Netanyahu ally’s proposal for Palestinians resembles South Africa’s separation of “Coloreds” and “Indians.”
A senior Israeli government lawmaker proposes to give Palestinian citizens of Israel who are Christian special privileges in order to set them against their Muslims compatriots.
“My legislation will grant separate representation and treatment for the Christian public, which will be separated from the Muslim Arabs,” says Yariv Levin, the leader of the government coalition in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament.
Levin’s comments were reported on 8 January by NRG, the Hebrew-language website of the newspaper Maariv.
“This is an important historical move that could balance the State of Israel and connect us and the Christians, and I am careful not to call them Arabs, because they are not Arabs,” Levin adds.
Levin is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Yisrael Beitenu faction.
There are 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, survivors of the 1948 ethnic cleansing and their descendants who remained in what became present-day Israel.
While legally citizens who have the right to vote, they face dozens of laws and de factopractices that discriminate against them for not being Jews.
They have also been targeted by systematic divide-and-rule policies aimed at destroying community solidarity and giving them separate identities such as Druze, Christian, Bedouin and Muslim.
“The state has tried to brainwash us for over sixty years by telling us that we are not Arabs, that Muslims and Arabs want to kill us,” Wadah al-Qasim, a Druze Palestinian who has been jailed for refusing to join the Israeli army, recently told The Electronic Intifada’s Patrick O. Strickland.
As Druze resist army service, Israel has attempted to co-opt and pressure Christians into joining the army, a plan that many see as an attempt to incite Muslim-Christian tensions.
Levin’s odious proposal continues Israel’s divisive colonial practice.
“We have a lot in common with the Christians,” he says.
“They are our natural allies, a counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the state from the inside. The Christians are also concerned about extreme Islam, which excludes them. If we know how to give select, appropriate treatment to this population, they’ll also join up with the [Israeli army].”
In effect, Levin wants to give Christians a sort of honorary Jewish status in a state where only Jews enjoy full rights.
“According to one of the laws Levin is initiating, the Christian Arabs will be able to register themselves as merely ‘Christians’ under the nationality heading on their ID cards, to make an official distinction between them and the Muslims,” NRG reports.
They will also receive a series of benefits: “The Christians will be able to be directors of government corporations, they will receive separate representation in the local authorities and receive equal opportunities at work,” Levin said.
“The first law I will pass is representation for Christians in the advisory committee for the Equal Opportunities in Employment Commission.”
Levin’s unapologetically racist proposals are a clear admission that currently Palestinian citizens of Israel face numerous racial bars; he proposes only to selectively lift them for Christians.
His proposal for “separate representation” smacks of the separate parliaments for “Coloreds” and “Indians” that the South African apartheid regime set up in its dying days in a similar attempt to co-opt, divide and weaken resistance to its racist rule.
The timing of Levin’s proposals is linked to the uproar over Israeli foreign ministerAvigdor Lieberman’s plan to strip Palestinian citizens of Israel and transfer them to a putative Palestinian state.
Although Levin opposes any sort of Palestinian state, he claims that Palestinian citizens’ rejection of Lieberman’s proposal nonetheless “exposed the duplicity of the Muslim Arabs who live in the country.”
“On one hand they attack the terrible State of Israel, and yearn for the Palestinian state,” he says.
“On the other hand they do not want to live in the Palestinian state and send the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] to go live there. It’s a disgrace.”
But while special, ethnoreligiously based privileges would be the carrot to entice Christians, Levin also wields a stick.
“On the other hand, we will apply an iron fist and zero tolerance towards Arabs who tend to identify with the terrorism of the Palestinian state,” Levin adds.
“We will make it clear to them that being an Israeli citizen is a right that cannot be taken for granted. Anyone who yanks the chain will find that the chain tears, remains hanging in the air, in a place that is unpleasant to be in.”
Levin’s racism and thuggery, it must be stressed, is not the voice of a marginal figure. As coalition leader in the Knesset, he is responsible for steering the government’s legislative program.