Blood trounces law in ruling who’s a citizen

Israeli riot police cut off a march by Palestinian citizens of Israel protesting against home demolitions, Ar’ara, January 21, 2017. Photo by Keren Manor/Activestills

Palestinian citizens of Israel are key to resisting the occupation

If Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, those who have grown up in Israeli society and lived alongside Jewish Israelis, were to truly organize and leverage their unique position, it would be impossible to break without ripping off the mask of apartheid.

By Rida Abu Rass, +972
April 17, 2017

Over the years, both the Israeli and Palestinian Left have learned to lower their expectations — to live on crumbs of hope. So who is left to lead peace negotiations? Trump? We’ll see what he has to offer, and probably be disappointed. In Israel there is not a single leader capable or ready to lead a real, broad political movement to end the occupation — setting aside for a second that there is no majority of Jewish Israelis lining up to join such a movement. In Ramallah we have one of the least popular leaders in the history of the Palestinian struggle. So who will save us?

Palestinians in the occupied territories have grown tired of organized resistance. Two intifadas were enough. True, Palestinian resistance is still alive to a certain extent in Bil’in, Ni’lin, in the South Hebron Hills, and elsewhere, but in order to bring about real political change, more organized and far broader resistance would be needed. In a sense, Israeli deterrence has worked, and you won’t find too many people who dare resist the Israeli army these days. Not even armed resistance is a prospect these days. Salvation will not come from the occupied territories.

So that’s it? Should we pack our stuff and find a foreigner to marry? Not quite yet. There is one last source of hope: young Palestinians — citizens of Israel.

Palestinian citizens haven’t yet truly flexed their muscles. Not with all their might, and the key to ending the occupation is in our hands. Whereas Palestinians in the West Bank see Jewish Israelis at checkpoints, we learn, work and shop with them. We have had the privilege of developing an intimate working relationship with Israeli society. Furthermore, we have all been sentenced to live with the rising tide of racism in Israel, whether in civilian clothes or in uniform. Palestinians in Israel are motivated and eager to make real changes. We have a large stake in Israeli society, albeit oftentimes an unwelcome one, and are familiar with the Jewish population.

Marwan Barghouti has been calling for wide, popular and nonviolent resistance to the occupation for years. We should support him. He has been openly calling for a change of tactics, to start a civil rights campaign against Israeli oppression between the Jordan River and the sea, similar to the civil rights campaigns in South Africa and the United States. Palestinian citizens of Israel would have a central role to play in such a campaign. Palestinians in the occupied territories do not have the tools to truly disrupt daily life in Israel, as an effective nonviolent campaign for civil liberties would require. We do. If it is large enough, Israel would not be able to disrupt such a movement without ripping the mask off the true face of apartheid once and for all.

Young Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are especially ready for such a movement. The new Palestinian generation has a larger stake in Israeli society: unlike our parents’ generation, many of us live in Jewish neighbourhoods, work in the heart of the Israeli economy, and are much more exposed to the rest of Israel.

Granted, making significant gains will not be easy without the support of the Israeli Left. Alongside us, however, they will be able to build a democratic majority in Israel. With us, there is a broad consensus for ending the occupation, for creating a Palestinian state, for a sustainable solution. Together, we can lay a path toward partnership, toward an environment conducive to negotiating as equals, toward open borders and mutual recognition of ownership over this piece of land.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship must organize. We must make our voices louder among our representatives in the Knesset. We must utilize existing civil society organizations, and create new forums for internal coordination and communication. The rest of the Israeli Left must also stand up. This could be our last chance to make an organic, internal, mutual move toward ending this conflict once and for all.

Rida Abu Rass is a Palestinian citizen of Israel from Jaffa currently completing a graduate degree at Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey.

Israelis of Ethiopian descent protest against police brutality and racism in Haifa, Israel May 12, 2015. Photo by Baz Ratner / Reuters

Israeli Citizenship Doesn’t Mean You’re Israeli

Here, if you’re not Jewish you don’t belong and aren’t really entitled to anything, even if you are a citizen

By Carolina Landsmann, Haaretz premium
April 09, 2017

An Israeli girl, born in Israel to an Israeli father, will be deported with her mother, an Ethiopian citizen, following the mother’s divorce from the father before she received residency status in Israel.

Is the state allowed to deport a minor Israeli citizen who has committed no crime? Absolutely. So ruled Judge David Mintz, when he denied the appeal to revoke a decision to deport the mother and child (Ilan Lior, Haaretz, April 4).

And the public? It doesn’t care. It’s hard to think of a society whose civil awareness is more degenerate than Israel‘s. The story is complicated, they’ll say – as if not all stories are. An examination of its elements may explain the apathy.

It’s not enough to have Israeli citizenship to really belong to the State of Israel or, heaven forbid, to expect civil rights from Israel. Here, if you’re not Jewish, you don’t belong and aren’t really entitled to anything, even if you’re a citizen. If you’re Jewish, you already belong and are entitled to everything, even if you’re not a citizen.

Even among Jews there’s a (denied) hierarchy of belonging and entitlement. The fact that the child’s mother isn’t Jewish and her father is a Jew of Ethiopian origin doomed her to a fragile civil status. From the moment her father gave her up, the state no longer felt obligated to her.

It seems that Israelis unconsciously use the way a person’s Jewishness is determined to define their Israeliness. Who’s a Jew? Whoever is born to a Jewish mother. The same goes for the question of who is – really – Israeli. The fact that the child is Israeli through her father will always be of less weight than Israeliness “through” the mother. The father’s Israeliness didn’t stick to the girl, despite his Jewishness, because he’s only the father. So from the moment he gave her up, she became virtually stateless. In other words, the state didn’t come to her defence (on the contrary).

If we add the fact that the child’s father is of Ethiopian descent – a community whose link to Judaism is consistently challenged – then we are dealing with the most “complex” case of a “flawed” mechanism passing on citizenship from parent to child. The girl will reach Ethiopia faster on foot than she will get to the circumcised heart of the little Population, Immigration and Border Authority official each Israeli carries within him. It’s hard to imagine a similar case in which an Israeli girl is abandoned by her Jewish mother of Polish origin after she divorced her status-lacking Ethiopian husband, and is then deported with him. A special Israel Defence Forces rescue unit would have been sent to Ethiopia at the prime minister’s command to save one more Jewish soul.

So it’s amusing to hear justifications like “We’d really like to help the Syrian refugees, but it could harm Israel’s character as a Jewish democratic state.” How exactly would it harm Israel’s democracy? Clearly the meaning is that it will harm its Jewish character. It almost seems that “Jewish and democratic” is a code name for a shady ruse we’ve concocted. MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) put it best: “This state is democratic for the Jews, and Jewish to Arabs.”

What’s the difference between states’ unwillingness to take in Syrian refugees today or Jews back “then,” because of some desire to preserve their citizenship borders, and Israel’s unwillingness to be genetically “tainted”? How is there a consensus that the Jewish people is a special case and that preserving its purity makes it possible to be exclude it from the moral imperative to allow healthy immigration or to partake in the world’s responsibility to take in refugees? And why is the desire to preserve at all costs the Jewishness of Israel taken for granted and even seen as moral, while the desire of other states to keep their purity is seen as racism?

There is no doubt a state is entitled to preserve its borders and establish immigration laws. The problem arises when a state hermetically seals itself off and begins to think of itself as a race, rather than a nation – which by nature is a dynamic entity. In Israel, as usual, people use arguments ad absurdum to behave absurdly: since we cannot take them all, we won’t take anyone.

© Copyright JFJFP 2017