Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is zionism racist

Delegates at yesterdays UN conference on racism in Geneva walk out during Ahmadinejad's rantings

I am glad that Daithí Ó Ceallaigh, Ireland’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva was among those who walked out during Ahmadinehad speech yesterday. And frankly I think the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic were right to boycott it in the first place. The 2001 conference of the same name that was held in Durban South Africa turned out to be a complete joke as the worlds worst dictators accused Israel of being the most racist country in the world as well as a prime human rights violator. It is a perverse manipulation of reality for an African dictator, most of whom promote horrific sectarian and tribal violence in their own countries to accused Israel, a country whose fiercely independent judiciary ensures that all persons, political and military obey the law of being a racist country.

The reason the US and others decided not to attend the conference at all was was an introductory line in its draft declaration that "reaffirms" the text adopted eight years ago. While the Geneva document excludes references to Israel and the Middle East, the 2001 text includes six paragraphs on those subjects (Reuters). In other words it was feared that Geneva would be a repeat of Durban. Ahmadinejad's words were certainly in line with Durban.

"Following World War Two they resorted to military aggressions to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering."

"And they sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the occupied Palestine."

"And in fact, in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine."

Is Zionism racist ?
The reason the Durban conference caused such an uproar was the attempts by the delegates to equate Zionism with racism in a repeat of the infamous UN general assembly resolution in 1975. Once it appeared that it might be on the agenda again in Geneva the US, Israel and others said no thank you. I take Zionism to mean the concept of a Jewish state in Palestine. I do not believe that this is a racist concept. I believe that the Jews, just like the Kurds and the Palestinians and the Tibetans are entitled to a homeland. However I do accept that the idea that any Jew from anywhere in the world is entitled to migrate to the holy land and live in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank simply because of a biblical connection where as a Palestinian that lived there for generations has to give up the right to return is a bizarre concept with racial connotations. However I have enough moral clarity to recognise when a regime is using Israel bashing or equating Zionism with racism to distract the world from their own short comings. So should all right thinking people.


Zaki said...

You know my opinion on this..Israel a racist state? ..

It is a joke...

I am not saying Israel does not have its problems with minorities but to compare it with Sudan's Darfur or most Arab countries minorities is beyond me..

Arabs in Israel are better off than Arabs living in their own countries, I am saying this in terms of quality of life and freedom of speech and movement..

In fact the representative of Israeli consulate in San Franscisco is an Arab Bedouin in Origin. The Druze, the Bedouin Arabs of the Negev, the Fellasha of Ethiopia, the Yemenis are are full citizens....this without counting all the new Easter Europeans like Romanian, Russian, Moldovian,

It is so bad to label Israel a racist that it does not even make sense...

Ted Leddy said...

Well said Zaki

As I said its a perverse manipulation of the truth. I wonder how many of the Israeli bashers know the story of "operation Solomon" in 1991 when the Israeli air force airlifted some 20,000 black Ethiopian Jews (Felasha) to Israel. Doesn't sound like something a racist country would do. And as you rightly pointed out institutional racism against Israel's Arab minority is forbidden.

Zaki said...

True about the Fellashas which is by itself an indication of the inclusiveness of the Israeli culture. The case of the Fellashas is important because they are afterall black Africans, which has some association about the race issue.

But let's do an mental exercise. This time let's entertain the issue that it is not based on race but on religious affiliation. This means that Israel could be "discriminating" (or racist for lack of a better word) based on being Jewish. The non-jewish population should be living in utter poverty, marginalized, deprived of right and representation and so on because of discrimination...This scenario is not even supported by the data. There are Arab elected members of the Knesset who fight for their constituents for education, jobs, and the whole rights and privileges that the Israeli constitutions entitled them to. It does not make sense at all. Furthermore the majority of Israelis are non-religious. It is being an Israeli citizen that counts and not being Jewish in the literal sense meaning religious.

Of course, one cannot deny the fact that at the beginning of the state, jews from non-european lands (Sephardim, Mezrahim, and Yemenim) were discriminated against by the Jews from Eastern Europe (Ashkenasim), although I am not sure it was intentional. It was mostly institutional due to the differences in education and cultural capital between the two groups. Nowadays one cannot say this anymore, the Likoud party has drawn its strenghts from in the 1970's and still is from the non-european jewry.

The case that I eluded to earlier about Israeli from Arab background are now showing up in major ministerial and diplomatic positions. The army conscription is also a unifying force regardless of nationality or religiouos affiliation.

