Palestinians are not the only target for Israel’s animosity and ethno-centric policies. This doesn’t make Palestinians’ pain any less real or poignant; if anything, it only serves to demonstrate Israel’s ingrained ethnic and religious bias.
Israel continues to wrap itself in an aura of exceptionalism in light of the horrendous crimes the Jewish people suffered under Nazi Germany, yet it has become virtually impossible to deny or even ignore Israel’s ever-more apparent chauvinist tendencies and ethno-religious labeling within its own borders.
World leaders have proven to be painfully slow in coming to terms with Israel’s human rights violations and myriad war crimes, but this doesn’t mean these issues don’t exist.
“Israeli society has been unable and unwilling to overcome an exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism that privileges Jewish citizens and is represented politically by the religious settler movement and the increasingly conservative secular right,” Mairav Zonsteinn, an independent journalist, wrote in a September op-ed for The New York Times summarizing Israel’s disturbing trend toward xenophobia.
If Israel’s open animosity toward all things Palestine has fed political debates, monopolizing much of the world’s attention, the press has seldom moved to look past the plight of Palestinians to recognize Israel’s very own cautionary tale on institutionalized xenophobia and ethnic-based global population control agenda.
Caged by Zionism, Israel has become the embodiment of apartheid, bigotry and intolerance — the very evils Judaism has always professed to combat, denounce and oppose. Israeli officials’ racist slurs stand as testimony to the normalization of ethnic-based discrimination and sectarianism. And while such matters have not graced the covers of magazines, for they would betray state-regulated sectarianism and racism, they nevertheless exist.
“Tied up under the same abject supremacist bow, Israel’s racist stance toward Palestinians and its rejections of all individuals who do not match its ethnic criteria — African refugees, for example — are but a manifestation of Israel’s fascist ethno-centrism,” said Marwa Osman, a professor of Politics and International Relations at Lebanese International University in Beirut, whose work focuses on radical movements in the Middle East, to MintPress News.
“However brutal and violent Israel has been toward the Palestinians, the state has shown equal determination in its repression against all those it understands as posing a threat to its ideal ‘Ashkenazi’ identity. From every angle, Israel is inherently a racist state, and, one might actually argue, a white supremacist state.”
Israel’s white supremacists
If Israel’s racist outlook can be best demonstrated in its determination to persecute, humiliate and brutalize Palestinians — men, women, and children — whose only crime is yearning for freedom and political self-determination within the borders of their land, Israel’s chauvinist outlook extends to all manners and aspects of life both for Israelis and Palestinians living under Israeli rule.
In what can only be described as Israel’s descent into fascism, Max Blumenthal, an investigative journalist based in the United States, exposed in a 2013 documentary the depth of Israel’s bias toward African refugees — or, as the state has labeled them, “infiltrators.”
Speaking on Israel’s stance toward the world’s most vulnerable, Blumenthal noted: “About 60,000 African migrants have arrived in Israel since 2006, fleeing unrest in their home countries. But upon arrival in the ostensibly democratic country, the migrants have faced intense persecution and have been branded as ‘infiltrators’ by right-wing politicians and activists.”
“If they grant me all the tools, in less than a year not a single infiltrator will remain in the State of Israel,” declared Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai to the Knesset on May 23, 2012, referring to his plan to expel all African refugees from Israel.
Likewise, Michael Ben-Ari, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s unicameral national legislature, justified calls for the repatriation of African refugees by arguing, “They have a home.”
“How can you call this expulsion? They’re going home. Every civilized country in the world would do the same,” said.
He then exclaimed, “We’ll turn into a country of immigrants!”
“MP Ben-Ari is so full of his own religious and ethnic importance that he seems completely oblivious to the irony his remark inherently carries. Wasn’t Israel a foreign importation after all? Has it not built its strength from en masse Jewish migration? But then again, there is little rationale to racism,” the Lebanese International University in Beirut’s Osman told MintPress.
Israel’s supra-nationalist slogans and the rhetoric employed by the Ku Klux Klan are as chilling as they are symmetrical. Only geography separates Israeli lawyer and politician Yariv Levin’s cry, “This is our home, this is our country,” and the KKK’s motto “Keep America American.”
“We need to protect Israel as a Jewish State,” emphasized Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon at an anti-African rally in Tel Aviv in 2012, footage of which appeared in Blumenthal’s documentary. Danon’s comments were quickly followed by Interior Committee Chair Miri Reguev’s assertion that, “The Sudanese are a cancer to our body.”
“If ever anyone had any doubts as to Israel’s position on asylum seekers and human rights, Israel’s state officials have been awfully good at bringing it home, and yet no international body has deemed fit to intervene, let alone interject,” Kevin Barrett, a political analyst and author of “Questioning the War on Terror,” told MintPress.
