Tuesday, January 24, 2012

National Suicide in three acts

Stay out of my bedroom  
National Suicide (1)

Many towers are concentrated in a single corner, on the eastern side of the Kirya  area of Tel Aviv. High in the civil government tower sit the Interior Ministry officials, who at their discretion decide fates, a residence permit to the one and a deportation order to the other. Across the street, the tower with a helipad on its roof is the Ministry of Defense where Army officers are running the lives of millions of people and define for the Palestinians the order under which they would live and send armed soldiers to enforce that order. And across the junction – the commercial Azrieli towers, with their shopping malls and restaurants and observation balconies, symbol of the flourishing  Israeli economy which leaves so many behind, the economy whose captains have no interest whatever in social justice, neither before nor after the mass protest of last summer.

A hundred Jewish  and Arab  activists gathered  last week  at the foot of these towers there, at the at the initiative of the Tarabut Movement, to protest the ruling of  the Supreme Court defining the reunification of (Arab) families to be "an act of national suicide". At the foot of the towers they stood and chanted protests and faced the burgeoning traffic on the roads with their signs: "Supreme Court confirms Apartheid", "No to the Supreme Court's racism, yes to family reunification", "It is not for the Supreme Court to decide with whom we shall live", "Family unification is not national suicide - national suicide is the denial of fundamental rights".

"I am Sumaya, Israeli citizen and resident of Ramle," said  the voice on a small hand-held megaphone which drivers whose windows were open could hear, through the hubbub and  honking.  "I am one of thousands of people who suffer from this law, and the Supreme Court justices decided that we will continue to suffer. Fourteen years I am living with my husband, who came from Gaza, and he never got any permanent status in the country. Each year he must extend the permit once again. We never know if this year they will renew the permit again or suddenly just cut it off. He is not allowed to work in Israel, he can't get a driver's license. After hearing on the radio the decision of the judges, my daughters asked 'Will they now deport Daddy?'. We have four daughters. I am a citizen of Israel, it is  nobody's business who I fell in love with and who I want to share my life with. By what right does the government enter into our bedroom? What right  have they?"

Foreign country, or what?
National Suicide (2)

So who are these people who want to come and live here with their spouses and children and are blocked by the Government of Israel and its Supreme Court? There can be no doubt, if one listens to cabinet ministers and Knesset Members and newspaper columnists speaking on the subject: They are foreigners, people from outside Israel, residents of "a hostile country or entity" who want to emigrate from their foreign country and come to live within the borders of Israel. And it is well known that every nation state has the right to define which foreigners will or will not be allowed to enter its bounders. Indeed, comparisons are made with some European countries where xenophobic parties were able to gain influence on governmental immigration policy and impose all sorts of limitations (though in none of them was any such piece of legislation enacted...)

No doubt, then: as far as those ministers and Knesset Members and columnists are concerned,  the State of Israel ends at the Green Line, and beyond that  line is another country altogether. No doubt? Actually there is very much doubt about that point, because the same people can also be heard resolutely declaring that the entire Land of Israel is ours by divine and ancestral right, that it is a good fine act to settle there and that Ariel and Kiryat Arba are Israeli cities just like Tel Aviv, which is why Israeli theaters must perform at their Halls of their Culture "just like everywhere else in Israel".

Indeed, when it comes to Israeli citizens (rather, Jewish Israelis) who want to cross the Green Line eastwards and go to live in a settlements or marry a  resident of a settlement, then it's not really a foreign country. They need not ask a special permit for family unification, in fact they need no permit of any kind. Also the very same Supreme Court ruled, just a week earlier, that the crossing  of the Green Line by an Israeli (Jewish) citizen, so as to set up residence in a settlement on the other side, is an act of daily routine of no special importance, indeed not disqualifying him from being a Supreme Court Judge. "National suicide"? What the hell are you talking about?

In short - when it serves a purpose the Territories can be a foreign country, when it serves another purpose they can be an integral part of Israel. When the settlers want to vote, then the Israeli Electoral Law applies and provides for them voting to the Knesset (but not their Palestinian neighbors, of course) . When they do not want to pay a minimum wage, they can declare without blinking that the Israeli Minimum Wage Law does not apply because 'the settlement is not part of Israel' (this contention, at least, the courts rejected ...).

Such zigzagging is no coincidence-it is a systematic policy.

When there is need to say that the occupation is not so bad, in fact there is really no occupation any more, the world is told that the Palestinians already have their own government and a parliament of their own and that they are running their own affairs. But when needed, the IDF can go to every town and village, at every time of the day and especially the night, and detain anyone they want, and bring them in for an interrogation under moderate physical pressure in the cellars of the Shabak Security Service. (Last week the Speaker of the Palestinian Parliament himself was taken from his home at a late night hour, another routine detention in a night of raids by our boys in uniform.)

When a Gazan needs urgent medical treatment, it is explained that  Israel disengaged from Gaza and is no longer responsible for its people and they have no entitlement to medical treatment in Israel, at the most a humanitarian gesture of mercy might sometimes be approved (provided the patient does not die in the meantime, while the topic is under discussion...). But when a ship or  even a small boat tries to get to the shores of Gaza, Israeli Navy ships hurry to block its way, as no one should be allowed to violate our sovereignty and our territorial waters. American and European activists who are taken off such Gaza-bound boats in the middle of the sea are brought to court and remanded in custody, on charges of "attempted illegal entry into Israel."

