Sunday, June 9, 2013

Israel's Apartheid reality: Gideon Levy's "In Praise of Superland"

Dear friends,
many of you will be aware of the work of Israeli veteran journalist, Gideon Levy.  Levy has long been one of the most consistent voices in Israel to speak out against Israel's occupation and human rights abuses against the Palestinians.

On the 4th of June, Haaretz published in their Hebrew edition what is (at least in my opinion) quite possibly one of the best articles Levy has ever written.    However, as of June 9, an english language translation of the article has not yet been published by Haaretz on their english language site.

My friend Sol Salbe from the Middle East News Service has rectified this and supplied an english language translation of Levy's article.  I have posted Sol's translation below.  

In the article, Levy writes about the apartheid nature of the Israeli state and the hypocrisy of  both Zionists on the left and right who are "disgusted" by the recently breaking news that the Israeli fun park, Superland, was implementing a policy of segregation between Israeli Jews and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship when they visited the fun park.  Levy notes that while many, including Israeli politicians, have expressed disgust at the fun park's racist policies, they have remained silent about the apartheid nature of the Israeli state and the apartheid policies implemented by the Israeli state.

If you have not been following the events at Superland, you can read up on it  here and here.

Since news broke about the segregation at Superland, a number of others stories highlighting segregation and apartheid in Israel have also appeared in the Israeli news, including news of Palestinian Bedouin children suffering from cancer being refused entry to an Israeli swimming pool.  I have included a video of the news report below, which carries english subtitles and also references Superland.

 in solidarity, Kim


 Superland Fun Park

In praise of Superland

by Gideon Levy, Haaretz (Hebrew): 4 June 2013
Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne, Australia

What do they want from Superland's management? It's just a playground, which has suddenly turned out to be a true reflection of society. Superland has dared to be a Mini-Israel as well. If so, what's the fuss? That its executives acted the same way as everyone else? Behaved in the same way as the state? Even a Dreams Park is situated on reality's ground, why should it become Super-Israel?

We have really overdone our demands of Superland. The executives established a separation between Arab and Jewish children, and between Orthodox and secular Jews. That's the reality prevailing in this country. Public outrage and sanctimonious tsk tsk noises from the Left and the Right, the sermons and condemnations amount to nothing more than hypocrisy. All are designed to fulfil our desire to feel good about ourselves. We wish to shatter the mirror set up by this luna-park, in which a apparition of ugliness has appeared. A society which is comfortable with separation, discrimination and racism - which are deep rooted, institutionalised and systematic - suddenly arises to protest and rage just because Superland did what everyone else does.

Israel is a land of separation. Palestinian children can only dream of reaching the sands of Rishon LeZion - and there is no pipsqueak from anyone. [Israeli] Arab (or Haredi) children can indeed make it there, but only apart, as they used to. Israel is a land of separation. Your typical secular Jewish child would never get to meet a Palestinian child, an Israeli Arab kid or an ultra-Orthodox youngster.

Ghettos, ghettos, communities, communities, the land of separation. Apartheid in the Occupied Territories, apartheid-lite within the State of Israel, and that country is shaken by something that is happening in a Ferris wheel. Underneath it, the deprivation storm is raging  but the only place from which we want it to disappear without a trace is on the carousel. We don't want to be frightened by separation on the ghost train. The rollercoaster can skip over that abyss.

This is an insolent demand. It's pure chutzpah to be outraged at this separation and ignore what is happening around it.  It's as bad a chutzpah as they come, for ministers and Knesset members to expressed "disgust", as they approve race and nationality laws. A state that has not established a single new Arab village or town in the Galilee during its 65 years of existence, where the racist "Judaisation" of the  Galilee and the Negev is considered a national goal, where it is just about forbidden to talk about the Nakba, which rubs out the language and heritage of a long-established community, where an "Industrial Zone" in an Arab town is a collection of tyre repair shops and garages, and  does not even have a single Arab university - such a state has no right to protest against luna-park.

A country where Arab teachers only teach Arab students, and Arab children are taught almost exclusively in Arab schools, cannot object to  a fleeting separation. A state in which every Arab person is deemed to be a suspicious object, unless proven otherwise; whose leaders incite and arouse hatred toward the Arab community, should be obliged to remain silent when a private entity does exactly the same thing. Every Jewish child who has been exposed to the public discourse comes to Superland awash with fears and hatred of the Arab child. If so, why would s/he ride on the same seesaw?

How easy it is to rile against Superland - What beautiful souls we are, we are so enlightened, we won't let racism rear its head. But it has reared its head since the day the state was established. It's a state based largely on racism's own principles, from the Law of Return to the Absentee Property Law.  A  Jewish state is by virtue of its definition a nationalist state, who are we to complain about Superland?

Occasionally we encounter a small scandal - a bank branch which doesn't let Arabs open accounts, a rabbi who preaches refusing to let flats to Arabs, or a bus driver who refuses to let Arabs on board - and the country shakes to its seams. Those storms are designed for  one thing --  to blur the point , to conceal the fact that such incidents take place in a broader context. The entire ridiculous protest has a sole purpose: to lie to ourselves that we are not like that.

Leave Superland alone, its executives actually deserve our gratitude: they showed Israelis how they really look like, not in a distorted luna-parks mirror but as true reflection of reality.

Hebrew original:

Palestinian Bedouin Children refused entry to Israeli swimming pool

I was unable to upload the link directly from youtube via the Blogger system.
However, you can watch the original on youtube here

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