|concrete block closing off a street in Hebron|
I spent this year's Independence Day with an unusual degree of patriotic feeling. My wonted pessimism about America and its many ills and failures was balanced by an appreciation for the nobler principles on which this nation is founded: democracy, civil liberties, equal protection under the law ...
Perhaps one of the worst misconceptions Americans have about the state of Israel is the idea that it is "the only democratic nation in the Middle East." It may be the most democratic nation in the region (I reserve judgement) but the very concept of Zionism, on which the state of Israel was founded, is radically opposed to what I think most people would understand as democratic ideals.
Zionism sees the state of Israel as "a national Jewish homeland"--not just "a national homeland for the Jewish people" (a country where Jews would always be welcome) as the British wanted to define it, back in 1948--but "a national Jewish homeland"--meaning, an ethnic Jewish state. (This is not just my forumlation, but how it was framed by a journalist from The Jerusalem Post.)
It is simply astounding that people would be so blind to the blatant racism of this idea. How is it supposedly different from a Caucasian-American declaring that the U.S. should be a nation for people of European cultural and racial extraction ("And we don't want no immigrants comin' in here dilutin' the purity of our heritage")?
Our group spoke with a guy from the leftist Meretz party (they hold 3 out of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament). A student asked how Israel could be so hypocritical as to condemn the genocide in Darfur while denying their own human rights abuses. His answer: Actually, Israel has not been condemning of the genocide in Darfur. On the contrary, Israel has been trying to get rid of the refugees who have come from Darfur and refuses to give them refugee status.
So, in fact, the state of Israel has been chillingly consistent, and no one should be surprised; Zionism is a racist concept.
It's hard to believe that this could be happening in the 21st century, but in Israel (and I'm not talking about the West Bank and Gaza, but within Israel itself) the schools are officially segregated. WTF? We ought to be beyond this by now! Surely I needn't inform you that there is a vast acheivement gap between children and youth in the Jewish versus the non-Jewish school system.
It also appears problematic that the Palestinians seem to want a system that is "separate but equal." That is the basic idea of a "two-state solution": Israel for the Jews, Palestine for the Arabs. (And as for African refugees ... the question remains).
As an American, I most agree with Palestinians and Israelis who will admit that the establishment of two ethnic states is not a "solution" at all, but may be a huge step forward in moving toward a political future where concepts of race and national identity are less important than the recognition of our universally shared humanity.