“The Land of the Brave” Enables Extreme Nationalism Overseas

America’s struggle with white nationalists and the rising wave of neo-nazis is often relayed and discussed in the news today. And, while it is true that the ideas spread by those who identify with these nationalist groups should be challenged, the reality is that only a fraction of the population endorses white nationalism. According to a Washington-ABC News Poll, only 9% of Americans say that holding white supremacist views is acceptable. Now, 9% is still too high due to the fact that if the 1,014 people surveyed perfectly represented the entirety of the United States, that would mean 29 million Americans say holding white supremacist beliefs is acceptable. However, projecting this number onto the entire population is dishonest because 1,014 surveyed people doesn’t necessarily represent America -- for example, the population of the United States includes children, while the poll did not -- but nonetheless, no matter how the poll may be interpreted, it is evident that a very small minority of Americans endorse white nationalist beliefs. Now, with our current administration, there is no doubt that this fraction of the population is encouraged to act upon their beliefs in ways that include gatherings and rallies; however, the United States has supported similar nationalistic attitudes in a different setting for a long time and in larger ways.

While the vast majority of the American people do not support white nationalism, it is an unfortunate truth that our own government supports extremist Jewish nationalism in the state of Israel. Before reading the rest of the article, any reader must understand that this article is not an anti-semitic attack on Jews or a complete analyzation of the Israel-Palestine conflict and all other regional issues involving Israel; but rather to shine a light on a xenophobic, racist, and nationalist wave that is very real in Israel while demonstrating how the United States government supports Israel’s terrible actions.

Israel has maintained a 50 year occupation over the Palestinian people. Israel has fundamentally abused the rights and territories of the Palestinians during this occupation. First of all, Israel does not recognize Palestine as its own state; Israel’s stance goes against the majority of the international community including the UN, which recognizes Palestine. When the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognize Palestine in 2012, the United States voted against the proposition and the Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, said that the vote was both unfortunate and counterproductive. Clearly, the United States government endorsed Israel’s perception of the situation. Additionally, Israel’s lack of recognition has lead to the placement of 150 Israeli settlements, 119 outposts, and around 600,000-750,000 settlers, all in Palestinian territory and illegal under international law.

What has the US done? In October, the United States coordinated an outline for settlement construction with Israel, and since the election of Donald Trump, Israeli settlement expansion has more than doubled. Also, the United States ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said that “settlements are part of Israel.” Meanwhile, Israeli encroachment on Palestinian land has led to Israel controlling 42% of the West Bank and 86% of East Jerusalem, which are both supposed to be part of Palestine. While the executive branch claims to be working towards peace, the United States is evidently supporting and aiding illegal expansion into Palestinian territory.

What does Israeli activity mean for the Palestinian people? Under Israeli rule, Palestinians are not allowed to protest, organize political events, display political symbols, or verbally express support for any organization deemed illegal under Israeli military orders, which includes groups such as student unions or political parties. And if any Palestinian breaks these laws, they can face imprisonment for up to 10 years and end up having to pay a significant amount of money to the Israeli government. Remember: all of these unfortunate realities are occurring within Palestinian territory. Additionally, Human Rights Watch has found that Israel has committed “unlawful killings; forced displacement; abusive detention; the closure of the Gaza Strip and other unjustified restrictions on movement; and the development of settlements, along with the accompanying discriminatory policies that disadvantage Palestinians.”

To make it worse, the Israeli military is using US supplied weapons when violating the human rights of Palestinians. A 2017 UN report accused Israel of placing an apartheid regime of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people. So, the people of an internationally recognized state are enduring an illegal occupation by Israel, which is constantly taking Palestinian land, killing and detaining Palestinian civilians, and abusing the political freedoms of the Palestinian people with the support of the United States government.

The majority Jewish population of Israel seems to not only approve of the government’s anti-Palestinian attitude but they take it a step further. A Pew Research Center poll found that 48% of Jewish Israelis support forcing all Arabs, both Palestinians and Israeli citizens, out of Israel (46% oppose, 6% did not know). 79% of Israeli Jews support the measure that Jews should be given preferential treatment over non-Jews. Therefore, almost 80% of the majority demographic in Israel supports the notion that Jews are better than their minority counterparts and nearly half of Jewish Israelis want to kick out all Arabs altogether. Imagine if the words Jewish Israeli and Arab were swapped out with white American and African American. Suddenly it doesn’t sound so nice, does it?

