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Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Only in Israel: question how Israel can be both democratic and Jewish, and land yourself in prison

Imagine if Black African persons from South Africa were required to take an oath of allegiance to the apartheid system and if one refuses or dares to challenge such injustice he or she would be sentenced to prison (that actually happened under the apartheid regime).

Imagine if Native Americans were denied the right to commemorate the loss of their land and heritage, and if they do so, they would be charged with treason and sentenced to prison.

That is basically the news coming out of Israel these days. Right-wing members of the Israeli Knesset, who now have a majority in that legislative body, are introducing new racist laws (as if Israel does not have enough already) that would target non-Jewish minorities, restrict their freedom of speech, deny them the right to advocate for equal rights for all Israeli citizens, and. in the most cruel colonialist style, forbid the indigenous Palestinian populations to mourn the ethnic cleansing of their parents and the appropriation of their historic land by mostly European settlers.

Note that over one-fifth of the present population of Israel are non-Jewish (of course that does not include the millions of Palestinians who live under Israel occupation and/or siege in the West Bank and Gaza).

How can a state claim to be “democratic” while at the same time implement laws and practices that favor only one religion and treat all non-Jews as second class citizens? Is a country that builds roads, schools, towns, and jobs for Jews only democratic? Is a country that gives Jews, from anywhere in the world the right to become citizen, but deny that same right to non-Jewish indigenous Palestinians who can trace their living on that land for centuries and centuries?

On a side note, by now, had I been an Israeli, I would have been sent to prison for my last couple of questions, based on the new bill. Remember, the new laws will stipulate that it is a crime to question Israel’s democratic nature.

Thank God we live in America and thank God for our Constitution that guarantees our equality and free speech, regardless of the religion we choose to follow or not to. May be one day, the Holy Land will rid itself from all those racist laws and the hatred that they produce. May be one day, Palestinian refugees will be allowed to return to their homes and villages. May be one day, Muslims, Christians, and Jews can live together in peace in the city of peace.

Until then, I pray that enough Jewish voices of peace and tolerance, and there are many of them, would help prevent those new bills from becoming law, from becoming a new wall that separates the offspring of Abraham.

Read below:

US Jews discomfited by rightist bills
The Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2009

Several new legislative initiatives from right-wing parties are causing discomfort among mainstream US Jewish advocacy organizations who worry that efforts to forbid anti-Israel activism in the country may be tinged with racist intentions and lead to infringements on freedom of speech.

The bills in question include a proposal by Israel Beiteinu MK Alex Miller to criminalize the marking of Independence Day as a day of mourning, a common practice among sections of the Israeli Arab public; a bill presented by Habayit Hayehudi MK Zevulun Orlev that seeks to criminalize those who "incite against or attempt to undermine" - in Orlev's words - the Jewish and democratic nature of the state of Israel, and a bill being prepared by Israel Beiteinu that will demand an oath of loyalty to the state from anyone seeking to receive an Israeli ID card for the first time, including new immigrants and Israeli minors who reach the age of 16.

"It's one thing to legislate allegiance to the state, but it is discrimination to target one population group for loyalty," Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday…

But, he adds, "a loyalty oath won't solve anything and is impossible to implement in practical terms. It also looks populist and demagogic and goes against the whole grain of democracy."
Zuroff notes that there are also Jewish communities in Israel who do not approve of the "Jewish and democratic" character of the state, the formulation used in Israel's Basic Laws to define the state's founding tenets...

According to Kadima MK Ze'ev Bielski, a former chairman of the Jewish Agency who has worked closely with US Jewry, "I am certain that the vast majority of Jews both in Israel and in the Diaspora oppose these initiatives. We are a people that has paid a price for racism, and as a Jewish and democratic state we have certain obligations to our minorities. This kind of legislation can only be harmful and divisive."

"This kind of criticism from Diaspora groups is a rare event," said Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines. "It shows that major Diaspora organizations are much more left-wing right now than the Israeli government. Being a minority, Jews around the world are uncomfortable that the Jewish majority in Israel sometimes does things it shouldn't do, like a 'Nakba law.'"

See also:
Israeli Arab committee slams 'racist, fascist' bills
By Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondent

Israel debates 'loyalty' law
Aljazeera English

Calls to end Israel may incur jail term


Anonymous said...


Can you discuss freedom of speech and press in the Muslim world? Perhaps under the mullocracy in Iran or Syria?

Anne Vis said...

Good point, Hussam!