Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Israel at the Bottom of the Table | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In a world that is full of examples of detestable racism and discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, accent, or sect; Israel has distinguished itself with its new more creative methods of discrimination. It prohibits Muslims, Christians, and Baha’is from mandatory service in the Israel armed forces, with only Jews and Druze having to serve mandatorily. This is all part of the “Judaization” of Israel which was recently announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

However today this ugly trend has progressed even further according to an article by the influential Israeli writer Gideon Levy published in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper [The Rotting Safed Cheese] in which he says that Safed is the most racist city in Israel. Safed is one of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities, and is visited by many of those who follow the Kabbalah, which is a Jewish mystical school of thought. Gideon Levy described Safed – which is located in the Northern District of Israel, adjacent to the Lebanese border – as the most racist city in Israel after 18 Safed rabbis called for a ban on renting or selling houses to non-Jews, in a veiled reference to the city’s Palestinian-Arab community that form one fifth of its population. This call was made after an urgent meeting was held following news that Jewish women were seen in the company of Arab men and that the Jews of Safed are facing an “Arab invasion.” This so-called invasion is only set to intensify after the number of Arab students studying at Safed University has increased to 1,300 students, with this number only set to rise following the announcement that Safed University is opening a faculty of medicine. The city filled with extremism anti-Arab banners and slogans such as “Death to Arabs” with some Arabs being physically assaulted and even shot at. There were even reports that an 89-year old [Jewish] man was threatened that his building would be burnt to the ground if he continued to rent to Arabs.

This movement is being led by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who has been appointed by the city’s municipality. Eliyahu justified this by saying that when non-Jews come to the city, the residents worry about their sons and daughters, and that many Arabs have “dated” Jewish girls. Similar hostilities can be found in other Israeli “development towns” that were first established in the 1950s and 1960s as part of Israel’s judaization process, such as Karmiel, Nazareth Illit, and elsewhere. Most officials in these cities are members of the extremist nationalist “Yisrael Beiteinu” party which is led by controversial Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is known for his extremist stance and statements.

The extremist factions within the party began to urge extremist settlers, particularly those who were forced to leave the Gaza Strip, to establish their own centers in Nazareth Illit. The first such center saw 3,000 Jewish followers move into the region, in order to “put an end to the [Jewish] demographic decline in the area.”

When Israel occupied Safed back in 1948, the Palestinian population stood at 10,000 compared to a Jewish population of just 2,000. However the entire Palestinian population of Safed was expelled, including a 13-year old boy who went on to become the President of the Palestinian Authority. I am of course talking about Mahmoud Abbas, who was born in Safed. The city’s history is a source of fear to many of its current residents, as many believe that the increase in the population of its Arab community is akin to an indirect attempt by these Arabs to regain their land with this being an alternative to the “right of return” that the Palestinians have failed to attain in all previous rounds of negotiations.

This was not the first time that Rabbi Eliyahu has been labeled an extremist and a racist. The rabbi previously took up a hostile stance [against the Arab community] in 2002 when he demanded that Arab students should be expelled from Safed University, and two years later he launched a campaign to prevent marriage between Arabs and Jews, considering marriage between Arab men and Jewish women to be “a declaration of war”. There have been many allegations made against Eliyahu, and calls for investigations, however suspiciously these have all come to nothing.

Israel continues to pursue a policy of racism, proving to the world that it is nothing more than a rogue state.