Obama (and Big Media) Turn Blind Eye to Israeli Apartheid
Israel is now an apartheid state, according to the publisher of Ha’aretz, that country’s largest circulation daily newspaper. The occasion was the recent renewal of Israeli citizenship laws, which refuse to recognize marriages and families among most of the Arabs living in that country. How can Barack Obama, himself the son of an American mixed marriage remain an apparently uncritical supporter of Israeli apartheid, and why does corporate media continue to pursue a longstanding “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward the odious policies of racial and ethnic discrimination in Israel?
The presidential campaigns of Democrats and Republicans are no more about placing issues before the U.S. public than competing commercials for new cars or bottled water are about the facts. Brought to us by the same corporate marketers that sell us lifestyles and beer, mainstream presidential campaigns aim to establish and exploit visceral, fact-proof loyalties to the brand of a party or candidate. The fact-proof nature of the Obama brand, and the lengths corporate media go to protect it were on prominent display during the candidate’s brief visit to Israel-Palestine this week.
Barack Obama’s smiling brown face and Kansas-Kenya parentage are key elements in the Obama brand, that hazy image of progressive, post-racial transformation at home and abroad, which lie at the heart of his appeal. At the same time, Barack Obama is committed to preserving what he calls Israel’s “identity as a Jewish state,” the polite term for what much of the rest of the world recognizes as an apartheid state.
A June 29 editorial by no less a member of the Israeli elite than Amos Schocken, the publisher of Ha’aretz, Israel’s daily newspaper of record is titled “Citizenship Law Makes Israel An Apartheid State.” The gist of it is that the Israeli government prohibits recognition of marriages or family reunions between Arabs with Israeli citizenship and Arabs who live within the borders of Israel-Palestine in the Bantustans of Gaza and the West Bank—inside the borders of Israel-Palestine but without Israeli citizenship.
“The law stipulates that the interior minister does not have the authority to approve residence in Israel for a resident of Judea and Samaria (unless, of course, they are Jews—that is, settlers). This is so even regarding family reunions, meaning marriage, when it comes to Palestinian spouses who are younger than 35 (for men) or 25 (for women). In effect, the law prevents young Israeli citizens from marrying the spouse of their choice and living with this spouse in Israel, if the spouse is a Palestinian from Judea and Samaria.
It is obvious that this has barely any effect on the right of young Israeli Jews to live in their country with the spouse of their choice, because there are hardly any marriages between Israeli Jews and Palestinians from Judea and Samaria. (These are Israeli names for the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza.) On the other hand, these Palestinians constitute Israeli Arabs’ natural pool for choosing a spouse. For this reason, the law severely discriminates when comparing the rights of young Israeli Jewish citizens and young Israeli Arab citizens.
The Big Media correspondents who breathlessly cover Obama at home and abroad are not stupid or ignorant people. They (or someone in their offices) all read Ha’aretz daily, and none are ignorant of the facts of Israeli apartheid. They are professionals who know their jobs, and their boundaries. Each and every one realizes it would be career suicide to directly or indirectly ask the proud son of black African and white American parents, accorded the rights of full U.S. citizenship through one parent, how he can uncritically support an apartheid state in Israel which awards and denies a host of citizenship rights on ethnic and religious grounds, from property ownership, education and the freedom to live where one likes to separate license plates (enable police profiling at a distance), bans on new Palestinian wells, water and electrical use, to Jewish-only roads and Palestinian-only checkpoints.
In this, it would be a mistake to believe that the Israeli tail is wagging the dogs of U.S. presidential candidates and Big Media. The heavily militarized and nuclear-armed state of Israel is entirely dependent upon U.S. military aid, economic support, and political patronage. Israel is the direct recipient of more than six billion U.S. tax dollars annually. Israel could not continue its brutal annexation policies, its militarized wall, its “settlement” of Palestinian lands or any of its other objectionable policies without the complete and bipartisan support of U.S. ruling circles. For the U.S., Israel is a kind of offshore military base, a nuclear-armed white enclave in the middle of millions of brown people who sit atop a large share of the world’s most accessible oil.
Apartheid in South African was odious, to be sure. But apartheid South Africa was not of primary strategic or economic importance to the U.S. Apartheid Israel is.
U.S. public opinion, like that in the rest of the world, persistently calls for a more just and even-handed U.S. policy toward Israel-Palestine. But corporate media and the U.S. political elite, including Barack Obama continue to ignore them. On this issue, as Salon’s Glen Greenwald writes, public opinion is pretty well irrelevant.
If, as some Obama supporters claim, there is a “movement” which he listens to, and which potentially influences his positions, this would be a good time and place for it to speak up. If they can’t or won’t, it’s one more piece of evidence that the Obama candidacy is as people-proof as any other corporate one, that there is and never was any “Obama movement” with an objective beyond November, and that Obama is just another brand name, like Monsanto, or Ford, or Exxon.
Bruce Dixon is based in Atlanta and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
—Black Agenda Report (BAR), July 23-29, 2008