Yesterday I penned a piece about the email system in place in the Israeli town of Karmiel that can be used to prevent Arabs from moving to the town. Essentially, you hear about the sale of a house to an Arab, write an email and magical pressures come from above to squash the sale:
Can you imagine if something like this existed in the United States. Imagine if Denver started a “Keep Blacks Out of Our City” campaign with an open housing discrimination policy. Imagine the reaction if there was a well-known email address to which you could send your concern that your neighbor’s house could be sold to ‘one of them.’ Maybe there should be a similar system to keep Japanese people from moving to Seattle; to prevent Hispanics from tainting the racial purity of Houston?
[tweetmeme] My first reaction to the Karmiel plan was shock. The town’s government denied any involvement in the scheme, though, making it entirely citizen run (allegedly). And, at least it was limited to one town. However, the democratic and moral soul of Israel is once again being challenged by Israel’s lawmakers. Apparently, Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee has approved a bill that would allow small communities to form panels that can reject potential residents of small towns, based on their ‘suitability:’
The bill has sparked wide condemnation and many believe it to be discriminatory and racist, since it allows communities to reject residents if they do no meet the criteria of “suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook”, which in effect enables them to reject candidates based on sex, religion, and socioeconomic status.
The bill is due to be presented before the Knesset plenum in the coming weeks.
Israeli Arab MKs were outraged by the proposal and walked out on the committee’s discussion of it.
MK Talab al-Sana (United Arab List – Ta’al) called the bill racist and said it was meant to prevent Arabs from joining Israeli towns. MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List – Ta’al) compared the bill to racist laws in Europe during World War Two, and the two told the committee members before leaving the hall: “We will not cooperate with this criminal law – you have crossed the line.”
I suppose I should be shocked by the response of David Rotem, the committee’s chairman, but the racist rhetoric seems to just fit in with the rest of the bigotry that spews from his Lieberman-led Yisrael Beiteinu party:
The committee’s chairman, David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), responded to claims the bill was meant to reject Arabs from joining Israeli towns. “In my opinion, every Jewish town needs at least one Arab. What would happen if my refrigerator stopped working on a Saturday?”
Yesterday I brought up what I thought was an extreme hypothetical situation: black people being systematically refused housing in Denver in order to keep the racial purity of the Colorado community. Yet, can anyone even begin to imagine discussions in Congress, shown on CSPAN or CNN, debating whether to approve community committees that, while sanctioned by the government, have the power to reject a person from entering a community based on their ethnicity?
Imagine standing in front of an official government council and being told that you were not good enough to live in Los Angeles because you were not Christian. Or that the government of Boston has decided that as Muslim, you were prohibited from residing in Beantown. Or, imagine that your Congressman, who represents you and is meant to stand for your values and morals, says that there should be one American-Jewish person in every American town because toilets don’t clean themselves.
Laws and debates like this represent everything that is wrong with the institutionalized racism in Israel’s society. The mere fact that Rotem can imply an innate inferiority of another people in governmental proceedings is disgraceful. Though, unfortunately, it can no longer be shocking.