Thirty-seven years ago the Israeli Housing Minister stated: “If you want to develop an area you have to confiscate some lands. We have done this very slowly with extreme consideration and much patience.” It is doubtful that the average Palestinian was aware of these reassuring words, reported by the Associated Press on 31 March 1976. But after a day of deadly conflict, they woke to a very real understanding of Israeli “consideration.”
On 30 March 1976 Palestinians held a general strike to protest against the recently announced intention of the Israeli forces to further snuff out Arab viability in the Galilee region. The Israeli government intended to expropriate 5000 acres of land in order to build Jewish-only settlements. The government conceded that 1625 of those acres belonged to its Arab citizens and claimed that an additional 2000 were owned by the “Israeli Land Authority.” The Palestinian people knew there was a fundamental and ethical flaw in what has continued to be known as the “Judeaization of the Galilee.” Even the Israeli High Court would soon highlight the illegality of such political land-grabs.
The Palestinians formed a committee to address their concerns to the Israeli state which now claimed them as citizens. Just the week before the demonstration, a spokesman for the Arab committee stated:
“This is not a Palestinian issue, or an issue of Arab nationalist feeling. I look at this as a human rights issue, as a minority living in the country. We are not against development. We want development. We are the ones who need it. If the government wants to develop the Galilee, it should include Arabs in the plans. It should set up a committee to make plans that would serve both Jews and Arabs.”
The estimated 400,000 Palestinian people who participated in the strike protest knew the time had come to take a common stand. But the Israeli armed forces would not tolerate what they viewed as insubordination. They turned their weapons on the protestors, killing six outright, injuring dozens and arresting hundreds who persisted in their protest. While the Western media quickly put down the fatal day as an outbreak of rioting Arabs, the nature of Israeli “consideration” was revealed by the brute force of Zionism.
Far from being granted any semblance of democratic participation, the Arab voice was smothered. As one journalist described,
“Hundreds of Israeli troops backed by armored cars sealed off the violence-torn villages from the rest of Israel and refused to let reporters past the outskirts of Deir Hana. Israeli troops fanned out among the olive trees ringing the hilltop village as hundreds of chanting Arabs demonstrated inside Deir Hana. A large cloud of black smoke hung over the town. This reporter managed to get within 200 yards of the demonstrators before being forced by Israeli troops to leave the area. Dozens of gunshots could be heard amid the chants of the demonstrators. . . . At Kfar Kanna , a town between Nazareth and Tiberias, 1000 protesters demonstrated near the council building. Police used tear gas to break up a crowd of high school students, most of them girls, who set up roadblocks.”
“We were wrong for 28 years in thinking we could ignore the ethnic difference between Arabs and Jews. . . . You can’t expect an Arab to be a Zionist, support Jewish immigration to Israel an sing the national anthem.”
As years of conflict have ensued, ‘Palestine Land Day’ has been a yearly reminder of the intentions that were so clearly exposed in 1976. Israel has boldly continued the policy of expanding Jewish-only land and of purging non-Jewish inhabitants. This “creeping form of annexation” has been identified and condemned by the United Nations not only just weeks ago, but over and over again for decades. Nothing has changed. Yet the Palestinian people refuse to be arbitrarily renamed “Israeli Arabs,” to be branded as terrorists and stomped into submission until they fade into a half-remembered history. Perhaps when they woke up after that day of deadly conflict, they realised that those who reduced them to dispensable pawns did not destroy the humanity of the Palestinian people, but forfeited their own.
- Israeli forces attack annual “Land Day” protests (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel admits: Just 0.7% of West Bank allocated to Palestinians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli police arrest Palestinians at al-Aqsa mosque (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Obama’s loyalty speech (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- On Land Day; Palestinians Plant 200 Olive Saplings In Al-Khader (imemc.org)
On Sunday, January 20, 2013, the “progressive” Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a short editorial titled “‘Judaization’ is racism”.
Before you get your hopes up, let me tell you that the editorial is a criticism of Shimon Gapso, the Jewish mayor of Upper Nazareth, a community intended to diminish the Arab character of Nazareth, the largest Palestinian Arab city inside what most of the world recognizes as Israel.
Founded in 1957, Upper Nazareth was given priority for development and expansion as part of a campaign by Yitzhak Rabin. The impetus was a trip that Rabin made to the Galilee in 1975. At one point he found himself in the Carmel valley. Looking around, he saw nothing but Palestinian farms and villages. “Am I in Israel or in Syria?” he uttered, whereupon he lent his weight to the mission to “judaize the Galilee”. Upper Nazareth is one of the Jewish communities that became an important of that mission. It was intended to limit the growth of Nazareth and ultimately marginalize or displace it.