I beleive that the Israel bashers should start to think seriously about their undefensible claims of racism and Zionism. They should think of the palestinian problem not as a racial but a political issue. And nobody (even in Israel) in his/her right mind is going to disregard with this. Which means that accomodations and negociations need to be made to solve the palestinian issue. Instead what we hear from Hamas and their proponents is a call for war which they envelop with the term resistance. There is not even a recognition of Israel to exist. Look at Hamas and even Fatah, they say one thing to the UN and another to their own people. And it is all recorded for all to hear and see. How is one going to make a commitment to peace under such conditions...

Hellbrain said...

Of course Zionism is racist. But then again that's what makes it so much fun.

Ted Leddy said...

You are correct on all counts Zaki, particularly when you highlight that non Jews in Israel have their rights constitutionally protected.

The evidence speaks for itself. The only instance where there is a case for institutional Israeli racism is in the West Bank where Palestinians and Jewish settlers live in completely different worlds as a direct result of Israeli policy.

Interesting point you have made about discrimination among Jews of different origins. Apparently class in Israel is roughly divided between upper class European and working class Middle Eastern Jews. I supposes Israel like all countries has its own social issues.

As you say I wish people debating the conflict would focus on the issues rather than ranting about Israeli racism.

Ted Leddy said...

Thanks hellbrain

Love the blog. You should check out "The Irish Sentinel" on my blogroll... similar stuff.

Brian G. said...

Is Israel really an equal homeland for Jews and for Arabs? I don't think if I were an Arab Israeli I'd be likely to think so.

I have serious doubts about the courts but even if they're ok, and even if the laws themselves appear to tick all the equality boxes, the actual situation there is not good at all. The nation itself is founded and the country run on a racist idea - that Palestinians and their rights are worth less than Jews and the rights of Jews.

Testimony of Israeli soldiers themselves recently confirmed this in regard to the incursions in Gaza earlier this year, but the supposedly bias-free Israeli authorities conveniently swept that all under the rug.

Zionism says God has given the land of Israel to the Jews - maybe not racist strictly (re skin color), but it does the job. Nationalism in all its forms is a type of racism I suppose, but the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians since 1948, and the continued dispossession of Palestinians by religious fanatic settlers in the West Bank (as you yourself refer to, Ted), and the building of what's justly been called an "Apartheid Wall" between Israel and the West Bank, all point to Zionism as a particularly vicious strain of nationalism and, it seems to me, worthy of being called a racist ideology.

Zionism is what keeps Israel trying to "win", and avoid seeking a political resolution. It should be denounced internationally.

Even if the criticism is coming from greater offenders, doesn't make it less true. And boycotting the UN conference - if simply because Zionism was to be discussed - smacks of the "special consideration" received by Israel for far too long. What nation has not had to face up to unfair attacks, much less ones that are worthy of discussion? Clearly the problems with Zionism are a matter of definition (e.g., you can't argue with the simple desire for a homeland), but my point is that, in its excesses, it SHOULD be denounced. This heads-in-the-sand business from Germany, the US, and others is a disgrace.

Ted Leddy said...

Well brian

Thanks for the comment and its good to have you on my humble blog.

I agree with you that an Arab Israeli may feel that he is not an equal citizen. Many Israelis are blatantly racist toward Arabs. I witnessed this on my one trip to Israel. This however does not shock or surprise me. Arabs and Israelis have been killing each other for 60 years so its hardly unusual that the Arab minority left in Israel feel marginalised.

The important thing to note in my opinion is that the racism (which of course is wrong) is not institutional. Arab Israelis have all the same legal rights that Jewish Israelis have. But as I point out in the post its a different story in the occupied West Bank. Separating Palestinians from their own land in order to build Jewish settlements is racist policy.

You're final point is very good Brian. It comes down to what we both think zionism is. As I said in the post I think the concept of a Jewish state in Palestine is sound. But if zionism is used to seize adittional land, build Jewish settlements and disposes Palestinians then we see a racist side to it.

"Even if the criticism is coming from greater offenders, doesn't make it less true"

This is true, but with all the ethnic cleansing and mass murder that goes on around the world that is caused by genuine racism, it is wrong to prioritise and emphasise zionism. Thats my two sense anyway.

Zaki said...

I think Zionism has been given a truly a pariah status. The latest commentary attests to that. Zionism can be construed as a nasty ethnocentric type of nationalism if one focuses ONLY the fanatically religious nuthead who still think that God has given them the ancient land of Israel. This is ridiculeous of course. It is a misplaced claim. But why focus of land garbing "foreign" settlers who made Aliya in recent decades..

