Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making a mockery of the entire world, by feigning to succumb to the pressure exerted upon him, and announcing his acceptance of a temporary freeze on settlement construction. According to the deal, Israel will only continue the construction process in the West Bank, with the exception of Jerusalem. At the same time, Netanyahu has received a substantial reward, in the form of significant military equipment, estimated to be worth billions of dollars, from the United States. This incentive has been financed by U.S. taxpayers, amidst a debilitating economic recession, and unprecedented rates of unemployment in America.
However, the Judaization policy, adopted in the inner towns and cities of Israel, remains Netanyahu’s ‘dirty secret’. Nobody talks about this policy, since the public is already preoccupied with the issue of settlement construction, its temporary suspension in the West Bank, and subsequently its resumption.
One of the clearest examples of Netanyahu’s coercive Judaization policy, currently being implemented in inner Israeli cities, can be seen in the town of Lod, located on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest and richest city. Members of the Lod Municipality Council proposed to ‘strengthen’ the town’s demographic presence, by attracting greater numbers of Jews. They introduced a new law making it mandatory for the town’s inhabitants to exclusively swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state. Moreover, the Council has proposed measures against the Arab population, such as erasing the historical fact that the Jews expelled the Arabs from their homes, following the 1948 War of Independence. Of course this is the Palestinian (and real!) version of events, and used to be included in Palestinian school history textbooks.
Officials in Lod have effectively transferred the psychological war on Palestinians to a new arena; from the borders of the 1967 occupied territories, to the inner Israeli cities and towns. A barrier has also been constructed in the town, similar to the wall of separation erected along the border between Israel and the West Bank; which aroused huge controversy and international outrage.
Today, a microcosm of the Israeli-Palestinian divide is being constructed inside the city of Lod itself, to practice discrimination between the residents and citizens of Israel: The Arabs on one side, and the Jews on the other. The separation wall is three meters tall. It aims to prevent the expansion of Arab neighbourhoods within Lod. The project receives the personal backing, attention and follow-up efforts of Prime Minister Netanyahu, along with the support of his radical Minister of Foreign Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, who encourages the construction of housing units for Israeli troops in Lod. The project is also endorsed by Eli Yishai, the Israeli Minister of Internal Affairs, and leader of the ultra-orthodox religious political party, Shas. He exclusively grants the right to build new housing units to hard-line religious Jews.
The officials of Lod feel no shame in placing signs on public streets, stating that the town “is for religious Zionists.” This racist orientation is underscored by Lod’s Chief Rabbi, Haim Hadad. All these measures were taken to ensure the survival of Lod as a purely Jewish town, and Haim Hadad was one of the first to benefit, as the measures secured him a private residence.
Ramat Eshkol was a huge housing complex built by the Jews following their seizure of Lod in 1948. It was originally set up to accommodate Jewish immigrants coming into Israel. Today, this complex has turned into an Arab neighbourhood, but it resembles a dirty squalor, littered with waste and rubbish.
The neighbourhood has been deprived of all sorts of public services, and the means to develop living standards, which are available to other Jewish neighbourhoods in the city. According to the reports of international relief and aid organizations, the neighbourhood’s condition is worse than that of Gaza’s poverty-stricken areas.
Lod prides itself on its police force, consisting of 120 personnel, which is completely devoid of Muslims, and limited to the Druze and the Jews.
Lod is an accurate mirror, reflecting the current reality in the West Bank. The tension escalating between Palestinians and Israelis is the same tension that is currently growing between the 1948 Arabs and the Jews. Today the 1948 Arabs consider all Jewish newcomers to the town of Lod as “settlers”. The Arabs assert that they are being gradually pushed out of all the major towns and cities in Israel, until they are finally brought together in ‘soft pockets’ that are easy to control in terms of administration, security, military containment, and logistics. What is even more alarming is the nature of the Jewish settlers arriving in Lod. They are notorious for being hardliners, extremists, racists and physically aggressive.
By taking a quick glance at the votes won in the latest election by Lieberman’s party (Yisrael Beitenu), notorious for its hostile stance towards Arabs, we would find that it gained 22 percent of Jewish votes in Lod. This is more than double the rate of votes won by the party across all of Israel in general.
What is happening in the town of Lod is a small example of the scheme devised by the extremist right-wing bloc in Israel, led by Netanyahu (Likud), Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) and Yishai (Shas). This scheme aims to empty Israel of its Arab and Palestinian population, and Judaize the land. Israel’s talk about peace has nothing to do with what is happening on the ground.