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Al-Ahram Weekly | Region | Apartheid is alive and well Al-Ahram Weekly Online
19 - 25 July 2001
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875
Arab Knesset members have denounced Israeli attempts to control Palestinian
demographic growth in Israel and the occupied territories as "naked racism."
Khaled Amayreh reports from Hebron
Israeli law-makers, intellectuals and even government officials are becoming
increasingly open about exploring "prospective solutions" for Palestinian
demographic growth in Israel and the occupied territories, with the suggested
solutions ranging from collective deportation to institutionalised apartheid.
Meetings, seminars, symposia and workshops are springing up throughout the
Jewish state, all bearing, more or less, the same message: unless Israel does
something to curb Palestinian population growth, Jews will become a minority
in the area of the pre-1948 Palestine mandate (Israel and the occupied
territories) within 19 years.
On Monday, 16 July, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee held an
"exploratory session," in which participants discussed "the Arab demographic
threat" and the "dangers facing the survival of Israel as a Jewish state."
The meeting was attended by several experts, including Haifa University's
Arnon Sofer, who advocates "radical solutions for solving the looming
demographic problem" facing Israel.
Calling the current demographic situation a threat to Israel's existence,
Sofer pointed out that, by the year 2020, and if the present demographic
trends were not reversed, Jews in mandated Palestine would be a minority,
outnumbered by Arabs by 20 per cent.
He said that there were already equal numbers of Arabs and Jews in the
combined Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the Jewish population
reaching 4.9 million and the Arabs 4.8 million.
The number of Jews, he added, would grow to 6.4 million in 2020, with the
corresponding figure for non-Jews topping 8.8 million.
Arab Knesset members denounced the meeting as "naked racism," and a " big
scandal in a state that claims to be civilised and democratic."
"It is racist, just racist, there is no other name for it," said Arab Knesset
member Hashem Mohamed, who boycotted the meeting.
Knesset member Isam Makhoul of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality
also castigated the meeting. "If anything like this were discussed anywhere in
the world, it would be condemned as brash racism, but here, in a state that
claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, we see dignified lawmakers
candidly discussing ways and means to curb the birth rate of a given segment
of society on the grounds that they don't have the right race and religion.
It's racism, it's disgusting."
Israeli lawmaker and former Justice minister Dan Meridor, who chaired the
meeting, sought to defend the discussion.
He argued that it was imperative that Knesset members understand the
demographic situation which, he said, was crucial for the continuation of the
Zionist enterprise and a Jewish majority.
However, when asked why only Arab demographic growth was under discussion,
Meridor had nothing to say except repeating the old Zionist mantra that Israel
was a Jewish state and that it was inadmissible for non-Jews to be allowed to
make up a majority of the population in the state.
The Knesset meeting was only the latest in a plethora of secret,
semi-secret and public discussions on the sensitive subject which have been
taking place of late.
A few months ago, a number of Israeli strategic planners, former army generals
and scholars met behind closed doors in Hertzlya in northern Israel to discuss
"adequate solutions for dealing with the demographic threat." The Hebrew press
reported that the "expulsion idea" loomed large during the meeting in Hertzlya
and enjoyed "unprecedented acceptance" among participants.
In addition to "transferring" a significant number of the non-Jewish
population out of "Eretz Israel," participants also reportedly discussed other
alternatives, including institutionalised apartheid (whereby non-Jews would be
granted civil rights while denied political rights), forced sterilisation,
induced immigration (through economic pressure), and "other solutions."
According to Israeli sources, and in light of permeating political trends in
Israel, many Israelis who object to adopting "transfer" as official policy are
not really opposed to the principle of expelling the Palestinians, but are
rather discouraged by what they call "the logistical difficulties impeding the
execution of the idea."
Indeed, the bulk of religious and right-wing Israeli parties, including Likud,
support in varied degrees "the expulsion alternative" and only differ on
whether it would be realistic to carry it out successfully.
Furthermore, some right-wing and religious elements in Israel believe their
government should seek to induce an all-out regional war in the hope of
creating conditions conducive to expelling a significant number of
Palestinians. Such thinking is gaining a modicum of pre- eminence in the
Israeli media, especially in the so-called national camp.
The Palestinians, for their part, are aware of discussions to that effect in
Israel and are reasserting their resolve not to repeat the 1948 disaster. "We
will not allow them (Israel) to drive us away again. The worst they would be
able to do is to murder us, but we shall not leave again," Palestinian
Authority official Ahmed Abdel-Rahman said in a recent interview.
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