Israeli Knesset Rejects Equality for All Citizens; Jewish West Bank Settlers are as Smug as White South Africans in 1980

All constitutions in modern countries begin with stressing the principle of equality amongst their citizens. Even undemocratic countries adopt this principle legally, considering it a cornerstone for any modern political system, including democracy, which seems impossible and meaningless without equality. The Israeli Knesset rejected such legislation last week.
James North
January 29, 2016
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  • Knesset Rejects Bill for Equality for All Citizens - Middle East Monitor
  • Jewish West Bank Settlers are as Smug as White South Africans in 1980 - James North (Mondoweiss)
 
 
 
January 28, 2016
 
 
The Knesset yesterday voted against a draft bill proposed by MK Jamal Zahalka of the Joint Arab List, which stipulates the inclusion of an equality clause in Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.
 
The majority of the Likud bloc, the Haredi parties and Kulanu party voted against the proposal. They were joined by Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid. However, the Joint List, Meretz and the Labour parties all supported the bill.
 
During his proposal, Zahalka said: "All constitutions in modern countries begin with stressing the principle of equality amongst their citizens. Even undemocratic countries adopt this principle legally, considering it a cornerstone for any modern political system, including democracy, which seems impossible and meaningless without equality."
 
Zahalka also said that equality is a principle in itself and is not based on any other principles, rather, other human rights values are derived from it. He described the absence of equality in the state's Basic Law as "a serious absence, as it forces the judiciary, amongst others, to explain why the word equality is missing from the basic laws, which are in place of the constitution."
 
He added that Judge Aharon Barack explained the current law as human dignity that must also include the principle of equality. This is why we must include the word equality in a clear manner in the Basic Law.
 
"Anyone voting against the law is voting against equality, and does not have the right to promote democracy or say they are against discrimination and racism. The entire world adopts the principle of equality in their laws, and this is the only country that does not embrace equality in its laws. This is clear proof of the state's nature," Zahalka stressed.
 
 
 
 
 
By James North
 
January 29, 2016
 
 
 
New construction in the Ofra settlement 
Photo: Philip Weiss // Mondoweiss
 
 
As I read through Phil Weiss's superb reports on Jewish settlers in West Bank Palestine (Part 1 and Part 2), I experienced an eerie sense of familiarity. From 1978 to 1983 I lived in southern Africa, writing articles and then a book about the struggle against apartheid. The people Weiss has just described so vividly reminded me of many of the white South Africans I met back then.
 
The resemblance is more than an attitude of colonial superiority. Beyond that, I recognized in Weiss's settlers a similar feeling of self-confidence, the conviction that although the outside world could criticize all it wanted, no one was going to taken any serious actions to disturb their lives.
 
The great South African black poet Dennis Brutus once told me an anecdote that summed up this smug view. Brutus, who passed on in 2009, was the man who encouraged me to go to southern Africa and see for myself. He had been imprisoned on Robben Island in the 1960s, alongside Nelson Mandela and other national leaders. "One day one of the white warders approached," Brutus said in his mellifluous voice. "He said, `Brutus, you seem like an intelligent man - why do you fight against a system that you will never be able to change?' He was a decent sort, so I answered, `And why do you think you will keep dominating us forever?' He answered simply, `Because America will never stop supporting us.'"
 
The same self-confident attitude shines through in Weiss's reports. The settlers are absolutely certain the Israeli government will never uproot them, and behind that is the unspoken conviction that the United States will never put significant pressure on Israel.
 
South Africa's negotiated transition to a non-racial democracy in 1994 and Mandela's election to the presidency were true miracles. Sanctions - the BDS of its day - did put economic pressure on the apartheid regime, as international banks refused to roll over loans and investment started to dry up. But sanctions were vastly more important because they eroded the morale of white South Africans, who realized that the rest of the world was no longer going to stand behind them.
 
Just as with the debate over BDS today, back then the discussion about anti-apartheid sanctions sometimes got sidetracked, such as about what kind of enterprises to boycott. Dennis Brutus's white warder acquaintance was not paying attention to such details. Only when he recognized that the rest of the world was truly reducing its support did he let his political leaders negotiate a settlement.
February 4, 2016