There are nearly 2-million Israeli Palestinians. Yet the other 7-million are barely aware of them. For nearly 20 years, the former lived under martial law in their own country. They were controlled by a military government. Even today, they are grossly mistreated and lag behind in every social metric. The government treats them with no-so-benign neglect.
The police, largely run by and for Jews, hardly has any idea or interest in maintaining order in Palestinian communities. Government outlays for non-Jewish towns and villages are a pittance compared to Jewish communities. Schools, health care and social welfare needs are funded at perilously low levels. Job opportunities and higher level education is severely circumscribed compared to what is available to Jews. There are fifty separate laws and de facto practices which discriminate against Palestinian citizens.
So it is no wonder that they are barely participating in the anti-government protests. As I wrote in my last New Arab piece:
For them [Palestinians], there is no democracy to save…The protests aren’t meant for them. They are meant for Israeli Jews, who have more to lose economically. This participation gap emphasises what international human rights groups have called Israel’s apartheid system: one reality for Jews and an entirely different, and far worse, reality for Palestinian citizens. This is the lie that is “Israeli democracy.” In other words, protestors are saving Jewish democracy, not Israeli democracy.
While some of the protests do include Palestinian speakers, they are circumscribed in what they may say. In some cases, they self-censor in order not to disturb the Judeocentric nature of the protest agenda. In other cases. organizers have explicitly censored such speakers.
מארגני המחאה נגד המהפכה המשפטית בחיפה ביטלו את נאומה של מזכ”לית חד”ש בעיר רים חזאן ברגע האחרון, מבלי לתת סיבה. עוד קודם לכן היא נדרשה לתקן את הנאום שמותח ביקורת על הכיבוש והאפלייה כדי שלא יהיה “חסר תקווה” על פי המארגנים. ואחר כך מתפלאים למה הערבים לא מצטרפים למחאה.
— מוחמד מג’אדלה محمد مجادلة (@mmagadli) February 18, 2023
Last night, the Haifa rally invited Reem Hazzan, the secretary the Haifa region of Hadash, the only Jewish-Palestinian Party, to address this week’s demonstration. Along with the invitation came a condition that she had to submit her remarks for prior approval. After the organizers read them, they told her that the emphasis on criticizing the Occupation would give the audience a sense of “hopelessness.” I wonder what they think Israel’s Palestinian citizens feel?
As a result, just before she was scheduled to speak she was told she could not do so. They gave her no reason. But they didn’t have to. Read for yourself my translation and you will immediately understand why she was a threat to the insular Judeocentric movement:
Good Evening, Haifa!
We live in a dark time. One in which the forces of darkness threaten what remains of a democratic horizon. Our only hope is to live together here, in peace and equality, Jews and Arabs.
This battle is dangerous for all of us. Especially to the city of Haifa which, despite all the difficulties, is the only place in the country which represents an alternative to the segregation and racism, by advancing lives of cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
It’s no accident that the Haifa protests have broken records over the past few weeks regarding the numbers of participants. The Haifa community proves that it is democratic, resists, and is activist. It’s no accident the protests in Haifa have called, for weeks, for the broad participation of the Arab community.
But where are the Arabs? Why don’t we stream to the protests? And where is the rest of the oppressed and downtrodden population? Why are they, why are we not here?
Begin with what is obvious: it’s clear to any sentient person that the Arabs, the Palestinians of Israel, would be the first to be harmed by the judicial revolution. From the standpoint of the Arab citizen, the legal system has been the final barrier to the policy of institutional oppression; in the face of the trampling of basic civil rights, in the face of the system of dispossession from insitutitions, whose main purpose was to take from the Arabs and give to the Jews.
It is clear that in turning to the legal system we haven’t generally been satifisfied with the results. Nevertheless, we continued to turn to it with the faith that the reality can change; a faith which to our sorrow has often been betrayed.
It is clear that the racism, thuggery and Judeo-supremacy are a direct product of the settlement movement, which tramples the human rights of the Palestinians, as well as international law; and even Israeli law. This is the consequence of a destructive, evil, violent Occupation, which must end.
Today, we are harvesting the seed of the past 40 years of right wing politics and economics. Now the time has come to say: no more! The time has come to stop being afraid and to say clearly: we support full equality for all citizens. We support ending the Occupation. We believe that peace is possible because it is crucial for both sides [Palestinian and Jew].
We are for a state which invests in its citizens and their future. A state which builds schools, hospitals, universities, public transport, which improves the quality of life and the environment; and which narrows the social gaps [for Palestinians] instead of expanding settlements and deepening those gaps.
Enough! There is a direct link between rejecting peace, deepening Occupation, dismantling the state welfare system, harming workers, destroying democracy–and the rise of fascism.
The Arab community and the disadvantaged will feel they are participants in this protest movement when it acts not only to stop processes which undermine the liberal foundation of the Israeli system in order to protect “business as usual”–we will feel we are partners and parnters in the struggle when the purpose is ending the racist, oppressive policies and writing a new social contract based on achieving peace and equality. When the struggle for democracy will be for a real democracy: not a democracy for Jews only, but for all.