Meanwhile the United States continues to fund Israeli activities. More specifically, in 2016, the United States agreed to a $38 billion defense deal over 10 years with Israel: a deal supplying Israel with just the equipment it needs to continue its military occupation and overt oppression over the Palestinian people.

But the Palestinians are not the only people that have had to endure immense hardship under extreme Jewish nationalism. Many African refugees seeking asylum in Israel are facing equally unacceptable conditions put forth by the Israeli government. For example, the Israeli government set up a detention center in the Negev Desert called Holot. Thousands of African male refugees are randomly chosen to be held up in Holot where they have to stay for up to a year. The conditions at the center are desperate; one man, Afie Semene, describes it as a prison. Residents have to check in with authorities once a day or face a going to maximum-security prison. In addition, occupants cannot work or bring food from family and friends, and when they try to set up makeshift markets in order to eat, Israeli authorities tear them down. The African Refugee Development Center based in Tel Aviv stated that “Israel's current policies treat asylum seekers as threats and aim to coerce them into leaving Israel.” Recently, Israel has passed a plan to deport 40,000 African refugees.

Lawmakers in Israel view African asylum seekers as “infiltrators.” The Israeli Interior Minister, Silvan Shalom, said, “I will not relent until we reach a framework that will allow the removal of the infiltrators from Israeli.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself said, “Our policy toward infiltrators is three staged … Stage one is halting [the influx]. We built a fence and enacted laws that completely blocked the flow of infiltrators, and today we have zero infiltrators. The second stage is removal. We removed approximately 20,000 out of the existing infiltrators using various measures. Stage three is … to continue removing significantly more than what we have until now.” The idea that persecuted peoples, who are fleeing disaster and seeking asylum, are “infiltrators” is preposterous considering the conditions that the Israeli government forced them into.

Unfortunately, this anti-immigrant rhetoric is the more rational perspective in comparison to statements made by other politicians in Israel. Moreover, in 2012, Miri Regev, a member of Parliament who is now the culture minister, said that African migrants were “a cancer in the body,” with the body being the nation of Israel. Even worse, a majority of the Israeli population, not just Jewish Israelis, agree with this statement as a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 52% of the general public agreed. Remember, 9% of Americans were polled saying that holding white nationalist beliefs is acceptable, which does not even say that the 9% actually hold those beliefs. In Israel, 52% consider African migrants a cancer, 79% of the majority demographic (Jews) say Jews deserve preferential treatment, and nearly half of the majority demographic support kicking out all Arabs regardless of citizenship. The amount of people who hold extreme nationalist beliefs in Israel is much higher, proportionally, than in the United States.

With the Palestinians, the United States has at least mentioned their conflict with Israel, even though the US has supported the oppression; however, the United States has not even mentioned anything to do with Israel’s actions regarding the thousands of African asylum seekers. The lack of acknowledgement by the United States is accompanied by the US continuing to give Israel massive sums of foreign aid and military equipment. Therefore, the United States is supporting the oppression of African refugees in Israel.

Now look, white nationalism is an important issue in the United States due to the fact that people get hurt as a result of these conflicts and that hate should never be tolerated. But, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that while the American public and media continue to talk about the problem of white nationalism in the United States, the issue of extreme Jewish nationalism in Israel, which is on a larger scale, is not only almost never discussed, but the United States supports it. And, if anyone speaks out against almost unconditional support for Israel, they can be called anti-semitic and being against Israel, even though the real problem is not with the entirety of the Israeli populus and Jewish peoples, but with the government of Israel committing horrendous acts and encouraging extreme Jewish nationalism with the backing of the United States.

If the American people really support freedom and equality then they must look past the news headlines perpetuated by our mainstream sources and really learn about and critique the actions of our own government and what it supports at home and around the world.

image source: Jews for Justice for Palestinians