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Opinion | Palestinians in Israel Need International Intervention
By Ahmad Tibi
Published September 18, 2023
A Palestinian demonstrator waves a Palestinian flag.Credit: AP
A few years ago, an Israeli historian named Ilan Pappé published “The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel,” which highlighted the background and context of the Palestinians left in what became Israel. He used the word “forgotten” because very few voices have presented that case over 75 years. But looking into our situation as Palestinian citizens of Israel may help understanding one of the most relevant topics in today’s international forums, which is the extremist Israeli government and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
As Palestinian citizens of Israel, we remain part of the Palestinian people. Therefore, we are concerned and affected by the policies of colonial-settlement expansion and annexation in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. But the fact that we live under dozens of racist anti-Palestinian laws within Israel is not something that is mentioned often. On the contrary; we are used to Western officials – mainly from the U.S., but also Europeans – repeating slogans of “shared values” with Israel as if we did not exist.
Let us be clear: The problem is not just extremist settlers like Itamar Ben-Gvir or Bezalel Smotrich. They are the consequence of a system of institutionalized discrimination and racism against the Palestinian people. That’s is why the talk of “shared values” is not just removed from reality; it pours salt on the wounds of almost 1.8 million Palestinian citizens of Israel whose lives are fully controlled by racist laws. For example, it was under the previous government headed by Mr. Bennett and Mr. Lapid that a law to ban family unifications for Palestinian citizens was passed, affecting thousands of families. At that stage, it wasn’t Ben-Gvir, Smotrich or Netanyahu but Lapid and other “liberals” that defended the law as a way to keep Israel as a “Jewish-majority state.”
There is a problem that most allies of Israel avoid even discussing: The issue of apartheid. Today, when even a former head of the Mossad defines the reality of what is going on with one state and two different legal systems based on religion and national origin as apartheid, the least that the world could do is to look into the root causes. There, you will find Jewish supremacy as the core.
The issue of criminality in the Palestinian street in Israel is also a relevant symptom of this reality. Every day, we hear of new people being killed by mafias that have been allowed to operate by the state for many years. It makes little sense that a state that takes pride in detaining an Iranian operative in Tehran or allegedly bombing transports of weapons in Sudan or Syria cannot deal with crime 10 kilometers away from Tel Aviv. From where could a Palestinian citizen of Israel, who does not train in the military, receive a weapon to kill fellow Palestinian citizens?
A major part of those weapons come from the Israeli military itself. Whenever efforts have been made to put an end to this reality, we have heard very telling explanations.
For example, a police chief claiming the force isn’t being allowed to take action because several of those criminals are informants for Israeli intelligence. Another police chief said that this was simply the “culture” of the people in the community; yet when crime grows in the Jewish Israeli community, no Palestinian citizen of Israel leader has referred to it in racist terms. On the contrary: we have demanded the action of the Israeli authorities for the benefit of all citizens. This is not their interest.
We know, though, what their reaction would be if the same weapons were being used against Israeli Jews in Tel Aviv or against the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. Understanding this reality is something that very few Western officials have been trying to do. Therefore, please let me be clear: When an Israeli minister takes pride in demolishing the home of a Palestinian citizen of Israel and considers this to be an act of “law enforcement,” let everyone remember that the same minister is responsible for failing to act in the killing of almost 200 citizens. This should be enough for people to understand the urgency of the situation.
We have witnessed how when armed settlers or soldiers are killed in the occupied West Bank, there is immediate western condemnation. Some European diplomats make use of their social media accounts to condemn every single of such acts. We have never seen such condemnations when it comes to Palestinian citizens of Israel, let alone the killings of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. When Finance Minister Smotrich cut funds for Arab municipalities, we went to demonstrate outside the ministry. Some of our people were even beaten, yet we did not hear of any international condemnation.
We urgently need international intervention. This is not just about Palestinians in the occupied West Bank or Gaza. This is about Palestinian citizens that are being persecuted by the Israeli government. When the United States opposed the launching of a United Nations commission of inquiry to investigate the root causes of the situation on both sides of the 1967 borders, it directly affected our ability to receive the needed protection. Nobody can trust a government built by religious fanatics and racists to protect the very same people they consider to be their enemy.
This is a dangerous government with disastrous results for everyone, whether Palestinians or Jews, a government that refuses to be the government for all citizens. This is not something new, and not just a matter of the extreme right. But today, we can represent this reality with one name: Benjamin Netanyahu.
MK Ahmad Tibi is the co-head of the Hadash-Ta’al political alliance in the Knesset.
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