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“I am Israeli”

Israel will not recognize an Israeli nationality while it seeks to maintain Jewishness at all costs

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | October 15, 2013

Israel is almost certainly the only country that deceives the global community every time one of its citizens crosses an international border. It does so because the passports it issues contain a fiction.

When a border official opens an Israeli passport for inspection, he or she sees the passport holder’s nationality stated as “Israeli.” And yet inside Israel, no state official, government agency or court recognizes the existence of an “Israeli” national.

This month the highest court in the land, Israel’s Supreme Court, explicitly affirmed that it could not uphold an Israeli nationality. Instead, the judges ruled, citizenship and nationality in Israel should be considered entirely separate categories, as they have been since Israel’s founding in 1948. All Israelis have Israeli citizenship, but none enjoys Israeli nationality.

This fiction of Israeli nationality, contained in Israeli passports and presented to the international community, is not simply a piece of legal eccentricity on Israel’s part. It is the keystone of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state – and much depends on it.

From this simple deception, Israel has been able to gerrymander its population by excluding Palestinian refugees from their land and homes while allowing millions of Jews to immigrate. And the same deception has served to veil a system of segregation in legal rights – a form of apartheid – between Israeli Jews and the country’s Palestinian minority, who comprise a fifth of the total population.

The need to maintain the state’s Jewishness at all costs, meanwhile, is emerging as the chief obstacle erected by Israel to prevent a peace agreement with the Palestinians from being reached.

So how does this Israeli magician’s trick work? Perversely, nationality in Israel is based not on a shared civic identity, as it is in most places, but on one’s ethnic identity. That means for the overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens, their nationality falls into one of two categories – Jewish or Arab. That is why Israel must lie on its passports: no border official would allow in a person bearing a passport that declared simply that they were “Arab” or “Jewish.”

The peculiarity of this classification system is further underlined by its anomalies. What does Israel do with the small number of non-Jews who marry an Israeli and then choose to naturalize? The answer is that the state can select from more than 130 nationalities. ‘Misfits’– those who are neither Jewish nor Arab – are typically assigned the nationality they held before they naturalized, such as French, British, American, Georgian, Ukrainian, and so on.

A great deal is at stake in this arcane system, which is why since 1948 the Israeli Supreme Court has on three separate occasions ruled against groups of Israeli citizens who have demanded the right to be identified as Israeli nationals.

This month, faced with a petition from a group called “I am Israeli,” the judges argued that recognizing such a nationality would threaten the state’s foundational principles. In the words of Justice Hanan Melcer, uniting Israeli citizenship and nationality would run “against both the Jewish nature and the democratic nature of the state.”

Anita Shapira, a professor emeritus of Jewish history at Tel Aviv University, concurred, saying that the petitioners were making a “revolutionary” demand.

However, Aeyal Gross, a Tel Aviv law professor, took a different view. The ruling, he wrote in the Haaretz newspaper, “will continue to obscure the possibility of having real democracy in Israel.”

So why the court’s aversion to an Israeli nationality? A clue is provided by the concept of citizenship in Israel. Another uncomfortable fact is that Israel has not one, but two citizenship laws: the famous Law of Return of 1950 gives every Jew in the world the right to come to Israel and instantly receive citizenship; the much less known Citizenship Law, passed two years later, confers citizenship, in very restricted circumstances, to non-Jews.

The primary purpose of the 1952 Citizenship Law was to give citizenship, belatedly and reluctantly, to the small proportion of Palestinians who managed to remain inside Israel in 1948 and their descendants. Today they are a substantial minority, and a growing one.

But as Israel has no immigration policy beyond the Law of Return, which applies only to worldwide Jewry, the 1952 law is also the only route by which a non-Jew can naturalize. In practice, that applies only to the tiny number of individuals who marry Israeli citizens each year and are prepared to enter a lengthy and usually antagonistic naturalization process. An additional law prevents most Palestinians outside Israel as well as Arab nationals from naturalizing, even following marriage to an Israeli.

The purpose of all this legal chicanery is to maintain Israel’s existence as a “Jewish state” – meaning the state of the Jewish people. It is, in other words, designed to perpetuate a system that has two main goals: ensuring a commanding Jewish majority inside Israel; and enforcing segregation in citizenship and legal rights based on ethnic belonging.

This segregation is possible because Israel, in addition to recognizing only ethnic nationalities, confers national rights on one national group alone – Jews. From that legal distinction flows much of the structural discrimination in Israel: Palestinians who try to claim equality, even in the courts, face a legal system in which their civic rights, as citizens, are always trumped by the exclusive, and superior, national rights enjoyed by the Jewish population.

