Another brave article published in Hebrew by Umar al-Ghubari that I felt I had to translate. The original Hebrew can be read here.
This week the Israeli army radio, Galei Tzahal, conducted a survey which, among other things, polled Israeli Jews’ attitude to full equal rights for Arab citizens of the State of Israel. The results of the survey conducted among 503 Jews show that the Jewish public in this country is almost equally divided on this issue. 45% oppose full equal rights for the state’s Arab citizens, 43% are in favor, 6% replied “it depends” (it’s not clear on what) and 6% don’t know their position on this.
Two interesting points arise from how this survey was conducted. One: that in a militaristic society like Israel’s, it’s not surprising that an army radio station acts and intervenes in the civil sphere without anyone questioning this, and it in fact reflects the obvious overlap between the (Jewish) civil and the military in this society. Two: those conducting the survey question Jews only, and are thus acting on the conception that the Jews in this country have the sole authority to determine whether and how much the Arabs may be equal – and by doing so they’re also continuing to shape public opinion to the view that it’s natural that the Jews are the ones who have the last word.
68 Years of Failure
Because of these deeply-rooted conceptions, which stem from the very definition of the state as the state of the Jewish people, there is no chance of achieving equality in the State of Israel, even if the results of the survey were to show that in principle a large majority of Jews supported it. This is not just about what people want, it’s a question of whether it’s possible. The State of Israel, with its self-definition, its mission, the way it was established and its set of priorities, with its symbols, its name and its national anthem, cannot – even if it wanted to – bring about equality between Jews and non-Jews. The state of the Jews [this is the literal translation of the Hebrew term medinat haYehudim, & also of Herzl’s book Der Judenstaat, generally translated as “the Jewish State” (Tr.)] is by necessity a racist state. It cannot be anything else. This is structured and rooted in its definition. It was founded on Jewish privilege, supremacy and sovereignty. And many of its laws were legislated and many of its goals were formulated on the basis of its preferring of the Jews.
Since the establishment of the state the Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as a small portion of the Jewish citizens of Israel have struggled to achieve equality for “Israel’s Arabs”. It may be assumed that also some of the leaders of the state indeed believed in equality as a value. But the outcome has been 68 years of failure. The discrimination continues, and equality seems very far away. Is it possible that ALL of them failed because they weren’t good enough, or talented enough, or resolute enough?
Isn’t it time, after all these years, to ask what doesn’t work? What makes all attempts at equality fail?
What haven’t they tried and what haven’t they invested in? Energies, time, discussions, speeches, promises, meetings, demonstrations, arrests, violence, people killed, people wounded, strikes, assemblies, reportages, research studies, committees, High Court injunctions, recommendations, resolutions, plans and even budgets, but equality hasn’t come. Nor will equality come. Because how can you do two contrary things at the same time? Discrimination as well as equality – how?
In a state that defines itself, for example, as the state of the men, the women in it will not be equal even if their equality is stated in the first paragraph beneath its definition. A state that is from the outset established for whites will never manage to behave with equality for blacks, even if it claims it does. Even if its white leaders and the leadership of the blacks negotiate, speak together and declare every day and night that they are determined to achieve equality and co-existence between blacks and whites in the state of the whites, they won’t succeed. The discriminatory foundation on which the state is based is stronger than any plan or any budget. This is also what is happening to the Palestinians in the state of the Jews, which in addition to its racist self-definition as Jewish insists on preserving an overwhelming Jewish majority at any price, which means keeping the Arabs as a minority on the outside at any price. Which shows that turning the Palestinians into a minority in the state was not accidental and was not the result of circumstances. This is a practical translation of the meaning of a Jewish state.
Its name too, Israel, is a reflection of this conception. Those who chose the name of the state created, by means of it, structured and deliberate exclusion and alienation of the citizens who are not connected to “Israel”, the great-grandfather of the tribe of Israelites, which the Jews of today attribute to themselves and identify with. How could anyone who is not part of this tribe possibly feel they belong or are equal? Nor is this all. How abusive is it to forcibly impose an Israeli identity on Palestinians who have just been defeated by the Israelis?! And today they’re even being required to not only be Israelis, but to be “Israelis all the way”, as the Prime Minister stated recently.
Change the Ideology, Not the Strategy
Equality in the state of the Jews is unattainable, and the struggle to achieve such equality if a futile one. Even if you will it, it will remain a fable. It’s an illusion. Even if there’ll be an Arab prime minister in Israel, who’ll operate according to its laws, its self-definition and its goals as they are today, this would not bring equality for the Arabs. Because the failure is determined from the outset. It is engraved/legislated in the definition of the state and embedded in the character of the regime. This is the meaning of Jewish rule. Those who in the course of 68 years have not built a single Arab town and at the same time have built hundreds for Jews, and those who instituted a budget nine times greater for Jewish students than for Arab students, cannot claim that this happened by mistake or by inattention. Nor by neglect or a failure of policy. This is a world view. This is an ideology. After all, it’s clear that a Jew is preferred over an Arab here, and it’s clear that this will find expression in every sphere of life, in the state’s budgets, in the attitude of the police, in security checks at the airfields, in the master plans, in the railway lines, etc.
Hence, to change the power relations between Jews and Arabs to a condition of equality, and to eliminate the discrimination, it’s necessary to give up the ideology that produces it. Those who carry the banner of the struggle need to change direction and to demand the establishment of a truly democratic political framework, not a Jewish one, a framework that will not give preference to one race over another. This will pave the way for a struggle that has a chance of implementing the principle of equality. Full and distinct equality, not as a gesture or niceness on the part of the majority – and it doesn’t matter who the majority is, and not as a prize for good behavior on the part of the minority – and it doesn’t matter who the minority is. Equality without buts and without reservations, which eliminates the equation of rulers and ruled, occupiers and occupied, expellers and expelled.
That is where the struggle has to be directed to.
[Umar al-Ghubari is group facilitator, a political educator, and is documenting and photographing the Palestinian Nakba]