Apartheid Laws in Israel - The Art of The Obfuscatory Formulation

Excerpts from an article by Uzi Ornan,
published the Israeli daily Ha'aretz 17 May 1991 ( Hebrew )

It is impossible to turn one's back on reality and deny that the State of Israel is not, likewise, an Apartheid state, and that as a result of this, Israeli democracy - which all its leaders and political pundits swear by - is being perverted, if not destroyed. This Apartheid has been entrenched in a system of laws, regulations and practices which govern the operation of state institutions. What characterizes most of those discriminatory laws that have been legislated in various Knesset is that on the surface, they do not appear to be discriminatory. However, a more in-depth analysis of some of the basic ones quickly reveals the extent to which they discriminate between "Jews" and "non-Jews". By studying them one cannot fail to reach a conclusion, which cannot but be embarrassing to many of us: namely, that Israel is an Apartheid state, and the Apartheid not only manifests itself socially, but that it is also embedded in the legal system. The following is devoted to a few of these laws.

The 1952 Law of Entry into Israel was apparently legislated simply to regulate entry into the country. However, all its clauses, save the one making it obligatory to enter by way of an official border control point, are intended to make a clear distinction between foreign citizens who are Jewish and those who are not. Yet the words "Jew" and "non-Jew" do not appear. So it is, for instance, that the law stipulates that whoever "does not hold an immigration visa or immigration certificate" can be immediately deported by the minister of the Interior, or, can be denied a visa at any time. As for the explanation and definition of who qualifies for an immigration visa, one must seek the answer in another law, the Law of Return. The answer is: Jews.

However, the authority vested in the minister of the Interior to deny entry to foreign citizens if there is reason to suspect they may harm the public is only applicable to non-Jews. The minister of the Interior does not have the authority to deny any Jew - even if he's a scoundrel of the first order who can be counted on to do harm - the right to settle in Israel. The reason: Jews do not need permits to settle in Israel....Jews arriving in Israel from abroad are almost immediately given all the rights and privileges that Israeli Jews enjoy....Furthermore, they immediately acquire the right to vote in elections and to be elected to the Knesset - even if they do not speak a word of Hebrew.

While the minister of the Interior has the authority - albeit, authority which cannot be exercised without great difficulties - to deny "immigration visas" to Jews, once a Jew enters the country, the minister of Interior cannot do anything about it, and does not even have the authority to withdraw residence permits from undesirables. In regard to non-Jews, the situation is quite different: the minister of the Interior can withdraw their permits even if they have been living here for years. We have witnessed how swindlers and common criminals have succeeded in receiving Israeli citizenship, not to mention those who even managed to get themselves elected to the Knesset. It wasn't the Law of Return that allowed them to do so, it was the law governing entry to Israel, which in turn is based on the Citizenship laws of 1952.

The Citizenship Laws of 1952 are a pinnacle in the annals of the art of obfuscation. Even though the word "Jew" is not mentioned at all in these laws, it is, in its entirety, based on the distinction between "Jews" and "non-Jews". This is one of the pillars of the Israel Apartheid regime, alongside a plethora of other laws, regulations and practices, for "Jews" and "non-Jews". They include: the educational system; the regulations of the Israel Lands Authority (which sees to maintaining segregation on the ground); and the religious marriage laws, which do not exist in conjunction with civil marriage laws.

(...)

Like in every state, a foreign citizen who wishes to become a citizen of Israel can do so, and the regulations governing his acquisition of citizenship are similar to those which exist in many other countries. The basic condition is that candidates must have resided in Israel for a number of years. Likewise, before citizenship is granted, the candidate must pledge his allegiance to the State of Israel. In contrast, Jews are not required to swear a pledge of allegiance to the State of Israel. So it is that a Satmar Hassid, who has the utmost contempt for the existence of the state, and perhaps even translates this into action, can immediately become a citizen, with the right to vote in Knesset elections.... Moreover, only ["Jews"]have the right to retain their former citizenship even after becoming Israeli citizens, while "non-Jews" are obliged to renounce it before becoming Israeli citizens.

The obfuscation does not end here. Take for instance the regulations governing the "joint authority of the Israel government and the Jewish Agency". These regulations are discussed as though they were applicable to all Israeli citizens. But when one reads them through, it quickly becomes apparent that rights granted to "returning residents" are meant solely for Jews: those who are not Jews have to pay full duty on all the articles they transport from the place of residence abroad, and are not granted any housing or education benefits upon returning to the country, after, perhaps, a few years of study abroad....

