Israel and US turn their back on democracy
As Israel murdered Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip, American and Israeli media outlets and officials like US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman continued to assert Israel is a “democracy” and that the protesters were “terrorists.”
Over the past several weeks, the focus of the world has been on the demonstrations along the Gaza border with Israel, where Israeli soldiers have shot dead at least 112 civilian protesters while not one Israeli was threatened, injured or killed.
The Gaza protests began on March 30 and are an expression against the historical racism that Americans and Israelis pretend does not exist inside Israel. Land Day commemorates the day in 1976 when heavily armed Israeli police attacked Palestinians living in Israel, who were protesting against illegal government seizures of lands owned by non-Jews and given only to Jews. The Israeli police responded with brutal force, killing six and wounding hundreds.
That Israeli practice of racist discrimination continues today, as non-Jews — including Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset — protest against the Gaza killings, the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and the Israeli government’s continued violations of human rights.
Racist and biased news media and officials in America and Israel are demonizing the protesters to defend the Israeli violence. They use the “big lie,” asserting the dead are “Hamas terrorists” and killers who want to infiltrate Israel and kill people. But many of those brutalized are already inside Israel and allegedly have “Israeli citizenship,” a phrase that has been made meaningless these past few weeks, along with the terms “free speech” and “Israeli democracy.”
Hundreds of Palestinians living in Israel, both Christians and Muslims, have protested on the streets of Jerusalem, Haifa, Nazareth and other cities, and they are also being brutalized by the Israeli police’s excessive use of force. Instead of covering the demonstrations, the Israeli media has viciously attacked the protesters and marginalized their injuries as “unconfirmed reports.”
The truth that Israel tries to hide and that people like Haley ignore is that Palestinian Christians and Muslims in Israel are denied equal rights. They are denied free speech. They are denied the fundamentals of democracy that protect protests
That is because Israel’s actions contradict Haley’s and Lieberman’s lies. Israel is not a “democracy.” Not all of Israel’s citizens enjoy free speech or have the protection of human and civil rights that Israel claims is denied in the Arab world.
As Israeli snipers killed Palestinians in Gaza, police beat and arrested dozens of Israeli citizens who were protesting against the decision to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to a consulate building in Jerusalem. Several hundred Israeli citizens were physically beaten and forcibly removed by heavily armed Israeli police wearing riot gear, and many have now been charged with crimes. But their story was marginalized in most Israeli and US media outlets. The only reason it got even scant mention is that among the protesters were Palestinian members of the Knesset.
During last week’s anti-embassy protests, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Ahmad Tibi told me he and other “Israeli citizens” were attacked by police. The Israeli police riot began when protesters started to wave Palestinian flags.
“We Palestinian citizens of Israel demonstrated against the relocation of the American Embassy. We protested against the massacre in Gaza, where 52 unarmed demonstrators were killed by Israeli snipers,” Tibi told me in an interview.
Tibi insisted the protesters were peaceful when they were suddenly assaulted. “Israel police attacked us brutally because we raised the Palestinian flag. Is this democracy?” he said. “I was attacked by the police. They (the police) were aggressive. They are not willing to allow us to say in a democratic way our position: No to this (embassy) move, and no to the massacre in Gaza.”
At the weekend, more Palestinians living in Israel joined in the protests, this time in Haifa and other cities. They were met by heavily armed Israeli police and soldiers, who beat and arrested many. Leading the protests in Haifa was another Palestinian member of the Knesset, Ayman Odeh, who was assaulted along with many other protesters.
Although much of the US media ignored the Israeli police violence, the Israeli media mentioned it in passing, playing it down while asserting that Israel is the land of “freedom,” “democracy” and “rights” that Arabs do not have in the Arab world. Of course, the Israeli media didn’t quote any of the brutalized people in their reporting. They only quoted Lieberman as calling Odeh and his fellow protesters “terrorists” who belong in jail.
Lieberman’s venom, posted on his Twitter account in Hebrew, was quoted extensively in the Israeli media, as he declared: “Every day that Ayman Odeh and his associates are free to walk around cursing at police officers is a failure of law enforcement authorities.”
Many of the protesters were in fact jailed, although immediately human rights groups — which American and Israeli officials have denounced as “racist” and “terrorist” — argued successfully in the Israeli courts that they should be released.
The brutality inflicted during the protests by Palestinians living in Israel is a reflection of the true face of Israeli society and its government, which formalizes racism and discrimination against non-Jews. The truth that Israel tries to hide and that people like Haley ignore is that Palestinian Christians and Muslims in Israel are denied equal rights. They are denied free speech. They are denied the fundamentals of democracy that protect protests.
Where was Haley when all this brutality was taking place? After denouncing the Palestinians in a long-winded speech at a United Nations meeting called to examine the Gaza murders, she walked out, turned her back on democracy, on freedom and on civil rights.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and the author of several books including “Yalla! Fight Back.” His personal website is www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania