Alex McDonald (Houston, Texas)
When Israel takes bold actions, it is often in the name of security. The wall between the West Bank and the internationally recognized border of Israel (note: Israel, continually confiscating more territory in its bid to expand, does not recognize this border) was erected supposedly for security. Gaza is under blockade for Israel's security. The numerous checkpoints in the West Bank and heavy militarization are for security reasons, we are told. Similarly, the reasons given for military raids in the middle of the night to arrest children and laws making protests illegal, again, are for security.
Why does Israel need so much security?
Israel has the sixth largest number of nuclear weapons in the world and is considered the 15th most powerful militarily. That's pretty incredible considering it is the 98th country in population representing 0.1% of the world population.
As I traveled Israel/Palestine, the military is omnipresent. Automatic weapons are commonplace and visible in almost any public place in East Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. Why does Israel need armed soldiers at bus stops? Why do individuals need soldier escorts? Why does Israel need a wall up to 26 feet high, more than twice the height of the Berlin Wall?
Jews are known to have a history of persecution across the ages. The Holocaust is broadly highlighted as a reason for Jews needing security. I found it fascinating that as I was touring Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in West Jerusalem, so too were a number of young military recruit units, all in uniform. It appears that part of their training is to get into the mindset that Jews are the persecuted and their job is to protect the Jews.
The problem is that just barely over half of the population who live under Israeli control and who require Israeli approved IDs, are Jewish. Furthermore, the other half of the population is considered to be the enemy and treated as a second-class citizen, if they have citizenship at all. This does not bode well for creating a safe, secure environment.
Add to that toxic cocktail, the fact that Jews and Palestinians are all under Israeli control but are under different laws. Consider that 40% of all Palestinian males in the West Bank have been to prison and Israel's military courts have a 99.74% conviction rate, including of children, while Jews in the same area often do not even get detained when they commit murder of a Palestinian. One can understand why Israeli Jews might feel like they need protection from angry Palestinians with these unfair, violent, discriminatory practices.
When the Israeli government does not recognize 35 Bedouin villages and towns, meaning that they do not get electricity, running water, roads or other services and face home demolitions, yet a single Jewish 'farmer' having a pet cemetery can get all those services plus Internet service and rights to land on short order, is it a wonder that Jewish kids ride to school on bullet proof buses?
When only a red sign prevents Israelis from entering a Palestinian area, yet Palestinians are required to go through time consuming, humiliating checkpoints just to see their relatives, even in other Palestinian areas, is it a wonder that Jewish Israelis feel like they need protection? When I was in Hebron, one of our Palestinian hosts told us that his mother cannot even visit his house because only the people living on that street are allowed access. When an American visitor in Hebron, or the rest of Israel, has more rights of free travel than a Palestinian born there, how does that help security?
When Palestinians have no say in the laws that govern them, yet people who attack them do, how does that help security? I can go on and on with the reasons why one might be concerned in such an apartheid system, where one ethnic group gets preferential treatment and the other is stolen from and humiliated. Arresting children in the middle of the night and torturing them into confessions before charges, restricting freedom of movement, confiscating land, demolishing houses and requiring the owner to pay for the demolition, all create, rather than alleviate, a need for security.
Given this created need for security, do the tools provided actually make Israelis more secure? Does the Wall provide anyone with security when there are millions of Palestinians on both sides of the wall (Israeli citizens and East Jerusalem residents on one side and West Bank residents on the other side) and when there are over 500,000 Jews on the wrong side of the Wall in settlements in the West Bank? Clearly it is not about security but about further oppression and land confiscation. Does putting a wall between a Palestinian and his farm add to the security of Israeli Jews or actually increase the need for security? Who in their right mind would take Palestinian land and put a colony/settlement of Israeli Jewish families right next to a Palestinian city if in fact one were concerned with security?
So why all this artificially created hatred, friction, killing, incarceration, apartheid, land confiscation, and deprivation of human rights? Violations of Palestinian human rights are a necessary requirement to a Jewish state, especially one that is larger than the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947. Why? Because of the math.
