The myth of Israel being a democracy is still being perpetuated even in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. While Jewish Israelis think they are the only rightful citizens of their land and will argue that they live in a democracy, this is far from being true. Israel has been in control of the West Bank for over four decades and had built and invested heavily in the West Bank. But Palestinians who make up the vast majority of the population in the West Bank are excluded from any of it. In other words, 100% of the construction in the West Bank was done to bring Jews into the WB and exclude the close to 3 million Palestinians whose land this belongs to in the first place. 3 million Palestinians are left out, disenfranchised even as they see their lands taken, their homes destroyed and roads, malls, schools and gated communities being built for Jews only with no access to them or their families. Some democracy.
And that is not the worst of it. Water, the scarcest resource of all is controlled and distributed by the Israeli water authority, including the large amounts of water that exists within the WB. According to Betselem, the Israeli human rights organization the ground water from the Mountain Aquifer is a shared water source for Israeli and Palestinians. It is the largest and highest quality water source in the area, producing 600 million cubic meters (mcm) of water annually. Israel holds almost complete control of the aquifer and exploits 80 percent of the production for its needs, leaving the remainder for the Palestinians’ use. “The discriminatory and unfair division of shared water resources creates a chronic water shortage in the West Bank, and is liable to harm Palestinians’ health.” The World Health Organization recommends a minimal per capita daily consumption of 100 liters. The daily per capita consumption in Israel is 242 liters, the consumption in the West Bank is 73 liters per person. “In certain districts, consumption was as low as 37 liters (Tubas District), 44 (Jenin District), and 56 (Hebron District).” So in essence Palestinians have to buy their own water back from Israel, as Israel does not recognize Palestinian rights to the water that exists under Palestinian land. As absurd as it sounds Palestinian farmers are prohibited by the Israeli army from digging wells on their own land.
When seen as a per year distribution it is even more alarming. Israel distributes the water as follows: Per capita, Israeli Jews receive 300 cubic meters of water per year. Per capita Palestinians receive 85 cubic meters per year. (World Health Organization recommends 100 per year) Per capita, Jewish settlers in the WB are allocated 1500 cubic meters of water per year. In other words while Palestinians have barely enough to drink, Jewish settlers not 500 yards away have swimming pools and green lawns. So does anyone seriously think that this can go on forever? Democracy indeed.
Now in light of the peoples uprising in the Middle East we can expect to see dictatorial regimes falling like dominos. Can we expect that 5 million Palestinians will continue to live under a regime, that is democratic for Jews but is a brutally oppressive one to Palestinians? There are close to 6 million Israel Jews and 5.5 million Palestinians sharing the same country under different laws. There are no laws that protect the rights of Palestinians to their land, water, civil rights, human rights or event their right to live. Still, people call Israel a democracy.
In East Jerusalem, just outside the walled old city and not far from the Jewish Quarter, sits the neighborhood of Silwan with close to 50,000 residents. Israel wants to expel families from Silwan in order to build an archeological park that glorifies its Jewish past. They claim that king David built a city there some 3000 years ago and they hope to find the remnants of this city under the homes of the people of Silwan. Thousands of families may have to leave so that Israel can build a park to glorify a conquest that took place 3000 years ago, never mind that not a shred of scientific evidence exists that such a king ever lived, any more than there is evidence the world was created in 6 days. The past trumps the present in Israel – a state that wants to eliminate the existence of people who live on their land to solidify the myth of a glorious past.
Palestinians constantly and stubbornly interfere with the Zionist myth making and so the Palestinians, men, women, children and the elderly along with their schools and mosques, churches and ancient cemeteries and all evidence of their existence must be destroyed so that Zionist claims to exclusive rights to the land may be substantiated.
For Israelis and Palestinians who care for democracy and justice, it is time to rise and create what is sure to be a tremendous accomplishment: A democratic, secular state in our shared homeland. A state where Muslims Christians and Jews live as equals; where people raise their children to love their diverse homeland with its multitude of cultures, its rich history and its promising future.
I arrived in Israel on the day the terrible fires began. It was Wednesday, December 1 and that was what everyone was discussing. A terrible fire got out of control in the Mount Carmel region in the north and it was taking its toll in lives, property and the environment.
The entire country was mobilized, the prime minister held his meetings as close to the site as possible and although there were some serious charges of incompetence and lack of ability to respond quickly everyone focused on getting the job done and helping those who lost everything regain their lives as quickly as possible.
The world reacted with great compassion and an outpouring of support from every country as near as Turkey who has had strained relations with Israel for some time and saw beyond the differences to help a neighbor in need to Russia and the US and every country in between.
Watching the news was almost heartwarming. To see everyone get behind and pull their weight so that a small country and a community in the north could survive such a terrible disaster which to a large degree was an act of nature and could not be helped. But I could not help feeling that something was wrong. Something just did not seem right but I wasn’t able to put a finger on it until just now.
As the aerial videos were shown in real time on the TV screen it came to me. Not a 10 minutes flight from where the fire was consuming everything along its path, not a 30-minute drive from where I was sitting in Jerusalem is a community of 1.5 million people, 800,000 children who only two years ago suffered a disaster a thousand times greater than this fire poses. Over fourteen hundred lives were lost, many thousands of people were severely injured, countless children burnt and were maimed for life, homes were destroyed, and lives were shattered.
Yet no one said a word. Not one came to help. No one came to rebuild and there was no talk of compensation for the victim’s families, no compensation for the homes that were destroyed, no attempt to rebuild so that people could get their lives back together again. What is incomprehensible is that the same people who are now toiling to end the fire and help the people who suffered are the ones who were behind the destruction of Gaza.The people who are charged with helping and restoring the Carmel, those who swear that the government will cut the red tape and give people every help they need, these people viscously and callously watched as Israeli war planes dropped hundreds of tons of bombes from the air day after day creating a disaster of unspeakable proportions. And then did nothing to help the victims.
How is this possible? How is it conceivable that people would be so blind, so cold? Israelis really do believe that they live in a Jewish state that governs Jewish people with a few non-Jewish minorities and that no one else exists. The 1.5 million people whose lives they destroyed in Gaza and the 2 million people whose lives they rule with an iron fist in the West Bank are not their problem, not their concern. The Palestinians only exist in the context of “security” so they either cooperate and are left to live in the unlivable web of racist laws and the whims of the military or they do not cooperate and then Israel kills and destroys as much of them as possible only to leave them to bleed to a slow and painful death.
One has to seriously wonder what it would take for the Israelis, all Israelis from the PM and his generals to the average person on the street who serves the PM and the generals, to wake up.
In his short tale called Akhtia, which was published 25 years ago (hard to believe) The great Emil Habibi tells the story of an American who went to swim in the Sea of Galilee. His car and clothes were stolen and so the Israeli police went to look for them among the Arab towns and villages in the area. When the clothes were not found the American suggested that the police look among the Jews. No, the police said, there is no need to look ay further because the Arab suspects confessed.
The man later grew in prominence and finally, due to his contributions to the Jewish Sate became a US Senator and then he became Secretary of State. But, Habibi writes, with the passing of time it was hard to tell which country he served as Secretary of Stae, Israel or the US…
How can one write in a manner that is both innocent and fierce? It is Emil Habibi.