You need us with you. All of us need all of us. This is the meaning of solidarity. Only together will be win.
Haifa will bring the change–the power is in our hands!
Unfortunately, Hana’an’s hopes were dashed. The protest leaders proved to be interested in perpetuating business as usual, rather than real, fundamental change. That’s because this movement doesn’t want fundamental change. It wants to return to the nice, comfortable status quo ante–the previous center-right government which had many of the same racist and murderous policies as the current one.
The organizers of the Haifa protest knew they’d unleashed a firestorm and sought to gaslight their critics with this statement:
We work diligently to bring together different communities from both ends of the political rainbow: from the Arab community all the way to the religious Zionists. Haifa is the only city which takes pains to have an Arab speaker [note: it has the largest Israeli Palestinian community of any Israeli city] every week in the sincere belief in the path of partnership. We’re pleased that many other rallies followed in our footsteps.
We read the speeches of the speakers beforehand in order to ensure they adhere to the main message: in opposing the current terror government we can only succeed together.
…To our sorrow, Rim Haza’an chose to emphasize what divides and separates instead of calling on Arab society to come out and take part. All the weekly Arab speakers speak about Israeli Occupation and the need for democracy for all citizens of the state. However, the emphasis clearly must be on what unites and what we have in common. Unfortunately, Rim did not agree in his speech to encourage the Arab community to come out to the protest. Rather, he dealt with the reasons they don’t participate. We regret her decision…
We will continue to present the Arab voice…We believe that a broad protest movement requires all sides to compromise concerning views which are complicated…
Ah yes, the rallying cry of liberal Zionism for decades. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict? It’s complicated. Israeli Palestinians are third-class citizens? It’s complicated. Why hasn’t Israel negotiated a settlement of the conflict? It’s complicated. It’s always complicated when you don’t want to do something. It’s always simple when you do.
The message to Israeli Palestinians is clear: this is a Jewish movement. We want you to join, but our terms, not yours. In order to join us it’s YOU who have to compromise on your values and interests. In order, of course for us to win.
But when you win, who exactly will be winning? How will this movement concretely benefit Palestinians? How will it change Israel for them? How will it bring true democracy for them? Palestinians are no fools. They see what’s in it for them: nothing. They are the ones who must compromise. They are the ones whose dreams are always deferred.
A crystal clear example of this mindset at work: when the leaders of the political Opposition to the current government met in a united front to make its demands, who wasn’t there? Mansour Abbas, whose party was a member of the last governing coalition. Why wasn’t he there? He claims he was invited, but chose not to attend in order to prevent the far-right from using his presence to sully the protest movement. Imagine that, a Palestinian leader who fears that if an Israeli audience sees him on a stage with Jewish leaders it will damage the struggle. Frankly, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at such an attitude.
I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know if Netanyahu will forge ahead with his headlong dash to fascism; whether he will compromise and abandon some of the worst elements of his platform; whether the protest movement will succeed and topple the government. But in the long run, I’m not sure it makes much difference. The country is racist under a fascist government and racist under a so-called centrist government–just slightly less so.
#Thread: A boiling East Jerusalem
A wide day of rage starting from tonight in several Palestinian towns throughout East Jerusalem, against Israeli occupation policies towards the Palestinians including house demolitions, but also in support for the Lion’s Den call from Nablus. pic.twitter.com/o7ddV2She0
— Younis | يونس (@ytirawi) February 18, 2023
Kafr Akeb, East Jerusalem pic.twitter.com/UrXJ4pWUT6
— Younis | يونس (@ytirawi) February 19, 2023
And what was happening in Palestine as Israeli Jews demanded a return to normalcy after the country’s flirtation with fascism? Palestine was burning. There was a general strike in protest of Israel’s massive, unending violence. Did Israeli Jews take any notice? Did they know what was happening a few miles from their comfortable lives? You can answer that yourselves.
Deir Yassin 1948 says
That flag is definitely not the Palestinian flag.
Richard Silverstein says
@deir yassin: Corrected. Thank you.
Villain of Vexillology says
A Palestinian flag amidst a sea of blue and white?! Looks like the flag of Hungary to me.
Richard Silverstein says
@ villain: Corrected.
Phil Becker says
You nailed it but didn’t stick the landing. Your analysis of the current demonstrations is spot on. Thank you for including Rim’s speech which was never given and should be, as it was a simple, accurate distillation of Israeli Arab life. My quibble with your not sticking your landing is your continuous inaccurate use of the word racist, as in “the country is racist..” Richard, Jews are not a race. Jews come in all colors, as do Arabs. I know you know. Israel is a ethno-national state, a Judeo-fascist state perhaps, in a neighborhood of highly sectarian societies. The upcoming civil war in Israel today is only about and for the Yidn. We all know that. But racist?