Monday, September 6, 2010

Israel escalates assaults on democratic rights

Dear friends,
please find below my article on escalting assault on democratic rights in Israel which appeared in the August edition of Direct Action.

in solidarity, Kim

**Home » Issue 25: August 2010
Israel escalates assaults on democratic rights

By Kim Bullimore

Haneen Zoabi, a member of the Israeli Knesset, was stripped of her parliamentary privileges on July 13 following her participation in the Gaza flotilla, which was attacked by Israeli commandos who murdered nine human rights activists.

Zoabi attacked in the Israeli Knesset when speaking about the murder on the Mavi Marmara.
Zoabi, one of the 10 Palestinians with Israeli citizenship who are members of the Knesset, was stripped of her right to hold a diplomatic passport, the right to free legal counsel in case she faces trial and all privileges related to travelling overseas as a member of parliament. Zoabi also faces threats of criminal charges by Israel’s Attorney General Department for her participation in the flotilla.
Assault in parliament

Zoabi, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara when it was attacked, recounted her experience to the Knesset on 2 June. According to the June 3 Jerusalem Post, Knesset members from both the coalition and opposition parties not only sought to shout down Zoabi, but also physically charged the podium in an attempt to stop her from continuing her speech. When other Palestinian members of the Knesset attempted to prevent the physical attacks on Zoabi, they were also attacked.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Likud member Miri Regev screamed abuse at Zoabi, yelling at her “Go back to Gaza, you traitor”, while another member from the supposedly centrist Kadima party accused Zoabi of being a terrorist. On June 2, Israeli news site YNet reported that during the session, Moshe Mutz Matalon, from the openly racist anti-Arab Yisrael Beitenu party, also praised the murder of the nine human rights activists on the Mavi Marmara, saying, “Unfortunately, the [commando] fighters acted with too much restraint. They left only nine floating voters.”

Before being screamed down, Zoabi stated that she felt it was her moral and political duty to participate in the flotilla and to oppose the imprisonment of 1.5 million people. Zoabi also pointed out to those calling her a criminal, that unlike the Israeli commandos, she did not murder anyone. In a press release later issued by her parliamentary office, Zoabi noted: “Israel, following the international reaction to its bloody attack on the humanitarian flotilla, is embarrassed and confused. Unable to deal with the shock and anger of the international community, I have become their punching bag.”

In an attempt to silence Zoabi and other members of the Knesset who did not toe the Zionist line, a number of Knesset members announced that they had drafted legislation to punish Zoabi for exercising her right to freedom of speech and to prevent her from running in future Knesset elections.
Silencing critics

Zoabi about to board the Mavi Marmara

US Jewish blogger Tony Greenstein wrote on June 8 that the attacks on Zoabi were an attack on the entirety of Israel’s Palestinian Arab population. According to Greenstein, “What we are seeing is not merely a personal vendetta but a deliberate and concerted attempt to humiliate, intimidate and persecute a political representative of Israel’s Arab citizens, who comprise 20% of the population”.

The attack on Zoabi, while a part of the campaign to silence and further marginalise Israel’s Palestinian citizens, is also part of a broader attempt to silence internal critics, both Palestinian and Jewish, of Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. In May, Dr Omar Saeed, a member of Zoabi’s Balad party and Amir Makhoul, the director general of Ittijah (Union of Arab Community-based Associations) were arrested when their homes were raided in the middle of the night. The two men were accused of spying for Hezbollah. Their arrests were not initially made public due to the military censor, a department of the Israeli government, imposing a gag order preventing the media from reporting the arrests. The arrests became public knowledge in Israel only after international bloggers began a campaign to free Makhoul, forcing the Israeli military to lift the gag order.

Amir Makhoul giving a speech before his arrest

On June 8, Saeed was sentenced to seven months’ jail after striking a plea bargain with the state, which charged him with “servicing an illegal organisation” rather than “contact with a foreign agent” and “delivery of information for the benefit the enemy”. In a media statement, Saeed’s legal team noted, “The cancellation of the most serious charges against Dr. Saeed proves that the State Prosecution inflated the charges to begin with in order to justify its arbitrary and illegal actions ... against him”. The flimsiness of the case was demonstrated in a June 8 article published by YNet. According to YNet, while an apparent Hezbollah agent had approached the 50-year-old Saeed in Sharm el-Sheik in Egypt in 2008, Saeed had rejected the alleged agent’s overtures and later ripped up the contact details given to him, rebuffing any further contact.

Two days earlier, on June 6, Makhoul, whose lawyers had been prevented from seeing him for 12 days and who suspected he’d been tortured in custody, was finally able to speak with the Israeli media when his court case began. Makhoul said his and Saeed’s arrests, as well as the attacks on Zoabi, had nothing to do with security, but were part of “a trend of breaking the bones of political figures”.

The Israeli state’s attack on dissenting citizens, particularly Palestinian Arab citizens, is nothing new. Since its beginning, the Zionist state has sought punitive control of the Palestinian population in both Israel and the occupied territories. From 1948 until 1966, Palestinians living inside Israel, despite nominally being Israeli citizens, were subject to military regulations. Unlike Jewish citizens, Palestinian Arabs were subject to severe restrictions on their movement and prohibited from organising politically; Palestinian Arab political associations and parties were banned and Palestinian Arab publications censored.
New campaigns

Since the 2009 Israeli election, which resulted in Yisrael Beteinu forming government with Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, dozens of anti-democratic laws, specifically aimed at further marginalising Palestinian citizens, have been introduced into the Knesset. The last year has also brought a dramatic increase in the attacks, both in the Knesset and in broader Israeli society, on the political and civil rights of Jewish Israelis who oppose the government’s occupation and apartheid policies.

