Memorandum on institutionalized racial discrimination by and in the State of Israel
By Elias Davidsson – April 1991 (Revision July 1993)
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1965, has now been ratified by most member states. Article 1 of this Convention defines the term racial discrimination as ‘any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.’
This Convention lays down specific obligations on member states to outlaw racial discrimination and penalize activities of racial incitement. It must be borne in mind that the term ‘racial discrimination’ is not basically a technical term but a term used to encompass all kinds of discrimination based on a person’s being or origin (for which a person is not responsible). The Nazi persecution of Jews has been pursued on the basis of ‘racialism’ and condemned by the whole world as ‘racial persecution’, in spite of the fact that Jews don’t constitute a specific race.
When evaluating whether certain conditions or practices constitute ‘racial discrimination’, it is not imperative that intent is proved. It suffices that conditions or practices have the ‘effect of nullifying or impairing’ equality of rights (see above), regardless of the declared intent of those conditions or practices.
The State of Israel defines itself as a Jewish and Zionist state. All major Israeli parties identify themselves as Zionist. Racial discrimination against non-Jews is grounded in Israeli laws, regulations, practices and permeates all fields of public life. The very definition of Israel as a Jewish State cannot but alienate the indigenous non-Jewish population of the country, which constitutes – depending on definition – between 18% and 60% of the population.
Most non-Jews who are living in or originate from areas under Israeli control, identify themselves as Palestinians. Although most of these are Muslim, there are also many Christian Palestinians and a few hundred Jews, both religious and secular, who prefer to identify themselves as Palestinians.
Zionism took off in Europe at the end of last century. It’s aim was to create in Palestine a state with Jewish majority in spite of the adamant opposition of Palestinian Arabs (95% of the population). But the Zionists were more powerful, militarily, economically and technologically, and succeeded in 1948 in conquering 70% of the area of Mandatory Palestine. After driving into exile most indigenous Arabs from the conquered areas, approximately 750,000 people, and razing most of their villages to the ground – over 370 villages – the Zionists could finally establish a predominantly Jewish State. Only 150,000 non-Jews remained on territory controlled by the Zionists.
Once the Jewish State was established, it began enacting laws to help the confiscation of land from native non-Jews, their political repression and their destitution. This process was described in detail by Azriel Karlibach, first editor and founding member of the Hebrew newspaper Ma’ariv in a shattering article published in that paper on 25 Feb.. 1953 and by many other authors. The Israeli parliament passed laws to make it impossible for non-Jews who temporarily left the area of conflict to return to their homes or obtain access to their possessions that were left behind. A law was enacted that enabled any Jew in the world to immigrate to Israel and automatically become an Israeli citizen. A law was enacted that enabled the World Zionist Organisation and the Jewish Agency to act as a semi-official body, for the exclusive benefit of Jews.
In 1967 the State of Israel invaded Egypt and Syria, under the fallacious pretext of being threatened, and occupied the rest of Palestine (the West Bank and the Gaza strip). Thus another 1.5 million Palestinians fell under its jurisdiction. Its occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories is considered illegal by the international community, as reflected in Security Council resolutions. Israel has rejected all U.N. resolutions that deal with its treatment of Palestinians and began without delay to entrench its occupation and rule over these territories with the aim of annexing them at the appropriate time. There has been no significant difference between the Israeli governments concerning this aim, as construction for Jews in the occupied territories continues unabated until this day. Part of these territories, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, have already been annexed by Israel, in defiance of international law, UN resolutions and the wishes of the population concerned.
The Palestinian people are now divided into three main segments: Those who remained in Israel in 1948 and their descendants (about 800,000 people), who live in Israel proper and have nominal Israeli citizenship; those who live in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967 – Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza strip (about 1.8 million people); and those who live in exile, in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gulf States and elsewhere (an estimated 2.5 million people).
It must be emphasized that, although these people live under different regimes, they are united in their self-perception as Palestinians, that is as people identifying with Palestine.
All three segments of the Palestinian people suffer discrimination at the hands of the Zionist State, but in different degrees.
Perhaps those who suffer the heaviest discrimination are those Palestinians who were ejected from their homeland in 1948 and again in 1967, dispossessed of their homes and land, and rendered stateless. The one and only criterion used by Israel to prevent these people from returning to their homeland and receive equal treatment under Israeli law, is that they are not Jews. Many of them still live in a destitute condition in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, supported by UN relief agencies.
The non-Jewish population living in the Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied by Israel in 1967 suffers not only blatant discrimination but is subject to brutal military occupation. Israel allows settlement of its own Jewish nationals in these areas and thus violates the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Jews settling in the occupied areas enjoy full civil and political rights as Israeli citizens. Their non- Jewish neighbors who are the overwhelming majority of the population of these areas, are denied many civil and all political rights. Their rights of movement, travel, assembly, expression, the right to obtain a car licence, to start a business and to buy industrial equipment, the right to educate children, all of these basic rights are subject to arbitrary rulings by military authorities and cannot be challenged in court. Only Jewish inhabitants of the occupied territories are permitted to carry firearms, which they use to terrorize defenceless non- Jews.
