Israel’s ethnic cleansing of its parliament

Israel/Palestine
on 33 Comments

Benjamin Netanyhu’s government is drafting legislation that ought to resolve in observers’ minds the question of whether Israel is the democracy it proudly claims to be. The bill empowers a three-quarters majority of the parliament to oust a sitting MP.

It breathes new life into the phrase “tyranny of the majority”. But in this case, the majority will be Jewish MPs oppressing their Palestinian colleagues.

Netanyahu has presented the bill as a necessary response to the recent actions of three MPs from the Balad faction of the Joint List, a coalition of parties representing the often-overlooked fifth of Israel’s population who are Palestinian citizens.

He claims the MPs “sided with terror” this month when they visited Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem who have been waiting many months for Israel to return relatives’ bodies.

The 11 dead are among those alleged to have carried out what are termed “lone-wolf” attacks, part of a recent wave of Palestinian unrest. Fearful of more protests, Israel has demanded that the families bury the bodies in secret, without autopsies, and in plots outside Jerusalem.

There is an urgent moral and political issue about Israel using bodies as bargaining chips to encourage Palestinian obedience towards its illegal occupation.

But the three Palestinian MPs also believed they were under an obligation to help the families by adding to the pressure on the Netanyahu government to return the bodies.

Israel’s Palestinian minority has a severely degraded form of citizenship, but it enjoys more rights than Palestinians living under occupation.

When a video of their meeting the families was posted online, however, the Israeli right seized on the chance to defame the MPs. A parliamentary “ethics” committee comprising the main Jewish parties suspended the three MPs for several months. Now they face losing their seats.

This is part of a clear trend. Late last year the government outlawed the northern Islamic Movement, a popular extra-parliamentary political, religious and welfare organization.

Despite Netanyahu’s statements that the movement was linked to “terror”, leaks to the Israeli media showed his intelligence chiefs had advised him weeks before the ban that there was no evidence to support such accusations.

At the time many Palestinians in Israel suspected Netanyahu would soon turn his sights on the Palestinian parties in the parliament. And so he has.

Balad, which decries Israel’s status as a Jewish state and noisily campaigns for democratic reform, was always likely to be top of his list.

In every recent general election, an election committee dominated by the Jewish parties has banned Balad or its leaders from standing, only to see the Israeli courts reverse the decision.

Now Netanyahu is legislating the expulsion of Balad and throwing down a gauntlet to the courts.

It won’t end there. If Balad is unseated, the participation of the other Joint List factions will be untenable. In effect, the Israeli right is seeking to ethnically cleanse the parliament.

For those who doubt such intentions, consider that two years ago the government raised the electoral threshold for entry to the parliament specifically to exclude the Palestinian factions.

The intention was to empty the parliament of its Palestinian representatives. But these factions put aside their historic differences to create the Joint List.

Netanyahu, who had hoped to see the back of the Palestinian parties at last year’s general election, inadvertently transformed them into the third biggest party. That was the context for his now-infamous warning during the campaign that “the Arabs are coming out in droves to vote”.

The current crackdown on Palestinian parties may finally burst the simplistic assumption – widely accepted in the west – that Israel is a democracy – and not least because its Palestinian minority has the vote.

This argument was always deeply misguided. After Israel’s creation in 1948, officials gave citizenship and the vote to the few Palestinians remaining inside the new borders precisely because they were a small and weak minority.

In exiling 80% of Palestinians from their homeland, Israel effectively rigged its national electoral constituency to ensure there would be a huge Jewish majority in perpetuity.

A Palestinian MP, Ahmed Tibi, summed it up neatly. Israel, he said, was a democratic state for Jews, and a Jewish state for its Palestinian citizens.

In truth, the vote of Palestinian citizens was only ever meant as window-dressing. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, assumed that the rump Palestinian population would be swamped by Jewish immigrants flooding into the new state.

He miscalculated. The Palestinian minority had a far higher birth rate and maintained its 20 per cent proportion of the population.

None of that would matter had the Palestinian representatives quietly accepted their position as shop-window mannequins.

But in recent years, as Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has grown ever weaker, confined to small enclaves of the West Bank, the Palestinian MPs in Israel have taken up some of the slack.

That was why the Balad MPs met the Jerusalem families. The PA, barred by Israel from East Jerusalem, has been looking on helplessly as the families have been desperately trying to get their loved ones’ bodies back.