While Yisrael Beteinu, Likud and Kadima have introduced and supported bills to criminalise and jail any Israeli citizen advocating for the Palestinian-initiated boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel, extreme right groups have launched a campaign against a range of Israeli human rights and civil society organisations. In early 2010, a campus-based group, Im Tirtzu, which receives partial funding from the Christians for Israel lobby led by anti-Semitic preacher John Hagee, targeted Naomi Chazan and the New Israel Fund (NIF). Im Tirtzu’s campaign, which included full-page advertisements, sought to depict Chazan and the NIF as treasonous informants. The attack also sought to discredit the many Israeli human rights and civil society groups that had received NIF funding and had exposed the human rights abuses carried out by Israel in the occupied territories, as well as the war crimes it engaged in during its 22-day assault on Gaza in 2008-2009.

In April 2010, a survey commissioned by the Tel Aviv University-based Tami Steinmetz Centre for Peace Research found that the majority of Jewish Israelis held similar positions to that of Im Tirtzu, favouring closing down Israeli human rights organisations that exposed human rights abuses by Israel’s military. According to the survey, more than half of the Jewish Israelis surveyed believe that “there is too much freedom of expression” in Israel, while nearly 58% believed that Israeli human rights organisations that expose abuses carried out by Israel shouldn’t be allowed to operate freely. Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on April 28 stated, “The poll also found that most of the respondents favour punishing Israeli citizens who support sanctioning or boycotting the country, and support punishing journalists who report news that reflects badly on the actions of the defence establishment”. In addition, 65% believed that the Israeli media should be censored and barred from publishing any news deemed by defence officials to endanger state security.

In reaction to the survey, Daniel Bar-Tal, a professor at Tel Aviv University, told Haaretz, “Israelis have a distorted perception of democracy”, and “the public recognises the importance of democratic values, but when they need to be applied, it turns out most people are almost anti-democratic”.


Israel Muse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim said...

While I appreciate that Israeli Collective Delusion Syndrome is a difficult to overcome and some like Israeli Muse will never be free of the Zionist indoctrination they have received, it is still worthwhile taking up one or two issues in his/her post if only to highlight the racist and intellectually bankrupt nature of his/her post.

(1) Nations and Statehood
Writers on the national question note there is actually a difference between nations and states. A nation (of people) can exist without having a state - for example the Kurdish people are a nation, despite the fact they have no state, just as the Palestinian people are a nation of people who currently have no formalised state. As writers on the issue of the "nation-state" explain, the "nation-state" is a relatively modern invention, not coming into existence until around the 17th century (with the advent of capitalism).

Indeed, many nations, particularly those who suffered the brutality of colonisation did not achieve state hood until the mid 20th century. The Palestinian people, like the Algerians and many of the African peoples, are a colonised people. They have not yet been able to throw of the shackles of Israeli colonisation and still are subject Israel's colonial violence against them. As a result they have not yet achieved state-hood. This, however, makes them no less a nation.

(2)In response to Israeli Muse's attempt to channel Golda Meir and the racist claim there was no such thing as Palestinian before 1948, it should be pointed out that is not only a typically racist myth perpetuated by Zionism, it is also factually incorrect.

Palestine and Palestinians have existed as a political entities since medieval times. As Israeli scholar Haim Gerber has noted, Palestine as a territory documented as far back as the Mamluk period in the 13th century. It was documented clearly as a political entity by the Ottomans in the later centuries. Palestine was used in Ottoman documents describe the "balad" or "ard" (Arabic for country or land) the Arab residents of the region lived in, revealing that they saw their country as Palestine and that they were Palestinians (see the work of Israeli Professor, Haim Gerber of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has written extensively on this).

(3) Israel's State Terrorism
Frantz Fanon notes in his seminal book, The Wretched of the Earth, that there is a difference between the violence of the colonial oppressor and the violence of the oppressed and colonised. He notes that the violence of colonialism is far greater than the violence carried out by those colonised, saying "colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state".

Israel since its inception has been a colonial oppressor, carrying out political violence and terrorism against the Palestinians via murder, ethnic cleansing etc, etc. One needs just to read the diaries and comments of some of the leaders of the Israeli state to confirm this (see Ben Gurion, Jabotinsky, Began and dozens more).

Unfortunately, Israeli Collective Delusion results in Zionists such as Israel Muse being cheerleaders for state terrorism and mass murder on a massive scale.

(4) Finally, on a personal note - thank you Israel Muse for your "good luck" wishes, both for my life and afterlife. However, I must point out such exhortations mean little to me, especially given the fact that I am a dialectical materialist and not an "idealist" (as in the sense denoted by Marx and Engels).

As a result, I don't believe in intangibles such as "luck" and/or supernatural beings and/or an "afterlife", but I am more than happy to publish your fruitless attempts to try and guilt trip me.

Israel Muse said...


Kim said...

Why thank you Israeli Muse. Your resort to abusiveness and swearing, while amusing, does little to inform the debate.

Please feel free to delete your comment again if you like, as I completely understand that it must be very embarrassing to have on display, publicly, your total lack of intellect and inability to mount a cogent argument. But thankyou once again for visiting. It has amused me :)

Israel Muse said...

LOL :)