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Thursday, 19 October 2017

It’s time to expel the Zionist ‘Jewish’ Labour Movement from the Labour Party

An anti-racist party should not tolerate a racist affiliate which  supports Apartheid


In 2004 Poale Zion (the Workers of Zion) changed its name to the Jewish Labour Movement.  Like most things the JLM does, it was an act of deception.  It sought to put a distance between its Zionist origins and the newly renamed group.
 
Israeli Labour Leader Avi Gabbay reiterates  Israeli Labour's traditional hostility to the Palestinians and Israel's Palestinian citizens
To most people the Jewish Labour Movement was exactly that.  The representative of Jewish people in the Labour Party.  In fact the JLM contains a majority of non-Jewish people.  What it doesn’t contain are non-Zionist still less anti-Zionist Jews.  No Jewish person who isn’t a paid up supporter of Israel can join the JLM.  If it was honest it would call itself the Zionist Labour Movement but that would give the game away.
 
If you look at the small print on its site then you find that the JLM is an affiliate of the World Zionist Organisation and the local Zionist Federation.  It is effectively the British branch of the Israeli Labour Party which it calls its ‘sister party.’

The JLM is unique.  No other overseas party has a British branch which has all the privileges that come with being an affiliated socialist society.  If for no other reason than this, the JLM should be disaffiliated.
A poster in the campaign for Jewish Labour i.e. no Arabs 

Although the JLM spends most of its time calling for its opponents, most of them Jewish, to be expelled, Jewish anti-Zionists are not proposing that the members of the JLM are expelled.  Simply that they no longer have the privileges that they presently enjoy.   The JLM have secured the expulsion of veteran Israeli anti-Zionist Moshe Machover, a long standing Israeli Jewish anti-Zionist for the crime of writing about relations between the Zionist movement and the Nazis between 1933 and 1939.  It has lobbied for both my own and Jackie Walker’s expulsion as well, of course that of Ken Livingstone, someone who has done more for anti-racism in the Labour Party than any single individual.
A poster in the campaign for Hebrew Labour
It is a disgrace that an organisation affiliated to the WZO, a body which actively funds and supports settlements in the West Bank, which supports the ‘Judaification’ i.e. destruction of Bedouin Arab villages inside Israel should be part of the Labour Party.  However what is most iniquitous is that it considers the Israeli Labour Party its sister party.  The ILP is an out and out racist party of ethnic cleansing.  The Labour Zionist movement founded the Zionist settlement in Palestine by evicting Arabs from the land.  They campaigned for Jewish labour i.e. an expulsion of Arab labour. 
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The ILP formed the government of Israel between 1948 and 1977.  It was responsible for the expulsion of over ¾ million Palestinians. It established military rule over Israel’s Arab population until 1966.  It barred Arabs from its trade unions until 1959 and then corralled them in an Arab section.  There is nothing socialist about the ILP nor has it ever claimed to be socialist.  As its former leader Shelly Yacimovich said ‘to call Labor left-wing is a historic wrong.”  I can vouch for that!  It is about as socialist as the National Socialists were. 

As Israeli society moves further and further to the Right so the ILP follows them.  Its last leader Isaac Herzog   declared that his nightmare was waking up to find that Israel had a Palestinian Prime Minister and 61 Palestinian Members of Israel’s Knesset .  Who needs the Right when we have Isaac Herzog?  Herzog also declared that he wanted to dispel the false impression that the ILP were ‘Arab Lovers’ Herzog slammed for remark about ‘Arab lovers’.  Imagine that someone were to say that their nightmare was to wake up and find Britain had a Jewish Prime Minister or that the Labour Party was not a ‘Jew lovers’ party.  The term ‘Jew lover’ and ‘N***** Lover’ used to be part of the language of the National Front and BNP.  The fact that it trips off the tongue of the head of the Israeli Labour should be an indication of what Zionism and the JLM are really about.
Israeli Labour supports the Apartheid Wall and calls for more repression in the West Bank
Herzog has recently been replaced as leader by Avi Gabbay, who served in the Cabinet of Benjamin Netanyahu.  If anything he is to the racist Right of Herzog.  He has just declared that “We will not sit in the same government as the Joint List I don’t see any [connection] between us.”  The Joint List is the 3rd largest group in the Knesset.  It comprises 3 different parties including nationalist Balad and the Communist Party.  It is group representing the most marginalised and oppressed section of Israeli society, its Palestinian citizens.  To say you will not have Arabs in a government and since Israel was formed there has never been an Arab party in Israel’s government is racist in itself.  But the full measure of this racism is that Gabbay did not rule out sitting in the Knesset with Avigdor Lieberman, someone who wants to strip Israeli Arabs of their citizenship and deport them.  A man who has said he would like to drown the thousands of Palestinian prisoners Israel holds in the Dead Sea.

Ha’aretz quoted Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka and Talab A-Sana and Abdelmalek Dahamsha (United Arab List) ‘"How can you suggest transferring thousands of Palestinian prisoners to the Dead Sea and drowning them there?"   Gabbay hasn’t ruled out governing with Habayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home) an explicitly racist settler party of Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked.  Indeed there is no Jewish or Zionist bigot he will not form a government with.  But to form a government with Arabs is out of the question.  Indeed it was because the Yitzhak Rabin government in 1993 relied on the support of Arab parties to form a governing coalition, though they were never part of it, that Rabin was assassinated by the right.
David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Labour Prime Minister - organised the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and turned his back on the Jews who died in the Holocaust

The JLM say they favour 2 states.  In Britain of course this is easy.  What they don’t do however is oppose either the occupation itself, the 50 years of military rule or indeed the settlements.  You won’t find one word of opposition to Israel’s nakedly racist and repressive rule on its website.  You won’t find a word of condemnation for its policy of detention and torture of child prisoners as young as 12. Indeed in the House of Commons when a debate was had on Israel’s child prisoners, Louise Ellman, its Vice President defended Israeli practices.

Two states for JLM and Labour Friends of Israel is a smokescreen for supporting the occupation.  Its ‘sister party’ in Israel however is quite clear.  It is opposed to any withdrawal from the settlements.  Indeed its last Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, has been complaining that the ILP has not been given enough credit for their establishment in the first place!  What the ILP do support however is a separation of Jews from Arabs.  It is a firm supporter of segregation and apartheid.  It is as opposed to equality between Arab and Jew even within Israel.  That is why it is an outrage that the JLM is still an affiliate of the Labour Party.

It is true that Poale Zion/JLM have been affiliated since 1920.  In those days the Labour Party was a supporter of the British Empire though it would cloak its support in the warm and comforting words of ‘trusteeship’ ie. it was looking after the colonies until such time that the Africans and Indians were capable of governing themselves, being backward people.

Today there is no Empire and there is no reason why the affiliation of the JLM, which is a relic of colonialism should be tolerated anymore.
Gabbay with former leader of the ILP Shelly Yacimovich on the left and the darling of the ILP 'left' Stav Shaffir - accused by Balad MK Jamal Zahalka of being more racist than Likud

One should point out that naturally the JLM is on the far-Right of the Labour Party.  Its vile accusations of anti-Semitism against the Left have been taken up with relish by the dinosaurs of the Right such as Tom Watson and John Mann to say nothing of papers like the Daily Mail, which in previous times support the Hitler regime and British Union of Fascist leader Oswald Moseley.  Anti-Semitism has been weaponised against the Left and supporters of Palestine.  It has never had anything to do with genuine hatred of Jews.  That is why they have campaigned in favour of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance which conflates anti-Semitism and opposition to Zionism.

In the leadership elections between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith last year, the JLM voted by 92-4% for  Smith with 4% abstentions.  What is most remarkable about this vote is that even 4% of the JLM supported Corbyn.  One can only assume that they didn’t read the ballot paper clearly enough.

It parliamentary supporters include Ruth Smeeth MP who falsely accused Marc Wadsworth at the Chakrabarti press conference of ‘anti-Semitism’ for pointing out that she was trading information with a Telegraph supporter.  Smeeth is listed in Wiki Leaks as a US intelligence asset.  It was the JLM who set up Jackie Walker at their infamous ‘training session’ in 2016 Labour Party conference.

The JLM often tries to portray itself as a critic of Netanyahu’s right-wing regime in Israel.  However you would look in vain for any criticism of Israel on it web site or in its publications.  It is an apologist for Israel’s military occupation and its apartheid laws.  The JLM even stays silent about the attack on civil liberties and human rights organisations, which affects Jews as well as Arabs, inside Israel.  It was only announced today that Netanyahu is seeking to outlaw the Breaking the Silence Group, a liberal Zionist group which collates testimony from former soldiers about the abuse of Palestinian civilians.  Criticism of the army which could result in appearing before an international court of law is not to be outlawed.  However the JLM is like the 3 wise monkeys – it neither hears, sees or speaks about Israel’s move to becoming a Jewish Police State. 

The idea that a racist organisation like the JLM should be leading a training event on racism is akin to asking the late Dr Harold Shipman to take a course on medical ethics.  Perhaps the Labour Party would care to ask Weinstein if he could help in drawing up policy on Equalities with special reference to rape and sexual harassment.  That is the absurdity of having the JLM ‘training’ people in anti-Semitism.