When the United Nations developed the partition plan in 1947 they proposed the Jewish state to be 55% Jewish and 45% Non-Jewish; the Arab state would be over 98% Arab, the Jewish population exceeding Arab population by only 91,000 in the Jewish state. They also estimated that between 1946 and 1960 the Muslim and Christian population would increase by over 481,000 and Jewish by 56,000, not including immigration.
Doing the math, 33% of the Arabs would be in the Jewish State. 33% of the 481,000 population growth by Arabs would be an increase of 158,000 Arabs in the Jewish state in those 13 years. The only way for the Jewish state to remain a Jewish state would be to aggressively increase its population through immigration and/or get rid of Arabs.
The solution chosen by the Zionists was to give themselves a bigger demographic cushion. By, as Ilan Pappe, the Israeli historian, describes it, 'ethnically cleansing' Palestine of 750,000 Arabs, the Jewish majority would be much higher. Furthermore, if Israel were to have more land than the U.N. Partition Plan provided, it needed to implement that ethnic cleansing immediately. Because taking more land meant absorbing more Arabs on that land, Jews would immediately become the minority unless they were able to expel the Palestinian Arabs.
For this reason, Israel implemented laws to facilitate Jewish immigration and, against international law as highlighted in UNGA Resolution 194, prevent the return of Palestinians. The sadistically named Israeli Law of Return (because it did not apply to the Palestinian refugees who had recently been expelled), enacted on July 5, 1950, gave Jews the right to immediate citizenship. The Absentee Property Law of 1950 confiscated the land and possessions of the Palestinian Arab refugees. The Prevention of Infiltration Law, enacted in 1954, authorized the deportation of armed and non-armed infiltrators before or after conviction, eliminating the possibility of Palestinian refugees from ever coming home under Israeli law.
When the 1967 war occurred and Israel took the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights they had the same problem: more Arabs. The only way to maintain the Jewish majority was not to give them citizenship.
Finally, because the Palestinian birth rate is higher than the Jewish birth rate, the 'demographic bump' continues to plague Israel; it is estimated that within five years, there will be more Palestinians under Israeli control than Jews, not including the millions of Palestinian refugees outside of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. The only way to manage this demographic reality is to kill or 'encourage' as many Arabs as possible to leave.
Israel's racist practices and significant violations of human rights are not because of the security threat to Jews themselves; the mere existence of the Arabs is the threat to the concept of a Jewish state on the land it currently controls.
It is time to let Americans and Jews, who so overwhelmingly support Israel and who are complicit in its violations of human rights, understand that the choice is a racist Jewish state that has to violate human rights or a real democracy where Jews are a minority. The violations of human rights are not the problem; they are merely the symptoms of a myth of a democratic Jewish state. A Jewish state, with anything close to the land area of the current area controlled by Israel, never could, nor still cannot, coexist with equality, human rights and international law.
Only by acknowledging the flaw that a Jewish state in Palestine has and will continue to require, the extensive violation of human rights of its Palestinian people, can we then work to seek a solution where all peoples in Palestine have equality, dignity and human rights.
So, in effect, it is Americans and Jews who really provide Israel's security, it's ability to even exist. If Jews across the world clearly stated as I saw on a Center for Jewish Nonviolence T-shirt: “Occupation is not my Judaism”, and that Israel does not represent them each time they hear someone saying, 'the Jewish state', then how would its leaders describe it? Only Jews can demand the Israeli flag not include the Star of David. What legitimacy would the state have without representing Jews?
Similarly, if Americans stood by their values of equality, freedom and self-determination, then where would Israel be? It could no longer claim to be a victim but have to face its oppression of others. With Americans' leadership, Israel can be held accountable to provide equal rights and the right of return to its refugees. Only Americans can save Gaza with an airlift, like we did in Berlin in 1948-49. We can finally be free of our complicity in crimes against so man.