and legal manipulations. Not only does it come to remind Palestinian citizens that Israel is never ready to admit its massacres, but never ready to admit Palestinian right to exist in their homeland.
- Seraj Assi is a PhD Student in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC.
An Israeli army watchtower and locked metal gate block the main entrance to Beit Ommar, 29 March 2011. (Nora Barrows-Friedman)
Since 24 March, Israeli forces have sealed the southern occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar for an indefinite amount of time as soldiers continue to arrest young Palestinian residents and hold them in Israeli detention centers.
In a move akin to the four-year-long economic blockade against the occupied Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers have closed the six entrances to the village of 17,000 inhabitants and have imposed a widespread prohibition policy against all major imports and exports from the village — including gasoline, produce, raw industrial materials and basic supplies. Ambulances have also been prevented from entering or exiting the village.
The closures and arrests followed a brazen attack by an Israeli settler on a funeral procession on 21 March.
The settler stopped his car on Route 60 (the highway linking Jerusalem with Hebron-area settlements) as the crowd of mourners moved towards the village cemetery, and started firing indiscriminately with live ammunition, injuring two Palestinian men, the Beit Ommar-based Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP) reported.
“The settler who shot the two men was not arrested,” PSP stated (“Two Palestinians Injured as Settler Opens Fire on Funeral Procession in Beit Ommar,” 21 March 2011).
“Israeli forces arrived on the scene and used sound bombs and tear gas to disperse the gathered crowd as medical teams evacuated the wounded,” the report added.
Settler attacks have continued this week. The Palestine News Network reported that Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in Ramallah, Jenin and Hebron on 30 and 31 March (“Daily Roundup: Settler Attacks in Ramallah, Jenin; Three-year-old Hit by Settler Car; Four Arrested,” 31 March 2011).
Following the settler attack against the funeral procession, Israeli forces closed the main entrance to Beit Ommar, as special forces invaded the village and shot tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets before arresting three Palestinian residents, PSP reported on 25 March (“Three Beit Ommar Residents Arrested As Israeli Forces Close Village Streets“).
The next day, all six entrances to the village were shut, and continue to remain closed. Beit Ommar residents and international solidarity activists engaged in protests against the closures and collective punishment on 26 March.
On the evening of 27 March, fifteen young Palestinians were arrested and remain in detention at the military base in nearby Gush Etzion settlement. Of those fifteen, seven are under 18 years old. [[The military gave no reason for their arrests and detentions, PSP stated.]]
Hours later, PSP reported, Israeli soldiers “fired tear gas and rubber bullets at villagers attempting to pass the road blocks on foot to board the taxis and buses waiting below. The soldiers refused to let anyone exit Beit Ommar until after their departure roughly an hour and a half later” (“15 Beit Ommar Residents Arrested as Closures, Army Harassment, Continue,” 28 March 2011).
Yousef Abu Maria, coordinator of the Center for Freedom and Justice in Beit Ommar (CFJ), told The Electronic Intifada that the indefinite closures imposed on the village have already created an economic crisis for Beit Ommar’s 17,000 residents during the last week.
“The industrial factories in Beit Ommar are effectively closed,” Abu Maria said. “There haven’t been any imported raw materials from the outside. And the gas station will close soon, because there isn’t enough gas. Essential products are hard to obtain right now in the village.”
Ahmed Oudeh of the PSP and the CFJ told The Electronic Intifada that farmers in the village who depend on exporting their produce to nearby cities and towns are facing a dire financial situation if the closure remains in place. Additionally, pregnant women and people needing medical attention are not able to reach the hospital, as the policy affects ambulance access to and from the village.
The Electronic Intifada witnessed a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance being turned away at the front gate of Beit Ommar, forced by Israeli soldiers to find a rural route out of the village. Oudeh said that it could take up to an hour and a half to get back to the hospital in Hebron.