Below are two articles from Israel’s Ha’aretz paper and one from Ben White in The Independent.  Note that the Guardian no longer covers Israel critically anymore under the Freedland regime.

Tony Greenstein

Israeli Labor Party Leader: The New Likudnik

Labor party members, like their colleagues in the left-wing camp, deserve a leader who will show loyalty to their basic values, not Likud's

Haaretz Editorial
 
Avi Gabbay, who took the Labor party election by storm and was elected chairman in hopes of breathing new life into the peace camp, is proving that he is no different than his predecessors, who fell into the trap of sucking up to the right. Gabbay’s blitz began with him saying, “We will not sit in the same government as the Joint List I don’t see any [connection] between us.” Then followed a statement that there is no need to remove settlements as part of a peace agreement. This shows us that the new Labor chairman is in the midst of a hollow campaign for his image.
Gabbay’s PR trick – during his campaign he declared he was a man of the left, and his victory speech emphasized that Israel needs “leadership that takes care of Dimona and not just Amona” – is all too familiar.

In an attempt to signal to right-wing voters, Gabbay has come out with right-wing statements that aim to distance him from the Arabs and show support for the settlements. During her term as Labor chairwoman, Zionist Union lawmaker Shelly Yacimovich said things like, “I certainly don’t see the settlements project as a sin and crime” and “to call Labor left-wing is a historic wrong.” Isaac Herzog, who succeeded her, said that “We must stop giving the impression that we are Arab-lovers.”

The result of these moves is also well-known: Right-wing voters aren't tempted by a poor imitation of a right-wing party and remain in their political home, while Labor party heads are replaced one after another. It is surprising that Gabbay, who is a management expert, has not internalized these repeated failures. But the damage caused by his statements reaches far beyond the electoral domain. Gabbay, together with Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid – who's busy with his own pointless sycophancy of the imaginary right-religious-nationalist electorate while politically excluding Arabs and leftists (including the persecution of human rights organizations for political gain) – is laying the groundwork for delegitimizing the opposition to right-wing rule.

Opposition leaders' flight from "left-wing positions" as if they were on fire contributes to such views. It also aids in erasing the ideological opposition to the right's path. If even the chairman of the Labor party is embarrassed to express leftist political policies out loud, then how is it possible to complain about the contempt the right and center have for the left?

Labor party members, like their colleagues in the left-wing camp, deserve a leader who will show loyalty to their basic values. Not just the left but the entire country needs a true opposition. Labor took a risk and bet on a relatively anonymous candidate in hopes of renewing its ranks. But woe be it if they discover that they unintentionally replaced their worldview instead. If the party does not sober up quickly, the Zionist Union and the rest of the opposition are sentencing themselves to extinction and absorption into the Likud. 

The leader of Israel's main opposition party, Labour chair Avi Gabbay, is currently making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Yesterday, Gabbay told Israeli television that he opposed discussing the removal of even the most isolated illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The remarks came a day after Gabbay told a meeting of party activists that “the Arabs have to be afraid of us”. He added: “They fire one missile – you fire 20. That’s all they understand in the Middle East”.

On Saturday, meanwhile, Gabbay vowed to never enter into a coalition with the Joint List, a Knesset group dominated by parties representing Palestinian citizens.

The Israeli Labor Party is often presented as a “moderate” alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu – so what’s going on here?

In one sense, it is not a big surprise; Gabbay, after all, has already previously served in a Netanyahu cabinet, as I noted when the Labour leader won the leadership election in July. Some predicted Gabbay would seek to attract Likud supporters.

But beyond Gabbay’s immediate goals, his series of blunt interventions is a valuable opportunity to subject the Israeli Labour Party to the kind of critical scrutiny it often avoids, particularly in the West, where some – like the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel – support the party as “progressive” allies in the search for peace.

The uncomfortable reality is that Gabbay’s racism, as well as his support for settlements and disproportionate military force, is entirely consistent with the Labour Party’s past and present.
Previous leader Isaac Herzog ran for prime minister with an advert boasting how he “understands the Arab mentality”. On another occasion, Herzog declared: “I want to keep a Jewish state with a Jewish majority...I don’t want a Palestinian prime minister in Israel”.

It was the Labour Party, as Israeli news site +972 Magazine put it, whose “glory days included the Nakba [the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948]”, as well as “conquering and settling the West Bank and East Jerusalem”.

Just last month, former Israeli premier Ehud Barak bemoaned the fact that a state ceremony celebrating 50 years of the occupation of the West Bank did not give enough credit to the Labour leaders who “consolidated and led the settlement enterprise for a decade”.

Barak was the Labour prime minister, of course, when the Israeli army fired 1.3 million bullets at Palestinian protesters during the first few days of what became the Second Intifada.
Gabbay’s remarks provide three, vital takeaways. First, mere lip service to a “two-state solution” is meaningless because it can mean so many different things.

The Israeli Labour Party has endorsed a vision of “separation” – to an international audience, a “two-state solution” – where Palestinians are condemned to walled-in cantons. The parameters of this future Palestinian “state” are those of a Bantustan.

 “I believe that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jews," Gabbay said today. “God promised Abraham the entire Land of Israel, but I also believe that since there are 4.5 million Arabs here, we have to compromise in order to create a situation in which we live in our country with a Jewish majority."
Second, more broadly, the Israeli maximum on offer does not meet the Palestinians’ minimum – or the standards of international law.

Netanyahu likes the status quo. His coalition includes those, like Minister Naftali Bennett, who want formal annexation of the majority of the West Bank. But all the Labor Party is offering by way of an alternative is an Israeli-defined “separation” plan that smacks of a “smarter” version of apartheid.
In other words, none of the Israeli political parties who are either part of the current ruling coalition, or who could feasibly lead an alternative one, support a solution based on international law and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, sovereignty, and return.

Finally, understanding the nature of the Israeli opposition underlines the importance of tactics like Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). While some claim boycotts only empower the Right, the Israeli Labour Party offers a sobering reality check about what is on offer from the “moderates”.

A Labor Party leader's declaration he wouldn't include Arab parties in a potential government was an attempt to find favor in eyes of right-wing groups and Arab-haters
  Oct 16, 2017 1:22 AM
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay speaks before ultra-Orthodox residents of Dimona, October 15, 2017 Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay said Saturday that his party will not agree to include the Arab parties’ Joint List in any governing coalition he heads. Speaking at a public event in Be’er Sheva, Gabbay was unequivocal: “We won’t sit in the same government with the Joint List. Period. Let that be clear. You see their behavior. I don’t see anything that connects or unites us that would enable us to sit together in the same government.”

These are very serious statements. They’re especially grave since they were uttered by the most senior representative of Israel’s center-left camp, which pretends to be the alternative to the Likud-led government. Yet in his remarks, Gabbay effectively ruled out any possibility of his party forming a future government.

His remarks also emit a strong whiff of nationalism. Gabbay didn’t promise not to sit in the same government with representatives of the far right. So why was it important to him to rule out, in advance and under any circumstances, only the Joint List – the authentic representative of most of the country’s Arab citizens?

The Joint List is a coalition of several parties that together represent the mainstream of the Israeli-Arab community, a community that comprises about one fifth of Israel’s citizens. This coalition includes a variety of opinions, some more extreme and some less so.

But Gabbay didn’t limit himself to merely disqualifying them in advance; he also stressed that his party had absolutely nothing in common with them. He has nothing in common with the Hadash and Ta’al parties’ desire for a two-state solution. He has nothing in common with the entire Joint List’s battle against the outrageous discrimination suffered by Israeli Arabs and for equal rights for all.
We can only conclude that Gabbay’s comments were an attempt to find favor in the eyes of right-wing groups and to try to glean votes from society’s Arab-haters. This is both an unacceptable endeavor and a pointless one.

To espouse vile views like this, we already have Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid – the man who, in a reference to Arab MK Haneen Zoabi, once ruled out any possibility of sitting with “the Zoabis.” Now Gabbay looks like a poor man’s Lapid. And he’ll never gain power this way.

The message he’s conveying to the public is that Zionist Union – the joint Knesset slate of Labor and Hatnuah – is just another right-wing party in disguise, one that excludes Arabs from the political game just like almost all the other parties do. Labor has tried veering rightward countless times over the years, and it’s one of the main reasons for its continuous failure.

The only way to replace the right-wing government is by uniting all the forces on the left and center and presenting a real alternative. In his remarks, Gabbay chose a different path: Imitating the right, disqualifying the Arabs and presenting a false facade of leftism.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

This is Apartheid - Thousands of Israel’s Bedouin citizens have had their citizenship revoked

Because Israel is a ‘Jewish’ state – this could not happen to Jews


Israel is engaging on a plan to ‘Judaify’ the Negev desert area in the south.  It is sparsely populated and most of its inhabitants are Bedouin.  Thousands of them were expelled into neighbouring countries from 1948 until the mid 1950’s and those who remain live in ‘unrecognised’ villages.  That means they have no mains water, electricity, state schools, sewerage etc.  It also means that they are liable to be demolished at a moments notice.

Al Araqib has been demolished over a hundred times and in January Umm al-Hiran was demolished.  One protestor, Yakub Abu al-Kiyana, school teacher, was murdered by the Police who also fired rubber bullets directly at the leader of the Joint Jewish-Arab list in the Knesset, Aymen Odeh, injuring him.

