‘The Unrecognized’ still unrecognized


7:42 pm - April 4th 2008

by Robert Sharp    


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A couple of years ago I was part of the team that produced The Unrecognized, a film highlighting the plight of the Bedouin population of the Negev (Naqab) desert in southern Israel. Despite having lived and worked on the land since the time of the British Mandate and before, their settlements and farms are not acknowledged by the state. Despite paying taxes, the residents are denied basic services such as water and healthcare, which their Jewish neighbours in the area take for granted.

Their story has been in the news again recently, due to a recent report by Human Rights Watch that renews the criticism of Israel’s discriminatory laws.

Highlighting the the terrible plight of the Bedouin is an important element in the campaign to end the discriminatory policies of the Israeli state. While campaigners in the West Bank and Gaza are undermined by the extremism of Hamas and its surrogates, no such counter exists for the Bedouin, who welcome their status as part of the Israeli state, and just want to be treated as equals within it. This gives the lie to the idea that Israeli discrimination is simply a response to Arab aggression in the region. Instead, it demonstrates the state’s drive towards ethnic purity, and the inevitable denial of human rights this entails.

For those of us who have visited the Naqab, some of the propaganda disseminated by Zionist groups is quite galling. The JNF extorts people to come and live in the Negev with pioneering slogans such as “You See a Desert, We See an Opportunity” which implies that the land is empty and uncultivated.

In fact, as our film The Unrecognized shows, much of the land has already been farmed… by the Bedouin. Our film shows state authorities ploughing up crops that have been planted by Bedouin farmers, and that many kibbutzes were actually established not on new desert ground, but on land that was forcibly taken from its Bedouin owners. The JNF fails to acknowledge the existence of the Bedouin in its publicity material, which has an air of sinister idealism as a result.

Gordon Brown, a patron of the charity, should insist that its activities do not discriminate against minority groups. Israel could be a beautiful place to settle, work and live, but only if all its peoples are treated equally.

Cross posted at robertsharp.co.uk

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Equality ,Middle East

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Reader comments


1.
There is indeed discrimination against Bedouin people in Israeli society and it is good that it be higlighted.

2.
Nomad peoples suffer from discrimination and integration problems in many nations.

3.
“Instead, it demonstrates the state‚Äôs drive towards ethnic purity, ”

Ethnic purity eh?
That would explain why Salim Joubran is a Supreme Court Justice, why Brigadier General Imad Fares commands the 91st (Galilee ) Division of the IDF, why there are anti-zionist parties represented in the Knesset, why Arabic is an official language, why the state recognizes the jurisdiction of islamic courts etc etc

Hmm. “Drive towards” doesn’t mean the same as “has achieved”.

The examples you cite demonstrate that such attempts are ultimately destined to fail. That makes it arguably all the more worrying that people continue to try.

That Arabs do enjoy rights in Israel does not mean that attempts are not being made to eradicate those rights; that those attempts are not institutionalized; and are not dangerous. They are very real and should be resisted.

Israeli Basic Law:

Amendment of section 7A 1. In the Basic Law: The Knesset**, the following section shall be inserted after section 7:
“Prevention of participation of candidates’ list

7A. A candidates’ list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if its objects or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

(1) negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people (as apposed to Israel being a state of the Israeli people;

(2) negation of the democratic character of the State Israels’ democratic nature is kept in check by keeping the Jewish people as a majority;

(3) incitement to racism from past experience, it is only racism against certain Jews that is not allowed .

“Ethnic purity eh?”

Well, that is what Zionism is all about: the creation of a state populated overwhelmingly by Jews in an area that was already populated primarily by non-Jews. Israel is a foundationally racist state – this can be disguised, as it often is in Israel, with euphemisms about “demographics”, but the reality remains.

This explains why over 700,000 indigenous Palestinians were ethnically cleansed to create the State of Israel, why they’ve never been allowed to return and why Israeli policy is characterised (to quote the latest annual human rights report of that oh-so radical of source, the U.S. State Department) by “[i]nstitutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Israeli Arabs, non-Orthodox Jews, and other religious groups” within Israel and by systematic brutality in the Occupied Territories. In 2004 the respected Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem described the occupation regime as:

“a regime of separation based on discrimination, applying two separate systems of law in the same area and basing the rights of individuals on their nationality. This regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa.”

The idea that Israel isn’t about maintaining a system of ethnic “purity” and dominance, given the nature of its ideological underpinnings and colonial realities, is simply absurd.

