Mon Apr 22, 2024
April 22, 2024

Pinkwashing in Israel: No Pink or Lilac Doors in the Walls of Apartheid

By Érika Andreassy

Israel is often portrayed as the only democracy in the Middle East. When speaking of Israeli “democracy,” people often point to its multi-party parliamentary system with a proper separation of powers and periodic open and democratic elections. Where the institutions of the regime function properly, the rule of law is respected, and its citizens enjoy civil liberties, full equality of rights, and full and sovereign participation in social life. It is pictured as a true democratic oasis in the midst of a dictatorial desert surrounded on all sides by authoritarian regimes. It projects itself as a ray of hope for the oppressed peoples of the region. Nothing could be further from the truth!

The idea of freedom and equality for all citizens of Israel, which is spread by the Zionist regime and its supporters, especially the governments and regimes of the Western imperialist countries, is a lie. Israel is not at all an egalitarian democracy, as they would like us to believe, but a racist and segregationist regime, which especially attacks women.

First of all, Israel defines itself as a secular nation-state, but there is no separation between religion and politics. The 1950 Law of Return, for example, establishes the Orthodox religious definition of “Jew” (born of a Jewish mother) as the criterion for the “right of return.” At the same time, anyone eligible for the right of return automatically acquires Israeli citizenship under the 1952 Citizenship Law. The Rabbinical Courts Law of 1953, on the other hand, stipulates that Jewish marriage and divorce must necessarily conform to Jewish law, which excludes the possibility of intermarriage on Israeli soil (which is prohibited by Jewish law).

It is worth recalling that throughout the history of the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, with the exception of a few marginal opposition groups, the connection between the state and religious tradition has rarely been questioned. The vast majority of Israeli Jews affirm Israel’s attachment to Jewish culture, symbols, the Jewish people, and even the Jewish religion, despite the fact that the state defines itself as secular.

Neither Free Nor Equal Before the Law

The link between Israeli citizenship and Judaism not only explicitly favors Jewish immigration, but also enshrines (through legislation) inequality between Jews and non-Jews. In fact, since 1948, the State of Israel has passed more than 60 laws that give legal character to the differential and exclusionary treatment of non-Jews. In 2018, a law with constitutional status was passed that affirms Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” declares that within its territory the right to self-determination is “exclusive to the Jewish people,” and establishes Jewish settlements “as a national value.”

Palestinians in particular are discriminated against and treated as internal enemies. This institutional discrimination ranges from budgets that allocate only a fraction of resources to institutions that provide services to Palestinian Israelis, such as the schools that Palestinian children attend compared to those that Jewish children attend, to laws such as the Family Reunification Law, which prevents Palestinians in Israel from living with their spouses from the occupied territories of the West Bank or Gaza, despite the fact that all other citizens have the right to live in the country with foreign spouses.

The colonialist policy also includes the revocation of identity cards and residency permits, which allows Israeli municipal authorities to effectively exclude Palestinians from these areas, and Palestinians who have been expelled are forbidden to live in the places where they were born and/or have ties, thus becoming permanent refugees.

It should be recalled that today there are approximately 6.8 million Israeli Jews and 6.8 million Palestinians living in the area stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, which includes the State of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) – consisting of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In most of this territory, Israel is the sole governing power; in the rest, it exercises authority in conjunction with Palestinian self-rule, which is very limited, as it is the Israeli government that maintains control over borders, airspace, movement of goods and people, security and registration of the entire population, which in turn dictates legal issues, status and entitlements, how to get an ID and/or work.

The repressive regime in the OPT includes the imposition of draconian military rule over the Palestinians, while guaranteeing full rights to Israeli Jews living in segregation. For the past 55 years, the Israeli authorities have facilitated the transfer of Jews to these areas, granting them superior status under the law in terms of civil rights, access to land, freedom of movement, freedom to build, and the right to extend residency to their close relatives. In these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jews and discriminate against Palestinians, amounting to a situation of genuine social apartheid.