The reason to demolish Umm al-Hiran was to build a Jewish town, Hiran, in its place.  In other words naked Apartheid.
That is the context in which thousands of Bedouin are having their Israeli citizenship revoked at a stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.  The reason given is that they were registered as citizens by mistake.  They have lived in what is now Israel all their lives.  They are the indigenous population, unlike the Jewish settlers who came mostly after them, but that doesn’t count.  It as all a mistake and so they are no longer citizens.  In fact they  never were citizens!

Of course this could never happen to a Jew because if you are Jewish you have the automatic right under the misnamed Law of Return to go to Israel and claim citizenship.  If I were to go to Israel and claim citizenship I would have to be granted it even though I have never lived there.  Arabs who have lived in Israel for hundreds of years can have their citizenship revoked immediately.  This is not accidental.  It is the product of a Jewish state where Arabs live in it by sufferance only.  In Jerusalem thousands of Arabs who had permanent residency cards are now having them revoked too.
What is surprising is that some people in the West still see Israel as a democratic state.

Tony Greenstein

By Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man   |Published August 26, 2017

Hundreds if not thousands of Bedouin are having their citizenship revoked seemingly for no reason, according to ‘Haaretz.’ Shocking as it may be, it’s not surprising. Citizenship has never provided non-Jewish Israelis with the same security it gives their Jewish compatriots.

Abu Gardud Salem from the village of Bir Hadaj of the Azzamah tribe on August 18 became a man without citizenship after a trip to Israeli immigration offices.
Imagine going to renew your passport or change your official address and after a few minutes of pattering on a keyboard without looking up to see the human being in front of him or her, a government clerk informs you that you are no longer a citizen of the only country you have ever known. The country of your birth.
And no, it’s not that your citizenship is being revoked, the clerk calmly explains. It’s not like that. You were never a citizen in the first place, you see, it was all a mistake — never mind the fact that you were born in Israel to parents who are Israeli citizens, and your siblings are Israeli citizens, and maybe you even served in the Israeli army.
Hundreds if not thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel have undergone that exact terrifying experience in recent years, according to a report by Jack Khoury in Haaretz Friday.
 
The Kafqesque ordeal, to which Jewish Israelis are exempt, is part of a policy in which one’s citizenship is re-adjudicated, without a judge or judicial process of course, every time one comes into contact with an Interior Ministry clerk for the most routine reasons, according to the Haaretz investigation.

The gut-wrenching practice is shocking on the most basic levels. For those of us lucky enough to be citizens of a country, so much of our security in this world comes bundled up with it. Of course, Palestinians and other non-Jews have never had the same level of security attached to their citizenship in Israel as their Jewish compatriots do. Many of them, like the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, don’t even have citizenship to begin with.
As shocking as the Haaretz report is, nobody should be surprised. The Israeli prime minister has openly declared his belief that some, namely Arab, Israeli citizens should be stripped of their citizenship for making political statements not to his liking. A senior government minister recently threatened a “third Nakba,” referencing the largely forced displacement of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948. And then there was the landmark ruling earlier this month actually stripping a Palestinian-Arab man of his Israeli citizenship because of his familial lineage. Let us not forget the more-than 14,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem who have had their permanent residency status stripped of them over the years, sending them into exile.
Again, none of this should be news. Israel is not a state of all its citizens — any minister in the current Israeli government would be happy to tell you as much. Advocating turning Israel into a state with those types of liberal-democratic building blocks is considered nothing short of seditious. It is antithetical to Zionism as it has come to be defined in the contemporary Israeli zeitgeist.

It should also be no surprise that attempts to reduce the number of Arab citizens are taking place in the Negev desert, where every Israeli government has tirelessly worked to establish Jewish hegemony in the sprawling desert that comprises more than half of Israel’s land mass. The latest iteration of those plans, The Prawer Plan, which sought to displace some 40,000 Bedouin citizens living in dozens of “unrecognized” villages, was just one in 70 years of similar efforts. Currently, the Israeli government is finalizing the destruction of the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in order to build a new settlement in its place — for Jews only.
Imagine the feeling of living under a regime which views your very existence as a strategic threat; one out of every five Israeli citizens do.
A state that belongs less to some of its citizens than others, which sees some of its citizens as assets and others as liabilities, which bestows inalienable rights upon some and views others as expendable — is not a just state. After 70 years, the question is no longer whether Israel can balance its Jewish and democratic character. The question is which of them it has chosen.
Even that debate won’t be relevant for much long. The Israeli Knesset is scheduled to advance the “Jewish Nation-State” law in the coming weeks. The government-supported bill, which is the equivalent of a constitutional amendment in Israel’s system, would explicitly favor the country’s Jewish character over its democratic character.

