The Language of a Jewish State
By Jonathan Cook
Here is another image (copyright: Keren Manor) that
conveys the situation of Palestinians – these ones
Palestinian citizens of Israel – more completely than
any words. The man on the ground is Ayman Odeh, a member
of the Israeli parliament, the head of the Joint List,
the third largest party in the parliament, and the
highest-ranking Palestinian politician in Israel.
Israeli police have just shot him with rubber-tipped
bullets, not once but twice – including to the face.
Odeh is one of the least confrontational politicians
among Israel’s large Palestinian minority, a fifth of
the population. His message is consistently one of peace
and amity between all Israeli citizens, whether Jews or
Palestinians. That does not seem to have protected him
from the shoot-first, ask-questions-later approach of
Israel’s security forces towards Palestinians.
This image should be as shocking as seeing a bloodied
Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn crawling in the dirt,
watched impassively by US or UK police.
Context is important too. Odeh had joined the 1,000
inhabitants of Umm al-Hiran – all Palestinian citizens
of Israel – early this morning in a demonstration to
stop demolition crews destroying the 150 homes of their
village in the Negev. Israel allowed these families to
move to the area of Umm al-Hiran in the 1950s after it
had driven them from their original, and much more
substantial, lands during the Nakba. The pretext then
for expelling them was that Israel needed their
ancestral lands for an exclusively Jewish kibbutz.
That all occurred during a military government that
ruled over Israel’s Palestinians for nearly two decades.
More than 60 years later, exactly the same thing is
happening again, but this time in front of the cameras.
Umm al-Hiran is being destroyed so that an exclusively
Jewish community, with the same name of Hiran, can be
built over these families’ homes. Israel never issued
Umm al-Hiran with a master plan, so now it can be
declared illegal and its inhabitants called “squatters”
and “trespassers”. The families are being ethnically
cleansed a second time – not during hostilities or in a
time of war, but by their own state in a time of peace.
They are far from alone. Thousands of other families,
and their villages, face the same fate.
The truth is nothing has changed from the 1950s. Israel
still behaves as if it is ruling militarily over its
Palestinian citizens. It is still a Jewish state, one
that privileges the rights of Jewish citizens over
Palestinian “citizens”. It still treats all non-Jews as
a threat, as an enemy.
Israel is not a normal kind of state. It is an
ethnocracy, and one driven by an ideological variation
of the ethnic nationalisms that tore apart Europe a
Odeh is a leader who campaigns for peace and equality
between Jewish and Palestinian citizens. Today, he got
his answer. His place is bruised, bloodied and bowed,
crawling through the dirt. This is the language of a
Jonathan Cook is a Nazareth- based journalist and winner
of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism