The Israeli Declaration of Independence states that Israel: “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”
This was Israel back in its idealistic days, when it advertised itself as a land of egalitarianism and democracy. Israel now, as Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman puts it, has the most “unequal society among western nations.”
Israeli Arabs are marginalized and discriminated against in Israeli society, though they make up about 20% of the population. Just to highlight a few aspects of discrimination, the State Department’s 2009 Human Rights Report on Israel and the Occupied Territories states that: “Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, Palestinian Arabs, non-Orthodox Jews, and other religious groups continued, as did societal discrimination against persons with disabilities. Women suffered societal discrimination and domestic violence. The government maintained unequal educational systems for Arab and Jewish students.” (more…)
Today, Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbi’s for Human Rights gave a lecture at the Middle East Institute concerning the definition of Zionism and its impact on human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Rabbi Ascherman started off his presentation by explaining the fact that within Israel there is a question over the ideological identity of the state. For quite a while there has been a battle between more right-wing zionists and a more liberal non-zionist left.
Ascherman defined Zionism as the idea that Judaism is not simply a religion, but that the Jews are a people themselves and that their homeland is in Israel. He also explained that this idea existed long before it was called Zionism, and that this can be seen by the fact that for thousands of years the Jewish Holidays and other aspects of the Jewish calendar have been based upon the agricultural calendar of Israel. (more…)
In the media, extremism is often associated with the Muslim world. Rarely is it ever associated with Jews in Israel. However, recent events demonstrate not only how extremism is infiltrating Israel, but how such a trend threatens even more the unstable social fabric of the region.
Just today, while trying to appear as if Israel is enforcing a building freeze in the West Bank, security forces clashed with settlers in the settlement of Beit El over the demolition of an illegal structure. About 100 teenagers tried to block the forces and threw rocks, against the advice of their rabbi. And one officer was injured. The fact that the next generation is so unyielding in their views that they are willing to fight, even their own people, is very worrisome. (more…)
Over 100 imprisoned Palestinian children have reported that they were mistreated by the IDF while in custody. The Palestinian section of the Geneva-based human rights group, Defence for Children International (DCI), has collected the affidavits and is asking the UN to probe the assaults.
The testimonies of the minors follow a fixed pattern. The minors reported that they were beaten, verbally abused, blindfolded, coerced into confession, threatened, and some even reported sexual abuse. Indeed, 97% were handcuffed for long periods of time, 92% were blindfolded for long periods of time, and 69% were beaten. You can click here for the full list of statistics. (more…)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.” But can nonviolence be the answer to the contentious issue of occupation in the West Bank?
Over the past few months, a grassroots boycott of settlement-produced goods has gripped Palestinians in the West Bank. The boycott has recently become more organized, with volunteers (mostly students) campaigning door-to-door, distributing brochures, and burning settlement-products. So far, the boycott of over one thousand products has resulted in the destruction of $5 million worth of settlement products. It is estimated that $200 million worth of settlement goods are sold in the West Bank each year, which is a small portion of to Israel’s $200 billion GDP. Although the economic effects of the boycott have been relatively minimal, it is the social and political effects that are crucial. (more…)
Yesterday, I attended a symposium at the Palestine Center with Dr. Shibley Telhami (Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland) and Dr. Asad Ghanem (professor of Political Science at the University of Haifa) titled “Palestinian Citizens of Israel: Stakeholders in Limbo?”
Starting off was Dr. Shibley Telhami, who discussed the results of a public opinion poll that he conducted of Israeli Arabs/Palestinians in August 2009. In the poll he asked Arab/Palestinian citizens of Israel about their media habits and their views on current issues, trying to asses what news or media sources a person frequented and how that shaped their opinions.
The first interesting point was in response to a question about which Palestinian political party Arab Israelis sympathized with most. The options included HAMAS and FATAH. I found it surprising that 43% of those asked responded “none of the above”, 14% sympathized with HAMAS, and only 6% with FATAH. This might have interesting implications for the upcoming elections in the Palestinian territories in January, and it will be interesting to see whether FATAH will be able to maintain its grasp on power.