Israel Revokes Citizenship of Hundreds of Negev Bedouin, Leaving Them Stateless

Jack Khoury Aug 25, 2017 8:21 AM
Dozens of people – men and women, young and old – crowd into a big tent in the unrecognized village of Bir Hadaj. Some hold documents in plastic bags while others clutch tattered envelopes. What brought them to this village south of Be’er Sheva in Israel’s Negev desert was that the Population, Immigration and Border Authority had revoked their citizenship, claiming that it had been awarded to them in error.
Judging by the increasing number of complaints piling up in recent months, this appears to be a widespread phenomenon among the Negev’s Bedouin residents. Hundreds if not thousands of them are losing their citizenship due to “erroneous registration.” This is the reason they get from the Interior Ministry, with no further details or explanation.
Fifty-year-old Salim al-Dantiri from Bir Hadaj has been unsuccessfully trying to obtain Israeli citizenship for years. He doesn’t understand why Israel won’t grant it to him; his father served in the Israel Defense Forces. “Sometimes they say there was a mistake in my parents’ registration dozens of years ago. Is that our fault?” asks al-Dantiri. He’s not the only one, but many of those who came to the meeting were reluctant to identify themselves out of concern that it might hurt them in their interactions with the Population Authority. Others have already given up hope.
Salim al-Dantiri from Bir Hadaj Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Mahmoud al-Gharibi from the Al-Azazme tribe in the Be’er Sheva area is a carpenter who has been unemployed for a year following a road accident. He has 12 children from two wives. One is an Israeli citizen and the other comes from the West Bank. Seven of his children have Israeli citizenship but he has been stateless since 2000. “I went to the Interior Ministry to renew my identity card,” he relates. “There, without any warning, they told me they were rescinding my citizenship since there was some mistake. They didn’t tell me what it was or what this meant. Since then I’ve applied 10 times, getting 10 rejections, each time on a different pretext. I have two children who are over 18 and they too have no citizenship. That’s unacceptable. I’ve been living in this area for dozens of years and my father was here before me. If there was a mistake, they should fix it.”
Another person in the tent, who wished to remain anonymous, says that “many of these people, mainly ones who don’t speak Hebrew that well, don’t understand what happened to them. No one explains anything and all of a sudden your status changes. You go in as a citizen and come out deprived of citizenship, and then an endless process of foot-dragging begins.”
For years Yael Agmon from nearby Yeruham has been accompanying Bedouin to the Interior Ministry to help them apply for passports or update their identity cards. On many occasions, she has witnessed their citizenship being revoked. “You can clearly see how a clerk enters their details into a computer and then they instantly lose their citizenship. They then have to contend with an endless bureaucratic process. Sometimes it costs them tens of thousands of shekels in lawyers’ fees, and they don’t always get their citizenship in the end,” she says.
Salman al-Amrat came to the tent gathering because of his wife’s and oldest son’s status. The 56-year-old member of the Al-Azazme tribe is an Israeli citizen. His 62-year-old wife is stateless even though she was born here, he says. “Every time we try to get her citizenship we are met with refusal.” Al-Amrat’s oldest son, now 34, is also without citizenship even though his younger brothers ultimately received theirs. “We’ve been trying for years to obtain citizenship for him but to no avail. Every time they say some documents are missing. Now we’re trying through an attorney. It’s illogical that six of my children and I have citizenship and my oldest son doesn’t,” he says.
Salim al-Dantiri in Bir Hadaj. He too has lost his citizenship due to what Israel claims is a registration error. July 2017 Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Atalla Saghaira, a resident of the unrecognized village of Rahma, fought for 13 years to obtain his citizenship, even though his late father served in the IDF. He started the process in 2002, when he applied for a passport and the Interior Ministry refused to give him one. “They said that my parents had become citizens but weren’t ones to begin with,” he says. He finally obtained Israeli citizenship in 2015. “I insisted on my rights and waged a campaign against the bureaucracy by myself until I obtained citizenship, but I know there are some people who give up,” he says. Saghaira’s father was a tracker in the army for several years, and left after sustaining an injury. At the time, he had seven children (including Attala), but three of them still are still stateless.
Another resident of Bir Hadaj, Abu Garud Salame, works in the Ramat Hovav industrial zone. He says that all five of his children and three of his brothers received their Israeli citizenship but he has been refused each time he requested to have it reinstated. “We’ve been living here for dozens of years. My parents registered in the ‘50s and now I’ve been deprived of my citizenship. Even if there was some mistake in the registration process I don’t know why I have to pay for it,” he says. “Why are we to blame for things that happened decades ago?”
Automatic change in status
Abu Garud Salame from the village of Bir Hadaj also had is citizenship revoked Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Lawmaker Aida Touma-Suliman of the Joint List has received many appeals in recent months from people who have been stripped of their Israeli citizenship. Attorney Sausan Zahar from the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel recently appealed to Interior Minister Arye Dery and to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, asking them to cancel this policy.
According to her petition, these sweeping citizenship cancellations has been going on at least since 2010. When Bedouin citizens come to Interior Ministry offices in Be’er Sheva to take care of routine matters such as changing their address, obtaining a birth certificate or registering names, the Population Authority examines their status, as well as that of their parents and grandparents, going back to the early days of the state.
In many cases, the clerk tells them that their Israeli citizenship had been granted in error. On the spot, he changes their status from citizen to resident and issues them a new document. People who lose their citizenship are given no explanation and no opportunity to appeal. Instead, the clerk suggests that they submit a request and start the process of obtaining citizenship from scratch, as if they were newcomers to Israel.
Many, caught by surprise and without legal advice, don’t know what to do. Some submit a request for citizenship while others simply give up in despair. Zahar says that many requests are denied due to missing documents, a criminal record (not a valid reason for denying citizenship) or even the applicant’s inability to speak Hebrew. Many Bedouin women who have been stripped of citizenship fall into the latter category. One such woman filed an appeal over the cancellation of her citizenship due to an alleged error. When it turned out that her Hebrew was lacking, her appeal was rejected. She remains stateless.
