Ben White’s second book, Palestinians in Israel looks at an often overlooked element of the Palestinian struggle, the lives of Palestinians living in Israel.
In all aspects of their lives they are treated as second class citizens by the Israeli state. While reluctantly given Israeli citizenship, Palestinians are prevented from being given Israeli “nationality”.
The expropriation of land, the “Judaisation” policy and systematic discrimination result in disproportionate poverty levels among Palestinians in Israel. White points out that these realities challenge the Israeli state’s self-image.
During the Nakba of 1948 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes. The Israeli state strove to legislate the settlement of Jewish immigrants on the ruins of a Palestinian society.
White also looks at how Israel treats the Bedouin Palestinians, thousands of whom have been forced off their land. They are known as “present absentees”, who lost their homes in the Nakba but remained in what had become Israel, the unrecognised villages and the destruction of Palestinian homes.
Israel perceives the Palestinian population in Israel as posing a “demographic threat” to the Jewish character of the state. The consequence of this is the policy of “Judaisation”, which takes the form of cutbacks in child benefits to control the birth rate of Palestinians, the targeting of certain Palestinian areas such as the Negev and the Galilee and incentives for Israeli nationals to move to these areas as well as cruder anti-Arab racism.
Israel claims to be a “Jewish and democratic” state. White argues that the “Jewish” side of the identity of the Israeli state is more important, something underlined by the segregation and discrimination faced by Israel’s non-Jewish citizens.
This also contradicts the claim to be democratic; indeed, “Israel’s definition as “Jewish and democratic” is the contradiction at the heart of the conflict,” argues White.
A large proportion of Palestinians in Israel still live under military rule, individuals are imprisoned for speaking out against the Israeli state and Palestinians face violence and attacks from the police and the army.
He concludes by looking at the Arab Spring. “Now we are seeing the spirit of intifada (literally meaning ‘shaking off’) that emerged from Tunisia and spread to Egypt helping to inspire a new revitalisation of the Palestinian revolution.”
White also discusses the importance of solidarity campaigns with the Palestinians such as the cal for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
White raises what for me was a new way of looking at the nature of the Israeli state which brings home the day to day workings of an apartheid regime. He goes through his arguments clearly, with lots of interesting detail and, most importantly, looks at how people can bring about change.
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