By: Habib Hamidi
Authoritarian leaders subjugate their people to their absolute ways. They expect everyone to follow their rules and what they deem as right. Many times, they enforce their rules violently and make it known to their people that dissent is not tolerated. They promote their agendas through the media by stressing how deleterious it would be for the society as whole if they allowed the opposition to speak”that the national security and the life of the ordinary citizens would be compromised. This is how they justify their suppression of people’s freedoms. As bad is it may sound, it’s nearly not evil as apartheid, or worse yet, Hitler’s Nazi Germany. In a country led by an authoritarian regime, there are rules to follow and you just have to toe the line.
In apartheid and other more malicious forms of authoritarian government, race is a determinate in how you are treated in society. There is no line for you to toe. You are who you are genetically, and there is no way to change that. If you are an Arab living in Israel, that’s the reality you woke up to everyday for the past sixty years. You know that if you are taking your pregnant wife to the hospital to give birth, you are going to be stopped at a checkpoint for the simple reason that you are Arab. If you own a house, you know that any day, Israeli authorities can knock on your door and confiscate it from you because you are Arab. If you are a student and have been working your hard your whole life to study in a place outside of Israel and you are successful in receiving a scholarship, the Israel government can deny your leave, again, because you are Arab. Simply going to class is a daunting task because you don’t know what the checkpoint procedures are everyday. Because you are Arab, you have to leave for class hours before your classes start in order to make it to school on time, even though the school can be down the street from you.
Israel justifies their treatment arrogantly by comparing it to the treatment of American Indians at the hands of early settlers and the treatment of African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement. What they fail to realize is that we have acknowledged how wrong that was and we have learned from it. No American would want their country to repeat that history because it was shameful and wrong. Unfortunately, few Americans know that we are perpetuating the same policy by supporting Israel. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget (www.ifamericansknew.org). In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. Furthermore, the US aids Israel militarily. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, current U.S. military aid grants to Israel “represent over 20% of the overall Israeli defense budget.” The only reason Israel can get away with the apartheid is because the US supports them. There have been 65 UN resolutions passed against Israel. But Washington used its veto 32 times to shield Israel from critical draft resolutions between 1972 and 1997. This constituted nearly half of the total of 69 U.S. vetoes cast since the founding of the U.N.
Without the US support, Israel will cease to exist in its current form and may be more likely to act as pluralistic society like ours where citizens view diversity as a source of strength instead of a challenge. They would have to change because the world does not tolerate apartheid, just as it did not tolerate Hitler or South Africa, because sensible people know that countries capable of inflicting harm on others have the ability to inflict harm on them. So, as horribly as we may see authoritarian rule, the Arabs in Israel would prefer it to Israeli apartheid. Democracy is only a dream and a fantasy in their mind.
Naomi Klein wrote in the Nation on January 7, 2009, “It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.”