Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Civil Rights Under Siege In Israel

This letter from Mark Hage of Montpelier in the Time Argus, I believe, states some excellent points:
Thank you for your editorial ("Israel's Dilemma," Feb. 23) on the controversy in Israel over a manifesto that calls for the country, officially a "Jewish state," to become a bi-national state with full equality for all citizens.

Since the mid-90s, Palestinian citizens have intensified their political and legal efforts to achieve the same rights as Jews. There are more than one million Palestinian citizens in Israel, and they live under apartheid-like conditions. Hundreds of rural communities have been established since Israel was created in 1948, but are closed to Arab citizens. For 60 years, vast tracts of private Arab landholdings have been confiscated by government authorities to benefit Jews exclusively.

Most Palestinian children, prior to the university level, attend segregated, inferior and under-funded schools. Arab towns, the poorest in the country, are short-changed annually when it comes to municipal budgets and funding infrastructure projects.

Palestinians are no strangers to police brutality, and Israeli cops, like Jewish soldiers, are prone to being trigger-happy when their weapons are aimed at Arabs. In October, 2000, police shot dead 12 unarmed Palestinians and a man from Gaza during protests against Israel's repressive measures in the occupied territories. No Jewish officers were indicted for this atrocity.

Job discrimination against Palestinian workers is widespread, and substantial sectors of the Israeli economy are off-limits to them. The civil service is the country' largest employer, but in 2004, just 5 percent of its 55,000 workers were Palestinian. Islamic and Christian holy sites get a pittance of their funding from public coffers, and according to English journalist Jonathan Cook, "almost all of the Muslim and Christian holy places that existed in Israel before 1948 have been destroyed, fenced off, locked up or converted for the use of Jewish communities."

Israel is confronting a civil rights movement within its 1967 borders, and a national liberation struggle in the West Bank and Gaza. Both challenge the fundamental tenets and structures of Zionism, which elevate Jewish blood, privilege and religion over democracy, equality and the rule of law.

Mark Hage


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