New Knesset bill on banning Burqas / it’s not feminism, it’s racism

Posted: April 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, racism, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

burqa

MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) is proposing a new Knesset bill that will make it illegal for women in Israel to wear Burqas (the Islamic dress coveting the entire body and face) or Niqabs (a veil covering the face).

“I just came back from a visit to southern France and I was shocked to see so many Muslim women entirely covered in black, with only their eyes seen,” said MK Solodkin. “I congratulate president Sarkozy and all the European administrations who believe that in the 21st century there shouldn’t be a place for an outfit which so terribly humiliates women, and I want to initiate something similar in Israel… I am not anti-Muslim and I intent for this law to be imposed on Jewish women as well.”

This law is aimed against the Arab-Israeli minority. There isn’t but one group of a dozen or so Jewish women who cover themselves with Burqas, so it’s obvious that this law, if passed, is meant to deal with the Palestinian population.

I don’t really get MK Solodkin’s logic: if she saw all these terrible Burkas in southern France, why does she want to present her bill here? Burkas are not that common in Israel, especially not in mixed towns, so why take such extreme measures? By the way, even France didn’t ban Burkas altogether (yet), but only in schools.

But the most important thing is that Israel is not France or the Netherlands, for two reasons:

First, the Palestinians here are a native minority, meaning that they were here before the state was born. The common belief is that native minorities should be allowed to hang on to their culture and customs, even when they differ from those of the majority. There might be some logic in forcing immigrants to accept the customs of the country they came to – this is debatable as well – but there is certainly no reason to impose these ideas on a native minority, except in extreme cases.

Second, the attempts to ban Burkas in Europe are rooted in the French republican model, which is nothing like Israel’s. In short, the idea is that any immigrant can become as French as Napoleon as long as he knows and accepts the local culture, speak French, believes in individual freedoms, etc. But Israel is different: the base for citizenship and rights here is Judaism, and an Arab cannot become a Jew even if he gives up the Burka. Unlike in France, Palestinians here are not asked nor expected to be integrated. In this context, forcing them to give up their customs is nothing but another way of harassing them; showing them “who is in charge”.

And one last point: Hasidic women from eastern European origins are expected to shave their hair and wear a wig from the day they are married. Isn’t that diminishing? But don’t expect MK Solodkin to do something about it. Her feminism applies only to Arabs.


Minarets in Switzerland, Burqas in France: Israeli Right finds allies in Europe

Posted: November 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Right, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

mineratsSome Israelis got exited today by the referendum in Switzerland, in which Swiss voters have approved a right-wing-backed proposal to ban construction of new minarets. There are many people here that view the Palestinian problem (and even more, the relations between the Arab citizens of Israel and the Jewish majority) as a part of a “Clash of Civilizations” between the West and the Muslim world. For them, today wasn’t only a victory in one of this war’s major battles, but more importantly, further proof that “we are not alone” in the fight.

The historical irony, of course, is that our allies in this cultural war are the same political forces – if not the same people – that used to persecute our grandparents just a few decades ago. Since there aren’t that many Jews today in Europe, the xenophobes of the Old World decided to pick the Blacks and the Muslims as their current enemies, much to the joy of the Israeli Right.

The referendum in Switzerland – much like the debate over the burqas in France – is used by neo-Zionists and Israeli conservatives as proof that it is possible to limit the rights of ethnic minorities and still remain a democracy. Much in the same way, they propose limitations on the Arab citizens of Israel in order to protect the “cultural identity” of the state. I’m pretty sure that in the next few days we will have some articles in the Israeli papers drawing a line between the European cases and the Israeli one.

It is, however, important to understand the major differences between the legislation regarding minorities’ rights in Europe and the Israeli case.

First, the Palestinians in Israel – both the states’ citizens and the Palestinians in the West Bank – are a native minority (oppose to minorities created by recent immigration wave, like in Europe). As even a Zionist legal scholar such as Amnon Rubinstein notes, Modern human rights concepts promise such minority the right not to assimilate into the dominant culture, to keep its religious traditions and to educate its children and speak in its own language.

But the real difference is that unlike in France or Switzerland, Israel doesn’t ask nor wants its Arab Citizens to assimilate. In other words, France is demanding the Muslims to accept the dominant secular culture, as a precondition to handing them full civil rights. It’s basically the same idea in Switzerland: the state is accepting the immigrants as citizens, but demands them to abandon their original culture, or at least some aspects of it.

But Israel is not a secular state that can have minorities assimilate into it. Israel is a Jewish state by definition, and it doesn’t ask nor expect the Arabs to assimilate in return for full rights. Even if the Palestinian citizens here stop speaking Arabic, don’t mention the Nakba anymore or build minarets, they will still be second rate citizens by definition.

Those who promote the Anti-Arab legislation in Israel are not really imitating the French republican model or the Swiss multi-cultural democracy. They try to create something new: an ethnic democracy, were all citizens will enjoy basic rights, but Jews will have extra privileges.

To the best of my understanding, this is no democracy at all.