Israel: Technologically modern but politically medieval state
By Charley Reese
Published in The Orlando Sentinel, September 24, 1998
Israel isn't Switzerland. Dr. Azmi Bashara, a member of the Israeli Knesset, asked Israeli officials for an accounting of the property, the money in the banks and the funds in the Muslim and Christian endowments, all taken over by the Israeli government.
Their answer? ``We don't know. We don't have those figures.''
Switzerland has gone to a lot of trouble to find dormant bank accounts of Holocaust victims and has acted honorably throughout. So, perhaps someone should file a class-action lawsuit against Israel on behalf of Palestinian refugees for an accounting and return of the money and land confiscated by the Israeli government.
In a long conversation I had with the Palestinian legislator, Bashara made three key points. But before we get into them, by way of background, understand that there are three sets of Palestinians. They are the same nation, but they are in three different circumstances.
One set are Palestinian refugees who are scattered around the world. These are people and their descendants driven out of Palestine by the Israelis in 1948 and 1967.
Another set of Palestinians are those who came under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza in Israel's 1967 war.
The third set are those Palestinians and their descendants who remained in Palestine during the 1948 war and are now Israeli citizens. Bashara is one of them and is a resident of Nazareth. The Israeli government, Bashara said, took 85 percent of the property belonging to those people after they were allegedly citizens. They are still subject to racial and ethnic discrimination. The Israeli government spends exactly half as much money educating its Arab citizens as it does its Jewish citizens. But even Arab citizens who get college degrees cannot find jobs. He said the Israeli electrical company employs 25,000 people but that only six are Arabs.
So the first key point Bashara made is that Israel is not a true democracy. ``It is a state of the Jews, not a state of its citizens, '' he said. ``Technologically it is a modern state, but in its political culture, it is a medieval state.'' Bashara said the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, even ran on a racist slogan: ``Netanyahu is good for the Jews.'' Twenty percent of Israel's population is non-Jewish.
Key point No. 2 is that Israel, rather than seeking true peace, is maintaining an apartheid state. Israelis are free to travel anywhere. Palestinians are not. Even those Palestinians under Arafat are in isolated pockets surrounded by Israeli-controlled territory. They must get Israeli permission to cross from one place to another. Bashara said that can take three to four days sometimes.
``They are creating Bantustans,'' he said, referring to the apartheid South African government's policy of creating isolated and economically unviable ``homelands'' for the black Africans.
Both Bishop Desmond Tutu and South African President Nelson Mandela have verified Bashara's description and condemned the Israelis for it.
His final key point is that both major Israeli groups, Labor and Likud, are in agreement on the final outcome: no sovereign state for the Palestinians, no sharing the sovereignty of Jerusalem, no dismantling of the Jewish settlements, no Palestinian control over the water and no return or compensation for the Palestinian refugees around the worldz.
Bashara said the Israeli government has continued to confiscate Palestinian lands and to expand Jewish settlements all through the Oslo process. In the long run, he said, the world will not tolerate an apartheid state in the 21st century.