FLETCHER: Israel is Failing at Racial Politics

A man is seen from a window as Israeli flags fly on top of a house in Silwan neighborhood of east Jerusalem Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015. Ultra-nationalist Israelis have taken over the building in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem, raising fears of fresh violence in the tense area. A small group of activists from the Ateret Cohanim settler organization moved into the building on Thursday. It was the latest in a wave of settler advances since nationalist Jews began buying up properties in Palestinian neighborhoods two decades ago. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Two developments in Israel present a teachable moment in terms of the racial politics of the Israeli state. The first development was the slaughter of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on March 30. The second development, to be discussed in my next column, was the April 3 reneging by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on an agreement to send African migrants to Western Europe and North America rather than back to their countries of origin.

The brutal crackdown by the Israelis on the Palestinian protestors is noteworthy, not only because of the criminality of the act, but that it also captured the attention of the world. The Palestinian protesters were embarking on a nonviolent campaign to raise attention on the outstanding demand of Palestinians for their recognized right of return to their homeland.

The Israeli establishment has continuously refused to recognize the international law governing the right of return of refugees following an armed conflict. Between 1947 and 1948, thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes by Zionist military units during the formation of Israel. The Palestinians expected that they would be able to return home to reclaim their land after the armed conflict ceased. This has been refused. As a result, forces within the Palestinian movement chose to begin a nonviolent protest leading up to May 15, the anniversary date of the founding of Israel.

The Israeli government warned that they would use armed force, but such a warning holds no legal or moral value since they were simply saying that they — the Israeli political establishment — would not recognize nonviolent protests. Hiding behind allegations that the Palestinians attacked the Israeli troops, the Israeli forces responded with superior force that was out of proportion to the nature of the protests.

The Israeli establishment refuses an investigation and believes that the soldiers acted correctly, but one must ask, how is shooting civilians acceptable? The only answer is contained in the notion that the Palestinians are not to be considered humans. Since there is no justification in murdering unarmed civilians, particularly since the Israeli forces have many means at their disposal in order to respond to nonviolent disruptions, the message is clear: Palestinians have no rights that the Israeli establishment is bound to respect.

Bill Fletcher Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. Follow him on Twitter @BillFletcherJr, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

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