To face charges of harassing individuals on the basis of their ‘Israeli nationality’ is akin to being charged with hunting unicorns, robbing a tooth-fairy, or disturbing the Loch Ness Monster. (Note to Edinburgh PF: all four of the above are non-existent.)
Five Palestine solidarity campaigners appeared again to face ‘racism’ charges in Edinburgh Sheriff Court on January 21st and 22nd. The charges specify ‘racially aggravated conduct’. During the two day session, the Procurator Fiscal came under withering fire from the defence team and, for reasons best known to himself, amended the wording of the charges. The supposed ‘racism’ towards the Israeli cultural ambassadors derives from a claim that the protestors “evinced towards them malice and ill will based on their membership or presumed membership of an ethnic group or nationality." (the term, "or nationality" was added; they had been accused of making comments about "Jews", but this was deleted after an audio recording proved it a lie; January 2010 court debate update here).
The accused welcome this move, since the issue of ‘nationality’ for Jewish and non-Jewish citizens inside Israel, takes us to a core legal prop of the Israeli apartheid system.
It is most unlikely the Procurator Fiscal’s office is aware of the fact that
• there is no such legal category in Israel as ‘Israeli nationality’ for Israeli citizens.
• ‘Israeli nationality’ is expressly disallowed by the Israeli courts
• the distinction between ‘nationality’ and ‘citizenship’ is enforced in Israel. It is indispensable to the system of state-enforced political and economic discrimination against Palestinians.
• on Wednesday, March 3rd, another group of Israeli citizens petitioned their Supreme Court to allow them to become members of the “Israeli nation”. Past petitions have all been rejected.
Although the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs website deliberately conceals the truth, Israeli courts have repeatdly refused to allow Jewish Israeli citizens to amend their official ‘Jewish nationality’ to Israeli nationality’ on the grounds that, “There is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish nation…composed…also of Diaspora Jewry”. Allowing Israeli nationality “would negate the very foundation upon which the State of Israel was formed.”
To explain this prohibition on ‘Israeli nationality’, a little background is useful.
Most of the dispossession of the Palestinians was accomplished by violence. Ownership of the expropriated property is defended by the Zionist State, and a legal code that has been shaped for the purpose. Many ‘Mafias’, violent armed groups, have seized control of a state throughout history, and they naturally proceed to erect their own legal system. Israel is no different, except that the process is not yet over.
Israeli High Court judges, whilst living in houses stolen from Palestinians, have passed laws forbidding the return of such property to previous owners or even the alienation of such property to any non-Jewish citizens. Jerusalem today is full of homes whose owners were expelled by Zionist militias and whose current Jewish owners could not legally return them to their Arab (Muslim or Christian) owner even if they were so minded.
The relevant laws are framed in terms of rights for those of supposed ‘Jewish nationality’ over other ‘nationalities’ enforced by Zionist para-statal organisations such as the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Agency or the World Zionist Organisation, to each of whom much of the maintenance of the apartheid system is sub-contracted. The JNF, for example, (UK Patrons Gordon Brown and David Cameron) enforces Jewish-only residence on over 93% of the land surface of 1948-67 Israel.
One legal innovation of the Israeli state is the creation of the legal category of ‘present absentees’. Many Palestinians living in Israel have been classified in this way to allow their property to be ‘legally’ pillaged by the State for transfer to Jewish citizens or Jewish ‘national’ institutions like the JNF.
Another racist legal category is the ‘unrecognised village’ for many Palestinian Arab communities, which allows the ‘Jewish State’ to deny non-Jews living in such villages services such as water, sewage, electricity or education.
Relevant to the charges levelled in the Edinburgh trial, a key means of masking the apartheid bedrock of the State is the prohibition on Israeli ‘nationality’. All Israeli citizens suffer forced classification into one or other of 126 ‘nationalities’, including ‘Jewish’, Tatar, Circassian, Samaritan, etc. The important one to have, though, is ‘Jewish’, since this confers significant privileges - residential, health, employment and others - denied to non-Jewish citizens. Many institutions of the State, and para-statal bodies like the Jewish National Fund exist to benefit Jewish citizens only, at the expense of non-Jewish citizens.
