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Out of My Mind: Is Israel a Racist State?

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal characterized Israel as a racist state. Her charge was itself racist, offensive, and anti-Semitic. It was also both true and meaningless. The Squad also calls Israel an Apartheid state.

Yes, Israel is a racist state where Palestinians are second-class citizens. Israel is not an Apartheid state. Within Israel, Palestinian Arabs are citizens and can vote, hold office and be part of the government. Palestinians constitute over 24% of Israel’s medical doctors and 28% of nurses. So, her charge of being racist is true yet deceptive.

What state is not racist?

America is a racist state which, from the beginning, benefited white males. To be Black, Brown, Asian, or Native American is to be a second-class citizen. Canada is a racist nation. Ask their First Peoples. India is a racist country with racism built into its caste system, and it manifests currently with its anti-Islamic Hindu nationalism. Yet, Jayapal, who is of Indian origin, was able to overlook its fundamental racism and attend the joint session of Congress appearance of Prime Minister Modi—an authoritarian racist.

China is a racist country favoring by law and custom the Han people while marginalizing and oppressing Muslims, Christians, as well as ethnic Koreans, Tibetans, and 51 other non-Han ethnicities. France is a racist nation, although they pretend that race doesn’t exist and they’re all just French. Ask a French citizen descended from Sub-Saharan or Northern Africa. Ask French Jews.

When Goldberg’s Deli was shot up in 1982 by Palestinian terrorists, six Jews were killed and more than 20 people injured. President Mitterrand expressed his profound regret that Jews were injured and died along with many “innocent French.” The dead and injured Jews were not real innocents nor, apparently, even really French. He didn’t mean to offend, but this is the Platonic form of unconscious bias.

I don’t have to remind anyone of Czarist Russia’s persecution of Jews, the Soviet Union’s persecution of all religions, and the current Russian ethnic-religious nationalism that is both anti-Semitic and homophobic. Saudi Arabia is another racist society. No, they don’t persecute Jews because there are no Jews. Nor are there Jews left in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, or Afghanistan. Yet, beyond the absence of Jews, these nations, too, are racist—persecuting people of other faiths, tribes, and ethnicities.

Look at the rest of Asia. Look at Latin America and Africa. Now find me a non-racist state.

This week, Texas border agents pushed Latin Americans seeking refugee status back into the Rio Grande—a river that they booby-trapped with razor wire. Does anyone think that White people would receive such wonton cruelty? Look at Italy and Greece that interfere with the rescue of Africans and let them drown. Does race play a part? You know the answer.

Look at Tunisia, which just arrested sub-Saharan Africans and moved them from the port city of Sfax to an inhumane and deadly desert prison camp on their border with Libya. Race an issue? No question.

Am I committing the rhetorical sin of the classic subject-changing technique of “What-aboutism?” Absolutely not! If the transgression is universal, then it’s not bad faith or evasion to contextualize the charge.

Judging Israel as a uniquely flawed and racist state is anti-Semitic. It is a willful ignoring of the sad truth of the world. Having the SQUAD boycott the speech of Israel’s president while singing the praises of societies that kill LGBTQA+ people and perform female genital mutilation is either hypocritical, morally bankrupt, or both.

It is true that in the first 30 years of the 20th Century, Jews debated if Zionism was racism and if a Jewish state had to be inherently flawed by its unique identity as being Jewish. The debates were fierce and passionate. The very idea of a lifeboat especially consecrated for Jews, was honestly engaged. The philosophical split was deep. After the Holocaust, much of that split was healed by tragic necessity. The need for a lifeboat was clear. The Law of Return did, in fact, favor Jews over non-Jews. This seemed to most, but not all, a self-evident necessity given the circumstances. So, yes, Israel’s founding and the violent aftermath when the Arab nations and some indigenous Arabs sought the utter destruction of the new state made philosophy a third-tier issue. Survival of both the Jewish state and the Jewish people was the first order of business.

I believe that it’s completely fair to criticize Israeli policies. It’s appropriate to find terrible moral and political flaws in Israeli practices, particularly in the West Bank. Marching against the government is a cherished right in Israel, as it is here. I am not arguing that just because a practice is long-standing and universal that it must be defended or that we shouldn’t work to change it. We should be involved in improving the world, in being instruments of peace. However, our actions must be based on intellectual honesty and not on custom, habit, historical hatred, and either conscious or unconscious bias.

Let’s work to fix all of our racist states.

3 replies »

  1. In response to the first comment, we’re subsidizing our defense industry more than we subsidize Israel and many benefits accrue to the US from this relationship. As to the second comment, your revisionist thoughts are no more than Arab propaganda. Half of Israeli population fled persecution from Arab states without their possessions and were settled and integrated. The Arabs who fled Israel did so at the behest of their genocidal Arab leadership who said they could have it all once the Jews were vanquished. The Arabs who stayed were absolutely a fifth column and while that has improved, many still are. A population transfer has occurred. One was settled, the other kept in camps for 70 years to be used and abused by their Arab brothers. Israel would likely give up much if it went back to Jordanian sovereignty minus historically Jewish sites and the Jordan Valley for security reasons. If they truly wanted to be ruled by other Arabs and Muslims rather than Jews, that should be enough. There will never be another failed Arab star created in Jude’s and Samaria

  2. I understand what you are trying to say, but I fundamentally disagree with you on one of your main premises: judging Israel as a flawed and racist state is NOT antisemitic. Judging a country’s racist policies is not discriminatory against someone of a certain faith. That is a dangerous idea that you are proposing. To give another example, I am not an islamophobe because I detest and oppose the oppressive laws of Saudi Arabia. All one needs to do is look over the walls of Israeli’s borders to see that it is an Apartheid state. If one examines the ethnic cleansing that is occurring in Palestinian lands, it only makes Apartheid more apparent. I’m not saying to not fight racism world-wide, but it is important to understand that Israel is an extension of Western Civilization, just like the United States, and the ethnic cleansing that Native Americans have endured is not too distant from the one that Palestinians are enduring today. Israel can do better.

    There are many Jewish people that call Israel an Apartheid state as well. That is not an antisemitic act. I understand that Jewish people have endured horrific realities that I hope my children never have to face, and I understand the deep trauma. But at the same time, folks also need to see the present-day actions of a government that is creating the same type of trauma in Palestinian communities.