One of the gratifying things about the Fair of Shame protest on August 21st was the response of so many of the Israeli youth. As we stood outside the Jewish Federation’s celebration of Israel’s creation, dozens of big, yellow school buses passed by. Because traffic was backed up the teens inside had a chance to read our anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian signs, to speak with us, and to tell us where they were from. “Israel,” they said, and many of them gave us smiles, peace signs, thumbs-ups, and other signs of approval when they saw what we were doing.
From the ranks of such young people come the hundreds of “sarvanim” or “refuseniks” who show their moral courage by refusing to serve or obey orders in the Israeli military because it violently oppresses Palestinians and people in neighboring countries (military service is compulsory for most young Jewish Israelis). Such young people populate the ranks of groups like Zochrot, which raises “awareness of the Nakba, the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948,” in part, by erecting signs at the sites of the hundreds of Arab villages ethnically cleansed and destroyed by Zionist forces.
I am reminded, too, of another young Israeli I met a couple of years ago: Jonathan Pollak, who was seriously injured when Israeli troops shot him in the head with a teargas canister in 2005. Pollak was working with the International Solidarity Movement in the village of Bil’in where, he says, “Palestinians are protesting, and others with them, against the theft of their land, against the steps the Israeli government and Israeli army are taking to make their lives impossible — basically to commit a quiet ethnic cleansing.”
Of course, the young Israelis in the buses were still going to a celebration of the creation of Israel but they suggest that the youth don’t necessarily buy all the hoary fairy tales that their elders peddle about Israel. This certainly includes the oft-repeated lies regurgitated in the Oakland Press editorial of September 8, concerning my August 8th article in The Arab American News (TAAN), “Detroit Jewish Federation: Celebrating racism and making money at it.”
The Press claims, “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East … [and] one of the most open and tolerant nations. I put these lies to rest in my response to the Jewish Community Relations Council of Metropolitan Detroit (published in the TAAN on August 29). Suffice to it say, even the State Department’s 2007 report on human rights noted, “Institutional, legal, and societal discrimination against Israeli Arabs, non-Orthodox Jews, and other religious groups continued” in Israel. Mossawa, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, has documented that “At least twenty Israeli laws discriminate against the Arab minority …” Further, no country that, as Israel does, militarily dominates and occupies millions of people for more than forty years, extending to them neither citizenship nor any real say in the rule over them, can honestly be called a democracy.
The Press also complains there was no “policy of ethnic cleansing of Arabs from its lands” in 1948 when Israel was founded. In fact, “Plan Dalet” envisioned the “systematic eradication of Palestinian population centers” and was hatched by the Haganah in 1947. Plan Dalet is well-documented by Palestinian and Israeli historians such as Walid Khalidi, Ilan Pappe, and Benny Morris. The infamous April 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin of over 100 Palestinians, half of them women and children, occurred under Plan Dalet.
The Press got one thing right. Israel is “tolerant” … of torture, that is. As Louis Frankenthaler of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel wrote earlier this year, Israel “continues to use torture. … One may choose to believe that torture has been ‘abolished in Israel’ but it continues with impunity.” A 2006 scientific poll for the BBC in 25 countries found: “The largest percentage endorsing torture was found in Israel. … A majority of Jewish respondents (53%) favor allowing governments to use torture … In contrast, Muslims in Israel … are overwhelmingly (87%) against any use of torture.” Maybe Israeli tolerance for torture is what inspired the Press to torture the truth so viciously when they criticized the TAAN and my article.