The Israeli Knesset yesterday took what most people in the rest of the world would believe to be an obscure little vote on a dreary bill governing land sales. Who cares. Well, those who don’t know or care ought to because this vote will go down as one of the more egregious racist votes in the nation’s history.
An Israeli Arab brought a case to the Israeli Supreme Court claiming he had been refused the right to buy Israeli land owned by the Jewish National Fund. The high court found in favor of the plaintiff and ruled that the State must change its policy and allow any citizen, whether Jewish or not, to buy such land. The attorney general subsequently approved such changes. The bill voted on yesterday is an attempt to do an “end around” the court ruling. It would enshrine in law the racist notion that only Jews should be able to purchase JNF land, while other Israeli citizens should not.
Remember the paeans to Israeli democracy you hear from the lips of the hoch-Zionists: “the only democracy in the Middle East,” etc., etc. You can can that now. An ethnocracy maybe, but not a democracy–especially not if this piece of crap passes on its final reading (yesterday’s vote was the first reading). Haaretz’s editorial today pretty much says it all: A Racist Jewish State:
This bill reflects an abasement of the Zionist enterprise to lows never imagined in the Declaration of Independence. Even though the Jewish National Fund purchased the lands for the Jewish people in the Diaspora, the State of Israel has already been established and these lands must now serve all its citizens.
For those living for tomorrow and not the past, the aim is to create in Israel a healthy, progressive state where the needs of the two peoples should concern the leaders and legislators. The Jewish National Fund’s land policy counters the interests of the state and cannot discriminate by law against the minority living in Israel.
What is most pathetic about the vote is that a mere 10 Jewish MKs could muster enough outrage to vote against this travesty of justice. Even Ami Ayalon, the supposed Labor Party paragon of Israeli-Palestinian understanding voted Aye. The final vote was 64-16. I know in the history of the world’s greatest legislative folly this is but one example. But for Israel it’s truly a golden one.
Speaking of golden, I love this cartoon from Haaretz. To get the joke you have to know that the Jewish National Fund (or Kerem Kayemet L’Yisrael) has blue tzedakah (pushke) boxes covered with the Star of David which are known by Jews the world over. The cartoonist has changed the color from Israeli blue to Kach yellow (also the same color as the star Nazis forced Jews to wear). And instead of an Israeli Star of David there is a Kahanist fist. Nice touch.
Those who know their American history will remember that until the 1950s it was illegal for Asian-Americans to own land in the west. Is this the model that Israel wishes to embrace?? Could you give an Israel-hater a greater gift than this? Could you give a Palestinian or Israeli Arab a stronger confirmation of their impression that Israel is irredeemably racist?? What can you do but scratch your head and say: “Huh?” Whatever were they thinking? Well, you know what they’re thinking and it ain’t pretty.
There are those of us progressive Zionists who have a different vision of Israel. But days and votes like yesterday’s make it really hard to keep what little faith you have left.
Thanks to Magnes Zionist, a terrific new blog by Jerry Haber representing a progressive Orthodox Israeli viewpoint, for first bringing this law to my attention; and to Sol Salbe for providing the Haaretz editorial and cartoon.