Israel fails the civil rights and democracy test

To a standing ovation Mitt Romney addressed the Jerusalem foundation with a stirring endorsement of the state of Israel.  "This nation has come to take its place among the most impressive democracies on earth. Israel’s achievements are a wonder of the modern world".

Haneen Zoabi in Cork
A wonder for the Palestinian Arabs who live there? Not according to the facts. Haneen Zoabi, an Arab-Israeli member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, told the The Irish Times that Israel had “a deliberate policy to exclude us (Palestinian Arabs) from the Israeli economy. They want to make us a poor and dependent minority.”

Apartheid in Israel
The results are clear.  Addressing audiences in Belfast, Dublin and Cork on a recent tour of Ireland Ms Zoabi revealed that while Palestinians make up approximately 18 per cent of the Israeli population, just 7.9 per cent of students at universities are Palestinian, only 7.6 per cent of government employees are Palestinian as are just 2 per cent of employees in the public sector and 1 per cent in the private sector.  Most Palestinian women graduates in Israel are also unemployed, she said.

Meanwhile over 1,000 Israeli only villages exist in the state, while 700,000 Palestinians live in villages and towns not officially on the map, and therefore not entitled to state services.  The parallels with apartheid in South Africa were not lost on the audience.

Murder is ethical, delivering aid is not
The democratic right to travel and to speak was also denied Ms Zoabi by Israel as a result of her participation in the aid convoy to Gaza in 2010.  As the UK Independent described it, "Israeli commandoes mounted a deadly raid on the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of a Gaza-bound aid convoy, that left nine Turkish activists dead, provoking international outrage and badly damaging Israel's relations with Turkey, its erstwhile ally".  As a passenger on that ship, Ms Zoabi was terrified and witnessed the death by bleeding of several of the wounded while troops refused her request for first aid.

Nevertheless it was Ms. Zoabi who was afterwards censured by the Knesset, not the army.  Her diplomatic passport was removed, as was her right to speak at debates. As reported in the Jerusalem Post  “Participating in the flotilla an action that harms the state’s security and is illegitimate for a Knesset member”.  It was therefore "punishing Zoabi for two ethics violations by forbidding her to participate in any plenum or committee discussions until the end of the summer session. She may enter meetings only to vote".
Israel responds to Ms Zoabi's tour of Ireland
Israel's response to Ms Zoabi's tour was characteristically aggressive.  At the meeting in Cork an Israeli calling himself "John" ostentatiously filmed and repeatedly disrupted the presentation.  When he was asked to respect the process of the evening he chose to leave.

In the Irish Times the Israeli ambassador to Ireland took what she called the "unusual" step for an embassy to "comment on political views expressed by a parliamentarian of its state".  The reason was that when, as Ms Zoabi had apparently done, an MK stepped "outside the democratic consensus" by "travelling on the Mavi Mamara" her views became "a legitimate object of criticism".

The ambassador is no stranger to "unusual" steps though.  As reported in the electronic intifada
"Israel’s deputy ambassador in Dublin proposed to her superiors a plan to personally smear Palestine solidarity activists – especially Israelis – to “humiliate and shame them” as suffering from psychological and sexual problems and imply that they work for Israel’s spy agency Mossad".
Ambassador Tinari Modai concludes in her letter to the Irish Times that "There is no reason why a Jewish state...should be, as Ms Zoabi claims ... necessarily incompatible with full civil rights for its resident national, ethnic and religious minorities". No reason at all. It just happens that it is.

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