This month Mr Netanyahu said he would surround Israel with walls to keep out the neighbourhood’s “wild beasts”. In his view, there are also wild beasts to be found in Israel’s parliament – and he is ready to erect walls to keep them out too.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

33 Responses

  1. Shmuel
    February 24, 2016, 12:14 pm

    Benjamin Netanyhu’s government is drafting legislation that ought to resolve in observers’ minds the question of whether Israel is the democracy it proudly claims to be.

    See, for example, the recent article by Rabbi David M. Gordis (a leader of the Conservative/Masorti Movement; brief bio below), published in Tikkun: link to tikkun.org

    Here’s an excerpt:

    Present day Israel has discarded the rational, the universal and the visionary. These values have been subordinated to a cruel and oppressive occupation, an emphatic materialism, severe inequalities rivaling the worst in the western world and distorted by a fanatic, obscurantist and fundamentalist religion which encourages the worst behaviors rather than the best.

    And most depressing of all for me, is that I see no way out, no way forward which will reverse the current reality. Right wing control in Israel is stronger and more entrenched than ever. The establishment leadership in the American Jewish community is silent in the face of this dismal situation, and there are no recognizable trends that can move Israel out of this quagmire. So, sadly, after a life and career devoted to Jewish community and Israel, I conclude that in every important way Israel has failed to realize its promise for me. A noble experiment, but a failure. [emphasis in the original]

    David Gordis has served as vice-president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles (now American Jewish University). He also served as Executive Vice President of the American Jewish Committee and was the founding director of the Foundation for Masorti Judaism in Israel. He founded and directed the Wilstein Institute for Jewish Policy Studies which became the National Center for Jewish Policy Studies.

    David Gordis is President Emeritus of Hebrew College where he served as President and Professor of Rabbinics for fifteen years. He is currently Visiting Senior Scholar at the University at Albany of the State University of New York.

    There’s no need to agree with Rabbi Gordis that Israel was a “noble experiment” (I don’t) to see the significance of his admission of failure (following in the footsteps of his friend and colleague Henry Siegman). Gordis doesn’t go into the reasons why Israel “failed”, but that’s the logical, next step — crucial to deciding what to do about it..

  2. oldgeezer
    February 24, 2016, 12:32 pm

    Israel was never democratic despite some democratic features. It can never be considered democratic without the right of return being implemented. What democracy removes the right to citizenshop and viti g from half, or more, of the potential electorate. Arguably many if one looks at women being denied the right to vote but Israel shouldn’t be given leeway to drag ys back to the past in this regard anymore that it does with it’s lawless land grabs while comparing itself to western states hundreds of years ago.

    • Headlamp
      February 24, 2016, 4:05 pm

      You are referring to Resolution 194 – a (now) anachristic UN resolution passed in 1948 calling for the return of c. 500,000 refugees. Somehow that number now includes all their descendants.

      What most people forget though is General Assembly resolutions are not binding, and only serve as advisory statements, there can be no obligation or enforcement of Resolution 194. Israel wan’t even a member of the UN when it was passed.

      • echinococcus
        February 24, 2016, 4:43 pm

        What many more people forget is that the partition proposal was nothing but a GA resolution that should be reversed to establish Palestine in all the territory.

      • diasp0ra
        February 24, 2016, 4:50 pm

        @Headlamp

        Except you haven’t done your homework.

        Israel was accepted into the United Nations on condition that it accept the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees. Admission of Israel to membership in the United Nations (General Assembly Resolution 273 of May 11, 1949 ) requires Israel to comply with General Assembly Resolution 194 of December 11, 1948 and Israel stated it agreed to comply with this resolution.

        So Israel already agreed to carry out the resolution, so it’s not anachronistic or non-binding. It’s already been signed on.

      • amigo
        February 24, 2016, 5:42 pm

        “What most people forget though is General Assembly resolutions are not binding, and only serve as advisory statements, there can be no obligation or enforcement of Resolution 194. Israel wan’t even a member of the UN when it was passed.” Headlamp.

        So how about Israel getting out of the Syrian Heights per the following , BINDING Resolution.Or do you have some other lame hasbara excuse why that UNSCR does not apply.

        “United Nations Security Council resolution 497, adopted unanimously on 17 December 1981, declared that the Israeli Golan Heights Law, which effectively annexed the Golan Heights, is “null and void and without international legal effect” and further calls on Israel to rescind its action.”.

        link to en.wikipedia.org

      • gamal
        February 24, 2016, 6:48 pm

        ” a (now) anachristic” there’s a new Christianity every week, finally you going to get some anarchy, its what you guys need.

