When the Knesset passed the Basic Law on Israel Lands in 1960, enabling the most comprehensive possible discrimination against the country’s Arab citizens, then-Justice Minister Zerah Warhaftig said, “We want it to be clear that the lands of Israel belong to the Jewish people. The Jewish people is a broader concept than the people living in Zion, because the Jewish people are found all over the world. On the other hand, every law we accept is for the good of all the state’s residents, and all the state’s residents include people that do not belong to the global Jewish people and the land will not be sold permanently the land of Israel, the lands of Israel, will not be sold permanently There is a very great legal innovation here: We are giving a legal wrapping to the regulations of the Jewish National Fund.”
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In other words, the JNF – the organization that owns lands for Jews only – was given a “universalist” cloak that was empty of any real content. Even before the law, from 1950, the Knesset had passed a series of laws that regulated the land grabs and fixed those areas where Arabs could live.
The distance between Warhaftig and the Kahanist Naftali Bennett, the leader of the same party, demonstrates not only how extreme the National Religious Party [now called Habayit Hayehudi] has become, but also how extremist Israel has become – since now its leaders are competing with Bennett.
This one provokes by saying, “It’s mine, all mine!” And this one challenges him by saying, “It’s all, all, all mine!” The third, meanwhile, chimes in, “It’s all, all, all, ALL mine!” It’s not the religious who are oppressing the poor while yelling like robbed Cossacks. It’s the State of Israel, whose exclusive upholding of Jewish rights among the thinned-out human rights has, over the years, become open, ruthless, violent and coated with demagogic pathos.
How can we describe the history of this extremism – of making the illegal legal? It’s too easy to put a skullcap on the head of this demon, or to call it a Likudnik. Something eludes this description, something for which Warhaftig, with his words, serves merely as a reference.
In the beginning there was the violence. The lands were confiscated. The areas of settlement were defined with the help of the military government, whose raison d’tre was to maintain a hold on those lands until the legislation could be passed (and not for the usual excuse of “security”). After the violence came the law. The law was cautious. Circuitous. Fragile. The violence never moved from its side all along.
It is worth viewing the history of the army’s role, parallel to the legislation, as an “exception” that spreads. While he was chief of staff, for example, Moshe Dayan got permission from then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to provoke Egypt to start a war. Historian Mordechai Bar-On called it a “deterioration strategy.”
Dayan then cultivated Ariel Sharon, even though he violated orders and lied and performed “heroic” acts from Qibya [in the West Bank] to Mitla [in Sinai]. Dayan and Sharon in turn nurtured Meir Har-Zion, who had a great love of nature and working settlements. There were many others – military forces, journalists and legislators that turned a blind eye, and a judicial system that was compartmentalized by choice. This is the hidden, secret monster that allowed itself everything. The army was the incubator of the exclusion.
Then the illegality spread with the logic of the occupation, the rule of military orders and exceptions, including the settlements; the total indifference to international law; the millions of Palestinians outside the law, without any rights, living in a state of emergency that permits everything – administrative detentions, house demolitions, assassinations, torture, show trials, land seizures and checkpoints. Their subjugation was permitted because we are strong.
Indeed, democracy played an important role in achieving international legitimacy for the nascent state. That’s why most of the Knesset voted, in 1949, to allow Arabs to vote. Now we don’t need any legitimacy from the West. We have carte blanche. That’s why the thugs permit themselves everything. This explains the arrogance of Benjamin Netanyahu, Gilad Erdan and Zeev Elkin.
The monster comes out of hiding during the state of emergency, makes its way to the Knesset, and pees on the (minimalist) Declaration of Independence. All the Americans have is Guantanamo, we have Arabs. Hello, President Reuven Rivlin, are you there?