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October 10, 2010

Palestinian Israelis are to have ‘Jewish’ nationality (as Jews once had to be public Christians in Europe)

by Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel on October 10, 2010

Today the Israeli government approved a proposal by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to change the declaration of loyalty required of all non-Jews applying for Israeli citizenship (excluding those entitled to citizenship according to the Law of Return).  Neeman’s proposal seeks to amend the current declaration – “I declare that I will be a loyal national of the State of Israel” (Nationality Law 5712-1952, art. 5c) – to include the words “as a Jewish and democratic state”.

The timing is symbolic. Exactly ten years ago, the first ten days of October 2000 were marked by protests in northern Israel, brutally repressed by Israeli police, who used live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas against Palestinian Israeli citizens, leaving 13 dead. Israeli security forces have never used live ammunition against Jewish protesters – no matter how violent. The contradiction between “Jewish” and “democratic” could not have been more poignant. The events were a watershed for Palestinian Israelis, comparable to 30 March 1976 (“Land Day”), demonstrating once again their second-class citizenship and exclusion (“treated as enemies”), and affirming their connection to Palestinians on the other side of the “green line”.

And for many Jewish Israelis, the protests themselves (in solidarity with Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the OPT) reflected the basic disloyalty of Palestinian citizens to the Jewish state.

A commission of inquiry (the Or Commission) identified institutional discrimination as one of the root causes of Palestinian discontent, and made a series of recommendations to address this inequality. Not only have the commission’s recommendations been ignored, but since October 2000, efforts have been redoubled to “Judaise” the Galilee, Wadi ‘Ara and the Triangle, and to discredit Palestinian Israeli leaders and representatives in the Knesset. The ban on Palestinian family unification (where one spouse is an Israeli citizen and the other a Palestinian from the OPT) can also be traced to these events, as can recent attempts to reinforce Israel’s “Jewish character” – in proposed legislation such as the amendment to the declaration of loyalty (for other examples, see the Association for Civil Rights in Israel’s position paper Harming Democracy in the Heart of Democracy), and in the repeated demand for international and especially Palestinian recognition of Israel “as a Jewish state”.

Another Israeli policy with roots in the October Events is the crackdown on Palestinian civil society, as described by Ameer Makhoul.

In The Time of the Green Line, Yehouda Shenhav compares the situation of Palestinian citizens of Israel to that of emancipated Jews in 19th-century Europe (beginning with Prussia, in 1841), who were afforded individual freedoms, but required to be “Christians” in public. Shenhav writes:

According to the model of the green line, Palestinian nationalism must accept the Judaism of the public sphere; it does not allow recognition of Palestinian nationalism that is not subservient, and denies Palestinian citizens of Israel collective political rights. The demand that the state be Jewish and democratic requires Palestinian citizens of Israel to define their nationality as Jewish, even if they are Muslims or Christians by religion. … Palestinian citizens of Israel are not willing to define their nationality as Jewish … all the more so, because the Jewish state defines their own nationality as that of an enemy.

During the Oslo years, many Israeli Jews, even on the left, believed that this transformation had largely been accomplished, that Israel’s Palestinian citizens had developed a national identity distinct from that of other Palestinians, a “Jewish” identity. The events of October 2000 shattered those illusions, but led very few to question the political and ideological system behind them, opting instead for more of the same: forced Judaisation, not only of the land, but of all of its inhabitants – with the caveat that they will never be treated as equals.



Witness – Two Schools in Nablus –

Double entendre

Paul J. Balles 

October 9, 2010

Westerners, especially Americans, often look at violence in the Middle East as a result of the teachings of Islam.

This week’s talk show by Christiane Amanpour’s spent the better part of two hours discussing Islam and how people are reacting to Islam as a source of fanaticism publicised in the press.

The Western public has been seduced into believing that reactions of “extremists” have something to do with Islam. Extremist reprisals have nothing to do with religion. They are expressions of revenge. Anti-American reactions have been what Reverend Jeremiah Wright called “bringing the chickens home to roost.”

How can the West expect a placid reaction to their own actions when they have massacred more than 1,300,000 Iraqis, let alone the Afghans and the support given to Israel for their vicious savagery in Lebanon and Gaza?

How can we expect anything but calls for retribution when the agonizing stories of innocent victims of military atrocities get told and retold?

Just this week, the New York Times published the unusual report of a grotesque story from a small village in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.

A woman told how American military men took her husband, a local mullah in Maiwand, out of their house, forced him to the ground, put a grenade under his body and blew him up.

The mullah was the third victim of soldiers who killed Afghan civilians for no apparent reason. Is this the kind of activity that’s supposed to endear people around the world to America?

According to the New York Times, “Local elders estimate that in the past eight months at least 42 civilians have been killed in Maiwand during American operations.”

Expand that relatively small area to the much larger scope of American military action in the Middle East and the incentives for revenge multiply.

One Afghan elder reportedly said, “The Americans have killed many people who did not support the Taliban, which is painful for us and actually creates hatred toward Americans.”

In another incident reported by the New York Times this week, five soldiers are facing potential courts-martial on charges that they killed Afghan civilians for sport.

The report says they were “planting weapons near them (Afghans) to fake combat situations, collecting their body parts and taking photographs posing with their corpses.”

Also this week, a chicken that came home to roost was tried in New York. Pakistani born Faisal Shahzad, who planted a car bomb in Times Square, New York on May 1st, was sentenced to life in prison.

MSNBC reported that Shahzad came to court to tell Americans he felt no remorse about his May 1 bombing attempt. “Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun,” said Shahzad.

It’s a great anomaly that Americans expect the extremists to feel remorse for their acts of revenge when most Americans express no remorse over our mindless murder and maiming of innocents abroad.

Moderate and peace loving, as all but the very few extremists like Shahzad are, Muslims are innocent victims of hate and hate crimes.

Writing in the Princetonian, Adam Bradlow observed “Intolerance toward Muslims has become part of the new norm.”

Anti mosque rallies have broken out in at least four states, including the recent protests against the “ground zero” Community Centre in New York.

Speaking out against the Centre, past speaker of the US Congress Newt Gingrich called it “an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.”

Elizabeth Madrid, editor of the Tennessee Journal, reminds her readers, and hopefully Gingrich, that “A handful of extremists cannot rightly represent the entire Muslim faith.”

* Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see


Science Fair Bethlehem University

These are images from the annual science fair held at Bethlehem University (BU). BU students create and run teh exihibits and hundreds of high-school and middle school students attend the fair.

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