In 1971, Chief Justice Shimon Agranat decisively rejected one petition to be granted Israeli nationality, slamming the petitioners "who ask to separate themselves from the Jewish people and to achieve for themselves the status of a distinct Israeli nation." Agranat said that "such a separatist approach should not be seen as a legitimate approach."
Israeli courts enforced this ban on Israeli nationality again in 2004. In fact, the lifting of the prohibition on the legal identity of ‘Israeli nationality’ would be a step in the right direction. Zionism cannot cope with such a status since it would suggest a shared 'national' bond between Jews and Arabs, the latter slated for expulsion. The Israeli Supreme court has, however, in the past rebuffed such attempts to secure ‘Israeli nationality’ on the grounds that such a move would undermine the entire Zionist programme of replacing native Palestinians with Jewish immigrants. Human rights campaigners should, therefore, be positive about such a move. It might just be a step away from the apartheid system of privileging Jews in the direction of equal rights within the state for Jews and non-Jews alike.
Five Scottish human rights campaigners, therefore, now find themselves charged with ‘racist harassment’ of representatives of the Israeli State out of supposed hostility towards their ‘Israeli nationality’, i.e. a status they do not possess, cannot possess, that no Israeli possesses, or is allowed to possess. The accused would encourage them to acquire such status, ‘Israeli nationality’, in preference to the absurdity of ‘Jewish nationality’.
To face charges of harassing individuals on the basis of their ‘Israeli nationality’ is akin to being charged with hunting unicorns, robbing a tooth-fairy, or disturbing the Loch Ness Monster. (Note for Edinburgh PF: all four of the above are non-existent.) In the Looking Glass world of the Edinburgh Procurator Fiscal’s Office, Humpty-Dumpty-Prosecutor says he can use a word to mean ‘just what I choose it to mean’, so he insists that anti-racist’ means ‘racist’. The Procurator Fiscal could also bear comparison with the Mad Hatter, in charging citizens with fantasy offences against a ‘racial’ group that does not exist. On our side of the looking glass, where Israel is a racist state engaged in ethnic cleansing with UK Government support, we can only wonder at such stupidity.
Why are the Scottish legal authorities getting deeper and deeper into such a mess?
The original charges arose out of a protest during a performance in Edinburgh by the Jerusalem Quartet, for whom ‘holding a rifle in one hand and a violin in the other is the ultimate Zionist statement’. The Quartet enjoyed the official status of both ‘Cultural Ambassadors’ of the State of Israel and ‘Distinguished IDF Musicians’.
The unprecedented charges were only laid after the British Government gave official endorsement to Dennis MacShane’s long-term campaign to define much opposition to Israeli apartheid as ‘anti-Semitic’. The British Government endorses the EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism which makes it racist to point out Israel's apartheid structures and the racist programme of political Zionism towards Palestinians, i.e. "claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour", or "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis."
In February 2009, Sadiq Khan, then-Parliamentary Secretary of State to Hazel Blears, announced that the British Government intends to implement MacShane's proposals:
Following on from the All Party Inquiry into Antisemitsm (2006) - chaired by the Rt Hon Denis MacShane MP…we set up a working group…to ensure that the recommendations were implemented.
So, the incitement to launch prosecutions such as the one slowly unfolding as farce in Edinburgh Sheriff Court comes from the very top of the British Government. The five accused are determined that the process will in reality be a trial of Israeli apartheid and its British supporters. We will build on a previous victory over malicious accusations of racism levelled against the SPSC by the Zionists who lead the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. They were forced to pulp 6,000 copies of a publications in 2008 after we initiated legal action for defamation.
Scottish PSC is committed to full human rights for all; we oppose a Jewish supremacist State in Israel/Palestine as others opposed a White supremacist state in South Africa or Alabama. In those cases anti-racist campaigners did not have to put up with absurd allegations that they were racist.
The next court appearance will be on Monday March 29th in Chambers St Sheriff Court in Edinburgh. To watch the Scottish legal system debate why oposing Israeli brutality is racist, please email us your intention to be present so that we can insist on a larger court than the one that was packed for the last appearance.
2 March 2010