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In Israel, Miscegenation Equals Rape

On Monday, Sabbar Kashur, a young Palestinian man from East Jerusalem, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for something called "rape by deception." Apparently, Mr. Kashur had consensual sex with a Jewish Israeli woman after assuring her that he was also Jewish. When she found out that he had lied to her, she went to the police.

Imagine living in a society where you can say, "I wish I had never slept with you. I'm going to the cops." Only it's not funny because Sabbar Kashur will probably go to jail for a year and a half. Meanwhile, efforts to combat actual sexual violence are undermined by a cynical distortion of the term rape. The real crime here, of course, is miscegenation.

Anyone from the US should recognize the Jerusalem District Court's ruling for what it is: an anti-miscegenation measure on par with the now-defunct US laws against "race mixing" that were once used to uphold white supremacy. For most of us in the US, dating across race lines now seems about as edgy as wearing white after Labor Day. But check out Angela Davis' Women, Race and Class for a reminder of how white Americans' obsessions with "racial purity" were codified to keep African Americans and white women in their place. That's the paradigm in which we should understand this case.

In the US, anti-miscegenation laws were on the books until 1967, when the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional. That was the same year that Israel began its occupation of Sabbar Kashur's home in East Jerusalem. Since then, Israelis have fine-tuned their own obsession with racial purity. Only they like to call it "national purity," since Jewish privilege in Israel depends on maintaining the Jewish character of the state. In fact, race-mixing is perceived as such a threat that more than half of all Israeli Jews agree that Jewish-Arab intermarriage is a form of treason.

In the East Jerusalem "neighborhood" (it's really a settlement) of  Pisgat Ze'ev, a group of men who call themselves "Fire for Judaism" actually patrol the streets in the hopes of spotting and disrupting relationships between Jewish women and Palestinian men. The towns of Petah Tikva, Kiryat Gat and even super-liberal Tel Aviv have government-sponsored municipal programs to prevent miscegenation. The programs include psychological counseling for Jewish women who stray and a hotline for people to inform on Jewish women who date Palestinians.

The goal of this week's court ruling (and of Israeli laws governing marriage, adoption and surrogacy) is to prevent Jews and Palestinians from forming intimate or family relationships. In the West Bank, this degree of separation is ensured by a giant concrete wall that runs through much of the territory. But where there is no wall, the state will rely on other forms of power to maintain strict separation between the two peoples of this land. By the way, the Afrikaans word for separation is Apartheid.

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Yifat Susskind

Yifat Susskind is the Executive Director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization. She has worked with women’s human rights activists from Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa to create programs in their communities to address women's health, violence against women, economic and environmental justice and peace building. She has also written extensively on US foreign policy and women’s human rights and her critical analysis has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy in Focus and elsewehere.

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