Ironically, however, the “Jewish character” of Upper Nazareth is itself being compromised, as Palestinians from Nazareth find that there is no longer enough room in the older city to accommodate their growing population. In response, the mayor of Upper Nazareth has tried to make the city as unfriendly as possible to its non-Jewish residents, including opposition to Arabic language schools in the town and a much-publicized ban on Christmas trees. (Most of the Palestinians in Upper Nazareth are Christian.) The Haaretz editorial is a criticism of the “benighted racist position that sees the presence of Arabs in the Galilee or anywhere else as a national threat.”
Nice words, but is not the entire Zionist project one of “judaization”? Is that not how its founders conceived it? Is not Israel itself the product of “judaization”? What is different about Upper Nazareth? What about the expulsion of the Bedouin in the Naqab (“Negev”)? Is the confiscation and demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem not merely an extension of the ethnic cleansing of 1948? How are the orders to evacuate and obliterate eight villages in the hills south of al-Khalil (“Hebron”) not consistent with the aims of Zionism?
If Haaretz wishes to oppose judaization, why not start with the judaization of 1948? Let them insist upon inviting all Palestinians back to their homes. Let them demand elimination of an immigration policy that is for Jews only. Let them call upon the Custodian for Absentee Property – who is responsible for the more than 80% of Israel that was confiscated from Palestinians in 1948 – to welcome the absentees back and return their property to them, with payment for damages and compensation for 65 years of unauthorized usage. Let them oppose a policy of separate states for Arabs and Jews (forgetting that many are both or neither).
Judaization is just another word for Zionism. And yes, it’s racism.
- The Terror Lurking in a Christmas Tree (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli mayor: expel Palestinian citizens of “hostile” Nazareth to Gaza for opposing war (altahrir.wordpress.com)
Israel tries to ban non-Jewish celebrations
Israel’s large Palestinian minority is often spoken of in terms of the threat it poses to the Jewish majority. Palestinian citizens’ reproductive rate constitutes a “demographic timebomb”, while their main political programme – Israel’s reform into “a state of all its citizens” – is proof for most Israeli Jews that their compatriots are really a “fifth column”.
But who would imagine that Israeli Jews could be so intimidated by the innocuous Christmas tree?
This issue first came to public attention two years ago when it was revealed that Shimon Gapso, the mayor of Upper Nazareth, had banned Christmas trees from all public buildings in his northern Israeli city.
“Upper Nazareth is a Jewish town and all its symbols are Jewish,” Gapso said. “As long as I hold office, no non-Jewish symbol will be presented in the city.”
The decision reflected in part his concern that Upper Nazareth, built in the 1950s as the centrepiece of the Israeli government’s “Judaisation of the Galilee” programme, was failing dismally in its mission.
Far from “swallowing up” the historic Palestinian city of Nazareth next door, as officials had intended, Upper Nazareth became over time a magnet for wealthier Nazarenes who could no longer find a place to build a home in their own city. That was because almost all Nazareth’s available green space had been confiscated for the benefit of Upper Nazareth.
Instead Nazarenes, many of them Palestinian Christians, have been buying homes in Upper Nazareth from Jews – often immigrants from the former Soviet Union – desperate to leave the Arab-dominated Galilee and head to the country’s centre, to be nearer Tel Aviv.
The exodus of Jews and influx of Palestinians have led the government to secretly designate Upper Nazareth as a “mixed city”, much to the embarrassment of Gapso. The mayor is a stalwart ally of far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman and regularly expresses virulently anti-Arab views, including recently calling Nazarenes “Israel-hating residents whose place is in Gaza” and their city “a nest of terror in the heart of the Galilee”.
Although neither Gapso nor the government has published census figures to clarify the city’s current demographic balance, most estimates suggest that at least a fifth of Upper Nazareth’s residents are Palestinian. The city’s council chamber also now includes Palestinian representatives.
But Gapso is not alone in his trenchant opposition to making even the most cursory nod towards multiculturalism. The city’s chief rabbi, Isaiah Herzl, has refused to countenance a single Christmas tree in Upper Nazareth, arguing that it would be “offensive to Jewish eyes”.
That view, it seems, reflects the official position of the country’s rabbinate. In so far as they are able, the rabbis have sought to ban Christmas celebrations in public buildings, including in the hundreds of hotels across the country.
A recent report in the Haaretz newspaper, on an Israeli Jew who grows Christmas trees commercially, noted in passing: “hotels – under threat of losing kashrut certificates – are prohibited by the rabbinate from decking their halls in boughs of holly or, heaven forbid, putting up even the smallest of small sparkly Christmas tree in the corner of the lobby.”
In other words, the rabbinate has been quietly terrorising Israeli hotel owners into ignoring Christmas by threatening to use its powers to put them out of business. Denying a hotel its kashrut (kosher) certificate would lose it most of its Israeli and foreign Jewish clientele.
