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The only democracy in the Middle East

05/03/2007

By Muhaideen Batah

We always hear about a country that is the only "democratic country in its region." We keep unconditionally supporting this country with our taxpayer money and our latest weapons, which get used against civilians, not armies. You guessed it right; it is Israel.

The reality of Israel's "democracy" is that is a democratic country but only for its "chosen" citizens.

There is a citizen of this country who is not one of the chosen. She is Palestinian and she committed a "crime" by getting married to a man from the occupied West Bank. Her husband was not allowed to visit or join her in Israel, so they lived in his village in the occupied West Bank. They had two kids. They could not survive on her husband's salary as a high school teacher in the occupied West Bank. He did not get paid for a long time because of the economic embargo imposed on the PA by not only Israel but also by European countries and the U.S.A.

To help her family survive, that woman walked every day between her husband's village and her parent's village, a small "Israeli Arab" village in Israel, to work as a preschool teacher. This trek required that she cross the military "checkpoint" established by Israel along the 1967 border separating these two villages.

The harassment she went through every time she crossed the checkpoint would not be accepted by anybody in a civilized country, but she had no choice. One day before the second Intifada, she was in her seventh month of pregnancy. She was going home, after showing her Israeli ID (as an "Israeli Arab," you must have your identification card with you at all times). The soldier told her "stand here for a while." She stood for two hours in the hot summer sun. Finally, she told him, "I want to go home and there is no reason why I should be standing here," and she started walking. He said to his fellow soldiers, "Should I shoot her?" Then he yelled at her, "I will shoot if you do not stop and come back." She said, "Do whatever you want; I am going home." All of that was in Hebrew, because she is an Israeli "citizen" who had to learn Hebrew in school.

Another time when she got to the "checkpoint," she encountered an Israeli "settler"/colonizer with his M16 who started harassing her and said, among many things, to her in a very broken Hebrew, "You come here to kill us." She looked at him and said, "Look who is talking. We have been here for centuries and you just came to my country from America. You can barely speak Hebrew, and you are telling me that I came here to kill you! What a moron."  All of this while Israeli soldiers stood watching.

Eventually, the walk became too difficult so she and her kids moved back in with her parents on the Israeli side of the border. She goes on weekends with her children to her village to be with her husband. She has to take a torturous, expensive, all-day taxi journey through fields and back roads to avoid soldiers, because it is no longer legal for her to cross the "border" to visit her husband.

Recently she had to renew her ID at the interior office in her region in Israel. When she got to the office, they said, "We were waiting for you to come here. We are confiscating your ID because you do not live in Israel; you live in the West Bank." Then later they claimed that she was "asking" for an ID, not renewing her old one. They said to her, "You have to bring us proof that you live and work in your village." So she had to bring all of her pay stubs from several years, and that was not enough.

They sent an investigator to her hometown to see where she works and lives. He showed up one day in her school and said, "How can I know that you really teach here?" She said, "Ask the kids." He took photos and asked her to show him the house that she lives in. She went with him to her parents' house. When they arrived there, she took him to the second floor where she lives and he took photos of the room and the cupboard where she stores her clothes and her children's clothes. He then said, "Is this where you live? How can you live in one room with two kids?"

These are some of the ways that Israel, the only "democracy in the Middle East," is dispossessing its Palestinian citizens. It is a form of ethnic cleansing or fascism -- making life so miserable that they will feel no choice but to leave permanently.

By "birthright" all American Jews (and all Jews anywhere in the world for that matter) are Israeli citizens. However, many native born citizens of Israel are not treated with basic rights of citizenship just because they are of a different religion. Worst yet, many other native inhabitants of the land, the Palestinian people forced to leave in 1947/8 and 1967, are not allowed to return to their homes in spite of their internationally recognized Right of Return.

Many of the new Jewish citizens from abroad come to Israel as colonizers or "settlers" to the occupied West Bank, go freely any time day or night, in and out any way they wish. Israel has roads in the occupied West Bank for "Jews" only; non-Jews (i.e., Palestinians) will be shot if they drive or even walk on those roads.

God bless democracy and the countries that support democracy.


P.S. This woman happens to be my younger sister.  M.B.


Muhaideen Batah lives in Waitsfield.

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