Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Israeli Boycotts

Recently, I have been thinking about my Christian friend, Na’im, who lives in Jerusalem. It is his home. He was born there and has never lived any where else.  He is a citizen of Israel, but not a “national.”  This is hard for me to understand having grown up in America where every citizen belongs to the nation. Not so in Israel. Only Jews belong to the nation.  Citizen Na’im lives every day under separate laws and privileges.

What if I believed the political discharge of every presidential candidate about how wonderful Israel is and its being the “only democracy in the Middle East,” and decided to move there to be close to my friend?  After all, there is enough violence, corruption, racism and poverty in my daily newspaper to cause one to ask if there a better place or is the whole world coming apart?” Of course, I would never move to Israel, but it does raise an interesting question. What would my life be like in democratic Israel?

In the first place, I would soon learn that no where in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel will I find the word democracy.  The founders carefully did not call Israel the Republic of Israel. The idea of a republic carried too much responsibility. So, until this day, Israel has never declared itself to be a democracy, not even in its Constitution. In fact, Israel has no Constitution.  

The next thing I would learn is that I could never, ever become a full citizen of that state. Israel chooses to be a Jewish nation for its Jewish citizens.  It boycotts those who are not Jews.  If I tried to buy a home I would run into a local culture that is actually proud of its racism. I would be told in clear terms that I “did not fit the cultural fabric of their community.”  In fact, there is nothing subtle about the discrimination. I would be told right up front, “We don’t sell to non-Jews.”  Israel not only boycotts individuals, Israel boycotts non-Jewish towns and villages by not providing community services such as equal education opportunities, garbage pickup, health care and public safety. 

If I tried to enter the labor market, I would find newspapers advertising jobs for Jews only. Non-Jews need not apply.  When I wanted to take my grandchildren for a swim, I would find the public pools and parks closed to me.   

I would never be allowed to live in a settlement, even though my U.S. tax dollars paid for their construction, nor would I be safe living near one.  Settlers are into burning. They burn trees, cars, churches and schools. Sometimes, they even set fire to people with impunity.

And where did I get this image of life for a non-Jew in Israel? From David Sheen, a journalist, writer and filmmaker originally from Toronto, Canada, now living in Dimona, Israel, a Jewish citizen of Israel, who holds a greater respect for the ethical dimension of his faith than for the psychotic State of Israel.

I would learn that by law, 93 percent of the land in Israel is reserved for Jews only and bans non-Jews from leasing it. Another law ensures that if an Israeli citizen marries a Palestinian who is not an Israeli citizen they will not be allowed to live together. If I enrolled my child in a school that teaches the real history of 1948, the ministry of finance will withhold funds from my school.[1]   In Israel, no matter what I witnessed or believed, I would learn that I am not free to criticize Israel.

Our politicians “love” to talk about Israel and they see it as they choose it to be.  But if they lived there, even for a short time, they might take a second look. They might even be able to acknowledge that Palestine is occupied and that Gaza is being massacred.  But, let’s not expect too much.  After all, it’s an election year.  

Thomas Are
November 17, 2015

[1] See Donald Wagner and Walter Davis, Zionism, and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land.  (Pickwick Publications 2014) p.48

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