Understanding Israel’s War as Racist Is Crucial to Ending Occupation

Graffiti on the so-called Separation Wall in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. (Photo: Dawn)

Sonali Kolhatkar

The nearly month-long attack by Israeli forces on Gaza has revealed that anti-Arab racism permeates many levels of Israeli society. Indeed, to acknowledge Palestinians as humans worthy of a state, a home and basic necessities such as medical care, electricity, food and water, would undermine the brutality of Operation Protective Edge.

Racism among the Israeli population is either stronger than ever, or simply more visible today thanks to social media and the proliferation of online means of expression.

Some Israelis are openly thrilled that Gaza is being leveled. A Danish reporter came upon a cheery group of people who gathered outdoors in the southern Israeli town of Sderot with folding chairs and popcorn to watch the air war, clapping each time a bomb dropped on Gaza. Other Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to celebrate the killing of Gaza’s children. They were videotaped singing a song whose words included, “In Gaza there’s no studying; No children are left there,” and calling for violence against two of the Israeli Knesset’s Arab members.

The verbal vitriol is also flowing strongly. Early on in Israel’s operation, writer David Sheen compiled a list of what he called “Terrifying Tweets of Pre-Army Israeli Teens,” which included such gems as “Death to these fucking Arabs” and “We wage war so this will be our land without any Arabs.”

But the racism has gone beyond mere celebrations of war and death. While the horrific revenge killing of 15-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir is being dismissed as an extremist act, and the police beating of his cousin Tariq Abu Khdeir is being “investigated,” more attacks have followed with little U.S. media attention. For example, Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz noted that “two Palestinian youths were reportedly assaulted by a Jewish mob in Jerusalem.”

Professor David Shulman, who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, went further, writing in a July 12 column that “Israel has witnessed a wave of racist hatred on a scale perhaps not known before.” Shulman also cited the advent of “Israeli lynch gangs prowling the streets of downtown Jerusalem … and organized Fascist groups attacking any Palestinians unlucky enough to be going home late at night, after work.”

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