Ep01: Foreigners In Their Ancestral Homeland

 

Ep01: Foreigners In Their Ancestral Homeland

Israel is an Apartheid regime, not just in the West Bank and Gaza, but also within its internationally recognized borders. The right to equality and freedom is not explicitly enshrined in Israeli law as a constitutional right. The contradictory promises of Israel’s Declaration of Independence are the basis of Israeli policy. The Declaration emphasizes the identity of the state as “Jewish,” yet “ensure[d] complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants.” One has to give way to the other in order to establish balance (i.e. equality) in the system. While it opened its doors for the “ingathering of the [Jewish] exiles,” Israel immediately closed its doors to Palestinian refugees. 

As a result of the Nakba, approximately 160,000 Palestinians remained in what became the state of Israel, where they constituted “security risks” with “suspect” loyalty to the state, and still viewed as a “fifth column” or “Trojan Horse.” As such, from 1948 to 1966, Palestinian citizens lived under military rule and were subjected to land seizures, closures, curfews, indefinite house arrests, and were required to get permits for travel. The policies of the military regime were aimed a “Judaizing” the Galilee and remaining Palestinian areas. Israel’s military regime from 1948-1966 is tantamount to its occupation regime in the West Bank.

While the military regime in Israel ended, the apartheid apparatus remained. Treated as second-class citizens and viewed as a “demographic threat,” Palestinian citizens of Israel experience state-sanctioned discrimination in every conceivable facet, including employment, education, healthcare, redistribution of resources, social welfare, political participation, and land. 

This demographic threat was expressed most pronouncedly in the 1976 Koenig report, the first official document detailing a policy of containment and marginalization of the Palestinian minority. One of the recommendations in the report was the “dilut[ion] [of] existing Arab population concentrations.”

In order to maintain Jewish racial supremacy, Israel makes a distinction between nationality and citizenship. Jewish nationality is the only nationality recognized under Israeli law, which means only Jews benefit from Israel’s national institutions, which provide services covering land use, utilities, development planning, housing, etc… This meant that the civic status of the Palestinian citizens is subordinated to the supra-constitutional value of Jewish sovereignty. 

Israel’s structural racial hierarchy not only comes in the form of legislative policy or judicial interpretation but also violence. Two examples of this are the Kafr Kassem massacre in 1956, where 49 Palestinians were murdered simply by breaking a curfew they weren’t aware of, and the murder of 13 Palestinians in 2000 when they demonstrated in solidarity with their Palestinian brethren in the Occupied Territories during the Second Intifada. A government-appointed commission for the latter massacre alluded to the fact that because the state is defined as Jewish and democratic, the Palestinian citizens feel that “Israeli democracy is not democratic towards the Arabs to the same extent that it is democratic towards the Jews.” Let’s just say that’s an understatement. 

Israel’s “Judaization” project is meant to make the conquered land more Jewish, thereby “rede[eming]” it.  As the Koenig report became public and land confiscations increased, the Galilee erupted in mass demonstrations against Israel’s policy of “Judaiz[ing] the Galilee,” culminating in what became known as Land Day (Yom Al-Ard), which led to the murder of 6 Palestinians by the Israeli police. 

Another example of this racial hierarchy is expressed in Israel’s 2008 Citizenship Law, which allows for the revocation of citizenship on grounds of “breach of loyalty to the State.” This standard is broad in scope and doesn’t require a criminal conviction. Additionally, this represents an uneven exchange, that is, loyalty to the state, the values of which are Jewish and democratic, for second-class citizenship. Moreover, under Israeli law, negating Israel’s self-definition as “Jewish and democratic” is prohibited.

Israeli law allows every Jew anywhere in the world to immigrate to Israel and take up automatic citizenship, whereas Palestinian refugees are denied repatriation. The Jewish trajectory of Israel’s identity has become more pronounced recently in the form of a Basic Law titled “The Nation-State of the Jewish People.” Whereas prior constitutional expressions mentioned the democratic aspect, this Basic Law solely emphasizes the Jewish character of the state and completely omits its democratic function. 

One of the ways Israel expropriated Palestinians' lands and homes is through the Absentee’s Property Law, which unjustly legitimized the transfer of refugee properties to the state. Palestinian citizens are 20% of the total population, but own only 3.5% of the land, while 93% is owned either by the state or its parastatal organizations, such as the Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose constitution stipulates that land acquired may not be sold to any non-Jew. The JNF expounded on this principle by stating that its loyalty is given to the “Jewish people and only to them” and “does not have a duty to practice equality towards all citizens of the state.” Palestinian citizens are blocked from purchasing or leasing land on about 80% of the land in Israel on the basis of nationality. 

The second-class status of Israel’s Palestinian citizens are further reinforced by removing the term Nakba from Arabic textbooks as a way of diminishing the collective memory of the Palestinians, which lies in this ongoing catastrophe. In addition, Israel passed the “Nakba Law” which financially penalizes “commemorating Independence Day . . . as a day of mourning.”

The Jewish trajectory of Israel’s identity has become more pronounced recently in the form of a Basic Law titled “The Nation State of the Jewish People.” Whereas prior constitutional expressions mentioned the democratic aspect, this Basic Law solely emphasizes the Jewish character of the state and completely omits its democratic function, which never existed in the first place.