As denounced by Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental human rights organization, in the report “A Crossed Threshold: Israeli Officials and Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution,” Israeli laws, policies, and statements by senior Israeli officials make clear that the goal of maintaining Jewish-Israeli control over demography, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, the authorities have, with varying degrees of intensity, dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians on the basis of their identity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe as to amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution. As for so-called “free and democratic elections,” there are thousands of Palestinians throughout Israel whose right to vote is severely restricted. There are no polling stations in their places of residence (unlike in the illegal settlements of the occupied West Bank, where local Jewish settlers can vote). Palestinians in East Jerusalem are also restricted in their right to vote. Although formally covered by Israeli law after Israel’s (illegal) annexation of the city in 1980, they are not guaranteed the right to vote because they are not full citizens of the state (like the 20,000 Syrians living in the occupied Golan Heights).

A Hypocritical Discourse Full of Lies

Israel’s campaign to present itself as an LGBTQ-friendly country and as an example to follow in terms of gender equality (due, among other things, to the presence of women in the Israeli army) is hypocritical. The myth of Palestinian LGBTQ and empowered women finding a “refuge” in Israeli cities does not correspond to the colonial policies of the State of Israel, which are based on the exclusion and destruction of Palestinians, be they women, men, gay, straight, trans, or cis.

By using women’s, gay, and trans rights to promote the state of Israel, the Israeli government and its supporters are trying to divert the attention of oppressed working-class people around the world from the oppression they practice against the Palestinian people in Israel and the Occupied Territories. The presence of women and the open inclusion of gay officers in the Israeli occupation army is often used as proof of freedom and equality. But for Palestinians living under the oppression of the Zionist state of Israel, the gender or sexual orientation of soldiers at checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or guarding Israeli prisons makes little difference. They all wear the same uniforms, carry the same weapons, and uphold the same Israeli-sponsored regime of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

To validate its position as a free, egalitarian, and democratic country, the Israeli government and its supporters also reinforce racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Arab discourses (and actions). While Israel promotes itself as LGBTQ-friendly and an example of gender equality, at the same time it portrays Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims (as if Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims were synonymous) as a culturally backward, sexually regressive people ruled by rigid patriarchal laws. These stereotypes, in addition to trying to delegitimize the Palestinian struggles and resistance and ratify the Zionist occupation, contribute to reinforcing the very oppression and discrimination the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim peoples face.

In any case, the situation of Jewish women in Israel alone would be enough to demonstrate the farce of the Israeli discourse on gender equality and LGBTQ people. Due to the supremacy of religious laws over family law, the social equality of Jewish women is quite illusory. This subordination of women’s rights to religious values is clear when one looks at the 1951 Women’s Equality Law, which stipulates that it does not apply to marriage and divorce, or the current Basic Law (the equivalent of our constitution, since the State of Israel does not have a full constitution), which exempts existing laws from legal review (which would affect women’s individual rights) to the detriment of religious issues.)

In fact, the division of authority between civil and religious courts in the area of marriage and divorce has a much more negative impact on Jewish women (due to the exclusive authority of the rabbinical courts, which are composed entirely of men and are subject to an orthodox interpretation of religious law) than on Muslim women, which does not mean that they do not face difficulties in this area as well. Any Jew in Israel, whether religious or secular, can only get married or divorced in these rabbinical courts. On the other hand, divorce-related issues, from child custody to property division, fall under the concurrent jurisdiction of the civil (family) courts and the religious courts.

However, although appeals to the civil courts are generally more favorable to women, filing a complaint with one prohibits the case from being heard by the other, and since the rabbinical courts are guided by Jewish law, apply religious rules of procedure, and almost always ignore civil law, the decisions they make almost always favor men.

Jewish women also do not have the right to profess their religious beliefs freely. Despite the fact that in 2013 the Israeli judiciary ruled in favor of the religious feminist movement Women of the Wall, which fights for the right of women to pray (!) at the Western Wall (Judaism’s holiest site) with headscarves and to read the Torah aloud, claiming that loud prayers do not disturb public order, they are constantly cursed and threatened.

It is clear that the fantasy of Israel as a LGTBQ-friendly state that values gender-equality is not only hypocritical, it is an outright lie. Moreover, this claim collapses entirely when the colonial situation is taken into account. If you ever believed that, forget it – there are no pink or lilac doors in Israeli apartheid walls!

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