Jewish groups fight Israeli racism

Jewish groups fight Israeli racism
Saudi Gazette Sunday August 18, 2013
By Ray Hanania

Nazareth is one of the holiest sites in Christianity, where Jesus lived following his birth in Bethlehem.

But it is better known as a Christian City dominated by Muslims that is in the center of another controversy over the growing racism that flourishes in Israel, the Jewish State.

Nazareth is really two cities. Historic Nazareth is at the bottom of the hill, sometimes called “Lower Nazareth.” In 1957, Israel confiscated land from Arab owners in the hills above originally to establish a complex of government buildings. The Arab land owners sued and Israel’s courts ruled that the expropriation of lands could continue as long as it was for government buildings. Years later, in 1957, homes were built to create a Jewish city called Nazareth Illit, which translated from Hebrew means “Upper Nazareth.”

Not ironically, the name Nazareth Illit (which is pronounced like “elite”) plays into the debate over growing Israeli racism.

The Jewish city, Nazareth Illit, is treated better by Israel than Lower Nazareth, the Arab city. Nazareth Illit gets more government funds.

Many Jews of Nazareth Illit want Israel to be Jewish pure. They certainly don’t want non-Jews to live in their city. But nonetheless, some Arabs have managed to move in. And today, there are 1,900 Arab children living in the city. And that put Nazareth’s racial battles in the news recently when the mayor of Nazareth Illit, Shimon Gafsou, said he opposes building a school in the city for the Arab children.

Israelis should get used to the idea that they will not be able to prevent non-Jews from one day overtaking them, especially if Israel continues to oppose the creation of a Palestinian State. The only way to prevent an Arab population takeover of Israel is to allow the creation of a Palestinian State.

It’s reasonable. But not everyone in Israel is reasonable.

Gafsou has said that if people think that he is a racist then they might as well also conclude that Israel is a racist state. Good point Gafsou, although personally I would rather see Israel act more in the spirit of the Jews who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Blacks in the American South who demanded an end to segregationist and racist policies.

Gafsou has opposition. There are the Arab activists who are using the issue as proof that Israel is bad and peace won’t work, and arguing that Israel should dismantle itself and go back in time to 1947 before the UN Partition.

But the most substantive criticism is coming from Jewish organizations like the New Israel Fund. NIF fights not only for the safety and security of Israel, but also for an Israel that is democratic and embraces, not violates, human rights. NIF supports the two-state solution and peace based on compromise.

NIF has urged the Israeli education minister to overrule Gafsou and approve the school for the small group of Arab children in Nazareth Illit.

Some Jews have compared Gafsou’s racist declaration to the hypothetical, but unlikely comparison of New York refusing to open a Jewish school there.
It’s a reasoned argument, but reason is the first casualty in the Middle East conflict.

The outcry against Gafsou by NIF is an example of the true spirit of what Israel should be. It can be a Jewish state with a non-Jewish minority. And, it can be a democratic state if the non-Jews are treated with the same or even more equality than that given to Jews. That’s not asking a lot. But it is difficult to listen to Arab critics of Israel make that argument, considering that the Arabs discriminate as much against non-Arabs, and especially in Arab society between Muslims and Christians.

Still, NIF gives the peace movement hope that there are Israeli groups out there that are loudly fighting for a solution that is as closely based on justice as is reasonably possible.

I wish there were more Arab groups that had the same principled conviction to fight to end the conflict by creating two-states, where in each Jews and non-Jews would be treated equally and fairly the way human beings should treat other human beings.

– Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. Reach him at or on Twitter at @RayHanania.

Categories: Middle East Topics

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2 replies


  1. Being Honest About The Dominant Zionist Narrative | Brave New World
  2. The need to curb hate rhetoric in Mideast conflict « Ray Hanania Columns

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