Adalah’s petition to the interior minister shows that individuals who have been citizens for 20, 30 or even 40 years, some of whom served in the army, who voted and paid their taxes, had clerks cancel their status with a keystroke. As permanent residents, they can vote in local elections but cannot run for office, vote in national elections or run for the Knesset. They receive social benefits such as medical insurance and national insurance payments, but cannot receive Israeli passports. If they are out of the country for prolonged periods of time, they can also lose their permanent residency, and unlike citizens, they cannot automatically transfer their status to their children.
Among those who remain without Israeli citizenship are people born in Israel to parents who are Israeli citizens. There are families in which one child is a citizen while another is a permanent resident. Some of those affected were stripped of their citizenship when they tried to renew their passports to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca, a mandatory tenet of Islam and something they now cannot do.
Registration during British Mandate
The Knesset’s Interior and Environment Committee held a discussion on the issue last year, following an accumulation of requests to reinstate citizenship. During it, Interior Ministry officials confirmed that such a policy exists: When Bedouin citizens come to the ministry’s offices, clerks check the population registry for records of their parents and grandparents between 1948 and 1952.
Perhaps these years were not chosen by chance. Between the founding of the state in 1948 and the passage of the Citizenship Law in 1952, many Arabs could not register with the population authority since their communities were governed by a military administration. This included areas in the Negev which had a high concentration of Bedouin residents after 1948. In many cases, checking the records of an individual's grandparents entails looking at their citizenship during the British Mandate – a time when Israeli citizenship did not even exist.
After last year's Knesset discussion, the Interior Ministry was asked to check the extent of the phenomenon and its legality and to then update the Interior Committee. The head of the ministry's citizenship department, Ronen Yerushalmi, submitted the findings to the committee's chairman, David Amsalem (Likud), in September 2016. Entitled “Erroneous Registration of Negev Residents,” the report said that “the extent of the problem could involve up to 2,600 people with Israeli citizenship, who could lose it due to erroneous registration by the Interior Ministry.” It added that since individual cases had not been examined, the data was not precise and the numbers could even be higher.
During an earlier meeting of the committee in December 2015, the committee's legal counsel, Gilad Keren, expressed doubts regarding the legality of this process: “The citizenship law refers to cases in which citizenship was obtained based on false details, namely under more serious circumstances, not when the state has made a mistake. It refers to people giving false information before obtaining their citizenship. The law allows the interior minister to revoke citizenship only if less than three years have passed since it was granted. After that a court needs to intervene in order to revoke it. I therefore don’t understand how, when a person has been a citizen for 20 years and the state makes a mistake, that person’s status is changed.”
Adalah’s appeal to the interior minister and the attorney general demands an immediate halt to the citizenship cancellation policy. Zahar argued that the people affected by it don’t even have the right to a hearing before their Israeli citizenship is taken away from them. In addition to infringing on their right to citizenship, she wrote, the policy blatantly infringes on their right to equality. It is discriminatory based on nationality, since no Jewish citizen has had his citizenship revoked due to a mistake in his parents' or grandparents' registration under the Law of Return.
 “I’m afraid that what has been exposed is only the tip of the iceberg and what hasn’t been revealed yet is even more serious,” says Touma-Suliman. She says that if Dery and Mendelblit do not resolve the issue soon, it will go to the High Court of Justice. “There is no justification for this policy,” she says. “The ministry is blatantly violating the law. It’s unacceptable that in one family living under one roof, half the children are citizens while the other half are residents or people with indeterminate status.”
Haaretz approached several former senior officials at the Interior Ministry and the Population Authority, including the agency's head until 2010, Yaakov Ganot, and Amnon Ben-Ami, its director until recently. Former Interior Minister Eli Ben-Yishai, who held the post most recently in 2013, said that if a decision had been made to revoke the citizenship of Negev Bedouin, “I don’t know about it and don’t remember holding discussions regarding this issue during my tenure.”
The Population Authority said in response that the cases mentioned above were not instances of revoked citizenship but ones of past registration mistakes, in which people had been registered as citizens but were not. It said now was the time to fix the problem, adding that the ministry held a discussion on the issue, the minister had taken a decision and the Knesset's Interior Committee had been informed. It said that “attempts are being made to address this problem legally in a manner that won’t affect these individuals' status in Israel.” The Population Authority also said the attorney general would be handling the appeal filed by Adalah.
Dery’s office insisted that the cases were absolutely not instances of citizenship being revoked but were instead situations of arranging legal status. “The minister has directed officials at the Population and Immigration Authority to handle the process involving this group of people in the easiest and simplest way possible. Minister Dery asked them to find any way possible to shorten the procedure in an attempt to avoid imposing any hardship on them,” said the office.
The attorney general's office told Adalah that the Population Authority is conducting an examination of thousands of people who have been erroneously registered as citizens instead of permanent residents. Those who are found to have been registered as such by mistake will be allowed to obtain citizenship through an accelerated process, should they meet the legal criteria, the response said.
According to the response, no one has been denied citizenship so far, and residents' rights are being maintained. Therefore the attorney general sees no reason to intervene in the Population Authority's decision, the response said.
Hundreds of Arab-Israeli Bedouins in the southern Negev region have their citizenship purportedly revoked by the Interior Ministry, using a law usually reserved for people convicted of 'terrorist activities.'
Dima Abumaria/The Media Line|Published:  02.09.17 , 09:38
The Interior Ministry has purportedly revoked the citizenship of hundreds, if not thousands, of Arab-Israeli Bedouins in the southern Negev region, instead granting them "resident" status.

