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                         CRACKING ISRAELI APARTHEID

  "They're asserting historic rights, but if we accept this
  claim the whole country will be theirs....The whole
  ideological basis of setting up a Jewish state is
  slipping away."
              Israeli town Mayor

MiD-EasT RealitieS - Washington - 3/30:

The Minister of Education -- from the liberal Meretz Party -- wants to allow the teaching of a well-known Palestinian poet in Israeli schools.  He is declared a traitor by the leading Rabbi of Shas, another major party in the same coalition goverment of former General Ehud Barak.  Then the Attorney General of the same government opens a criminal investigation against the Rabbi for possible "incitement".

In another development the Israeli Supreme Court issues a narrow ruling saying "Israeli Arabs" can live in a place where only "Israeli Jews" were allowed to live before.  But of course this is the same Supreme Court that claims to have outlawed "torture" in the past; yet somehow those in charge always find loopholes and in the end things haven't changed nearly as much as some would like the world to think.

Now one more "amazing admission" in a sense form the Israelis themselves -- that some land should be given back to the villagers who formerly owned it back in the time when Israel was created.  The following article appeared this week in the New York Times about a decision by Israeli Interior Minister Natan Sharansky to "restore" to the Arab village of Kufr Qasim 250 acres of land expropriated for the exclusive use of Jews in the 1950s.  Kufr Qasim is well-known to historians -- it was the site of a notorious massacre of dozens of villagers by Israeli forces led by the current leader of the Likud Party, Ariel Sharon, in 1956.

Objecting to this possibly precedent-setting decision, the mayor of the Jewish town to which the land was given spoke more truth than perhaps he intended.  Of the Palestinians who never gave up the struggle to return their land, the mayor said:

"They're asserting historic rights, but if we accept this claim the whole country will be theirs....The whole ideological basis of setting up a Jewish state is slipping away."

If there ever was an admission that the Zionist "ideological" basis for Israel is the theft of land from its original owners, this simple quotation seems to be it.   And it's all the more ironic when Israelis themselves object to someone asserting their "historic rights" when in fact Zionism itself is grounded on claims precisely based in "historic rights."

Of course the history of the past half-century also is such that the prospects for basic changes in how Israel operates are not very substantial, even when a government official steps forward to address one particular wrong or a legal decision is handed down that seems to contradict the very fabric of Israeli laws and regulations. Israel has a long history of attention grabbing announcements which never materialize in reality or which are put into effect in extremely marginal and limited ways more for "show" than anything else.

Additionally, none of this should obscure the basic fact that the ongoing "peace process" with its Jews-only "by-pass roads", Arabs-only "free-passage roads", and hodge-podge of zones this and that and restrictions for here and there is designed to legitimize the overall dispossession of the Palestinians of most of their lands and resources; and that Israeli settlement "thickening" and "normal growth" throughout the occupied territories still actually continues to this day.

But even so, the contradictions and cracks in the very fabric of how Israeli law and custom currently define right and wrong in the area once known as "The Holy Land" (the actual expression Ehud Barak used upon first greeting the Pope earlier this month") should be understood and appreciated.




[New York Times, 28 March]
JERUSALEM, March 27 - Interior Minister Natan Sharansky announced
today that he would restore to an Israeli Arab village part of its
land that had been taken to develop a neighboring Jewish town.

The move was the first of its kind, and it has potentially far-reaching
implications. The action contradicts decades-old policies
under which Arab-owned land had often been expropriated to build
Jewish communities.

The step was intended "to strengthen the democratic character of the
State of Israel and to provide equal opportunity to all citizens," Mr.
Sharansky, a former human rights campaigner who was jailed in the
Soviet Union, said in a statement.

Critics of the move said that it set a dangerous precedent and that it
would encourage Israeli Arab villages and towns across the country to
demand that land lost to neighboring Jewish communities be returned to

The decision was another step toward equality for the one million Arab
citizens in Israel. This month, the Supreme Court ruled that an
Israeli Arab couple could not be barred from a community that had been
built just for Jews.

Mr. Sharansky said he had decided to restore 250 acres of vacant land
that had been taken from Kafr Kassem, northeast of Tel Aviv. The land
was seized decades ago for what was described as security reasons but
was later turned over to the neighboring Jewish town of Rosh Haayin
for an industrial zone.

After residents of Kafr Kassem had pressed to recover the land, an
Interior Ministry committee recommended in 1997 that the area be
restored to the village. But the interior minister at the time, Eli
Suissa of the strictly Orthodox Shas Party, did not carry out the

Mr. Sharansky said he had decided to restore the land after the mayor
of Rosh Haayin had rejected a proposal that the area be jointly
developed by both communities as a shared industrial zone.

Kafr Kassem could now use the site to set up its own industrial zone,
benefiting from the income, Mr. Sharansky said, adding that his
decision was meant to promote "social justice" and to help "close
gaps" between Arabs and Jews in Israel.

Mayor Yigal Yosef of Rosh Haayin warned that returning the area to
Kafr Kassem would lead other Arab communities to demand that their
boundaries be redrawn at the expense of neighboring Jewish

"They're asserting historic rights, but if we accept this claim the
whole country will be theirs," Mr. Yosef said. "The whole ideological
basis of setting up a Jewish state is slipping away."

Community leaders in Kafr Kassem, the site of a massacre of 49
villagers by Israeli border guards who were enforcing a curfew in
1956, welcomed Mr. Sharansky's decision.

"The State of Israel owes a special debt to Kafr Kassem because of the
tragedy of the massacre," said the chairman of the local council, Sami
Issa. "I hope this will be the start of a new policy of planning for
the Arab sector that will solve its problems."

Many Israeli Arab towns and villages are short of land for expansion.
Large areas have expropriated over the decades for Jewish communities.
Sheik Abdullah Nimr Darwish, a leader of the Islamic Movement in
Israel who lives in Kafr Kassem, said Mr. Sharansky's past as a Soviet
dissident had made him sensitive to the needs of Israeli Arabs.

"As a person who suffered repression," Sheik Darwish said, "he knows
that injustice breeds hatred."

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