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 May 2000 - Return to Complete Index    MiddleEast.Org         5/08/00
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MID-EAST REALITIES - Washington - 5-08-00:   Everywhere in the world these days Jews loudly demand their civil and political rights.  And always Israel is there to champion them, even uninvited.  "No discrimination against Jews" is the constant
refrain, and whereever this happens there are loud protests and sometimes law suits.

But when it comes to the State that the Jews themselves have established, even now 50+ years since that was done, many forms of blatant discrimination against Israel's non-Jewish citizens and a peculiar kind of Israeli/Jewish racism, remains both real and dangerous.

They are the Blacks of Israel and in many ways they remain far behind the blacks of the U.S. in achieving their basic rights and true equality.  When there is a Palestinian State de jure, even one that is fractured and controlled by the Israelis, Israel's Arabs are going to find themselves gravitating toward it when its comes to nationalism and identify, if not location.  In the modern state of Israel an Arab and a Jew can't even get married; and segregation in housing and social activities is the rule, not the exception.

But its even worse than that really.  Those who have been leading Israel toward "separation" from the Palestinians in the name of "peace" are actually institutionalizing and legitimizing the discrimination and racism of which we speak and of which they practice.  Now it will be called "they have their state" and we have our state.  But the reality will be that control over everything, especially land, water, resources, and borders, will remain in Israeli hands; while internal "autonomous" matters including the policing and controlling of the Arab bantustans, will be left to the "other state".  In reality they will remain the Blacks of Israel, but the conceptual overlay will be changed.

Just yesterday hundreds of stocking-capped young Arabs waving Palestinian flags and throwing stones "rioted" in Shfar'am, close to Haifa.  Interior Minister Natan Sharansky, who was supposed to be a "guest of honor" for a national day ceremony, was the target of many of the rock throwers.  Police fired "rubber bullets" into the Arab crowds.
As is often the case, information about some aspects of this situation can be found in Israel's leading liberal newspaper, Ha'aretz.  In this case, the story is
about how Arabs are controlled and manipulated at Haifa University, the city and University with the largest Arab population in Israel.  It's the backdrop of course to yesterday's "rioting" and to the growing violence that lies still ahead.

 W H Y   I S R A E L I   A R A B S   A R E   N O T   B E I N G  "N I C E"

  Ha'artez by Joseph Algazy on 7 May:
  When Arab university students held demonstrations just before spring break,
  they were waking up from nearly a decade of hibernation in campus political
  activism. The students were roused by strong feelings of disappointment,
  frustration and anger, which they brought from home - the Arab villages and
  cities of Israel.Their activism is a more extreme reflection of the state of
  Israel's Arab population in general - as with young people anywhere. Along
  with slogans demanding equality, they rallied around nationalist and even
  isolationist chants. They demonstrated over the issues that affect their
  people, including the expropriation of lands, the construction of the
  Trans-Israel Highway, high unemployment and the declining level of municipal
  services due to the financial crisis plaguing the local authorities. And then
  there are also the harsh images of police batons crashing onto pyramids of
  cucumbers in the Tamra open-air market, clouds of tear gas at the Land Day
  rally in Sakhnin, and the rubber bullets that hit demonstrators and Arab
  Members of Knesset in Lod.

  Arab students also face discrimination at university. Some 18 percent of the
  country's college-age population is Arab, but only 6 percent of university
  students are Arab. Army service is used as a criteria for university services
  from scholarships to dormitory housing, excluding Arabs.

  The universities, especially the University of Haifa, where many Arabs study,
  refuse to recognize the Arab student committees, whose elections achieve a 70
  percent voter turnout among Arab students. As a population with a unique
  national, cultural, linguistic and social identity, the Arab students insist
  on their right to their own representative organization - just like Jewish
  student groups on campuses in many countries around the world - and why not?
  Arab students fly the Palestinian flag just as Jewish students abroad, from
  Hashomer Hatzair and from Betar, fly the Israeli flag.  In their statements to
  the media, Arab students voiced pride in their national identity - and why
  shouldn't they?  This does not make them any less Israeli citizens.

  Oppositional political activity, particularly rallies and demonstrations by
  Arab students, are thorns in the flesh of university administrators.  So they
  make rules, like on the Haifa campus, where students must file a request
  eight days in advance in order to demonstrate - in other words, students
  wishing to respond to a burning issue with a demonstration must be able to
  predict it eight days ahead, or make do with a belated rally.  In Haifa, an
  Arabic-language pamphlet may not be distributed unless it is translated into
  Hebrew ahead of time.

  The University of Haifa also has disciplinary committees that issue
  suspensions and fines (whose nonpayment may delay grades) to students who
  overstep the rules limiting freedom of expression.  The area the university
  administration has alloted for public activity is in a remote part of the
  campus, near the so-called "Tree of Tears." About three weeks ago, the
  appeals committee attached to the university disciplinary authorities ruled
  that the choice of this area is unreasonable and violates university bylaws.

  University administrators, the police, extremist right-wing groups and most
  of the media opposed the demonstrating Arab students.  And in contrast with
  the past, this time the students had little support from Jewish leftist
  groups on campus.  This made it necessary for the Arab students to examine
  their part in creating this situation: perhaps those same isolationist
  slogans that they voiced.

  The Arab students' feelings of loneliness and isolation make them more
  radical.  Like other groups that wage a public struggle in Israel, they have
  learned that the government and media pay attention to them and their
  distress only when they issue extreme slogans.  While workers protest factory
  closures by burning tires, Israeli Arab students wave Palestinian flags and
  declare that the flag of the state that oppresses them means nothing to them.

  They are moved to nationalistic slogans because they don't believe that the
  situation in Israel can be changed.  Desperation is never a good counselor.
  And sometimes "they're not even nice" - to echo Golda Meir's description of
  the Black Panthers, a Mizrahi protest group of the 1970s.  Still, it is
  wrong-headed to believe that ferment that is rooted in unresolved problems
  can be quelled by incitement along the lines of the statements by northern
  district police commander Alik Ron, or the batons his officers waved at Arab
  citizens protesting their hardships

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