Were the government or courts to decide that an Israeli nationality existed, all of that would come to an end. Recognition of an Israeli nationality, as government officials and the courts understand only too well, would entail equality between citizens – or a “state of all Israeli citizens,” a liberal democracy, as Israel’s Palestinian minority have been demanding at the ballot box for nearly two decades.

The reality is that a Jewish state requires structural segregation: in allocation of land, 93 per cent of which has been nationalized for the Jewish people, and resources like water; in residency, with Jews and Palestinian citizens living almost entirely apart; in education, where Jews and Palestinian citizens have separate and unequal schools; in employment, where vast swathes of the economy are defined as security-related, including the water, construction and telecommunications industries, and therefore open only to Jews.

But additionally and equally problematic, a Jewish state also privileges Jews who are not citizens, those living in Brooklyn or London, over Palestinians who actually hold citizenship. It does so through the bifurcation of citizenship and nationality.

Because from Israel’s point of view they are included in its definition of a Jewish national, Jews anywhere in the world – even those who have never stepped foot in Israel – can buy property from the state in much of the 93 per cent of territory that was nationalized, and much of it seized from Palestinian refugees. Palestinian citizens, on the other hand, are mostly restricted to living on the 3 per cent of the land they have so far kept out of the state’s grasp.

In short, Israel conceives of itself as not chiefly representing Israeli citizens, nor even of representing Israeli Jewish citizens but as representing Jews all around the world – those who have citizenship as well as those who have yet to take advantage of it by immigrating under the Law of Return.

What does this have to do with the peace process? As international pressure has mounted on Israel in the past few years to concede a Palestinian state, Israel has raised a new precondition for successful talks: the Palestinian leadership must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Most observers have assumed that this relates to Israel’s desperate need to prevent millions of Palestinian refugees claiming a right of return. They are partly right, but for the wrong reasons.

The future of the refugees has long been part of the final-status issues to be decided in talks. Even most Palestinians doubt that the Palestinian National Authority will insist on more than a symbolic return of a few, mainly elderly, refugees to Israel. So raising this again, in terms of recognizing Israel’s Jewishness, is largely redundant.

Israel’s logic is slightly different. Israel needs the Palestinian leadership’s acceptance of its Jewishness as a way to subvert any future claims for equality from Israel’s Palestinian minority. Were the Palestinian minority able to gain equal citizenship – by ending Israel’s strange conception of nationality – then they could make demands to reverse the perverse realities entailed by Israel’s definition as a Jewish state.

Foremost would be the demand to end the special immigration privileges enjoyed by Jews. The Palestinian minority would insist on an equal immigration law, giving their exiled relatives the same rights to become Israeli citizens as Jews around the world currently enjoy. And that would mean a right of return by other means.

So in shutting the door on an Israeli nationality this month, Israel’s Supreme Court also played another role: pushing the hopes of a peace agreement that bit further out of sight.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel.

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Parents of Tristan Anderson, US activist critically wounded following West Bank protest, appeal to High Court of Israel

Parents of US Activist: Police Investigation was Shockingly Negligent

International Solidarity Movement | July 9, 2013

Jerusalem – Tristan Anderson (41, of Oakland, CA) was severely wounded after having been shot in the head with a high velocity tear gas grenade* (made in the USA) fired by Israeli Border Police following a protest in the West Bank Village of Ni’lin, resulting in severe permanent brain damage and paralysis to half his body.

Tristan Anderson with his parents

Tristan Anderson with his parents

Attorneys for Anderson’s family, along with Israeli NGO Yesh Din, will appear before the Israeli High Court of Justice on Wednesday, JULY 10. The petition challenges the investigation that they claim was blatantly inadequate, with the identity of the shooter still being actively withheld to this day.

“Tristan will live the rest of his life with serious mental and physical limitations and chronic pain. This has devastated his life and profoundly affected our family forever,” said Nancy Anderson, Tristan’s mother.

No criminal charges have been brought against any police or military personnel involved in the 2009 shooting of their son. Video evidence uncovered during the course of an ongoing civil lawsuit (trial begins November 10, 2013 in Jerusalem for the civil suit) raises further questions on the credibility of State witnesses, who in contradiction to sworn testimony, are clearly seen shooting tear gas directly at protesters from close range in the video, which was taken earlier that day. The video also raises serious questions relating to the true locations of the various squads of Border Police present at the time of the shooting, with investigators opting only to question those squads that were on the other side of the town at the time the shooting occurred, while failing to question the squad that was stationed on the nearby hill where activist witnesses say the shots came from. As well, investigators failed to visit the scene of the shooting and made no attempts to collect physical evidence.

See “Perpetrators of the Shooting of Tristan Anderson”.

See “Aftermath of the shooting of Tristan Anderson Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for further video.

Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer, attorneys for the Anderson family commented:

“The astonishing negligence of this investigation and of the prosecutorial team that monitored its outcome is unacceptable, but it epitomizes Israel’s culture of impunity. Tristan’s case is actually not rare; it represents hundreds of other cases of Palestinian victims whose investigations have also failed.”

Tristan joined the ranks of scores of other protesters who have been seriously injured or killed during demonstrations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in recent years. On March 13, 2009 he was in Ni’alin demonstrating against the annexation of village lands to build the controversial “Separation Wall” when he was shot. Witnesses insist there was no stone throwing in his immediate surroundings at the time when he was shot, and that the shooting was “unexpected and unprovoked”.

“Tristan’s shooting is part of a pattern of deadly violence being used against protesters in the Occupied Territories, who are not recognized as having a fundamental right to political self-determination,” said Gabrielle Silverman, Tristan’s girlfriend, and a witness to his shooting. “We need real accountability and a high standard of human rights, but instead what we get is the military running cover for their soldiers.”

The family of Tristan Anderson is calling the investigation “a cover up and a sham”.

*Tristan Anderson was shot with a High Velocity Tear Gas grenade- sometimes also called “Extended Range Tear Gas”- which is manufactured by Combined Systems Inc in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli Supreme Court rejects demands to investigate torture

MEMO | August 8, 2012

The Israeli Supreme Court has rejected two petitions for an order to the Attorney General to carry out a criminal investigation into allegations of torture and mistreatment by the Shin Bet security agency.

A number of human rights organisations submitted the petitions last year in protest at the work of the official observer of detainees’ complaints against Shin Bet and the Public Prosecutor regarding the opening of criminal investigations into the internal security agency. Some of the detainees alleging mistreatment were signatories to the petitions.

The Popular Committee against Torture submitted a report claiming that there were 598 complaints about torture and mistreatment against the agency between 2001 and 2008. The country’s Public Prosecutor has not ordered an investigation into any of them.

Summing up, Supreme Court Judge Elyakim Rubinstein said “Shin Bet is neither above the law nor fortified against criticism, but the nature of its work has to be considered.” In addition, Judge Rubinstein said that he had to consider the “political and ideological background of absurd complaints.” The Judge pointed out that opening an investigation is very important, but it is necessary not to be arbitrary if there is clear evidence.

The Director of Israel’s Public Committee against Torture, Dr Ishai Menuhin, said that the Court supported the central claim of the petitioners that members of Shin Bet cannot investigate their own colleagues. He added that the Court’s decision contradicts international law which considers it to be mandatory to open an immediate and independent investigation into allegations of torture.

August 11, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Israeli Supreme Court rejects demands to investigate torture

Stealing Palestine’s resources is illegal, despite Israeli court ruling

By Charlotte Silver | The Electronic Intifada | 7 February 2012
A construction vehicle moves a large block of concrete
Israel claims its exploitation of West Bank land benefits the Palestinian population. (Najeh Hashlamoun / APA images)

Ramallah – Pillage: for some the word conjures up lawless warfare, a time before the order of nation states or the rule of international law. Indeed, in its petition to the Israeli high court, the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din argues that “pillage” belongs to “ancient times,” when justice was determined by might and the victors of war were entitled to the fruits of the conquered land.

But in today’s world, pillage continues. Obscured in the thick mire of economic agreements or obfuscations of law, pillage remains part of the modern world.

In March 2009, Yesh Din filed a petition demanding a termination to all Israeli mining activities in the West Bank. The petition was served against the commander of the Israeli military, the head of Israel’s Civil Administration (which oversees the occupation of the West Bank) and 11 Israeli companies that run quarries in the West Bank and illegally transfer their spoils into Israel.

International law prohibits an occupying power from exploiting the resources of the territories it occupies. According to international law, an occupying authority may only use resources of the occupied territory if they serve the benefit of the occupied population.

“Unique” nature of Israel’s occupation

But international law would also have it that an occupation is temporary, and after 45 years, there are few who would characterize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as short-lived — including the Israeli high court. This exceptionally prolonged and “unique” nature of the Israeli occupation is just one of the several confounding reasons the high court ruled against Yesh Din’s petition on 26 December 2011 (“Yesh Din’s response to the HCJ ruling on the organization’s petition challenging the legality of Israeli quarrying activities in the occupied West Bank,” 3 January 2012).

Due to the extraordinary ruling, Yesh Din has applied for an extended chamber to reassess the court’s ruling. While it is unusual for such a request to be granted, Yesh Din argues this case merits a further hearing.

Writing the opinion of the court, President of the High Court Dorit Beinisch states, “The belligerent occupation of Israel in the area has some unique characteristics, primarily the duration of the occupation period that requires the adjustment of the law to the reality on the ground, which imposes a duty upon Israel to ensure normal life for a period, which … is certainly long-term.”