The ministry’s representatives explained in a parliamentary session that the decision was being taken because in these cases citizenship was granted by mistake or to those that registered "erroneously" between 1948 and 1951.

Bedouin woman confronts Israeli policemen during the demolition of homes in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, Jan. 2017 (Photo: AFP)

Aida Touma-Suleiman, an Arab-Israeli legislator, called for an urgent session last year to raise concern over the move, while giving voice to the residents of Naqab, whose statuses were changed without their knowledge.

"I will not relent, either the Ministry stops the new policy and returns citizenship to the Arabs, or I will file a case with the Supreme Court," Touma-Suleiman told The Media Line.

Adalah, a legal center that supports the rights of Israel’s Arab minority, sent a letter to Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit urging them to cancel the new policy and demanding equal status for the Bedouins in question.

According to the group, the citizenship cancellations have been going on at least since 2010.

"Many Arab citizens, who had survived in their land after Nakba (the 'catastrophe' of Israel’s creation), were unable to register for citizenship due to the military rule imposed on them by the government," Touma-Suleiman explained. "In some other cases, people were not aware of the need to register at all."

"What is happening now," she continued, "is that Arabs in the southern area of Israel are applying to the ministry to renew their IDs or passports, and then, they are being informed of the revocation decision."

The stripping of citizenship, in general, is based on Israel’s 2008 "Nationality Law," which gives the courts the right to revoke citizenship in cases where there is a "doubt in loyalty to the State of Israel;" including, for instance, in the event of terrorist attacks.

Touma-Suleiman confirmed that a few individuals from the northern Arab-Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm have lost their citizenship as a result of "terrorist activities," but that this is not a scenario that applies to the Bedouins in the Negev.

In comments on Monday, an Interior Ministry spokesperson claimed that the number of people affected was inflated and that measures were being taken to rectify the situation. "The group of citizens includes about 150 people, and not 2,600," she said. "No one means to harm them. Now the ministry is asking them to legally re-register so they will remain citizens."

Speaking to The Media Line, Israeli parliamentarian for The Joint List, Dov Khenin, nevertheless slammed the Ministry’s actions and said "it has no right to revoke citizenship, which is totally against the law."

"This can only be done in the event of terror acts, and even then this is done through the courts," he concluded.

Overall, there are some 1.7 million Arabs living in Israel, approximately 20% of the total population.