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Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy Paperback – December 20, 2011
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"Essential reading to understand why there can never be peace unless Palestinian citizens of Israel are granted full equality, something they are systematically denied by Israel's aggressive, and increasingly unrestrained Zionist ethnocracy." - Ali Abunimah, Co-founder of Electronic Intifada, author of One Country
"Ben White offers a holistic view of the Palestine/Israel problem – then goes beyond it to point towards its only just and hopeful solution. A significant and timely contribution to the political discourse so necessary today." - Ahdaf Soueif, author of Booker Prize-shortlisted The Map of Love
"With surgical precision, a wealth of research and sharp analytical intellect, White astutely exposes the oxymoron inherent in the definition of Israel as a 'Jewish and democratic' state and presents a compelling case for holding Israel accountable for committing the crime of apartheid, as defined by the UN." - Omar Barghouti, human rights activist and author
About the Author
Ben White is a researcher and analyst at the Middle East Monitor and Journal of Palestine Studies. He is the author of Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy (Pluto, 2011) and has written for the Guardian, New Statesman and Al Jazeera.
Haneen Zoabi is a member of the Knesset representing the Balad party. She is the first woman to be elected to the Knesset on an Arab party's list.
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Some sixty years into its existence, Israel has not been able to approve a constitution, even though the UN Partition Plan of 1947 required each state to "draft a democratic constitution...guaranteeing all persons equal and non-discriminatory rights." Instead, it has passed eleven Basic Laws, one of which establishes the values of the State of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state," a perfect example of Orwellian doublethink, "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."
Before reading the book, I assumed its subject was secondarily important, given Israel's horrific oppression of Christians and Muslims in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), as exposed in White's first book, "Israeli Apartheid." While Palestinians in Israel are second class citizens, those in the OPT are living with a "boot stamping on a human face" (as I noted in my review of Anna Baltzer's excellent Witness in Palestine). By the time I finished White's latest book, its immense importance had slowly dawned on me. American politicians rarely mention Israel without describing it as "the only democracy in the Middle East," as if unconditional support for Israel is the way to support democracy itself. In 2011, the U.S. Congress enthusiastically applauded Israel's Prime Minister, Netanyahu, when he declared, "Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa,only Israel's Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights." (Of course, Congress may have been applauding Netanyahu's chutzpah rather than the content of what he said. As I.F. Stone noted, "Governments lie," and politicians can certainly appreciate the work of a master).
Dozens of Israeli laws discriminate in favor of the Jewish majority, and White explains the most important of them. The Law of Return provides that Jews anywhere in the world can immigrate to Israel, yet most of the Palestinians within the state cannot live in the villages of their birth. Seventy percent of Israeli towns have admission committees, allowed by Israeli law, which determine who can live in the communities. My own brief visits to Israel confirm White's depiction of the systemic trampling of basic human rights by Israel. A Christian Palestinian minister, Naim Ateek, the director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, led my tour group through his hometown of Beisan, from which he was expelled in 1948, as an eleven-year-old. Ateek showed us his family's land, confiscated by the state for the benefit of its Jewish citizens, under the "Present Absentee" law (more doublethink), which allowed the state to confiscate the land of people who were "absent" from their property, after expulsion by the Zionist soldiers, but were "present" within Israel's boundaries.
Another Basic Law bars electoral candidates who "deny the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people." Some years back, the Knesset voted to remove five of the seven Arab members of the parliament who were accused of making statements that questioned Israel's existence as a Jewish state.
White's style is concise; in about a hundred pages, he provides ample evidence for the reader to answer the critical question, "Is Israel a democracy?" The book should be required reading for anyone concerned with the United States' foreign policy in the Middle East.
Yet, as Ben White so ably demonstrates, nothing could be further from the truth. From the beginning, when European Zionists first began to enter it, Palestine was considered an "empty" land. In 1902, Max Nordau, co-founder of the World Zionist Organization, wrote that Zionists desired "to irrigate with their sweat and to till with their hands a country that is today a desert, until it again becomes the blooming garden it once was." Nothing could have been further from on the ground reality. Palestine was full of productive farms, busy cities and thriving trade. Seeing the land as "empty" "was not a matter of ignorance of the Arab population but a question of European chauvinism." "Palestine at the time of first Zionist settlement was not empty of people, but of people deemed worthy by Europeans of controlling their own country." This was not traditional European (and by extension, American) chauvinistic conquest: when you desire something, go in and take it, the natives be damned. With that in mind, literally anything is permissible.
This is not the narrative I grew up with, which depicted Israel as a brave nation surrounded by bitter enemies who wished to erase it from the earth, and the Israeli people and their leaders as heroic defenders of democracy and human rights. As Ben White ably shows, little could be further from the truth.
Citing Israel's own laws and policies, White shows that, from the beginning, Israel has treated Palestinians -- including its own Palestinian citizens -- as if they are invisible and, as invisible, have no rights. Citing chapter and verse from Israeli laws and policies, he shows how Palestinians are discriminated against in every way imaginable, and I am not exaggerating in saying that. In the Occupied Territories and Gaza, it is worse and is much more publicized. Within Israel itself, it really isn't any better. In the Galilee and the Negev, Palestinians are pushed aside, their homes demolished in Israel's push to "Judaize" the areas -- culturally "drown" the Negev and Galilee with Jewish residents; in the Occupied Territories they are called "settlers" -- in order to support Israel's as a Jewish state.
The problem with this is that it negates Israel's claim of being a democracy, as it is not a state of all its citizens. (Legally, non-Jews are second-class citizens.) Far from the paradise it is presented as being, reality shows Israel an aggressive, openly racist, and increasingly paranoid nation that defends itself by creating more oppressive laws and violent behavior toward Palestinians in Israel itself and in the Occupied Territories. Israel is, and has been, a contradiction of Herzl's contention that a Jewish nation in Palestine would be "an outpost of civilization against barbarism". What Israel has come to resemble is barbarism itself.
White's book has already garnered charges of "anti-Semitism" and White charged with being an "anti-Semite", a charge routinely made against all critics of Israel. Israeli journalist Yaniv Halili, for instance, claims the book "presents a blatant anti-Israel approach". It doesn't at all. What it does, and does thoroughly, is cite the sources, which are unimpeachable. Palestinians in Israel may not be a comfortable book to read, but it is an important one, a necessary antidote to all the propaganda and alarmist accusations of anti-Semitism. What Ben White has done, and done very well in this book is reveal the chauvinism and cruelty of the modern State of Israel in all its ugliness.
A final note: It seems to me that Israel's behavior towards the Palestinian people, which it justifies in terms of "security needs", is itself anti-Semitic for the simple reason that it ignores and denies the brutal behavior that is common knowledge everywhere. In justifying behavior that decent people regard as reprehensible, Israel paints a negative picture of what Jewish people and their culture are like. And that is offensive and wrong.
If Israel really wishes to rid the world of anti-Semitism and enjoy life as a respected member of the world community of nations, then it must change its behavior. Accusing people who point it out of anti-Semitism only makes the problem worse.
Would not surprise me if White has connections to Terrorist Organizations. He likes to fabricate things, expand on them get get out some hate
Have seen some of his articles on in Politico and you can only ask...what is wrong with this guy.