It is against international law — as outlined in the Fourth Geneva Convention — for the Israeli military to prevent ambulances from accessing or transporting persons needing medical attention.
Abu Maria further explained that schoolteachers working in the village are having difficulties getting to and from Beit Ommar, since the roads are sealed and public buses and taxis are being turned away by the soldiers at the gates.
“Laborers who work in Hebron or nearby in Saffa village are also being directly affected,” Abu Maria added. “They can’t drive their cars out of the village or back inside, and many don’t have enough money to pay for taxi services to and from work. [These policies are] a collective punishment for the people in Beit Ommar.”
Meanwhile, a new section of the Efrat settlement colony on the other side of Route 60 is being built, according to a new map issued by the Israeli military and obtained by the CFJ. Beit Ommar is surrounded by several illegal settlements, parts of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the southern West Bank.
Abu Maria said that the Israeli military is planning to erect a fence around the village, and will move the main entrance gate deeper inside Beit Ommar to protect settlers on the road. But the main purpose of the current closures and the fence is to “take more land and expand the settlements,” he said.
Beit Ommar resident Naama Hassan Sleibi, 65, told The Electronic Intifada that she and her husband have been farmers their whole lives but continue to lose their land as the nearby Karmei Tsur settlement expands. “We have empty land with no produce,” she said. “[The expansion of the settlements] is a huge loss for farmers.”
For years, Beit Ommar’s residents have been engaged in unwavering actions of civil disobedience against the encroaching settlements and land confiscation policies. Abu Maria explained that part of Israel’s intention to impose the closures and control movement of the villagers is to break the steadfast resistance inside Beit Ommar.
“In [the nearby village of] Saffa, next to the Bat Ayn settlement, we are planting olive trees,” he said. “The Israeli military said we can’t plant there, but we’re going to keep doing it anyway. They won’t succeed in stopping us.”
As the closures continue to paralyze people’s lives across a broad spectrum, Sleibi said that she’s most worried most about the youth of Beit Ommar. “[The Israeli soldiers] come and arrest young people all the time,” she said.
Sleibi needed to go to the hospital in Hebron several days ago for routine medical needs but was turned back by Israeli soldiers. “We can’t do anything,” she said. “The settler attacked the funeral, but the people of Beit Ommar pay the price.”
Majed: I have mixed feelings about the speech. On one hand, it wasn’t anywhere near the unrealistic expectations some officials alluded to, namely Bouthaina and Sharaa. But on the other hand, the speech was a display of strength and confidence, following a strong show of support by the Syrian people for the President a day earlier. As much as I would like to see reforms, doing so immediately following this suspicious and unpopular uprising could be interpreted as a sign of weakness that could weaken Syria’s resolve and embolden its enemies. There is no denying that the President is popular in Syria and throughout most of the Arab world; so why should he not capitalize on his popularity and turn this into an opportunity to consolidate and regroup. Why should he appease those with questionable agendas who are looking to even the score and embarrass Syria? I still think the President is a reformist. He has been slowly introducing economic reforms, and will, in due time, bring in gradual political reforms, perhaps starting this year. However, he is not willing to do it under pressure, or be black mailed into it by Syria’s enemies who are obviously trying to rob Syria out of its political gains from the recent revolutions in the “moderate Arab” camp who sided with Israel and the U.S against Syria and the Palestinian cause. Let’s face it, Syria has been vindicated since the Arab uprising, as those “moderate Arabs” and their masters suffered unprecedented humiliation. By giving in under the current environment, Syria will look indistinguishable from those who sold out to Israel and U.S, thus greatly diluting its hard earned gains.
Paul: Let me understand one thing: what could one have really expected Bashar to say? That from today on Syria is a democratic country? That people will obey traffic laws? That corruption will be over in a pass of magic? That the price of arghile will be lowered? In the circumstances I think he acted in the best possible way. Not in desperation but recognizing that change is needed. If he really understands where the wind is blowing he’ll do it slowly but surely. If not it will happen much faster and painfully.