      • talknic
        February 24, 2016, 9:01 pm

        @ Headlamp “You are referring to Resolution 194 – a (now) anachristic UN resolution passed in 1948 calling for the return of c. 500,000 refugees. “

        Nonsense. It called for all refugees. “.. refugees from Israel- controlled territory amount to approximately 711,000”

        Israeli controlled territory included territories the Israeli Government claimed on May 22nd 1948 were “outside the State of Israel” … “in Palestine”

        ” Somehow that number now includes all their descendants.”

        Normal for all refugees. link to unhcr.org

        UNGA res 194 wasn’t specific to non-Jewish Israeli citizens, it included Jewish and non-Jewish refugees from Israeli and non-Israeli territories

        “What most people forget though is General Assembly resolutions are not binding”

        What Ziomouthpieces ALWAYS forget is that the Laws (all law is binding) and the UN Charter (binding on all Members) and relevant International Conventions that are re-affirmed, emphasized or otherwise mentioned in ANY UN resolution, are binding

        ” Israel wan’t even a member of the UN when it was passed”

        OK. Have it your way Jews had no right of return either

      • Jon66
        February 25, 2016, 7:48 am

        Talknic,

        It’s actually not usual to include the descendants of refugees. It’s a case of Palestinian
        exceptionalism. I don’t know the specific rationale.

        “In UN parlance, the definition of the word has been expanded to include descendants of refugees, in the case of two specific groups: Palestinian refugees and Sahrawi refugees. Currently, the UN does not consider refugee status to be hereditary for any other groups.”

      • Annie Robbins
        February 25, 2016, 11:13 am

        It’s a case of Palestinian exceptionalism

        no it’s not. it’s a case of israel’s crude exceptionalism. and the reason not “usual” to include the descendants of refugees is because most conflicts are resolved within a generation. it’s israel’s exceptional belligerence of agreeing to be accepted into the United Nations on condition that it accept the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees and then not complying — breaking their agreement.

      • MHughes976
        February 25, 2016, 11:54 am

        In order to maintain the distinction between might and right, which is almost as important as the distinction between right and wrong, it is important to preserve the right of return for as long as possible, so as deny legitimacy to invaders and marauders. The right of return lapses only when a refugee, an original refugee or a descendant, accepts citizenship in another country.

      • Jon66
        February 25, 2016, 12:11 pm

        Annie and Hughes,

        Is Talknic correct that,”
        Normal for all refugees. link to unhcr.org

        – See more at: link to mondoweiss.net

        Or is Wikipedia?
        I’m not questioning the purpose behind the classification, but the routine use of paternal inherentance of the status seems to be only in this case.

      • Talkback
        February 25, 2016, 1:33 pm

        @ Headlamp

        Do you think that Jews have a right to “return”?

      • Talkback
        February 25, 2016, 1:39 pm

        Jon66,

        read this article:

        “Questions raised about the passing of refugee status through generations stem from a lack of understanding of the international protection regime. These questions serve only to distract from the need to address the real reasons for the protracted Palestinian refugee situation, namely the absence of negotiated solution to the underlying political issues.

        UNHCR‘s Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for determining Refugee Status provides in paragraph 184: “If the head of a family meets the criteria of the definition, [for refugee status] his dependants are normally granted refugee status according to the principle of family unity.”

        In effect, refugee families everywhere retain their status as refugees until they fall within the terms of a cessation clause or are able to avail themselves of one of three durable solutions already mentioned — voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement in a third country.

        Also, Chapter 5 of the UNHCR publication, Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination under UNHCR’s Mandate is very clear that in accordance with the refugee’s right to family unity, refugee status is transferred through the generations. According to Chapter 5.1.2 “the categories of persons who should be considered to be eligible for derivative status under the right to family unity include:” “all unmarried children of the Principal Applicant who are under 18 years.”

        Chapter 5.1.1 makes it clear that this status is retained after the age of 18. It states “individuals who obtain derivative refugee status enjoy the same rights and entitlements as other recognised refugees and should retain this status notwithstanding the subsequent dissolution of the family through separation, divorce, death, or the fact that the child reaches the age of majority.”