Blatant discrimination against non-Jews can also be found in other laws dealing with the acquisition of property, government support for young couples, educational curricula, and government expenditure for schools, to cite just a few examples. The routine means for enforcing discrimination is the ID card, which everyone is obliged to carry at all times. ID cards list "nationality", which can be Jewish, Arab, Druze, Circassian, Samaritan, Kara'ite, or foreign. When a person presents his ID card to a policeman, a security official, or to a clerk at a government office whose services he requires, they can know which "sector" he belongs to and treat him accordingly, or, refer him to those who are responsible for dealing with his "sector". Up to now all the attempts to force the minister of the Interior to also accept the entry of "Israeli" nationality have failed. Those who have attempted to do so have received a letter from the ministry of the Interior. While the letterhead is one of the "State of Israel", the letter states that "it was decided not to recognize an Israeli nationality". By the way, every person has the right to demand that the nationality entry in their ID remain blank, and the ministry of the Interior must honor this demand.

Another law, the 1986 Military Service Law, which superficially does not appear to be discriminatory in any way, is, by dint of the wily formula used in conjunction with the "nationality" entry in the census, a destructive tool of discrimination and oppression. The term "draftee" which appears therein applies to every Israeli citizen or permanent resident, as does the term "candidate for military conscription". In other words, a "draftee" - i.e. , someone who has not yet reported to the draft board - is a universal term and equally applicable to all citizens. How is it then, that this law has become a major tool for implementing discriminatory policies ? The answer is: by the way of a simple and at first glance innocent ploy. It appears in section three, which deals with how citizens are to be called to report for military service: a special person is appointed to be "the enumerator"; his job is to call draftees to register with the draft board and he "is authorized to order draftees and candidates for conscription to report [to the draft board]". The law uses the term "authorized", and in so doing leaves open the possibility for the enumerator to abstain from calling on "draftees" to report. And it is clear that those who the enumerator does not call do not have to report, and are therefore exempt from army service. In practice it is much simpler: those whose IDs list them as belonging to the "Arab sector" are not called by the enumerator.

Why are Arab teenagers not called to serve in the army ? The two reasons usually given are nothing more than a pretext. The "moral" reasons runs as follows: How can an Arab be asked to fight against his brother ? This ignores something we have witnessed more than once, namely, that Arabs kill other Arabs - whether in terrorist attacks or on the battlefield...The same could apply to Israeli citizens, be they Arab of other non-Jews, if they were to feel that their induction into the Israeli Army was justified. But this will only come about when they feel themselves equal citizens, and that the state of Israel is protecting them, and respecting their rights, treating them no differently than other citizens....It would be pointless to waste much time on the second reason - "for reasons or security". Both Jews and non-Jews have been exposed as spies and traitors. Indeed, there is ample reason to believe that the ones who were the most dangerous were Jews. In the same way that being a "Jew" does not vouchsafe automatic loyalty to Israel, the label "Arab" is, likewise, not a means of identifying those ready to commit treason or engage in espionage.

Once a citizen has not been called on to report by the enumerator, discrimination and persecution follow. Such is the lot of those [of non-Jews] who do not serve in the army. Many places of employment and residence become off limits, as the demands of employment and regulations governing the leasing of homes or lands in the hands of various public and governmental bodies stipulate that candidates must be "draftees". So it is, for instance, that Mohammed Borkan did not succeed in remaining in his flat in the Old City of Jerusalem. One of the basic conditions for being allowed to lease the flats (which were expropriated for the "public good") is that the leasee must be a "draftee". Take note: the term "draftee" also applies to yeshiva students [students of Jewish theology] who have not served in the army. The enumerator does call on them to report, and that is enough for them to be included in the category of those who have privileges, even if their contact with the army ends at this point.

One can list many more Apartheid laws, but we will stop at this point....The Apartheid mindset has always been part and parcel of Judaism. Take for example the age of Ezra and Nehemia (ca. 450-430 BC). All the restrictions and rules incorporated into the Jewish religion were intended to preserve the purity of the strain against contamination from the Gentiles....Apartheid is so powerful a mindset in this society, that its existence and preservation is championed by all the members of the "Zionist parties", including those who believe themselves to be in the vanguard of the struggle for socialism, peace and equal rights. We have yet to hear them speak out against the existence of two categories of citizens, or in favor of a comprehensive Israeli school system, or in favor of the abolition of restrictions on where Jews and Arabs are allowed to live. One gets the impression that their energetic struggle for the establishment of a Palestinian state and their vocal opposition to Jewish "settlements" on the other side of the green line is based on their desire to preserve a "Jewish state", something which allows and, in the eyes of many of them, even justifies the retention of discriminatory laws, and the privileges granted to the Jews.

Everyone who supports democracy and is concerned about the future of Israel, should place the abolition of the Apartheid regime that exists here at the top of his list of priorities. And not only leftists, but also those with liberal views on the right. Those who say we must be ready to "give up a lot for the sake of peace" should to so in good faith: abolish Israel's Apartheid laws and grant non-Jewish resident (sic) the ability to identify fully with the state.