Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Compassionate Ethnic Cleansing

In the wake of the Gaza massacre and with a dangerous tilt to the right, some in Israel are now openly expressing the unthinkable--the mass expulsion of "Arabs" from its borders. Conn Hallinan at Jewish Peace News reports:

One of the more disturbing developments in the Middle East is a growing consensus among Israelis that it would acceptable to expel -- in the words of advocates "transfer" -- its Arab citizens to either a yet as unformed Palestinian state or the neighboring countries of Jordan and Egypt.

More after the fold...

At one time relegated to extremists, the idea is gaining popular support among segements of Israel. And with the rise of ultra-nationalist Avigdor Liebermann, who has long called for the expulsion of "disloyal Arabs," in Israeli politics, what was once a fringe ideology is moving steadily into mainstream opinion--under the euphemism of "transfer." And even those who are accepting of an "independent" Palestinian state, are using such a plan to push an agenda of Arab expulsion. As Hallinan notes:

..."transfer" is no longer the exclusive policy of extremists, as it has increasingly become a part of mainstream political dialogue. "My solution for maintaining a Jewish and democratic state of Israel is to have two nation-states with certain concessions and with clear red lines," Kadima leader and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a group of Tel Aviv high school students last December, "and among other things, I will be able to approach the Palestinian residents of Israel, those whom we call Israeli Arabs, and tell them, ' your national solution lies elsewhere.'"

This trend is accompanied by a strong anti-Arab/anti-Palestinian bias that is growing among Israelis. And, according to data Hallinan pulls from the Israeli Association for Civil Rights, anti-Arab incidents (what we would call "hate crimes") have risen sharply:
* Some 55 percent of Jewish Israelis say that the state should encourage Arab emigration;

* 78 percent of Jewish Israelis oppose including Arab parties in the government;

* 56 percent agree with the statement that "Arabs cannot attain the Jewish level of cultural development";

* 75 percent agree that Arabs are inclined to be violent. Among Arab-Israelis, 54 percent feel the same way about Jews.

* 75 percent of Israeli Jews say they would not live in the same building as Arabs.

And to think, Israel--along with the support of the US & Canada--is boycotting the Durban racism conference.

These numbers tend to support what many, like former President Jimmy Carter, have pointed out--that Israel is a de facto apartheid state. And though President Carter insisted this apartheid system only existed in the territories, it would seem it is now moving into the metropole of Israel as well. But comparing Israel's policies to minority-white rule South Africa garners a storm of criticism, as both President Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu have learned. And Israel remains the only state that puts forth an ethnic manifesto that is accepted by the world polity, and fiercely supported by benefactors like the United States. So much so, that even President Carter is certain not to dispute the sanctity of Israel to remain a Jewish majority state--forever. Given the recent past, and the horrors endured by people of Jewish descent in Europe during WWII, the nature of this claim is understandable. That it remains however, outside the boundaries of even rational debate, seems to have allowed it to grow into something altogether disturbing.

Electronic Intifada cofounder Ali Abunimah has long pointed to this unwillingness to dialogue openly and fully about Israel as one of the key blocks to any form of lasting peace. And he has warned in the past the dangers inherent in a singular focus on a "two-state solution," if only because ethnic nationalism can so easily degenerate into something much more sinister. His book One Country: A Bold Proposal to the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse seeks another soution:
ONE COUNTRY revives an old and neglected idea of sharing the country. Although living together might seem impossible, Abunimah shows how Israelis and Palestinians are by now so intertwined -- geographically and economically -- that no kind of separation can lead to the security Israelis need or the rights Palestinians must have. He reveals the bankruptcy of the two-state approach, takes on the objections and taboos that stand in the way of a binational solution, demonstrates that sharing the territory will bring benefits for all, and asserts that the country can remain a homeland for both Jews and Palestinians.

Abunimah's ideas have been lampooned as implausible. And not even many Mid-East peace activists dare not touch or mention it. However the time may soon come when the world will have to at least finally *ask* the question of whether any state can remain an ethnically homogenous and still be a democracy, in a modern world that seeks to come together rather than drift apart.

Read full article by Conn Hallinan here.


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