Equal Citizens Under Law (Except For, You Know, Soaring Arrests and Demolitions and lllegal Settlements)

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Israeli forces frisk one of their equals in Jerusalem. Photo by Mahfouz Abu Turk/APA. Front photo by Reuters.

Aggrieved Israeli officials are howling censorship after the UN rejected as "inappropriate" parts of an "Israel Matters" exhibition that opened this week at its New York headquarters. Created by the Zionist group StandWithUs in partnership with Israel’s mission to the UN, the exhibit included three of 13 panels spouting such flagrant Zionist talking points they raised some skeptical eyebrows. One panel describes Zionism as "the liberation movement" of a Jewish people who "sought to overcome 1,900 years of oppression and regain self-determination in their indigenous homeland.” One calls Jerusalem "the center and focus of Jewish life and religion for more than three millennia," and one calls Arab-Israelis “the largest minority in Israel, (who) are “equal citizens under the law in Israel.” Its punchline: It declares Israel, still and all, "the only proven democracy in the Middle East." There is no mention in the exhibit of the estimated one million Palestinians displaced by 1948's Nakba, the over seven million currently refugees, or the untold thousands still being displaced daily.
Still, the U.N.'s ruling sparked an eruption of self-righteous and whoppingly disingenuous anger on the part of Israeli press and politicians who loudly charged they were being censored. Israeli UN ambassador argued the "scandalous” and "outrageous" removal undermines "the very existence of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people,” that Jerusalem is "Israel’s eternal capital (and) the moral basis upon which the State of Israel was founded,” and that the UN must "apologize to the Jewish people," and reverse itself. In the end, UN officials kept to their decision on two panels whose truth was pretty tough to dispute, but reinstated the Zionism panel after citing "miscommunication." A puffed-up Danon proclaimed the mess "a victory for the truth about Israel."
Except. Ahem. If he wants to talk the sorry "truth about Israel," it is this: An increasingly racist, right-wing and oppressive government/Occupation, decried by most of the world, whose treatment of Palestinians flies ever further in the face of the fundamental rights in whose name the nation of Israel was, once upon a time, ostensibly loftily founded. Exhibit A is not the facile Zionist propaganda decorating the staid halls of the UN, but the first-ever Stop The Boycott conference - aka "veritable carnival of hate" - held last week in Jerusalem. Reflecting Israel's growing persecution complex and alarming tendency to conflate any challenge with "terrorism," its basic tenet is that BDS is not a human-rights-based campaign but an effort to destroy Israel: "Without knives or missiles but with an explosive payload consisting of outrageous lies – genocide, apartheid and crimes against humanity – the (BDS) movement is conquering a growing number of strongholds (and) becoming a palpable threat to" Israel. Thus do its most bellicose opponents call for the "civil targeted killing" of BDS leaders using a Hebrew euphemism that turns "killing" into "thwarting," thus drawing "a bulls-eye on the backs of non-violent protesters."
Meanwhile, the usual atrocities go on, and grow worse. Arrests of Palestinians have soared to the highest rate since 2010, with arrests of youths - who then often disappear into the murky Israeli "justice" system - up 250% this year. A new report finds a 30% rise in Israeli funding of illegal settlements in the West Bank, with settlers showered with tax breaks: "The ongoing settlement enterprise (involves) high costs and a heavy burden on the Israeli economy" - tellingly, in part due to boycott threats. With the rise of lone wolf attacks on Israelis, demolitions of Palestinian and Bedouin houses, tents, schools, even outhouses have likewise climbed, tripling since January and threatening over 90,000 people withfurther displacement. Still, Israeli officials frantically trying to keep up with 11,000 outstanding demolition orders continue to deny such acts constitute collective punishment, illegal under international law. One judge even had the chutzpah to insist such pointless, heartless acts of destruction "serve as a deterrent," though to what we can't imagine. "We do not find pleasure in these cases,” he intoned. “But the necessity cannot be denied. Amidst our people and its pains we sit, and we must do the best we can to save souls.” Even as, clearly, Israel loses its own.
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The young son of Palestinian activist Iyad Burnat blows out a birthday candle his brother made out of tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli army in Bilin in the Only Proven Democracy in the Middle East. Photo by Bryan MacCormack.

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