        In addition, UNHCR typically cites a Palestinian refugee population number in their State of the World‘s Refugees reports: see as an example this document. This makes clear that the practice of registering descendants of refugees is not disputed.”
        link to unrwa.org

      • Kris
        February 25, 2016, 1:52 pm

        @jon66: “It’s actually not usual to include the descendants of refugees. It’s a case of Palestinian exceptionalism.

        Really? Where did this information come from?

        Others here have demonstrated that your statement was not true, and provided you with citations for their information, so you can investigate further.

        It is easy to provide links to sources, and makes the discussion more interesting and informative, so please help us out by providing links to evidence for what you assert.

      • MHughes976
        February 25, 2016, 1:59 pm

        I was speaking of moral right and did provide a brief argument. Whether that moral right is normally recognised in international conventions etc, I don’t know. It should be. International committees have no right to set moral rights aside.

      • Jon66
        February 25, 2016, 4:25 pm

        Thanks Talkback. I’ll read it.

      • talknic
        February 25, 2016, 6:37 pm

        Only an idiot digs a deeper hole when faced with facts

        @ Jon66 “It’s actually not usual to include the descendants of refugees. It’s a case of Palestinian exceptionalism. I don’t know the specific rationale”

        Keep digging pal:

        184. If the head of a family meets the criteria of the definition, his dependants are normally granted refugee status according to the principle of family unity. It is obvious, however, that formal refugee status should not be granted to a dependant if this is incompatible with his personal legal status. Thus, a dependant member of a refugee family may be a national of the country of asylum or of another country, and may enjoy that country’s protection. To grant him refugee status in such circumstances would not be called for

        (Wikipedia quote) “In UN parlance, the definition of the word has been expanded to include descendants of refugees, in the case of two specific groups: Palestinian refugees … “

        BULLSH*T! (see above)

        Wikipedia is by definition of its editorial policies a third hand version of second hand opinion, interpreted by anyone who is not directly involved in the issue at hand link to en.wikipedia.org

        IOW Even Einstein would not have been allowed to explain his theory of relativity

      • rosross
        February 26, 2016, 12:31 am

        It is now irrelevant. There will be a one-state solution and Palestinians will be the majority and they will allow right of return.

        If Israel had been sensible and not sourced in religious bigotry, it would have created one state for all decades ago, securing the future for Israeli colonists and indigenous Palestinians, without any right of return.

        Too late now. And all Israel’s own work.

      • Mooser
        February 26, 2016, 11:03 am
  3. eljay
    February 24, 2016, 12:34 pm

    A religion-supremacist “Jewish State” with a religion-supremacist parliament: The “moral beacon” and “light unto the nations” state of Israel marches just a little bit more in goose-step with bottom-of-the-barrel states such as Saudi Arabia, Mali and African “hell-holes”.

  4. Herchel
    February 24, 2016, 2:38 pm

    He claims the MPs “sided with terror” this month when they visited Palestinian families in occupied East Jerusalem who have been waiting many months for Israel to return relatives’ bodies.

    The 11 dead are among those alleged to have carried out what are termed “lone-wolf” attacks, part of a recent wave of Palestinian unrest

    They are the bodies of murderers, not participants in “palestinian unrest”. These MP’s, particularly the traitorous Zoabi should be thrown in jail for sedition and their place in the kenesset should be the least of their worries.

    How about we exchange these carcasses for the remains of Ron Arad? If the Arabs get living child-killers like Kuntar for Jewish corpses, certainly Israel should at least be able to get the remains of one Jew in a trade. (Assuming we suspend reality and pretend that Jews aren’t held to a separate set of rules based on bigotry.)

    • Marnie
      February 25, 2016, 6:22 am

      MK Zoabi is a powerhouse! No wonder they want her out – she’s got more brains and class than her zionist counterparts and they’re scared shiteless of her. You too.

      Wwwaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!

    • talknic
      February 25, 2016, 6:51 pm

      @ Herchel

      “How about we exchange these carcasses for the remains of Ron Arad? If the Arabs get living child-killers like Kuntar for Jewish corpses”

      For non-Jews “carcasses”. For Jews “remains” or “corpses”. Zionist bigotry is so cute

      After displaying how vile he can be, he then foolishly goes on to say “Assuming we suspend reality and pretend that Jews aren’t held to a separate set of rules based on bigotry”

      You’re doing a great job Herchel. No one other than a Zionist can better show in their own words just how sick they are

      Keep up the good work

  5. talknic
    February 24, 2016, 8:41 pm

    “Netanyahu has presented the bill as a necessary response to the recent actions of three MPs from the Balad faction of the Joint List, a coalition of parties representing the often-overlooked fifth of Israel’s population who are Palestinian citizens”

    Oh FFS stop muddying the waters with inaccuracies. They’re either non-Jewish Israeli citizens or Palestinian citizens of Israel.

