Saturday, January 20, 2007

Israeli Apartheid?

Jimmy Carter was lambasted as an anti-Semite for urging Israel not to permit a state of apartheid to creep into its dealings with the Palestinians. Carter didn't actually accuse Israel of that but no matter, using the word "apartheid" in any conjunction with "Israel" is inherently anti-semitic, or so the line goes.

That's why I was surprised to read this article in the Israeli paper, Haaretz, about an incident in which an Israeli settler abused a Palestinian family:

"Amid cabinet members' expressions of shock in response to a female settler seen abusing a Hebron family came this comment by Ephraim Sneh: "The laws of the state are not being implemented in the city with due haste, particularly regarding Israeli citizens." The deputy defense minister's words were meant as criticism of how the security forces impose law and order in Hebron, but they contained the idea that the problem lies not in the "laws of the state," but only in their "implementation."

"To which laws and which state was the deputy minister referring? After all, Hebron has not been annexed to Israel, and ostensibly is subject to military rule. But in the 40th year of the occupation, a deputy minister can disregard such legal nuances and refer to Hebron as if it were annexed territory - just like any Israeli community, Israeli vehicle or Jew in the territories can be referred to as Israel's.

"The annexation for Jews alone has created a dual system under which rule of law is determined based on an individual's or a community's national identity. The "local" population is subject to only the original law, as amended in thousands of military injunctions. The right to choose is reserved for Jews. When it's convenient, they are Israeli citizens in every way. When it's less convenient, like when it comes to matters of higher education and especially infrastructure planning, they are subject to the local law. The latter lags behind the Israeli law, and therefore allows for manipulations.

"The confrontation between the female settler and the Palestinian woman from Hebron was a clash between two parallel worlds: The Jewish woman possesses all the rights of a citizen of a free country, who is entitled to the protection of its security forces. On the other side is a woman from an occupied people, who is also entitled to protection. However, the army of the occupation forgot long ago that under international law, its role is to protect the "protected population." The army has become the settlers' militia and views the local people as hostile elements.

"It's easy to condemn the vulgarity of the settler from Hebron, and it's easy to dismiss the Jewish enclave there as a gang of violent thugs. But they are only weeds that sprout from the rotten ground of the cruel regime that prevails beyond the Green Line. It's a regime based on ethnic discrimination and separation, double standards and an absence of the rule of law.

"Just which law does the deputy minister wish to see applied with "all due haste"? That of the settler woman or of the Palestinian woman? In a place where laws differ and discriminate based on national and personal identities, no law prevails. What do we expect of soldiers and police officers? Not to be influenced by orders that instruct them to act in a discriminatory and selective fashion?

"The outrage over the woman's crude tirade is just a distraction from the reality that prevails beyond the Green Line, where life is ostensibly normal. It won't be long before it's the liberals who are seeking to have the Green Line erased from the maps, once it has been permanently transformed from a symbol of the aspiration for peace to a line delineating the realms of apartheid."

Jimmy Carter an anti-semite or one whose crime is to speak truth to power?

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