Few mayors or rabbis find themselves in the uncomfortable position of needing to go public with their views on the dangers of Christmas decorations. In Israel, segregation between Jews and Palestinians is almost complete. Even most of the handful of mixed cities are really Jewish cities with slum-like ghettos of Palestinians living on the periphery.
Apart from Upper Nazareth, the only other “mixed” place where Palestinian Christians are to be found in significant numbers is Haifa, Israel’s third largest city. Haifa is often referred to as Israel’s most multicultural and tolerant city, a title for which it faces very little competition.
But the image hides a dirtier reality. A recent letter from Haifa’s rabbinate came to light in which the city’s hotels and events halls were reminded that they must not host New Year’s parties at the end of this month (the Jewish New Year happens at a different time of year). The hotels and halls were warned that they would be denied their kashrut licences if they did so.
“It is a seriously forbidden to hold any event at the end of the calendar year that is connected with or displays anything from the non-Jewish festivals,” the letter states.
After the letter was publicised on Facebook, Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, moved into damage limitation mode, overruling the city’s rabbinical council on Sunday and insisting that parties would be allowed to go ahead. Whether Yahav has the power to enforce his decision on the notoriously independent-minded rabbinical authorities is still uncertain.
But what is clear is that there is plenty of religious intolerance verging on hatred being quietly exercised against non-Jews, mostly behind the scenes so as not to disturb Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” image or outrage the millions of Christian tourists and pilgrims who visit Israel each year.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He won this year’s Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).
- Israeli mayor: expel Palestinian citizens of “hostile” Nazareth to Gaza for opposing war (altahrir.wordpress.com)
In August 2010 Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced a special 500 million shekel budget to improve higher education access for Arab and Haredi communities.
In the almost two years since their announcement, the only academic college located in an Arab community – Nazareth Academic Institute – has seen none of those funds, nor any of the standard public funding awarded to other academic colleges in the region.
Over the past week, both Steinitz and Sa’ar have thrown their support behind Ariel College’s bid for university status, including a pledge of 50 million shekels in additional higher education funding to make the shift feasible, while NAI continues to wait. All of which begs the question: What does it say to Arab citizens of Israel that a settlement university will likely be approved and funded before any public investment in the only Arab college?
NAI has struggled for more than a decade to establish an institution of higher education in the Arab community, initially applying for accreditation as a branch campus of Tel Aviv University and later operating as a branch of the US-based University of Indianapolis. It finally opened as an independent, though unfunded, institution in 2010. The government has been mildly responsive, with officials from former Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman to Sa’ar himself giving lip service to the importance of Arab development, but not actually investing in it through NAI.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development issued a call for public investment in NAI through its 2011 Report on Higher Education in Regional and City Development for the Galilee. Continued disparities between Arab and Jewish community development are “a threat to the long-term sustainable development of Israel,” the report said, suggesting that increased educational investment in Arab communities would boost the regional economy as soon as the medium term.
However, the report argued that all prior attempts at higher education expansion for the Galilee had happened in predominantly Jewish areas and maintained majority Jewish enrollment, sometimes as high as 90 percent of the student body. “Considering the current under-representation of Arab population in tertiary education, steps should be taken to support NAI, which is the first comprehensive Arab higher education institution in Israel,” the report said.
The OECD report was published last year, yet no discernible action has been taken in the nearly eight months since. What does it say when the government ignores OECD recommendations for a region within Israel in favor of a massive investment in permanent infrastructure on occupied land?
Meanwhile, much of the recent debate on universal service legislation has focused on the rights versus obligations of Arab citizens, on an idea that all of Israel’s citizens should share in carrying the weight of the nation. Yet the Ariel decision suggests that no matter how long Arab citizens toil within the system, no matter how much money they pay in taxes and no matter what promises have been made to them around provision of resources, Jewish communities will always take precedence — even when they lie outside of the nation’s recognized borders.
The move by Israeli ministers to support Ariel favors subsidies for Jewish settlers in occupied territory over equitable support for Israel’s minority communities. It favors expansionist politics over a pragmatic investment in the state’s future. It is a move against both moral imperatives and practical judgment.
In short, it is a great shame.
But the move is not simply a blow to ethnic equality within Israel. It also sends a strong message about this government’s view of the prospects for peace. For the rebuff here is not simply against NAI as the only Arab college within Israel — though that would be bad enough. It is also against the only college jointly managed by Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens in favor of one whose association with the settlement movement negates any sense of partnership. This government has chosen a college whose very existence relies on a continued military presence over the only college to require a core education in peace and multicultural studies.
The message I take from that is ominous indeed.
Susan Drinan is the chairman of Nazareth Academic Institute’s international board of trustees.