“Judaism’s doctrine of the chosen people has been turned into pure racism and ethnic superiority by the Zionist heresy. Today’s post-Christian Western world has been browbeaten into believing that it must atone for its past mistreatment of Jews by giving Zionists everything they ask for. A backlash is developing, as exemplified by Dieudonné’s huge following in France; but it has not yet reached critical mass,” Barrett continued.
French comedian and political activist Dieudonné M’bala M’bala shocked the world when he introduced his controversial “quenelle” gesture in 2009, a move he explained as a rejection of Zionism. The quenelle is a gesture which has been described as a cross between an inverted Nazi salute and a bras d’honneur (a French gesture for “Up yours”). Branded anti-Semitic by the French government in 2014, the gesture has also been adopted as an anti-establishment rallying cry.
Keen to justify his calls for mass repatriation and the state-sponsored expulsion of all African refugees from Israel because “Jewish identity” needs to be protected from dilution, Knesset member Ben-Ari calmly stated “Israel is a state like no other,” referencing Israeli exceptionalism.
Defined as a racist ideology which promotes the belief that white people are inherently superior to those of all other racial backgrounds, white supremacism has also been defined by Anthony Mustacich, writing for the Centre for Global Research, as a “social reality” born from “the structural inequalities that ensure the continued supremacy of whites over non-whites in all facets of social life.”
Looking at Israel’s narrative on African immigrants, notwithstanding its palpable animosity toward all things Palestine and its disdain for Arab Jews, white supremacism may qualify as more than just an analogy.
Speaking to MintPress on Israel’s motions to legislate against so-called “infiltrators” in order to protect its national identity, Norman Pollack, an analyst on the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism, emphasized that the white supremacist label fails to convey the full gravity of the situation.
“The ‘white supremacist’ label is inadequate. The hatred and fear are more comprehensive — an ethno-centric/authoritarian political culture of such fundamental intolerance (confirmed this past summer by the savage attack on Gaza) that words fail me.”
Referencing Blumenthal’s documentary, Pollack added: “The crowd scene near the start showed such ugliness on the part of the people that I wish Israel would look in the mirror and realize how much it has falsified what Judaism at its best represents — including, here, welcoming the stranger, comforting the oppressed and suffering.”
Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews
Yet Israel’s animosity is not just directed at non-Jewish communities. Jews themselves also stand in the line of fire.
Rachel Shabi, an Israeli journalist and writer of Iraqi descent described in her book, “Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands,” how since its very inception Israel has associated native Jews or Sephardic Jews with the “enemy” — the Arabs — thus adding ethnic filters to its already fragmented understanding of Jewish identity.
Shabi also points to the many instances of humiliating and sometimes horrifying discrimination targeting Moroccan, Yemeni, Tunisian and other Jews as they found their lives and beliefs crushed by the prevailing Ashkenazi culture. In one particularly shocking passage of her book, Shabi recalls how North African Jews were only allowed into Israel after they agreed to submit themselves to disinfectant sessions.
Echoing Shabi’s concerns over Israel’s negative, and at times aggressive, outlook on Sephardi Jews’ Arabic heritage and therefore obvious cultural ties to the Middle East, David Shasha wrote in Mondoweiss in January 2013:
“While it is certainly true that Zionism has acted in racist and imperious ways vis-à-vis the native Arab culture of the Palestinians, it is equally true that this Arab culture is not limited to Muslims or Christians, but is shared with Jews who are native to the region … Being an Israeli Jew means being an Ashkenazi Jew. Arab Jews continue to be invisible; without any voice in the discourse.”
Speaking to MintPress from Jerusalem, Rabbi Hirsh of the Neturei Karta — a Jewish organization which has devoted itself to denouncing Zionism and promoting religious tolerance, compassion and solidarity among all communities — denounced Israel’s hypocritical double standards policy toward ethnic and religious minorities.
“Israel’s claims that it is democratic, moral and compassionate are lies,” Hirsh said. “Such claims only run skin deep and quite clearly do not apply to whoever bears a physical resemblance to the so-called abominable Arabs.”
“Israel has a very narrow understanding of what constitutes true Judaism,” he said. “Zionism is based and defined by exclusionism; based not only on one’s religion but also ethnicity. Sephardi Jews stand to suffer state oppression just as much as all other Arab Christians or Muslims on account of their physical resemblance to those who have been labelled ‘enemies of the state.’”
In a June report in Al Monitor, Daniel Ben Simon, a former Knesset member for the Likud party, covered the issue of Jewish ethnic rivalry, pinpointing the rise of animosity against Sephardi Jews within Israel’s borders to the increasing pull of Ashkenazi ultra-orthodoxy on Israeli society.
Yet if intolerance runs deep, at times pitting communities against one another based on ethnicity alone, it is Israel’s openly racist narrative against African refugees which is most disturbing and most telling of the ideological forces which move and shape state policies.
Forever the victim, never the perpetrator, Israel has many enemies and existential threats to its bows — all of which it uses to justify its questionable policies, as well as its officials’ own racist admonitions against unsuspecting African refugees.