Divisions in fighting Racist Divisions

Wednesday, 22nd April 2009 at 8:00 UTC Leave a comment

The UN on Monday was quite eventful, most notably because of the walk out triggered by Ahmadinejad. But whilst I find him detestable, and have am proud to have campaigned (if in only a small way) against his regime, the point he made needs much more consideration. For the defining issue of racism in our time must surely be the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The concept of a racist state is a bit of a cobbling together of terms, and so it would be worth trying to understand what one might mean by it. Essentially a racist state is any state, seeing as by definition, a state is set up to create an “in” group and an “out” group, i.e. those who are welcome and those who are not, those who it will proclaim to deliver good things for, and who it will seek to remain ambivalent towards. But this rather neglects that enormous difference between the majority of states and a state like pre-Civil Rights America or Aphartheid South Africa.

In both these cases, the black was the second class citizen. Top level jobs, indeed any job of substance, was kept aside for white people. Not only was there an included (the resident, the national, etc.) and an externally excluded (the foreigner), there was also the internally excluded. Israel internally excludes millions, whether as Arabs, be they Arab Christians, Muslims, or Jews pre-dating 1948, who are themselves an enormous embarrassment as they interrupt the narrative that Israel wants to set up (i.e. a land hostile to Jews, despite hundreds of years of co-existence). There are also the issues of Western Jews being treated more favourably to Eastern and African Jews.

So even before we bring the other side of the Green Line into the equation, Israel is based on the racist premise that some, because of their heritage, their lineage, moreover, their pedigree, are more entitled to the rights and ultimately the fruits of the Israeli state project. But there is also the problem that Israel is set up in opposition to that which is Palestinian.

The perfect solution to the Israeli problem of dealing with the Palestinians is not, as some might proclaim, to kill the Palestinians, as this would deprive them of cheap labour. Instead, it is to assimilate them as the lower caste of Israeli society, without a trace of the Palestinian identity.

But this is still ethnic cleansing. When Netanyahu talks of Economic Development for Palestine, we can be reasonably sure this is what he means; forget self-determination, join Israel and prosper as a subject of a regime which cares not for who you really are. Live at peace simply because you know longer claim what is rightfully yours and have disowned those around you. Thankfully the Palestinians have more morals than to play along with this.

This does not justify removing such a state from existence, but on the other hand, it doesn’t bode well for those who want a one state solution in which Palestinians can feel equal. Will Israeli employees really start employing proportionate numbers of Israelis and Palestinians, who, as a Diaspora population, are immensely educated, in some cases much more so than the Israelis doing important jobs in the region? Will the Palestinian flag fly alongside the Israeli flag? Or is the assumption merely to hand Palestinians Israeli citizenship in return for a renunciation of all things Palestine? How will we be sure of the safety of the Palestinian identity into the future?

The answer is that we can’t. A one-state solution is much more likely to be a patriotic whirl of Israeli triumphalism than a declaration of multiculturalism. But where Ahmadinejad has one set of reasons to oppose such an outcome regardless of how perfect or nightmarish it turns out, any sane person must have a very different set of reasons, and one which does not wish to diminish Israel beyond its 1967 borders or below the standard of living the Palestinians themselves can attain.

And so the next question must be a call to reasoning on the need to end Israeli racism. The fact is, successive Israeli governments have shown racist attitudes towards Palestinians both within and outside of their borders. The fact is, a solution to this cannot be won through the Israeli parliament or through the UN. It must come through confronting individual Israelis with the racism they are a part of (note, part of, within, rather than perpetrating, behind).

It would be worth noting that any attempt to define anti-Semitism as racism would be misguided without also stating clearly that Zionism is a form of racism too, seeing as it promotes a worldview which also sets the Jews on a pedestal, albeit a rather different one. The fact is, racism can go both ways, and until Israel and governments in the West realise this, no real improvements can be made. After all, how many of the states represented in Monday’s walkout were once supporters of South African Apartheid?


Entry filed under: Iran, Middle East, News, Racism, United Nations.

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