Mondoweiss / July 12, 2021
Israel has defined what it means by a Jewish state– one in which the Jew is master and everyone else should be thankful for what rights he deigns to grant them.
By felicitous circumstances (for details, see here), the Israeli opposition brought down the Citizenship Law last week. The law prevents Palestinian citizens of Israel from granting resident status to their spouses who are non-Israeli Palestinians. The rules are different for Jews. A Jew who marries a Jewish woman from the United States will thereby grant her citizenship rights here; if he marries an American Christian, the Home Office will grit its teeth and grant her residency rights; but the law prevented Israeli Palestinians marrying other Palestinians from granting them any right here.
Basically, the law told Palestinian citizens of Israel that if they choose to share their lives with a non-Israeli Palestinian, they should live in exile.
Technically, the law, first passed in 2003, was a “temporary order”: the Knesset knew the High Court wouldn’t swallow such a law if it was permanent, since the violation of rights was too severe. But the HCJ is similar to the Jewish angel of death: Blind and rather stupid. So it could pretend a “temporary order” approved year after year is not a law. After all, it’s not like the law would affect the children of the justices, is it?
There was much blathering about the law being a “security need”. As a rule of thumb, when Israel claims a security necessity, assume it is an apartheid necessity. For instance, the law forbade Israeli Palestinians from marrying Jordanian Palestinians – and Israel had been at peace with Jordan for almost 30 years.
The Israeli Foreign Minister (and the Alternative Prime Minister, because we fucked up our legal system), that mainstay of the extreme center, Yair Lapid, said before the vote (Hebrew):
“We should not hide from ourselves the essence of the Citizenship Law. It is one of the tools intended to ensure a Jewish majority in the State of Israel.”
Lapid’s words mean that Israel needs a Jewish majority; and that, in order to attain it, it would not be embarrassed to harm the basic rights of its Palestinian citizens. What he meant is that there are Israelis who have all the rights, to wit those who came out of a Jewish woman’s womb, and Israelis who have only some rights. There are those who enjoy civil rights as well as communal rights, and those who have only partial civil rights, and should be thankful for the majority for them.
One might wonder what else would Israel do to maintain a “Jewish majority.” Would it, perhaps, carry out another ethnic cleansing, should the number of Palestinian citizens rise above a certain number? We are, after all, speaking of someone who wrote eight years ago (Hebrew) “after the Palestinians, we will have to deal with the Israeli Arabs, because they don’t like us.” Lapid, the darling of Jewish liberals, was, at the time, the Minister of the Treasury, and you can see who he thinks are his crowd, and who are a barely tolerated minority. One should note that Lapid’s party, which by its constitution assigns him the sole right to decide who will be its Members of Knesset, never included a Palestinian as MK. His party contains, however, some Ethiopian Jews, a much smaller minority than Palestinians.
Since Lapid is not quite the Light of the Diaspora, we may assume he didn’t realize what he said: That “Jewish and democratic” is a bluff, because democracy will always yield to Judaism; that Israel is a tribal society, not a national one; that Israel is an apartheid state, and will be an apartheid state by necessity, because its raison d’etre is Jewish supremacy. Jews in Israel have spent immense effort and time over the last 70 years, trying to find another meaning for a “Jewish state”, and failed. A Jewish state is one in which the Jew is master and everyone else should be thankful for what rights he deigns to grant them.
As if there wasn’t a native people here. As if this tortured homeland does not have a long, long history, most of which is not Jewish. As if you can, by the force of a messianic fantasy, to vault over 1,900 years of history and decide they’re not history at all, just an inconvenience. Israel will always be a country of its Jews, always deathly afraid of the other.
The fear is double. The first is the basic fear of the despoiled native who is still with us. Watch the hysterical response to any mention of the right of return – as if Jews have a mythic right of return after 2,000 years and Palestinians don’t have an historical one after 70 years. This fear is common in all settler colonialist societies: The bandit knows he’s a bandit. Hence the fear that gain of the dispossessed with be dispossessor’s ruin: The dispossessor knows he carried out an ethnic cleansing, and he projects what he did on his victims.
The second fear is the deepest Jewish fear of all: That learning to know the stranger will lead to the loss of Jewish identity. After all, most Jews throughout history did precisely this: they immersed themselves among the cultures they lived in, and after a while they were no longer Jews. The basic Jewish fear is, essentially, that Jewish identity is so fragile, any contact with a foreign culture will break it. One must admit that Jewish Orthodoxy is not quite the hottest merchandise in the market of ideas. And Israeli Judaism is essentially Orthodox.
But those fears and insecurities, which Israeli Jews project on their environment, have real victims – the native minority. And as the Jewish state cannot exist but as an apartheid state; and as it cannot contain all of the homeland’s children, it’s time to remove it from this world. It caused suffering enough.
Yossi Gurvitz is a journalist and a blogger, and has covered the occupation extensively