Trump is no more racist than mainstream Israeli policy

Israeli politicians are joining the global pushback against Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim racism. But guess what other country bans Muslim immigration?

File photo of Donald Trump (Albert H. Teich /
File photo of Donald Trump (Albert H. Teich /

Just days after Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump announced that he will be visiting Israel by the end of December, the billionaire populist called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Everyone is aghast, including several Israeli politicians, figures and organizations, who began expressing their disgust and indignation Wednesday morning. Some went as far as demanding that Trump be blocked from entering Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, or to bar him from entering the country entirely.

The organization Republicans Abroad Israel was quick to condemn Trump’s statement, calling it “diametrically opposed to everything American stands for.”

Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev tweeted Wednesday morning that Trump is racist and should not be welcomed into the Knesset. Anti-settlement activist and scholar Gershom Goremberg tweeted that the appropriate Israeli response would be to ban Trump from the country.

Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi called Trump a neo-Nazi on Twitter who should not be allowed into Israel’s parliament, but noted that “the things he said are not unfamiliar to some of those here who serve in the Knesset.”

That might be the understatement of the year.

Racism — and various forms of discrimination against Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians — is just as rampant here in Israel as it is inside the Trump camp, if not more so. Except in Israel, racism and ethno-religious discrimination is not only accepted rhetoric in the halls of power and the sidewalk cafes of Tel Aviv, it is also long-standing formal state policy.

Trump called to ban Muslims from entering the United States. In Israel, there is already a law banning Muslims from immigrating — the “Law of Return” which gives that right to Jews alone. Even those who were born here but fled, or whose families lived here for generations upon generations, are forbidden from returning.

The Anti-Defamation League on Monday called Trump’s plan to “bar people from entry to the United States based on their religion” is “deeply offensive and runs contrary to our nation’s deepest values.” Has the ADL ever spoken out against Israel’s Jewish-only immigration law and discriminatory border control policies?

Inherent institutional racism can also be seen in the two separate-and-unequal legal systems for Palestinians and Israelis living meters from one another in the occupied West Bank. It can be seen the total negligence of infrastructure, resources and education for Palestinians in annexed East Jerusalem as opposed to Jewish neighborhoods in the same territory. It can be seen in the rampant and deep-seeded discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel when it comes to housing, land confiscation and re-distribution, education and employment. And these are just the most obvious examples.

If we follow the logic of demanding that Donald Trump be barred from entering Israel’s Knesset, then so too should a large number of elected officials serving in that Knesset.

There is Education Minister Naftali Bennett who has bragged about killing Arabs and suggested that Jews are more evolutionarily advanced than Arabs. There is Likud MK Yaron Mazuz, who told Arab members of Knesset they should be grateful for even being allowed to serve as elected officials, that “We’re doing you a favor by letting you sit here.” There is Prime Minister Netanyahu, of course, who complained that Palestinian citizens of Israel were exercising their right to vote — “in droves.” There was the sitting foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, who advocated population transfer.

And that’s just the right-wing camp.

The “Zionist Union,” a joint slate comprised of Labor and Tzipi Livni, voted to disqualify Arab MK Haneen Zoabi from the Knesset. The side of the Israeli politics formerly known as the Left also has no problem with acceptance committees designed to keep Arabs out of Jewish communities or the idea of segregated communities, or segregated schools. They have no problem with the ban on Palestinian citizens of Israel living with or conferring residency to their spouses from the West Bank or Gaza. Oh yeah, and of course, there’s the Jewish-only settlements and dual legal systems in the West Bank, which came into existence under “left-wing” governments and have never even been questioned by any subsequent government.

Israelis who want to ban Trump, who call him racist, need to take a good look in the mirror. And just imagine for a second what would happen if the American Jewish establishment — Democrats, Republicans, communal institutions, elected officials — treated racist policies in Israel with the same uniform rejection and disgust as they are starting to direct at Trump’s abhorrently racist rhetoric.

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