Ian Austin

You’re calling Israel ‘racist’? Look in the mirror

The briefest of looks at the other countries in the region reveals the woeful double standards


Israelis gather at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem ahead of the Israeli 'flags march' to mark "Jerusalem Day", on May 18, 2023. Jerusalem police and residents are bracing for extremist ministers and their supporters to rally on May 18 in an annual flag-waving march commemorating Israel's capture of the Old City. (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP) (Photo by GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images)

September 14, 2023 10:37

You don’t have to support the Israeli government — still less its members and the statements they make — to believe it is completely wrong to accuse Israel of racism.

Racist politicians should never be anywhere near positions of power, but the country’s opponents have been accusing Israel of racism long before Netanyahu formed his latest government last year.

Israel’s opponents have been accusing the country of racism since it was established in 1948.Some of them even say the country’s very existence is racist, that the country itself is a “racist endeavour”.

And they have accused governments on the left as well as the right of racism, even those that agreed to a Palestinian state.

This is because they want to take away one of the strongest arguments for Israel’s establishment in 1948 and its existence ever since: that it is a safe haven against the anti-Jewish racism that lay behind centuries of persecution and pogroms across Europe and the Middle East.

As a result, they hold it to standards never applied to other countries. They single Israel out for criticism they never make about other countries that are guilty of utterly appalling levels of racism.

Even when they do criticise other regimes, it is usually a cursory mention, as a tactic to insulate themselves from accusations of antisemitism so they can get back to their real and urgent task of attacking the world’s only Jewish state.

No one is saying that Israel is perfect, but Israelis of all backgrounds — Arabs, practising Muslims and Christians — serve in senior positions alongside their Jewish fellow citizens in the Knesset, civil service, judiciary and police.

Every citizen is guaranteed equal rights under the law and freedom of movement, assembly and speech. Arabic is an official language and there is a large Arabic media.

Whatever we think of election results, all citizens of Israel vote on an equal basis. In fact, out of the 380 million Arab citizens in the two dozen countries across the Middle East, only the 1.9 million living in Israel are allowed to choose their leaders in what we could recognise as free and fair elections.

Compare all that to the position in the many actually racist states around the world. New research by Uzay Bulut at the Gatestone Institute in New York makes this clear.

Look at China, which has all but wiped out Tibet and locked up a million Muslim Uighurs in concentration camps, subjecting them to slavery and forced sterilisation.

A former United Nations special rapporteur on racism, E Tendayi Achiume, said Qatar operates a de facto caste system based on national origin with the vast majority of low-paid migrant workers coming from Asian and African nations including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Kenya.

A 2009 Human Rights Watch report said Shiite citizens in Saudi Arabia “face systematic discrimination in religion, education, justice, and employment”.

According to UNWRA, people they describe as Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are “socially marginalised, have very limited civil, social, political, and economic rights, including restricted access to the government of Lebanon’s public health, educational and social services and face significant restrictions on their right to work and right to own property”.

Palestinians are still barred from employment in 39 professions such as medicine, law and engineering.

Christians are persecuted in various countries in the Middle East and Africa. Yazidis have still not recovered from the genocide perpetrated by Islamic State in the Sinjar region in Iraq.

In Turkey, the Civil Servants Law passed in 1926 makes it virtually impossible for Christians and Jews to work as civil servants at state institutions. Today, only 0.1 per cent of Turkey’s whole population comprises Christians and Jews.

Gatestone reports that human-rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz said: “Not even one single non-Muslim army officer, policeman or judge exists in Turkey”. Non-Muslims are absent not only from the security and judiciary establishment but from the public sector altogether.

Lyn Julius’s book Uprooted shows how hundreds of thousands of Jewish people have been forced to flee countries across the Middle East.

Asking why people campaign about Israel more than, say, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon or countless other countries around the world is not, as the anti-Israel obsessives like to claim, “whataboutery” designed to deflect attention from Israel.

My argument is that accusing Israel of racism while ignoring, or barely mentioning, systematic state-enforced discrimination elsewhere is clearly motivated by an obsession with and hatred of the world’s only Jewish country.

If they want to campaign against racism, perhaps they should start by looking at themselves.

September 14, 2023 10:37

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