Thus, contrary to the opinion of many governments and many Israeli legal scholars as well, the court’s ruling exempts the Israeli authorities from the standard restrictions placed on an occupier.

An expert legal opinion submitted by seven Israeli legal scholars and Yesh Din states that appropriate interpretation of the laws of occupation in prolonged circumstances should be the opposite of that given by the high court last December (“Expert legal opinion — Executive summary,” 26 December 2011).

Bizarre claim that quarries benefit Palestinians

The court opinion is unprecedented in another respect as well. It argues that the operations of the Civil Administration — i.e. the occupation — are in fact for the benefit of the Palestinian population.

Before the court could strike down the petition, it had to argue that the riches gained by Israeli companies were benefiting the Palestinian population to meet the requirements of the Hague Regulations of 1907, one of the main instruments of international law relating to military occupation.

That the quarries employ approximately 200 Palestinians hardly substantiates a benefit to the collective population.

Furthermore, according to documentation by the Israeli interior ministry itself, 94 percent of mined resources are transferred to Israel, and most of the remaining 6 percent is transferred to Israeli settlements.

In 2010, a senior official in the Israeli State Attorney’s Office told the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz that since the mid-1970s, Israeli companies with permits to operate in the West Bank were required to pay a regular fee and additional royalties for each ton of material they extracted to the Civil Administration (“Israel seizing hundreds of millions of shekels meant for Palestinian services,” 7 April 2010).

That all changed in 1995 when the newly-created Palestinian Authority signed the Interim Agreements (generally known as the Oslo accords) with Israel. At that point royalties began to be funneled to the Israel Lands Administration, the body that manages land inside the state. The assumption in the agreements was that after 18 months the quarries would be transferred to the PA (the agreements also envisaged a full Palestinian state within five years).

The Civil Administration, a unit of Israel’s ministry of defense, is in charge of administering the occupation. It is responsible for home demolitions, flying checkpoints, the construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank and squelching protests.

To say the least, the Civil Administration is not a trusted benevolent body for the Palestinian people. Speaking to Haaretz in 2010, one legal expert said that the Civil Administration and the defense ministry insisted that building the wall, funding Israeli police in “Judea and Samaria” (as Israel calls the West Bank), constructing bypass roads and other settler infrastructure should also classify as “for the good of the local population” (“Digging up the dirt,” 3 September 2010).

Absolving Israel

But never mind those facts. The court invoked the Palestinian Authority to absolve the operation of Israeli quarries. “It seems that the petitioner may have forgotten that the best interests of the protected population … lie within the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, alongside other entities, which is engaged in diplomatic agreements with the State of Israel,” the court stated in its verdict.

Speaking on behalf of the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit, Ashraf Khatib completely refutes the court’s invocation of the PA as a source for legitimizing the quarries. “The interim agreement clearly states ‘quarries must be transferred to the Palestinian side within 18 months’ — Israel has not done so,” he told The Electronic Intifada.

And then, in a twist of reality too sick even for George Orwell, the court argued that the military is promoting projects that benefit Palestinians.

“Royalties paid to the Civil Administration by the operators of the quarries are used to finance the operations of the military administration, which promotes various kinds of projects aimed to benefit the interests of the area,” the ruling adds.

It is hardly surprising that the Israeli court would find a way to legalize the activities of the occupation, but it goes well beyond that and argues that the occupation — its military and economic operations — is intended to help the Palestinian population. Now that takes real chutzpah.

But then again, it is not entirely novel for countries advocating for an open-door policy (that only opens in one direction) to claim it serves the benefit of the land and population it is exploiting. And while the Palestinian Authority will surely balk at taking responsibility for its encouragement of this kind of neoliberal relationship, it was only three years ago that the PA’s appointed prime minister and former International Monetary Fund official, Salam Fayyad signed on to the “economic peace” plan. Promoted by Benjamin Netanyahu, that plan prioritized normalization of life under occupation.

Despite attempts to divorce politics from economics, the fact remains that Israel is reaping economic benefits from continuing to occupy and subjugate Palestinian people. The Interim Agreement in 1995 opened up these neoliberal lines of communication between Israel and the West Bank with the alleged objective of gradually building state institutions. Since then, Palestinians have been further separated from the very land on which their state was to be built.

Neoliberal policies work this way all over the world: vulnerable states are subjected to exploitation and devastation. In the West Bank, these savage realities are enforced — and intensified — with the military might of Israel.

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in the West Bank. She can be reached at charlottesilver A T gmail D O T com.

February 8, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Stealing Palestine’s resources is illegal, despite Israeli court ruling