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Defend human rights law and call Israel to account

Defend human rights law and call Israel to account
Press Release: Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa New Zealand | 27 July 2018
No one should be surprised at the recent Israeli Parliament's passing of the “Basic Law – Israel as The Nation State of the Jewish People”. The law is but one more step in the incremental realisation of the ultimate ambition of Israel's founding European ideology, Zionism. The Zionist project to colonise Palestine, presented by the British Government in the Balfour Declaration of 1917, proved controversial from the outset. A joint letter to The Times, from the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association, on 24 May 1917, expressed concern that the “establishment of a Jewish nationality in Palestine” would have the effect of “stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands and of undermining their hard-won positions as citizens and nationals of those lands.”

The new Nation State law defines the Israeli state as affording the right to self-determination only to Jewish people, removing Arabic from the status of an official language to one that is merely “special”. Writing in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, Mordechai Kremnitzer asks: “How far is it between this constitutional provision and the call of racist rabbis not to sell or rent housing to Arabs? Even before the passing of the new Nation State law, non-Jewish citizens of Israel have been barred from buying, or even renting, land on 93% of the area controlled by the Israeli state.” This racist law constitutionalises discrimination by asserting that the right to sovereignty and democratic self-rule belongs solely to Jewish people.

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List (the Palestinian parties in the Knesset), has stated that, “. . . we refuse to be second-class citizens; we will not allow the majority to humiliate and destroy us.” He also said, “ . . . they can never erase us from the homeland we share. We know that the way forward, the struggle of our lifetime, is to build a future for all of us with democracy, equality, and justice.” In the Israeli Parliament last month, the Joint List Party submitted for consideration a “State of All its Citizens” law. It was rejected by the Knesset Praesidium and so, last week, the Joint List MKs again attempted to bring democratic principles before the Knesset with a proposal for a “Democratic, Multi-Cultural, and Egalitarian State”. That, too, was rejected before it could even be debated.
The US-based Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) observed that the new law confirms Israel's identity as an apartheid state. JVP Deputy Director, Rabbi Alissa Wise, wrote: “Today we put to bed once and for all the illusion that Israel is a democracy. The Nation-State bill that Israel passed today cements Israel as an apartheid state – from the West Bank to Gaza to Jerusalem to Haifa. Palestinians, no matter where they live, are controlled by an Israeli government and military that robs them of basic rights and freedoms.”

Israel's relentless programme of daily oppression and racist violence is perpetrated by both Israeli forces and illegal Occupation settlers. While eyewitness and video evidence of the massacre of defenceless protesters in Gaza alerted the world somewhat, the daily routine of fear and insecurity that Palestinians endure under Israeli military control outside of Gaza, appears to be largely ignored by the rest of the world. For example, on 18 July in the West Bank, Israeli forces invaded a district in Deir Ballut and bulldozed 350 Palestinian olive trees so that a waste-water treatment plant could be constructed for an Israeli Occupation settlement outpost – that stands on privately-owned Palestinian land. This was no isolated event.
For over 50 years!

Israel's creeping annexation and division of the West Bank and Jerusalem has rendered the two-state option unrealisable and hope for the single-state alternative has been grimly overshadowed by this latest legislation in the Knesset. The Palestinians are forced to live with this harrowing reality day after day – they have no choice. Imagine the outrage and hysteria in the mainstream news media if it were Israelis, instead of Palestinians, living with the dread of night home invasions, their children shackled, blindfolded and brutally treated as they are taken from their homes. Imagine what it must be like to have your home destroyed by an alien army.

The enormous power of the Israel lobby exerts tremendous political influence inside the United States. President Trump moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and celebrated with Netanyahu on the very same day that Palestinian protesters in Gaza were massacred. The New Zealand Government should demonstrate this country's commitment to human rights by supporting justice for Palestinians and, if that means disassociating ourselves for once from our 'traditional allies', then so be it. Israel must be called to account, not rewarded. If the courageous activists aboard the International Gaza Flotilla can challenge Israel, then so can the New Zealand Government.

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