There are several questions that need to be raised in order to shed proper light into this misplaced claim of zionism as an official policy of the state of Israel.

What is Zionism anyway? Is Zionism (the way it is describe above) an OFFICIAL policy of the state of Israel? What are the historical antecedents that led to this land grabbing tactics? Are they condoned by ALL Israeli democratic forces?

These questions should given people some ideas of the complixety of the situation. Zionism to the majority of Jewish people is an appeal for a homeland after thousand of years of persecution and mass murders. It is a modern area idea triggered by the worse forms of anti-semitism that Europe has ever experienced. That appeal has been fulfill by the UN resolution to create a state for the Jews to live and to be autnomeous. The creation of the state is similar in ways the political forces craved out nation states in the Middle East and Africa, like Iraq (what was Iraq before? a nation), like Algeria (what was Algeria before French colonial intrusion) Tunisia (?). There is no point in trying to discuss the cases of some coutries in Africa, like cote ivoire, Liberia, Guinee Bissau etc...

Again what I am advancing is a reconsideration of what we mean by Zionism. It has now been demoded to a racial policy to discrimination, marginalization and exclusion. Again I am not denying the fact that there are elements in the religeous political right who want to take all the land of the Westbank and called it the Greater Israel, and they are still moving in settlements but for the majority of Israeli citizens this is suicide and a losing case.

Israel has always been committed to a two state solution. The settlement issue should not be viewed as an official mandated policy of the state of Israel althought it appears to seem so since there were no obstacles made to restrain the settler movement. One has to take a historical perspective as to what led to this situation.

One has to only reflect of what the Middle East would have been like if the Arabs did not start off their war to drive the jews out to the sea in 1967, then in 1973. Under these circumstances one understand that Zionism is more than just the reductionist claim that it is only an expansionist ideology..

Cities are being build everywhere is the world, they can be destroyed by eathquakes, sunamies, and by war....in the case of Israel's settlement cities, they can be given away (Gaza), or sold or even integrated as part of nation state build up IF the genuine peace is reflected on and made tangibly possible...

And the rest is history....

Ted Leddy said...


"But why focus of land garbing "foreign" settlers who made Aliya in recent decades"

I agree entirely. The word Zionism is associated with the uglier side of Israeli policy. People should make an effort to understand its more basic and practical applications.

"Zionism to the majority of Jewish people is an appeal for a homeland after thousand of years of persecution and mass murders". You hit the nail on the head with this one Zaki. Why do so many have a hard time accepting this ? I for one can fully appreciate the joy and pride that the Jews have for their country and their desire to defend it. For the first time in 2000 years the Jews of Israel no longer have to live with that nagging doubt in the back of their minds that the people of the nations in which they reside might one day turn on them. I do not understand why people cannot grasp this and are so eager to discredit the entire concept of a Jewish state.

"The settlement issue should not be viewed as an official mandated policy" I do think you are going a bit easy on successive Israeli governments regarding the settlers Zaki. If settlement expansion is against government policy then it should be forcibly stopped.

Brian G. said...

"If settlement expansion is against government policy then it should be forcibly stopped."

This last bit of what you say, Ted, is very important. Because, apparently for strategic or political reasons, the government of Israel does nothing about settlement expansion (in fact they build infrastructure in aid of it). What is this but institutional racism? You don't have to write exclusionary or discriminatory laws to be institutionally racist, if your government is regularly taking executive decisions that serve racist ends.

Yes, the West Bank is occupied territory and not within the bounds of Israel itself, and this allows Israel to defend its supposedly unbiased institutions. In addition to settlement, take an issue such as water rights in the West Bank - there is discrimination there not based on any military necessity but on the basis of race or religion. I can see no way for Israel to refute the charge that it is institutionally racist when it comes to these issues.

Whether this policy is to be considered part and parcel of Zionism can be debated with all the historical arguments referred to above, but the more important point is that Israel really ought to be on the agenda of any serious UN conference about racism.

If Israel is serious about being a shining democratic beacon of the rule of law and fair play in the Middle East, it cannot at the same time be so fond of finger pointing with those "yeah, but..." arguments that so-and-so did that first, etc., that were used to encourage the conference boycott. It has to get its own house in order first, taking a page from Obama's book. That way Israel would do itself a favour, because then it would really become possible to separate the anti-Jewish sentiments (racist) from the anti-Israeli (currently justified).