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2 Aug, 2010 03:25

Arabs living in Israel are accusing the Jewish state of racism

Human rights campaigners claim the country's government adopts laws that discriminate against non-Jewish citizens.

They’re just back from touring the US, where their protest music found sympathetic ears among Jews and Arabs. They go by the name of DAM (Hebrew for “Blood”) – and they’re the first Arab-Israeli hip-hop group to rap in Arabic, Hebrew and English. Their lyrics are bold, and they demand better treatment for Arab-Israelis, who they say are treated as second class citizens.

“Lieberman is saying, he wanna take the Arabs and throw them out and people elected him,” said Tamer Nafer from DAM. “So it’s not the government, the government is the face of the people. What started first, I don’t know, for me this is one of the worst. What they are doing, it seems like they elected gangsters.”

And civil rights groups agree. They say it’s official: the current Israeli government is the most racist in Israel's history.

“We looked at proposals for laws, studied them, and cited 286 instances of racism,” said Nidhal Othman from an advocacy center for Arab citizens in Israel. “There’re not just against Arabs, there is also a significant rise in racism against other ethnic groups – Russians, Ethiopians and eastern European Jews. I believe that Israel is a racist country. If this trend continues, it spells disaster for the State of Israel.”

Already at least 21 bills that Arab citizens insist discriminate against them have been passed. The most recent: prospective citizens now have to swear allegiance to a Jewish and democratic state.

“They are changing the whole discourse in Israel now, into one of which the assumption is that Palestinians are not loyal,” stated freelance journalist and writer Jonathan Cook. “They should have no rights. They have to prove their loyalty. So this is very much part of the whole same kind of movement. The first victims of this legislative drive will be Palestinian parliament members.”

Hanin Zuabi is one of them. She’s one of 14 Arab parliamentary members out of 120. She says it’s a daily struggle for Arabs to be treated equally. Even the most liberal Israeli parties often struggle to support them. Their first priority is to keep their position in the coalition government.

“In the Knesset we have almost every week a racist law against the Arabs,” she told RT. “This government has no vision, not just for peace with the Palestinians under occupation, but also has no vision of peace with its Arab citizens.”

But in its defense, the same Israeli Cabinet approved the largest economic development plan for Arabs. This industrial park is the brainchild of Stef Wertheimer, a Jewish Israeli millionaire whose joined hands with Sharki Khatib, the former mayor of the largest Arab city in Israel, Nazareth.

“At the moment Arabs are not participating in industry in Israel,” Khatib told RT. “They have stayed in the professions. We want to bring Arabs into the circle of industry and my vision is that five years from now there will be 20 to 25 production factories here.”

But that vision is being tested. Because although parliamentarians still need to vote on the proposed amendments to the citizenship law, another bill that has been passed includes threatening to cut off funding to institutions that support the Palestinian version of the 1948 war. Another bill criminalizes denying Israel’s right to be called a Jewish state.

Which is why there will be no shortage of lyrics any time soon. And the music will rap on…