Monday, August 02, 2010

Worse Than I Imagined

It turns out to be even worse than I imagine. And I am a pessimist (at least in the short run.)

Call it the Wild West, the Ol' South, or Apartheid - the anti Arab racism in Israel goes from bad to worse. On July 27, the Bedouin village of Al Arakib was destroyed by Israeli police and military. Its 300 residents are now homeless. This village, just a bit north of Be'er Sheva is within the 1949 boundaries of "Israel proper." It predates 1948. Its residents are Israeli citizens - though clearly 2nd or 3rd class citizens. The village was destroyed to make way for a JNF forest, and the expansion of the Jewish suburb of Givot Bar.

The destruction and ethnic cleansing were horrific. You can read a dispassionate report about it at CNN or a fuller and more emotional report at The Promised Land. These reports would have been bad enough. Shades of the European settlers treatment of the American Indians - only125 years later.

But now a report, on Max Blumenthal's blog, confirms and elaborates on hints in the other stories, that civilians cheered as the Israeli forces destroyed the Arab's homes and drove them off their land. Turns out it is not only true. It's worse than I imagined.

The cheering Israeli civilians, are in fact Jewish teenage
volunteers in the police auxiliary. Pre-military summer camp, if you will. And they not only cheered, they where active participants in the ethnic cleansing of Al Arakib. And, teens being teens, they added insult to injury. According to Blumenthal's informants, they "smashed windows and mirrors in [Bedouin] homes and defaced family photographs with crude drawings. Then they lounged around on the furniture of al-Arakib residents in plain site of the owners (see picture at the right.) Finally, ... the youthful volunteers celebrated while bulldozers destroyed the homes."

This goes beyond both the American and South African racism. Shades of patriotic/nationalistic/racist youth movements of central Europe in the 1930's.

Blumenthal ends his piece with these words:
The spectacle of Israeli youth helping destroy al-Arakib helps explain why 56% of Jewish Israeli high school students do not believe Arabs should be allowed to serve in the Knesset – why the next generation wants apartheid. Indeed, the widespread indoctrination of Israeli youth by the military apparatus is a central factor in Israel’s authoritarian trend. It would be difficult for any adolescent boy to escape from an experience like al-Arakib, where adults in heroic warrior garb encourage him to participate in and gloat over acts of massive destruction, with even a trace of democratic values.

As for the present condition of Israeli democracy, it is essential to consider the way in which the state pits its own citizens against one another, enlisting the Jewish majority as conquerers while targeting the Arab others as ... “obstacles that have to be cleared on a difficult path.”

Historically, only failing states have encouraged such corrosive dynamics to take hold. That is why the scenes from al-Arakib, from the demolished homes to the uprooted gardens to the grinning teens who joined the mayhem, can be viewed as much more than the destruction of a village. They are snapshots of the phenomenon that is laying Israeli society as a whole to waste.
Below is a video taken at Al Arakib. In it, one of the evicted Bedouin men can be heard shouting, "We have soldiers who have served with you!" It didn't help.

Is this the kind of Jewish State Herzl imagined? Is this the revival of Jewish culture that Ahad Ha'am and Bialik dreamed of? How long will it take to recover from the hatred being instilled by acts like these?

If you are appalled as I am you might want to sign this petition.


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