“It’s us or them”, says a new election poster by Likud, suggesting that Jaffa can be either a “Hebrew city” or one taken over by the “Islamist movement”. “Only the Likud – the right of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa” it says at the bottom. There is a second version of the ad where “they” are African refugees, labelled as “infiltrators”, as Israelis from both right and left of the political spectrum like to call them (photo in Facebook post by David Sheen).
This is a municipal election racial bating campaign. Municipal elections in Israel, which take place every five years, are set for the end of the month.
“Hebrew city” is to be understood as a euphemism for ‘Jewish’. When the main Zionist labor union Histadrut called for “Hebrew work” in pre-state years, it was calling for Judaization of the work market. The notion of “Islamist movement” is to be understood as a reference to Palestinians in general, those whom Israelis would mostly call ‘Arabs’. In simple terms, Likud is doing the famous racial-bating of ‘Jews VS Arabs’. We know this one from Netanyahu’s 2015 warning that the “Arabs” are coming to vote “in droves”, on the eve of the last parliamentary elections.
Such racial incitement is not new in Jaffa either – for example in 2013, deputy mayor of Tel Aviv Arnon Giladi, also a Likud member, had launched a poster campaign to silence the Muslim call to prayer in Jaffa and “maintain the Jewish character” of the city. The posters feature a minaret saying “silencing the Muezzin? In Jaffa? Only the Likud can”. The hate campaign against African refugees is a more recent development. Prime Minister Netanyahu went last year on a tour in south Tel Aviv, saying he was “on a mission to give back south Tel Aviv to the Israeli residents” from the hands of the African infiltrators. He was touring with Culture Minister Miri Regev (also Likud), who in 2012 called the African refugees “a cancer in our body”.
The ethnic cleansing and Judaization of Jaffa
Jaffa was ethnically cleansed in 1948 by Zionist militias. Of its 120,000 Palestinian inhabitants, only 4,000 were left, to be ghettoized during the Judaization and Hebrewization of the formerly distinctly Palestinian-Arab city. Jaffa was in fact meant to be part of the UN designed ‘Arab state’ according to the 1947 UN ‘Partition Plan’, but Israel annexed it to Tel-Aviv, the ‘Hebrew city’.
Nowadays, Jaffa has a population of nearly 50,000, about 1/3 of whom are Palestinians. Yet of the roughly 400 streets of this city, which once was a central hub of Arab Palestine, only 14 are named after Arab dignitaries or themes. After the ethnic cleansing preceding the state declaration in 1948, Israel erased all street names, first naming them solely by numbers, and then, in 1950, began naming them. One street, Natan Pantz Street, is an example of this symbolism: Natan Pantz was a member of the Zionist terror organization Irgun, those who had ethnically cleansed Jaffa together with the more mainstream Zionist militia, Haganah. In 1998, a street was named after him in a ceremony attended by then Prime Minister Netanyahu. A square on the street has a statue of Panz, who was also a soccer player. The street sign says “Natan Panz (1917-1948): an exemplary athlete who fell in the service of the Irgun in the battle for the liberation of Jaffa.”
Netanyahu can condemn Palestinians all he wants for calling streets and squares after “terrorists”, but he does it himself. For him, they are just “liberators”.
Shortly after the street-naming ceremony, activists from the Islamic Movement placed a green metal plaque next to the street name. The plaque bore a verse from the Koran calling on believers to ask forgiveness for their sins: “Ask forgiveness of your God, He is merciful.”
Not just the right
This is a sad, sad story, of how the Zionist colonialist venture continually seeks to erase the cultural, ethnic and religious history of the places it takes over. This latest campaign shows that this is an ongoing issue.
Yet let us not be fooled to think that this sort of racist fear-mongering is limited to the right. This campaign is actually quite reminiscent of a campaign from last year by the supposedly-liberal “commanders for Israeli security”, which called for separation from Palestinians because these Palestinians “will soon be the majority”. The huge billboards were in Arabic and featured Palestinian colors, as a gimmick. Unsurprisingly, the ‘left hero’ Ehud Barak, who also brags about the “liberation” of “Judea and Samaria”, endorsed the campaign.
The ‘Arab minority’
Israel often brags about its ‘Arab minority’, and how well these citizens are treated. But this minority is what was left of the nearly one-million Palestinians under the territory that Israel took over in 1948. While being used as an alibi to demonstrate Israel’s supposed liberalism (since they were not ALL dispossessed, and since they were after all afforded citizenship, despite no national rights), these Palestinians are still regularly being incited against as a ‘fifth column’. Their presence in cities, as opposed to isolated towns which are exclusively Palestinian, seems to be a particularly disturbing matter for Zionists, who would rather have them packed into ghettos or Bantustans of some sort, if they at all need to be there. Even the Zionist left, in its obsession with racial purity, is often not ashamed to incite against ‘Arabs’, as did former Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, when he warned his constituency against being perceived as “Arab lovers”, before warning Jews worldwide of the “plague” of intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews.
So it may be that the Likud is now taking its turn at being more overtly racist and fascist with the “us or them” scaremongering rhetoric, but this is merely indicative of a general Zionist problem. The Nation-State law has only emboldened this fascism, but it has a very long and ugly history. And remember now – all this is happening in what is generally known as “Israel proper”.
Thanks to Dorthe Dalsgaard, Danielle Alma Ravitzki, Nasser Butt, Tom Pessah, Ofer Neiman, David Sheen