Anti-Palestinian and Anti-Arab Racism: When Will Racism Become the Defining Experience of Israel’s Founding?

Today we are experiencing in the American public space an electric historic occurrence. We are, as a society, finally passing vocal moral judgment on anti-Black racism, which has emerged as an intensely emotive issue.

Anti-Black racism is no longer acceptable in the same way that anti-Jewish racism is no longer acceptable. On the other hand, as a Palestinian, I continue to be baffled and anguished that anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism are still far off the emotive radar for most people in the West — not just their governments.

The historical baggage of Palestine and the Nakba, their enduring horrific impact, lie heavily on the shoulders of Palestinians. Unfortunately, such baggage is not bearing down on Israel, which has flourished and dominated despite being on the wrong side of history.

History works for Israel, not against it, because Israel has falsified history — literally covering it up with forests and rewriting it in Hebrew. Israeli Zionist hasbara (propaganda) has long permeated every nook and cranny of Western popular consciousness, culture and media.

Israel’s monumental lie is its denial that political Zionism, its founding ideology, is racist. Israel thus continues to evade moral judgment on the international stage with astoundingly shameless audacity.

Israel’s lies go beyond the denial of fact. Pro-Israel forces label all those who defend against anti-Palestinian racism, such as BDS activists, as themselves racist. In an Orwellian double-shuffling, Zionists are defining acts against Zionist racism as themselves racist by framing such definitions as Holocaust-related.

Politically and culturally, the memory of the Holocaust plays a crucial role in the identity of Israelis.

We now know that, in its zeal to propagandize its ideology claiming Jews worldwide have a right to a state, the world Zionist movement did little to help save European Jewry from the Nazis, going so far as to offer, in 1941, “to take an active part in the war on Germany’s side.”

There was a time, before Zionism’s “array of untruths and irrelevancies” had evolved and spread like poison among us, when the fundamental rot at the heart of the Zionist enterprise was clearly apparent, as can be seen in Memoirs of an Anti-Zionist Jew by Jewish American Rabbi Elmer Berger, published by The Institute of Palestine Studies in 1978.

Today, pro-Palestinian activists who articulate this truth are being silenced as “radical”, leading to a bizarre environment, even in academia, where pro-Palestine speech is repressed in order to silence dissent against Israel and U.S. foreign policy.

Given the historical facts regarding the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine and its aggressive, expansionist, colonizing character, it is easy to demonstrate that principles of morality and justice should prevail when discussing the plight of the Palestinian people. It is necessary, for Palestinian liberation, to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish supremacist state that deploys a lethal and greedy system of racism and oppression against the Palestinian people.

In the foreword to Ben White’s Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy, Haneen Zoabi, a ’48 Palestinian who served as a member of the Knesset for the Balad party between 2009 and 2019, says:

The argument that the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is … a racist settler project that was founded on notions of ethnic purity is understood implicitly by all Palestinians. We Palestinians were quick to comprehend the relationship between ourselves — as indigenous inhabitants of this land — and those who came to take our place (in every sense) without even considering a common life with or alongside us, and without acknowledging that which had gone before them.

Delegitimizing Israel does not delegitimize the idea, rooted in Jewish culture and religion, that Jews are “a people” for those who wish to identify with this construct. In fact, as Rabbi Elmer Berger, whose book I mention above, believed, Israel possesses dangers to the spiritual message of Judaism, because it is a “racist, discriminatory political sovereignization of Zionism.”

Berger expanded on the fact of Israel’s racism by writing:

“Israel is a state … in which if apartheid is not blatant or as territorially visible as South Africa, ‘Jews’ are nevertheless ‘more equal than others.’ … If racism is a form of government or a structure of society in which national rights and responsibilities are officially legislated upon the basis of creed, color, ethnic derivation, then the Zionist character of much ‘Basic’ Israeli law qualifies.”

Israel’s anti-Palestinian racism today is as territorially visible as the apartheid of South Africa used to be — look at infographics here. It is systemic, embedded in the fabric of its Basic Law, as an infographic about Israel’s ID system reveals.

It is as blatant and deadly for Palestinians as the anti-Black racism being dramatically exposed in the United States today — check out this single recent report by Addameer: Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

How much longer must Palestinians wait for the weight of history to crush Zionism? How long before the “international community” acknowledges its own out-and-out racism and culpability in propping up the Jewish state?

Almost everything Israel has done since its bloody foundation 72 years ago has been in violation of international law and Palestinian human rights. Nevertheless, Western powers continue to dehumanize Palestinian Arabs and regard them as nothing more than “a mere nuisance” or, when they buy into Israel’s hasbara, as terrorists and villains.

When Will the Statue of Theodor Herzl Fall? When will racism, rather than “Jewish redemption”, become the defining experience of Israel’s founding?


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Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Articles by: Rima Najjar

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