As Palestinians watch with amazement the popular revolt over the Israeli prime minister’s attempts at controlling Israel’s judicial system, how should Palestinians conduct themselves and why? The first instinct is if my enemy’s house is on fire, let it burn.
Palestinians have believed for a very long time that given Israel’s social, ethnic and religious composition, with citizens coming from different countries, backgrounds and traditions, Israel’s fabric would inevitably weaken and divide the country. Palestinians understand that Israelis care most about their democracy, Jewishness and security.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to fire his defense minister because he warned that civil upheaval threatened the country’s security. That move was seen as serving Netanyahu’s interests, not those of Israel. Israelis are already in arms over Netanyahu’s attempts to overhaul the judicial system primarily to shield himself from indictments for bribery, fraud and breach of trust and to help his coalition partners, such as Arye Deri, who was prohibited by a court ruling to join the government.
Those moves demonstrated Netanyahu’s contempt for Israel’s democracy and security. Quickly after the firing of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, instant demonstrations spread throughout the country, calling on Netanyahu to back down and at the very least, postpone or modify his proposed judicial amendments.
Under local and international pressure, Netanyahu was forced to pause the Gifts Law, allowing public servants to receive gifts to cover legal and medical bills. He had to agree to freeze the Second Deri Law to allow a convicted individual to become a minister in the government. He had to pause and postpone his judicial coup.
Palestinians envy the Israeli people’s uprising to preserve their democracy. Ironically, with Israel’s full consent and sometimes active support, any loud voices of dissent among Palestinians calling for reform in their government have been squashed without mercy.
Maybe now that Israelis fear for their democracy, they might start thinking about what their government has done to the Palestinians by occupying their land and depriving them of their inalienable right to live in their own independent and free democratic state.
Despite the spike in violence this year and last among Palestinians fighting Israel and the vigilante settlers who attack without restraint, Palestinians should lay low. The outrage of Israeli Jews against Netanyahu is a welcome relief to Palestinians.
Let the racist, pro-settler government be hammered by its people. Palestinians in the West Bank should not seek to take advantage of Israel’s preoccupation with its public in revolt. They should let the rebellion fester in the hope of bringing down this hellish coalition.
Israel wants a Jewish state. Palestinians understand this concept, yet they cannot accept it because it will bless the permanent discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Furthermore, the more significant issue is that if Israel intends to hold on to the occupied Palestinian territories forever, Israel will become an apartheid state because it has refused to accept the equal treatment of Palestinians and Jews under its control.
What laws apply to Palestinians living in east Jerusalem?
PALESTINIANS IN the West Bank are governed by Israeli military law, while Israel’s government rules Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem; however, because they are residents and not citizens of Israel, different laws and regulations apply only to Palestinians living in eastern Jerusalem.
My right of residency in eastern Jerusalem was revoked allegedly because I was out of the country for more than seven years. Fifty years later, Israel’s high court ruled that the Israeli law that took away my residency did not apply to those born in Jerusalem but to those who immigrated to Jerusalem.
Has Israel given me back my right to live in eastern Jerusalem? Alas, no.
For Israel to be a Jewish state, it cannot rule or govern other people between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. How can Israel be a Jewish state with a Palestinian majority? Israeli right-wing and religious groups don’t get it.
Either Israel finds a resolution to the Israel-Palestine problem or separates itself from the Palestinians or with time, Israel will end up with a Palestinian majority, i.e., an apartheid state. Israel would most certainly lose its Jewish majority and identity.
Many political observers have noted that if Israel did not have the Palestinians as an enemy, Israel would have to create a new enemy to hold the country together. Israel needs an enemy or enemies to perpetuate fear and insecurity among Israelis to justify its continued occupation of Palestinian lands and keep them together in the fight against those enemies.
From a practical perspective, Israelis’ fight against judicial changes might ultimately mean very little for the Palestinians from a legal perspective. Israel’s Supreme Court has colluded with the government in allowing settlement building and the Supreme Court has often agreed to allow land confiscations and home demolitions.
It has allowed Israel to have an administrative detention system whereby hundreds and thousands of Palestinians are held without a trial for extended periods. Yes, a more radical court could make things worse. What could be worse than what is happening now with the runaway settlement building and the dispossession of the Palestinian people?
Palestinians should watch and learn from what is happening in Israel. Israelis are right to rebel against a government bent on altering the laws for the expediency of forming a ruthless coalition government. Israel needs to be shaken to its roots to maybe one day realize that the occupation of other people is an unforgivable international crime.
The writer is the vice president of the US Palestine Council, a Washington-based public advocacy group. He is a former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem-based Al-Fajr newspaper. He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of its Middle East Institute. He also served on a Palestinian delegation on arms control and regional security.