Shuhadeh Street in Hebron

Shuhadeh Street in Hebron, where Palestinians, even those whose homes and shops front on the street, are not allowed to walk. They must climb to rooftops just a few feet ahead of where the picture stops in order to enter their homes.

By Marianne Torres

Oxford Dictionary:
Racism (the behavior) – Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior:
Apartheid (the policies that support the behavior) – A policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.

We all know what racism is, don’t we? And that anti-racism work is a primary PJALS value. We recognize it when we see it. Isn’t it obvious on its face?

Well, not always….

We must not lose sight of the importance of eliminating racism in our own country, and stand in solidarity with the Black, Native American and Latino communities. At the same time, it’s critical that we recognize the racism we support so heavily with our tax dollars and that is the cause of unbearable agony beyond our borders. This critical support works both ways: when protesters in Ferguson were being tear gassed, Palestinians in the West Bank were sending them tips on how to deal with the tear gas. You can see in the documentary “al-Helm” what happened amongst a group of African Americans when they experienced the racism of the brutal Israeli military occupation. Opposing racism one place doesn’t diminish the importance of opposing it in another, but rather strengthens the mutual struggle.

A look at the term “racism” is in order first, as neither Palestinians nor Jews are a “race” but the actions used against Palestinians in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank function exactly as racism and must be addressed as such.

If you know Jim Crow, you know the plight of Palestinians inside Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza. Municipal zoning laws in American towns in the South prevented sales to blacks outside designated areas. In November 2010 the chief rabbi of the town of Safed issued a ruling forbidding Jews from renting property to Palestinians.

Like earlier victims of Western colonialism such as African Americans and Native Americans, Palestinians were ripped from their homes and forced to live in, or flee to, foreign lands. They’re forced to pay for the demolition of their own homes, and their school funding in Israel is one third that of Jewish schools.

Today, there are approximately 1.6 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, 20% of the total Israeli population. Though Palestinian citizens of Israel can vote, they face a web of institutionalized discrimination and exclusion that is familiar to Black American citizens, and not just in the South.

Israel has moved swiftly on a “Judaization” campaign (Israel’s own term), destroying homes of Palestinian Israeli citizens for the sole reason that they are not Jewish, in the Negev, Jerusalem, Nazareth, the Galilee, including entire villages. In the hundreds of Palestinian homes from which the owners are evicted, Jewish families are moved in before the day is done. The Palestinians are rarely compensated for the loss of their homes and possessions.

In 2012 and 2013, five PJALS members (Myrta Ladich, Jennifer Calvert, Taylor Weech, Ev Brookbank, and I) visited with families in Jerusalem who had been forcefully evicted from their home, which was immediately taken over by a Jewish family. On two occasions as we sat with them, the people who took their homes walked arrogantly and hatefully past, spitting epithets at them.

More than 50 Israeli laws discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel directly or indirectly, based solely on their ethnicity, as was once the case in South Africa and in the US. Many of us believe it’s time we stood together and said “No more – not here, and not there!”

Let’s begin by calling it the racism that it is.