Marching against racist 'Loyalty Oath'
SATURDAY NIGHT IN TEL AVIV. "Together we will defend democratic rights",
"The voice is that of Lieberman, the hands those of Netanyahu"
Photo from http://hadash.org.il/
THOUSANDS of demonstrators marched through central Tel Aviv on Saturday night in opposition to the Israeli government's loyalty oath bill, which requires non-Jewish residents to swear loyalty to "the State of Israel "the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state." as the price of citizenship.
Many see this amendment to the government's Citizenship Act as a step towards enforced "population transfer" - that is, ethnic cleansing of the State's Palestinian minority. This is the explicitly declared aim of
Russian-born Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the far-Right Yisrael Beitenu party, Foreign Minister and deputy prime minister in Binyamin Netanyahu's government.
But as some banners on Saturday night's demo declared, borrowing a Biblical phrase, "The voice is the voice of Lieberman, but the hands are the hands of Netanyahu". Other banners read: "Fascism and ethnic cleansing are standing proud", the by now familiar "Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies", and "Together we will defend democratic freedom".
The marchers, who included both Jews and Arabs, marched towards the Sarona compound, headquarters of the Ministry of Defence, before holding a rally in nearby gardens. Among those leading the march were Knesset members Dov Khenin and Muhammad Barakeh, from the Communist Party-led coalition Hadash, former Knesset member Mossi Raz of the left-Zionist Meretz party, and Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now.
Also prominent carrying his two-flag sign was veteran campaigner Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom
"We are here to protest with the entire street against the dangerous policy of the government, which Labor ministers also support," Oppenheimer told the Israeli news site Ynet. He said Israel could not maintain an occupation and retain democracy.
"Democracy will prevail and racism will be defeated. There is no room for (Prime Minister Netanyahu) Bibi and Lieberman's games in the peace process. Everyone's interest is for a two-state solution. There will be no (population) transfer here," added MK Barakeh.
Speaking on a park bench in Sarona garden, MK Dov Khenin said,
"The statement 'The Arab citizens of Israel are the true demographic threat' was not uttered by Rabbi Meir Kahane or Avigdor Lieberman, but by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Jerusalem conference. Two years ago, the idea of population transfer was a slogan of extreme right-wing parties. A month ago it was the subject of an official speech by the Foreign Minister in the United Nations. "
"Friends, the population transfer has turned from a nightmare into an operational plan. Against this we stand here today.""The democratic freedom is in grave danger. The nightmare of a transfer is turning into a realistic plan, and that's why we stand here today. The foul wave that started with the Arabs has now reached the Jews who dare think differently. Attacks on universities, artists and academicians have also become part of the internal danger. We stand before a fatal battle for our future," he added.
"Lines that mustn't be crossed"
YOUNG people from Labour Zionist youth movements HaShomer Hatzair (the Young Guard) and Noar Oved v'Lomed (Working and Student Youth) have added their voices to the protest over Israel's new Citizenship Act. 'There are red lines that mustn't be crossed,' they warn.
Some 200 former Hashomer and Noar Oved members rallied outside the Knesset inJerusalem last week, and there have been similar demonstrations in Afula, Beersheba, Holon, Akko and Tel Aviv, denouncing the new loyalty oath amendment as "racist".
Hashomer Hatzair, which played a significant part in pioneering the kibbutz movement, was the youth movement associated with the left-wing Mapam party, which merged into Meretz. The much larger Noar Oved v'Lomed is the youth section of the Histadrut labour unions.
"We, the former members of the Zionist youth movements, consider this law "anti-Zionist and anti-democratic," said Ziv Rosenberg, spokesman for Noar Oved v'lLomed.
"The state was established in the spirit of respect for the minority which resides in it. This law obligates every citizen, even if he is not Jewish, to pledge allegiance to values that go against his way of life. This law reeks of racism and is incompatible with the values of democracy," he said.
According to Rosenberg, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, due to political considerations, is "appeasing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman with a law that does not make sense. There are red lines that must not be crossed; first and foremost for ourselves, but also for Israel's reputation abroad." (YNet)
Loyalty law is last straw, says Mike
AWARD-winning film director Mike Leigh has cancelled a visit to Israel because of the Israeli government's new 'loyalty' oath. The British Jewish director had been due to fly out on October 20 for a number of engagements, the main one having been to take part in the "great masters" programme at the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in Jerusalem.
In a letter to school director Renen Schorr, he cited several of Israel's policies, including the oath, which would require non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state".
"As you know, I have always had serious misgivings about coming, but I allowed myself to be persuaded by your sincerity and your commitment," Leigh wrote. "And it is because of those special qualities of yours that I am especially sorry to have to let you down. But I have absolutely no choice. I cannot come, I do not want to come, and I am not coming.
"Eight weeks after our lunch, the Israeli attack on the flotilla took place. As I watched the world very properly condemn this atrocity, I almost cancelled. I now wish I had, and blame my cowardice for not having done so.
"Since then, your government has gone from bad to worse. I need not itemise all that has taken place ... I still had not faced up to the prospect of pulling out until a few weeks ago, but the resumption of the illegal building on the West Bank made me start to consider it seriously. And now we have the Loyalty Oath.
"This is the last straw – quite apart from the ongoing criminal blockade of Gaza, not to mention the endless shooting of innocent people there, including juveniles ..."
Although many artists have responded to calls for a boycott of Israel, including notably film director Ken Loach, Mike Leigh's decision is the more significant not just for his prominence but because of the director's background. The son of a Salford Jewish GP, Mike grew up in a home where the Zionist JNF blue box stood next to the phone. Both his parents were active in local Zionist affairs, and Mike spent most of his younger years in the Zionist youth movement Habonim. He has both family and friends in Israel.
But though long personally critical of Israel and Zionism, Mike preferred to reflect rather than engage in controversy in his one "Jewish" play, 'Two Thousand Years" (2005) and he has not appeared on political platforms or engaged in public gestures. Not until now.
previous expectations -
Rights Lawyer for London meeting
ISRAELI human rights lawyer Orna Kohn has been retained by Adalah, the centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, fighting the cases of Palestinians affected by existing Israeli law, and she represented Israeli citizens seized on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Orna says the Israeli security establishment already has more than enough powers to control Arab citizens, and the new 'Loyalty Oath' is both racist and unnecessary.
Orna Kohn is due to speak in London on November 11th on
Israel's decade of impunity -October 2000 to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla
Thursday, 11 November, 7pm, The Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 6AQ
Meeting organised by Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Jewish Socialists' Group.