Apartheid is legally allowed in Israel – and religious apartheid as well

Hi all,

please read this article published on The Jewish Daily Forward today, and send us your comments.

thank you

Dr. phil. Milena Rampoldi

Editorial Team of ProMosaik e.V.

Atop a Wedding Cake, a Threat to Israeli Democracy

Court Order Allows Racist Protest Against Mixed Marriage

By Mairav Zonszein

Published August 27, 2014.
Last Sunday evening, just 24 hours before the latest ceasefire
between Hamas and Israel was due to expire amid talks in Cairo, the top
story on most Hebrew news sites was a small demonstration against a
wedding of a “mixed” Israeli couple in central Israel.
Morel Malka, a Jewish Israeli who converted to Islam
and her Palestinian Muslim groom, Mahmoud Mansour, had found themselves
in court that morning appealing for an injunction against a protest
organized by Lehava, an anti-assimilation, anti-miscegenation group in
Israel known for inciting against Arabs.
Lehava got a hold of the invitation from the couple’s
Facebook page and posted the date and location online with a call for
Israeli supporters to show up and protest the private union in the name
of Jewish continuity. The fact that the Rishon Letzion Magistrate Court
decided to sanction the protest — whose most popular chant was “death to
Arabs” — reflects how the line between freedom of speech and
incitement has blurred, and how racist expressions against Israeli Arabs
have become commonplace.
Lehava, which means flame in Hebrew and is an acronym
for “preventing assimilation in the Holy Land,” is on a declared
mission to “save” Jewish women from Arab men (it doesn’t talk about
saving Jewish men from Arab women). The effort to have Jews stick with
Jews is not inherently discriminatory or racist, but Lehava and a few
other similar groups in Israel have taken their battle against
assimilation in that direction by focusing their efforts on demonizing
Arabs. Their initiatives include running a hotline encouraging callers
to inform on Jewish-Arab couples, issuing kosher certifications to
businesses that don’t employ Palestinian citizens of Israel and
campaigns that send the message to Jewish women that each Arab man they
meet is part of the greater “enemy” of Israel. Their Facebook page was
recently taken down due to accrued complaints of incitement. However
their director, a sworn Kahanist from Kiryat Arba, claims they can’t be
anti-Arab since they oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s son’s
relationship with a non-Jewish Norwegian woman. Lehava has yet to stage a
protest in front of the prime minister’s home.
Though Lehava is a small, extremist group, their
mission of combatting intermarriage is something most Jewish citizens
identify with in principle. According to a recent Haaretz poll, 75% of
Jewish Israelis would not marry out of their religion (65% among the
Arab sector) and 67% believe assimilation presents an existential threat
to Jewish people. Most Israelis likely disapprove of Lehava’s
incendiary and illiberal tactics, but have largely remained supine in
the face of Israel’s law barring marriage between people of different
religions — which is the reason Morel Malka and Mahmoud Mansour couldn’t
be married here without one of them converting, and why intermarriage
is a rarity.
Most Jewish Israelis want the country to maintain its
Jewish majority, even if it means privileging Jews at the expense of
equal rights. When Israelis say they want Israel to retain its Jewish
“character,” what they mean is a permanent Jewish majority that
guarantees Jewish self-sovereignty vis-a-vis the Palestinian population.
That is why so many liberal Zionist Israelis champion the two-state
solution over one democratic state for all citizens. The ban on
intermarriage is one way in which Israel tries to artificially preserve
its Jewish sovereignty. The lack of separation between church and state
is the guiding principle of all civil laws and the force behind both de
jure and de facto discrimination against non-Jewish citizens who are
seen, ipso facto, as a threat to Jewish power and continuity. Lehava has
taken that sentiment to an extreme.
In permitting their demonstration, the court chose to
give this racist group a platform under the guise of freedom of speech
and at the expense of liberal values meant to protect the right of two
consenting adults to marry each other in peace. Newly instated president
Reuven Rivlin pointed this out in a Facebook status congratulating the
couple and stating that there is a “red line between freedom of speech
and protest on the one hand and incitement on the other.” He did not
however call for outlawing Lehava or reforming Israel’s discriminatory
laws, instead treating it as an isolated incident. But “death to Arabs”
has been heard many times before at demonstrations: almost every year on
Jerusalem Day, often at settler and right-wing protests and most
recently, at anti-war protests in Tel Aviv in which left-wing Israelis
were physically attacked. The decision to allow this protest is
especially revealing of the inequality between Jewish and Palestinian
citizens considering that in the last month since the Israel-Hamas war
began, over 1,000 Palestinian have been arrested for protesting the
operation in Gaza, the majority released without any charges.
Israel is always walking a fine line between
privileging Jews and trying to uphold a minimum modicum of democracy. In
this instance, that line was erased. Maybe because Lehava ultimately
fulfills a purpose that serves the interests of the state: safeguarding
Jewish sovereignty against the Palestinian threat. This would also
explain why that fine line is so often obliterated in the West Bank,
where settlers have rights their Palestinian neighbors do not, and get
away with countless illegal actions that authorities passively or
actively endorse in the name of protecting the Jewish frontier. During
periods of increased confrontation between Israel and Palestinians, the
notion that the Arab is the enemy appears more excusable. As long as the
laws privileging the Jewish population remain in place unchallenged,
incitement, segregation and racism and will not only continue to be
sanctioned on a case-by-case basis, they will become the norm.