In short: eat the cake and have it.

The cat came, and ate the goat (Chad Gadya*)
National Suicide (3)

The determination that the reunification of (Arab) families constitutes national suicide was contributed to our public agenda by His Honor Asher Grunis - the man who is due to become the next President of the Supreme Court, under  a  special law to that effect enacted by the Knesset two weeks ago. Two ministers of justice, one after the other, had worked very hard to achieve this result. For years they waged a hard prolonged struggle, in daylight and darkness, the Knesset and cabinet and the media and on discreet committees and commissions, straining with all their might to force the judges and change the composition, until they came at last to this fine appointment. It was the previous Justice Minister, Daniel Friedman, who embarked on the task - and   his successor, the current minister Ya'akov Ne'eman, reached the finishing  line.

As he wrote on the pages of "Yediot Ahronot", former Justice Minister Daniel Friedman is very pleased with the new Supreme Court ruling, and of course he too thinks that family reunification is national suicide. If he has any reservations about the Court's ruling, it is in criticizing the judges on clinging to the argument that somebody from the reunified families might engage in acts of terrorism, and that they were too shy to state openly that they were protecting the demographic balance in the Jewish-Democratic State of Israel.  Entry of Palestinians into the country is in any case a serious danger, says the eminent jurist Friedman. Even if they use no violence and no terrorism, still  they may try to change the character of the country, and this too is a type of warfare.

Still, there is one aspect in which Daniel Friedman is a bit of a Liberal. Toward migrant workers he proposes a bit different attitude. "In my humble opinion, there should be no difficulty in the absorption of foreign workers and of their children who were educated in Israel. They want to fit in, they would not try to change the character of the state" writes Friedman, adding the clinching argument: "We can also expect them to serve in the IDF!". Well, who needs more then that?

It seems that quite a few people, including current ministers and Knesset Members, want absolutely nothing of the kind. Arabs are not wanted here, certainly, but neither are Blacks who are not Arab, and in general we have had enough of all intrusive foreigners. By the law which was also enacted last week, internment camps will be set up for tens of thousands of African infiltrators. There, they will spend years without trial until they get out of their heads any idea of integrating in the Israeli society. The refugees from the Ivory Coast, who are living here, already got a collective deportation order, effective immediately. Is the civil war in their country still going on, or is it really over? Would their lives be in danger if they returned? Who cares - fly out of here they must. And the African and Filippino kids who were born here and speak Hebrew, and who are simply begging to be allowed to join the army? To the airport with them, out, out, just get them out of here and be done.

And what about the Ethiopians? It has been officially determined that they are kosher, bona fide Jews. (There were some rabbis who thought otherwise, but they were overruled more than twenty years ago, and by now it is too late to try to reopen that issue...). So these Blacks came here in great  masses and got off the plane and immediately received Israeli citizenship and by now it had been decades and a new generation was born to them who speak Hebrew and understand Israeli politics and know how to organize mass demonstrations and protests against racism. On TV we see a resident of Kiryat Malachi protesting that she is being called a racist: "You don't understand, you don’t have to live with so many Ethiopians near you and smell their cooking and the value of our housing is immediately falling down. The worst is that when we have so many Black Ethiopians living here, also the Black Sudanese are starting to arrive. They know that the police will not know the difference, will not know whom to deport and whom not. It's just hell, it can't go on like this. "

One of the Ethiopians in the big demonstration against racism in Jerusalem told the press his experiences: "I was discharged from the army and I thought that now I was completely accepted as an Israeli. But at every workplace I applied, they saw  the color of my skin and told me 'Don't call us, we will call you'. The only exception was in Oz, the Immigration Police. They took me up immediately when I applied, gave me a job capturing and deporting illegal foreign workers. It's not exactly what I wanted to do in life, but a person has to live from something,  not so?".

And he has a friend who a job as a security guard for the City of David settlers at the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem. These settlers went to houses which the government declared to be Absentee Properties and threw out their Palestinian inhabitants and raised the national flag of the Jewish-Democratic State of Israel on the roofs. By now they are very worried that nefarious plots might be hatched by their Palestinian neighbors, and are in urgent need of very numerous security personnel to stand guard day and night at the barbed wire surrounding the houses. It turns out that the security personnel charged with settler protection has a liberal and non-discriminatory hiring policy. Any who applies for a job there can expect to be hired with no questions asked and regardless of skin color.

Speaking about bad smells, the Israel Railways decided to stop allowing soldiers to travel free by train on Sundays between the hours of six to nine in the morning, because on this day and at these hours all the soldiers go back from weekend leave and they all do it at the same time since they stand to be punished for being late at the camp. Soldiers set up an outcry and protest, as did their parents and some legislators and public figures. One citizen who travels every day by train  explained: "You don't understand,  the soldiers are making the train packed like a can of sardines with  the smell of sweat in the air. It's Hell, it can't go on like this". A soldier's mother speaking in the same radio program was very indignant: "My son has been serving his country for two years now. He stands guard at the Gaza border every night, to ensure that Palestinians won't penetrate into our territory. Is this the thanks which the country gives him?"

Further rounds of the 2012 Chad Gadya are certain to be played out –just stay tuned to the newspaper headlines.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Had_Gadya