The bill says the following: that all Native American people, as well as Japanese Americans, African Americans, East Asian Americans, Arab Americans, Jewish Americans--that is to say, all Americans who are not White Christians--must swear allegiance to the United States as a "Christian Democratic nation." Further, the draft legislation has a provision that if any American called publicly for the end of the United States as a "Christian" (and "democratic") state, they would be thrown into prison for one year. The bill additionally specified that commemoration of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, or the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942-43, or the mention of slavery during Black History Month, or Commemorations of the Holocaust, were illegal.
All of us would support that truly democratic bill, don't you think? Especially strong in their support would be the governing party of the United States--let's pretend for the moment that John McCain and the Republicans had won the election. (I don't see the Democrats producing such a bill; at least not yet; no telling what might happen if we had another terrorist attack on the Democrat's watch).
Well, that is exactly the kind of legislation that has gained traction in the Israeli Knesset. According to the Jerusalem Post, the bill was sponsored by a member of the Israel Beiteinu party--the party of the racist foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. It garnered 47 votes within the ruling coalition. It calls for a loyalty oath on the part of Palestinian Israelis to the "Jewish democratic" state, and provides a year of imprisonment for publicly speaking out against the state (as in calling for a single state solution or a "secular" state); it contains further penalties and jail time for commemoration of al Nakba, the events of displacement and ethnic cleansing that took place at the time of the declaration of the state of Israel.
Of course, opposition to the bill by the opposition parties has been strong and outspoken, but that the legislation is even contemplated and voted upon preliminarily, is not a good sign, and it does not speak well for Israel's self-proclaimed status as the "only democracy" in the Middle East. It's a new and more virulent form of the political infection we know in America as McCarthyism.
Lieberman's party has had on its agenda since its beginning the transfer of the Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship to other Arab countries or to the occupied territories. Of course, the presence of Palestinian citizens, who compose about 20% of the total population, has been a long-standing concern of the Israeli government. The government claims that they have full citizenship, but any one who studies the Israeli-Palestinian question learns quite early on that Palestinian Israelis have a second-class citizenship, receive far less services for their tax dollars than other Israelis, are kept in segregated neighborhoods, are spied upon and harassed in a way that other Israelis are not. The right to vote is always trumpeted as proof of equal citizenship. Any Israeli citizen speaking honestly will tell you that equality is not the case.
Over the last weekend I went to the 7th Annual Al-Awda Conference. Al-Awda is a mostly Palestinian- American group, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition. It is, so to speak, the conscience of the Palestinians in diaspora, steadfastly reminding everyone that the "right to return" to one's home is an inalienable right under international law, and constant in its reminder to all--including the PLO--that unless the right of return is an integral, primary issue to be discussed honestly and at the start of negotiations, Palestinians will not receive full justice. The Right of Return, because it is the most painful issue of all, has always been shelved for "final status negotiations." And why? Because if it is discussed honestly by Israel, Israel will be in the position of publicly having to admit that they did in fact expel, transfer, or murder Palestinians in 1947-1949. They also will have to admit to the destruction of over 500 Palestinian villages in the territory originally assigned to Israel by the UN partition act of November, 1947.
One of the speakers at the Al-Awda conference, an Israeli Palestinian doctor, Hatim Kanaaneh, has lived for years in his family home in Gallilee. Dr Kanaaneh is a gentle man, whose memoirs, A Doctor in Galilee, is an excellent corrective to the stereotypical view, unfortunately perpetrated by staunch champions of Israel, that all Palestinians are terrorists. For many years, Dr. Kanaaneh was involved in public health matters, and he knows well how the second-class citizenship of the Palestinian Israelis has adversely affected the overall health of his minority.
Dr. Kanaaneh's blog, with the same title as his memoirs, is a gateway to knowing what it is like to live as a Palestinian within the Israeli state. An April entry on his blog, an "Open Letter to President Barak Obama" will give you insight into just how threatening the Israel Beiteinu proposals are to Palestinian Israelis. Here are some excerpts from the full letter, and I urge you to go to the blog to read the full text:
Mr. Lieberman wants me transferred out of the country though I have lived on land I inherited legally from forefathers who almost surely have better claim to descent from the ancient Hebrews than his. And mind you, Mr. President, my residence in the home he wants me evicted from predates the establishment of the state he wants to appropriate as his, and his alone, while he is a recent immigrant from Moldova. Would you, Mr. President, take a loyalty oath confirming your second-class status?
You have to understand, sir, that I speak here of life-and-death issues for me and my family. Mr. Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, attained his impressive status through an openly racist election campaign that featured mass rallies at which calls of “Death to Arabs” were standard. Would you trust such a man with your future in the international arena, Mr. President? I surely hope not: but the majority of Israeli citizens seem to have done exactly that.
We as Americans, pride ourselves on our democratic tolerance of free speech, we lament the thought that some citizens receive second-class treatment. Yet in this California which has just created a new class of homosexual second-class citizens, I also find a reluctance on the part of the main stream media even to acknowledge the racism and injustice and very undemocratic implications of new proposed legislation in Israel. Americans should know what is going on there and make their objections known to Lieberman's brand of discrimination.