  6. Kathleen
    February 25, 2016, 6:08 am

    ” Fearful of more protests, Israel has demanded that the families bury the bodies in secret, without autopsies, and in plots outside Jerusalem. ”

    “without autopsies” telling.

    ” But in this case, the majority will be Jewish MPs oppressing their Palestinian colleagues. – ”

    Not like this would be the first time they would be “oppressing their Palestinian colleagues”

    link to youtube.com

    + Does anyone know whether there is a clip where all of the extremely rude hecklers words are translated?

    UN Report having to do with the Israeli massacre on the Mavi Marmara
    link to un.org

  7. Shmuel
    February 25, 2016, 6:29 am

    The thing (well, one of the things) about actions like holding onto the bodies of presumed terrorists, banning the northern Islamic Movement, punitive house demolitions, the economic stranglehold on Gaza, etc. — all ostensibly in the name of “security” — is that Israel’s own experts doubt or entirely reject their efficacy. In other words, the government is motivated by ideological and/or electoral rather than security concerns.

    The Palestinian MKs have the temerity to point such things out, as well as the illegality and inhumanity of such measures. Finding practical solutions to political-ideological problems (as in the case of the Palestinian MKs’ mediation between the government/police and Palestinian families, for the return of the bodies) can also be very annoying (or at least offer an excuse to act annoyed) — even when such efforts have been given a ministerial green light.

    • ritzl
      February 25, 2016, 1:39 pm

      Shmuel, do you have a sense when, or if, a greater number of reflective Jewish-Israelis will get tired of the anti-democratic forces contained in the [major?] Jewish parties and start supporting the more vibrant, pro-democratic “temerities” that the Palestinian MKs exhibit?

      I know that’s a loaded question. Elliot, who comments heren has already had that epiphany but said it was a tortuous path with family animosities and the like coming into play. His path would be difficult to duplicate.

      Maybe a better question would be, at what point does [the threat of] the demonstrable loss of democracy become more of a voting motivator for Jewish-Israelis than “preserving the Jewish nature…” of it all. “Israel is a Democracy [dammit]!!” seems to carry such weight as a point of pride that losing it may change the calculus of the Jewish v. Democracy voting decision for an increasing number of Jewish-Israelis. As Israeli democracy crumbles in real time (as this article points out) they may soon be willing take a flyer and vote JL just to see what reinvigoration may ensue, whereas now “Jewish and crumbling democracy” seems to be the operative rule.

      IDK. Your insights are always more nuanced than mine. I just get the feeling that an increasing number of ingredients for an inflection in some Israeli voter behavior (you have to somewhere, eh?) may be coming together. Maybe…

      Just curious. Cheers.

      • Shmuel
        February 25, 2016, 3:49 pm

        Hi ritzl,

        I don’t see the seeds for any truly democratic shift among Israeli Jews at the moment, and certainly not in the form of support for or even cooperation with the Palestinian MKs (assuming any are left). At best, considering the overtly anti-democratic tendencies of the current government, Israeli Jews might — if left to their own devices — try to roll back some of the worst excesses, to restore the old delusion of democracy, but I don’t see even that happening any time soon.

      • ritzl
        February 25, 2016, 4:43 pm

        Thanks Shmuel. I was hoping you might be seeing some daylight.

        Be well.

  8. Ossinev
    February 25, 2016, 6:39 am

    @Herchel
    “How about we exchange these carcasses”

    Refreshingly honest use of Nazi style and Nazi standard epithets to describe dead human beings by a promising Nazi apprentice.

    KUTGW

    • Talkback
      February 28, 2016, 2:38 am

      Herchel means “carcasses” minus some organs he has taken out before under the supervision of Doktor Hess.

  9. Talkback
    February 28, 2016, 2:39 am

    Jewish democracy 101:

    If you can’t decrease the number of nonjewish electors (expulsion, revoking citizenship, etc.), decrease the numbers of their parties which can make it into parliament. If that doesn’t work, decrease the numbers of their representatives.

    Just make sure that Israel maintains to be a Jewish and democratic Apartheid junta.

Leave a Reply