As for this:

“why there are anti-zionist parties represented in the Knesset”

Uh, last year Israel’s security service effectively declared organised anti-Zionism to be illegal, warning:

“[t]he Shin Bet security service will thwart the activity of any group or individual seeking to harm the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, even if such activity is sanctioned by the law.”

Jamie SW is talking the usual ignorant crap: Zionism *can* mean various forms of ethnc “purity” (ie: racism) – just as can all other nationalisms. Actually, since 1948, all Zionism can possibly mean is support for the right of the state of Israel to exist. Why Jewish nationalism is considered exceotionally evil compared to any other nationalism (including – say- its nearest equivalent: Marcus Garvey’s 1920’s “Back to Africa” movement). The right wing of the Zionist movement has certainly gained the upper hand in recent years: mainly because of anti-Semites in the rest of the world who still proclaim the objective of wiinge out the state of Israel (as opposed to a just, two-staes solution).
I note hat Jamie cannot deny the plain *facts* about Arab/Palestinian rights within the Israeli political system and Israeli law. re-read his final quote – it proves exactly the opposite of what he seeks to prove. none of which is to deny that there *is* racism within Israel towards its Arab citizens – and ceratinly not to deny that Israeli policy towards Palestinians in the occupied territories is shameful. but Israel is clearly *not* a uniquely illegitimate state, and most certainly *not* an apartheid state (despite the best efforts of the PSC and other anti-Israel fanatics to try to persuade the liberal consensus of that case): not all anti-Zionists are anti semtic. But – these days- *all* anti semites are “anti Zionist”.

Actually, I think one could argue that Zionism is pretty anti-semitic itself: both in the pedantic, semantic sense (Arabs are semites too); and in a more conventional sense, in that I think Judaism would flourish in a plural, multicultural Israel. Instead, it is undermined by the PR/HR mess that is Zionism.

The oh-so-clever argument that anti-semitism applies equally to Arabs because they’re “semites” too is either a meaningless piece of sophistry (after all “race” doesn’t really exist. so there’s no such thing as “racism” is there)…or it’s an attempt to deny the reality and/or specificity of anti-Jewish racism. Every serious person knows what anti-semitism is and playing word games cannot make it go away.

A “plural, multicultural Israel”: is course! I’ll vote for good against evil! I’m also in favour of a socialist united states of the Middle East and – come to that – a socialist federal world. In the meanwhile, Robert: do you support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (with full democratic rights for non Jews within it, of course) behind pre-’67 borders as part of two state partial-solution? Unfortunately a lot of “anti Zionists” are actually in favour of he total destruction of the state of Israel.

Hi Jim,

You’re right to sneer at the “o-so-clever” point about semites. Note I was careful to write “pedantic”, and then went on to say something I thought was a little more substantial.

I don’t think what I said equates with an anodyne “good vs evil”. Many people on both sides don’t want to see a multicultural Israel. Jewish and Arab/Muslim identities would blur in such a state. I think that would probably be a good thing, but many people disagree.

The thing is: part of the problem is indeed semantic trickery. A “Jewish state” with full rights for non-Jews may be one such confusion. What happens when the non-Jews outbreed the Jews? Do we have differential rights, or does the state lose its Jewish identity?

And another: Does advocating a one-state solution mean the destruction of Israel, or its expansion?

Israel, like all other nations, should have the right to define its own identity. I personally would like to see a “multicultural Israel” in the sense that its immigration policy did not discriminate in favour of Jews: then we would, indeed, be on the way to the so-called “democratic secular state”. But that’s a long way off. And, in any case, most of the people who presently advocate the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state are neither democratic or secular – quite the opposite, in fact. So my view is that whilst I’m in priciple in favour of “open borders” and getting rid of all national distinctions, I don’t put that demand on Israel in a situation when its not, in practice, put n any other nation. And looking to demographic changes (Arabs/ Palestions “out breeding” Jews as a solution instead of a democratic settlement (ie: two states) is profoundly anti-democratic, bordering upon racist.

That’s the trouble with people who do not regonise Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state: all too often they are simply hostile to the idea that Jews should enjoy the same bourgeois democratic national rights as every other distinct people in the world – and although the anti_srael brigade often utilise the rhetoric of socialist democracy (“democratic secular stae”), in practice they look to the Arab bourgeoisies, or Islamist anti-semites, or simple demographics and the passing of time, to achieve the destruction of the “Zionist entity”.


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