Nabu: The people of Syria want a defiant leader, a leader with balls and that’s the image he showed in the speech. The people of Syria want a leader that doesn’t order things twice, not a weak and that’s the image he showed in the speech. Today’s speech was a gamble, I will admit. A gamble because the minority of the people who are not scared to say things they think will not like it and they’ll get again to the street. But the reaction will be strong and that’s the image he now wants to show on the ground. The govt knows it’s coming, and it will tackle it. The liberty seekers will be cornered everywhere just like he cornered them in Hama. Whatever he said, he is backed for every word he mentioned inside and outside Syria. He thought about it, he took his time and he thinks this is the best for the long run for him, his image, his community and for Syria.
Talib: I thank Mr. President, Dr. for his care and genuine feelings when he talked about the unity of the Syrian people and when he thanked us for doing our duty and focusing on the importance of the wisdom of the people in rejecting the foreign conspiracies.
Zeina: President Assad said: “The Blood that was spilled was Syrian blood. We all care about it. Those victims are our brothers. Their parents are our parents. And we should find the reasons behind the killings and those who killed them.”
Aamer: A thousand congratulations. A thousand thanks to God, and thousands of congratulations for our big victory over the campaigns of destruction and corruption.
Equus: For all who keeps lingering about the emergency law. Look at the Egyptians..they toppled Mubarak on Feb. 11th and YET the emergency law is NOT lift with no specific date in sight despite the extreme pressure from the US. So why the media wants Assad to lift his in 24 hours.
People attend the funeral of a victim of government-ordered crackdown in the village of Sa’ar to the west of the capital, Manama.
Bahrain is reportedly recruiting former Pakistani troopers and anti-riot experts to aid in its crackdown on anti-government protesters.
Leading Pakistani daily The News wrote on Tuesday that the Bahrain National Guard (BNG) had recently visited Pakistan with the end in sight.
The visit had followed advertisements, titled “Urgent Requirement: Manpower for Bahrain National Guard,” in two daily Urdu newspapers.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has voiced ‘deep concern over the recruitment of foreign mercenaries,’ saying it would lead to growing hostility toward foreign nationals, especially Pakistanis.
Those who decide to enlist in Bahrain’s Army get their visas from the country’s embassy and consulates in Pakistan to fly to the sheikhdom. The mercenaries are interviewed by the BNG delegation and extremist Wahhabis — adherents to an already-extreme interpretation of Islam.
Some 30 paid agents have reportedly been recruited so far.
Manama has been leading violent armed attacks against peaceful protesters since the popular revolution began to sweep the Persian Gulf island on February 14.
At least 25 people have been killed and about 1,000 others injured during the government-sanctioned crackdown.
The country has already enlisted the services of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to back up the suppression.
Commenting on the allegations of Bahrain’s Foreign Minister in which he accused Hezbollah of training Bahrainis who participated in recent protests in addition to other charges, Hezbollah issued a statement denying these claims, saying it was only providing moral and political support to the opposition.
“We cannot remain silent to the training accusation and the attempt to give events in Bahrain a military and security twist,” said the statement that was issued on Thursday. “The accusations are aimed at undermining the peaceful demonstrations of the oppressed people.”
The statement denied that the opposition in Bahrain had asked for any military or security training. “None of our Bahraini brothers have ever asked for military training and we have provided no such training to anyone in Bahrain,” Hezbollah said. “Any statements to the contrary are a lie and slanderous.”
It stressed that there were no Hezbollah officials or sleeper cells in the kingdom.
“All we are proudly offering (Bahrain) is political and moral backing as we did for the Arab revolutions in Tunis, Egypt, Libya and Yemen which is legal and part of our duty. “
Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Hamad al-Khalifa accused Hezbollah on Wednesday of training Bahraini opposition protesters in Lebanon to topple the kingdom’s regime.