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Saturday, 14 February 2009

electing to recognise human rights for all

According to the CIA Factbook, African Americans make up 12.85% of the U.S. people. Israeli-Arabs (mostly of Palestinian descent), make up 23.6% of the population in Israel. These are the Palestinians who live in Israel "proper" (it hasn't defined its borders), not Gaza nor the West Bank. The government that is currently being formed in Israel is extremely right-winged. Avigdor Lieberman, who will play a major role, has run a platform of "No loyalty, no citizenship," directed towards the Arab population of Israel. He is an immigrant from Russia, having arrived in Israel 20 years prior. His policy is that people who were born on the land, have lived on the land for years and years and years, who, for the most part, are not Jewish, must make a pledge of allegiance to the Jewish state. If they do not, they will be shipped out:
Yisrael Beitenu's [Lieberman's party] manifesto was that 1.5 million Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel (indigenous survivors or descendants of the Palestinian majority ethnically cleansed in 1948) be subjected to a loyalty oath. If they don't swear allegiance to the "Jewish state" they would lose their citizenship and be forced from the land of their birth, joining millions of already stateless Palestinians in exile or in Israeli-controlled ghettos. In a move instigated by Lieberman but supported by Livni's allegedly "centrist" Kadima, the Knesset recently voted to ban Arab parties from participating in elections. Although the high court overturned it in time for the vote, it is an ominous sign of what may follow.

Lieberman, who previously served as deputy prime minister, has a long history of racist and violent incitement. Prior to Israel's recent attack, for example, he demanded Israel subject Palestinians to the brutal and indiscriminate violence Russia used in Chechyna. He also called for Arab Knesset members who met with officials from Hamas to be executed.
That's almost 24% of the population. Could this idea even come into light of day in modern-day United States, or Australia? I will concentrate on the United States, because it has a sizable African American minority who have had to fight for their rights. The Palestinians are indigenous, but their numbers are far higher than the indigenous population that exists now in the United States and Australia. In countries like India, and Indonesia (Dutch East Indies), which were also colonised, the populations were too huge to seriously contemplate such ideas (in expulsion, anyway. I'm sure there were loyalty pledges dreamt up). In Australia, too, Aborigines were not citizens in their own country until the 1960s, had curfews imposed upon them, were only allowed to work in certain jobs, were not allowed to own houses, and so on. But many steps have been made to rectify wrongs, and they are still being made (with varying degrees of success), and as has been pointed out many times before, wrongs committed in one country do not condone wrongs in another. These colonial times are meant to have been left behind.

So, if you will, imagine a politician, not born in the United States, gaining power in the United States, and ordering a large minority of existing citizens born in the country to pledge allegiance to a Zionist concept, or else. No matter if you were born in the country, or not. No matter how many generations your family had been in the country (in the case of the Palestinians, for pretty damned long) or not.

Why do we allow such ideas to perpetuate when we won't stand for it in our own countries? In Australia, most immigrants take a pledge of commitment when they become citizens, and even then, they have the choice of a pledge that refers to God or not, but native-born do not need to go through this procedure. Why do we stand for such ideas, and encourage them when we have supported struggles against such ideas in the past, and no longer legally impose them on our own indigenous* or minority populations? Why do people support these ideas with their tax dollars, especially in light of the recession? (Of course, the solution from strong elements in the States seems to be to no longer provide aid to the occupied territories, rather than to stop supporting the rather robust Israeli economy, and sending it arms). Why do they support it with their silence? (I know the main stream media plays a huge role there). The other politicians who will hold power in Israel are just variations on the theme when it comes to the rights of the Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories.

*Australia's treatment of its indigenous population is still contentious, and rightly so. The Howard government introduced many restrictions and took away many rights as detailed in this Dec 2008, article. The [current] federal government declared that it will introduce reforms to allow the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act (which introduced these restrictions and interventions) to be lifted, in a year. Groups argue it is not soon enough. In current times, though, our government has not taken to strafing the population with F16s, and in theory, people are free to travel the whole country. There are no official checkpoints, watchtowers or separation walls keeping populations separate.

It seems that very few of our politicians, at present, will ever see their way through to recognising human rights on this issue, and will, instead support the suppression of same. The following (at the end of this paragraph) was written by Ali Abunimah for the Electronic Infitada, and I think his last comment on boycotts, divestment and sanctions is probably true. Apartheid did eventually cease in South Africa, and initially, it was not through international governmental action, but through the actions of concerned citizens, institutions and companies from various countries. I wish our politicians were braver, but it seems the lure of money and power will mean that the only human rights they ever hold sacred are their own.
What does not help is brazen western hypocrisy. Already the US State Department spokesman affirmed that the Obama administration would work with whatever coalition emerged from Israel's "thriving democracy" and promised that the US would not interfere in Israel's "internal politics." Despite US President Barack Obama's sweet talk about a new relationship with the Arab world, few will fail to notice the double standard. In 2006, Hamas won a democratic election in the occupied territories, observed numerous unilateral or agreed truces that were violated by Israel, offered Israel a generation-long truce to set the stage for peace, and yet it is still boycotted by the US and European Union.

Worse, the US sponsored a failed coup against Hamas and continues to arm and train the anti-Hamas militias of Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as Palestinian Authority president expired on 9 January. As soon as he took office, Obama reaffirmed this boycott of Palestinian democracy.

The clearest message from Israel's election is that no Zionist party can solve Israel's basic conundrum and no negotiations will lead to a two-state solution. Israel could only be created as a "Jewish state" by the forced removal of the non-Jewish majority Palestinian population. As Palestinians once again become the majority in a country that has defied all attempts at partition, the only way to maintain Jewish control is through ever more brazen violence and repression of resistance (see Gaza). Whatever government emerges is certain to preside over more settlement-building, racial discrimination and escalating violence.

There are alternatives that have helped end what once seemed like equally intractable and bloody conflicts: a South African-style one-person one-vote democracy, or Northern Ireland-style power-sharing. Only under a democratic system according rights to all the people of the country will elections have the power to transform people's futures.

But Israel today is lurching into open fascism. It is utterly disingenuous to continue to pretend -- as so many do -- that its failed and criminal leaders hold the key to getting out of the morass. Instead of waiting for them to form a coalition, we must escalate the international civil society campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to force Israelis to choose a saner path
(Israel Lurches into Facism, February 13, 2009).
If you want advice by a writer commissioned by the US army, on part of this issue, (or on HAMAS's international terrorist standing - in that Israel, the US, and the western world uses the word 'terrorism' to justify all Israeli actions), I urge you to read all of this report (HAMAS and Israel: Conflicting strategies of group-based politics). She expands upon many of the things touched upon in the above quote, such as the US sponsored coup. I did post it before, and hopefully will summarise parts of it later, needless to say, HAMAS are not quite the ogres the mainstream media leads us to believe, though I am not painting them as angels, and actions are grounded in history and context. So saying, times also change. She calls for, as do I, recognising an elected government and electing to recognise human rights, for all.

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this cutie was taken by Crazyegg95 in 2005 and is from flickr