Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Apartheid wall grows higher

Obama is not just giving away the store to the Republicans here at home; he’s also busy making sure the Israelis don’t take him seriously either.

His Mr Reasonable stance is having a bracingly civilized effect on that outpost of modern bipedism in the Levant, as outlined in yesterday’s Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper:

Top rabbis move to forbid renting homes to Arabs, say ‘Racism originated in the Torah’

A number of leading rabbis who signed on to a religious ruling to forbid renting homes to gentiles—a move particularly aimed against Arabs—defended their decision on Tuesday with the declaration that the land of Israel belongs to the Jews.

Dozens of Israel’s municipal chief rabbis signed on to the ruling, which comes just months after the chief rabbi of Safed initiated a call urging Jews to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews.

Signatories include the chief rabbis of Ramat Hasharon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rishon Letzion, Carmiel, Gadera, Afula, Nahariya, Herzliya, Nahariya and Pardes Hannah, among a number of other cities.

‘We don’t need to help Arabs set down roots in Israel’, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Beit El settlement, said on Tuesday. Aviner explained that he supported the move for two reasons: one, a Jew looking for an apartment should get preference over a gentile; and two, to keep the growing Arab population from settling too deeply.

‘Racism originated in the Torah’, said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva. ‘The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what the Holy One, Blessed Be He, intended and that is what the [sage] Rashi interpreted’.

He added that he did not see the move as racist so much as segregationist. ‘The world is so big, and the State of Israel is small that God intended it for the people of Israel and the whole world covets it. That is the injustice’.

The original ruling by one rabbi, which sparked the racial solidarity campaign, called on good Jews to refuse to rent to an Arab and for the entire community to shun anyone who dares to do so, including ‘denying him the right to read from the Torah until he goes back on this harmful deed’.

At least in Israel such a blatant manifestation of racism—called by that name even by its perpetrators—merits criticism and denunciation. But can anyone imagine the Congressional Black Caucus, so righteous and militant when it came to South African apartheid, daring to issue a squeak over this one?

An Israeli parliamentarian, Ilan Ghilon, immediately called for the rabbis (who are salaried, state employees) to be canned, saying ‘We are witnessing an epidemic of racism and xenophobia, and we must act firmly’. Another, Ahmed Tibi, called the letter ‘a mass crime by a group of racist rabbis who should be given an intensive course in Jewish history’. The Israeli mayor of Haifa said it was a ‘desecration’.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for similar words from a U.S. senator, especially including the ‘liberals’ from New York State.

We can also imagine how U.S. commentators would react if Iran’s mullahs were to issue similar guidance calling on Muslims to discriminate against non-believers.

However, despite the far more vigorous debate in Israel itself over its steady descent into overt apartheid, I see no reason to think that the tendencies will be reversed given the carte blanche offered to Israel by our first black president. Empowering and enabling racism—despite pious bleatings about the ‘peace process’—guarantees that further racist acts will follow.

Obama is expert at dressing up his total caving to the most reactionary elements as part of a clever, long-range plan to reverse the tendencies some years down the road. As in his bizarre collapse in the face of Republican obstinacy and obstructionism on tax cuts for the rich, Obama operates as if he were a monarch with a 20-year reign ahead of him.

But his insufferable appeals to the ‘long view’ and the need for patience to bring about ‘change’ reflect a psyche going off the rails in the time-honored fashion of politicians intoxicated with a sense of their own exceptionalism.

Meanwhile, not everyone is sitting around waiting for Obama to make water out of wine. Three more countries, this time in Latin America, announced they were recognizing a Palestinian state, thereby poking another tiny hole in Israel’s long-term legitimacy.

The gesture is not tremendously significant, and it isn’t the first time that minor states have annoyed Israel in this fashion. But Brazil is one of the three (along with Argentina and Uruguay), a country determined to play a larger role outside its immediate sphere of influence.

It was Brazil, along with Turkey, that arranged a possible compromise deal with Iran over the latter’s nuclear industry, an initiative promptly shot down by the U.S. without further ado as Obama & Co. much prefer to continue rattling the sabers without interference. But the Turkish aid flotilla followed soon thereafter with violent consequences and the demise of one of Israel’s key strategic alliances.

Our founding fathers thought they could kick the can of slavery down the road and did so. But the country did not escape its original sin, and neither will Israel. The bunker mentality now reigning there will not protect its inhabitants in the long run, and much human suffering will ensue before the situation inevitably blows up.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

Bravo, Tim. I have been sickened for a long time over the blatant racism of Israel and the blatant impunity and, yes, collaboration of the US government. Now I am even sickened further by Obama's spinelessness on all fronts.