Some 800,000 people in Israel proper are not Jews: Most of them are Muslim but there are also thriving Christian Arab communities in Israel. For many years after the establishment of Israel they were subjected to harsh military control. Much of their land was confiscated by the State and handed to Jewish organisations for exclusive Jewish settlement. They have been subject to massacres, destitution and humiliation. While they enjoy, with Jewish Israelis, the right to vote, they are discriminated against both through law and in practice.
Approximately 92% of the surface of the State of Israel within the Green Line is for all purposes closed to Palestinians who are second-class citizens in Israel. They may neither legally live on such land, nor rent or cultivate it. A direct effect of these policies is that native non-Jewish citizens of Israel are in practice denied residence and membership rights in the collective settlements, kibbutzim. Non-Jews are discriminated against in many other ways: The Government starves local authorities of Palestinian villages and townships of funds; in some communities Palestinians are unwelcome or forced to live in ghettos; Jewish families receive higher child allocations than their non-Jewish neighbors, Palestinian schools suffer underfunding and understaffing (as compared to Jewish schools); Palestinian children are forced to learn their own history and literature as interpreted by Zionists; Israelis who struggle for equal rights and for the end of racial discrimination, are regularly and in many ways harassed by the authorities.
The State of Israel refuses to acknowledge itself as the State of all its inhabitants. Although Israeli governments have never openly endorsed the `transfer’ idea (the forced removal from the country of its native Palestinian population, that is, its ultimate Judaization), Israeli government policies, such as inducing emigration of non-Jews and forced underdevelopment of the Palestinian sector, have since the establishment of Israel borne the mark of this ultimate aim. No serious attempt is made by the Zionist authorities to integrate Palestinian Arabs into Israeli public life. Thus, although comprising approximately 17% of the population of Israeli citizens, no Palestinian citizen of Israel has ever served as Cabinet member, as director of a Ministry or of a national institution, as judge of the Supreme Court, as ambassador of Israel, or in any position of power in Israeli economic or financial life. Even Arab Members of Parliament (Knesset) are systematically excluded from serving in ‘sensitive’ Parliamentarian committees, solely because of their ethny. In this ‘enlightened democracy of the Middle East’, as Israel is often called, a Jew cannot legally marry a non-Jew. Since its establishment in 1948, Israeli governments have consistently rejected demands by the secular public for the institution of civil marriage. Although intimate relations between Jews and Arabs are legal, they are frowned upon by Zionist society as ‘befriending the enemy’, something near treason.
Zionism rejects the idea of a modern secular state, based on equality of all citizens. Zionism predicates a state where Jews have privileged rights. Thus, according to Israeli law, a person born in London, who has never visited Israel, does not speak Hebrew and professes atheism, is granted automatic Israeli citizenship, if he can produce proof from a rabbi that his mother was considered a Jew, while indigenous Palestinian inhabitants who were born to Christian or Muslim parents are at best tolerated but never considered as full fledged partners in Israeli society. Racial discrimination, as defined in international law, is thus not only reflected in Israeli laws and policies, but is grounded in the very nature of Israel as a Jewish state, in public perception and in the Zionist credo.
Any proposal for Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian peace that does not address the issue of racial discrimination by Israel – that is the Zionist nature of the State of Israel – is thus doomed to fail.
1. Uri Davis: Israel, an Apartheid State, Zed Books Ltd., London 1987
2. Sabri Jiryis: The Arabs in Israel, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1976
3. Ed. A.W. Kayyali: Zionism, Imperialism and Racism, Croom Helm, London, 1979 (Writings by Arab, English and American scholars)
4. Abdeen Jabara: The Responsibility of the State of Israel According to its International Commitments; Arab Studies Quarterly, Spring/Summer 1985, p.27-41
5. Ilan Halevi: Zionism Today; Arab Studies Quarterly, Spring/Summer 1985, p.3-10
6. Roselle Tekiner: Jewish Nationality Status as the Basis for Institutionalized Racism in Israel. The International Organisation for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), Washington, 1985
7. Dr. W. Mallison and Sally V. Mallison: The Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency in International and US Law, in Judaism or Zionism – What Difference for the Middle East; Zed Books Ltd., London 1986
8. John Quigley: Palestine and Israel – A Challenge to Justice; Duke University Press, Durham, N.C., 1991
9. Dr. Uri Davis: Israel’s Zionist Society – Consequences for Internal Opposition and the Necessity for External Intervention; in Judaism or Zionism – What Difference for the Middle East; Zed Books Ltd., London 1986