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THE GIANT weekend demonstration in Tel Aviv against Israel’s “nation state” law should refocus our attention on the struggle for equality within Israel as well as that of those suffering under the country’s military domination in Gaza and the West Bank.
Israeli citizens gathered in their tens of thousands, chanting: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” and: “No, no, the fascist [law] won’t pass.”
Israel’s ongoing oppression of the Palestinians and colonisation of the West Bank goes hand-in-hand with virulent racism within the state’s borders.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no stranger to this racism, infamously telling supporters at election time to get out and vote as “Arab voters are heading to the polling stations in droves.”
Protest organisers mocked him for it, saying that “buses of Arabs are coming in droves” to the Tel Aviv demo.
Netanyahu was on form at the weekend, tweeting a video of protesters waving Palestinian flags and commenting that there was “no better evidence of the necessity of [the nation state] law.”
Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Ben Jamal explained in this paper recently that the measures in the legislation “brazenly entrench Jewish privilege, codifying in law the longstanding institutionalised discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens.”
“The new law builds upon an extensive range of discriminatory laws that pertain to all areas of life, including land, education, family unification, residency rights and housing.”
Israel claims to be a Jewish and a democratic state but, as Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said at the weekend, “a democratic state must be a state for all its citizens” — not privileging one group above the rest.
While such laws try to marginalise and extinguish Palestinian life and culture within Israel’s borders, it is worth reminding ourselves of the rather more blunt measures used by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
It appears to have been a fairly typical weekend: predawn raids on Palestinian homes by Israeli troops, shooting and tear-gassing of protesters, shooting of fishermen, the funerals of three Palestinians shot during the peaceful Great March of Return protests, shooting at small unarmed boats that dared to breach the maritime siege of Gaza.
What else? One report documenting the systematic beating of Palestinian children detained by Israeli troops. Another saying that the unemployment rate of Palestinian graduates is over 55 per cent. Another stating that Israeli troops had killed 167 Palestinians and injured over 18,000 — 370 of them paramedics — since the Great March of Return protests began on March 30.
As Saturday’s protests made clear, this is not happening without resistance within Israel. Meanwhile, we have a duty to keep up the pressure from outside.
We cannot buckle under false charges of anti-semitism, nor naively give ground in the doomed hope of retrenching later.
Concretely, this means resisting the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn — the most recent being that he doesn’t vet his acquaintances’ comments five years before they make them — and being clear that opposing zionism does not equal anti-semitism.
Such baseless attacks on Britain’s most prominent anti-racist do not arise out of a serious concern about anti-semitism — where is the outcry over the reinvigorated far right? — but are part of the campaign to extinguish the threat that a Corbyn-led Labour Party poses to entrenched wealth and power in Britain.
That would be a disaster for the working class here, but so too for all those fighting for peace and justice in Palestine and Israel. With increasing Israeli state racism and violence, they need our support and solidarity; we cannot betray them with cynical deal-making or spineless capitulation.
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