This series of interviews spans a period of one year. It is posted for those interested in my views on several issues, specifically about the Nakba and Land loss by Palestinian Citizens of Israel.
Untold stories: Hatim Kanaaneh
IMEU, Jul 15, 2008
To interview Hatim Kanaaneh contact the IMEU at 714-368-0300 or email@example.com.
Palestinian-American doctor and author Hatim Kanaaneh, seen here outside of his home in Arrabeh, in the Galilee.
Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh remembers the day in 1948 that his native village of Arrabeh in the northern Galilee fell to Zionist forces intent on turning Palestine into a Jewish state. "Everyone had a white sheet hanging on a stick on their roof," he recalls sixty years later from his home in Arrabeh. "The village elders in the neighboring villages of Arrabeh, Sakhnin and Dier Hanna had met and decided that no one would leave. My father was among them."
During the previous months, the eleven year-old Kanaaneh had seen streams of refugees from Palestinian villages further south flowing through Arrabeh, intent on reaching the safety of the Lebanese border in the north.
Eventually, as they witnessed an escalation in attacks on Palestinian villages by Jewish militias, Dr. Kanaaneh's family had begun preparing to flee the country themselves, at least until the fighting had ceased. "I had a dilemma as to whether to take my birds," he remembers. "Everyone else was making decisions about pots and pans and mattresses, and I cried as I was told that I could not take my birds."
Word soon arrived, however, that the Lebanese border had been closed, leaving the Palestinians in Arrabeh with no way to escape. It was at this point that the decision was made by several of the Galilee villages near Nazareth to surrender to Israeli forces.
That is how the village of Arrabeh found itself inside of the newly formed Israeli state.
For nearly two decades, the Palestinian residents of the new state were placed under a military regime. "I remember standing in line and waiting for hours to get a permit to go from Arrabeh to Haifa. We had to go to Shefa Amr and stand in line to get a permit to go five additional kilometers."
Dr. Kanaaneh remained in his home village despite the difficulty of living as a non-Jew in Israel, before leaving to the United States to earn his medical degree. He soon returned to the Galilee, however, and established the Galilee Society to offer better health services to the underprivileged Palestinian residents of the region.
Kanaaneh often misses the personal and individual freedoms he was granted in the United States but still has yet to attain in his homeland, and feels it is important for Americans to learn about the Nakba (Arabic for "catastrophe," and the word Palestinians use to refer to the loss of their homes and homeland in 1948) for this reason. "I felt a sense of powerlessness when I returned to the Galilee - that I couldn't do anything but accept it," he says. "But I never really regretted the decision to come back."
Pluto Press of London has just published Dr. Kanaaneh's book of memoirs, A Doctor in Galilee, which shows what life is like for a Palestinian living as a citizen of Israel. The book is available from University of Michigan Press and at Amazon.com.
Palestinians remember Land Day
Jonathan Cook writing from Arrabeh, The Electronic Intifada, 30 March 2009
Hatim Kanaaneh, a former physician who witnessed the Land Day protests, stands by a monument in Sakhnin's cemetery to six Palestinians shot dead by the Israeli army during the confrontations of 30 March 1976 (Jonathan Cook)
Palestinians across the Middle East were due to commemorate Land Day today, marking the anniversary of clashes in 1976 in which six unarmed Palestinians were shot dead by the Israeli army as it tried to break up a general strike.
Although Land Day is one of the most important anniversaries in the Palestinian calendar, sometimes referred to as the Palestinians' national day, the historical event it marks is little spoken of and rarely studied.
"Maybe its significance is surprising given the magnitude of other events in Palestinian history," said Hatim Kanaaneh, 71, a doctor, who witnessed the military invasion of his village.
"But what makes Land Day resonate with Palestinians everywhere is that it was the first time Palestinians inside Israel stood together and successfully resisted Israel's goal of confiscating their land."
The confrontation took place between the army and a group usually referred to as "Israeli Arabs," the small minority of Palestinians who managed to remain in their homes during the 1948 war that led to the founding of Israel. Today they number 1.2 million, or nearly one-fifth of Israel's population.
"We were given citizenship by Israel, but have always been treated as an enemy, perceived of as a threat to the state's Jewishness," said Dr. Kanaaneh, who last year published his memoir, A Doctor in Galilee, which offers a rare account in English of Palestinian life inside Israel during the Land Day period.
In 1976, Dr. Kanaaneh, having completed his medical studies at Harvard University in the United States, was the only physician in Arrabeh.
Israel crushed organized political activity among Israel's Palestinian citizens between 1948 and 1966, Dr. Kanaaneh said. Nonetheless, popular frustration had mounted as the state expropriated privately-owned Palestinian land to build new communities for Jewish citizens, many of them recent immigrants.
During military rule, historians have noted, vast swathes of land were taken from Palestinians, both from refugees in exile and from Israel's own citizens. Jews had bought only six per cent of Palestine by the time of the 1948 war, but today the state has nationalized 93 percent of Israel's territory.
"Government policy was explicitly to make the land Jewish -- or Judaize it, as it was called," Dr. Kanaaneh said.
The announcement in the mid-1970s of the confiscation of a further 2,000 hectares led to the creation of a new body, the National Committee for the Defense of Arab Lands, which provided a more assertive political leadership.
The minority's decision to strike, Dr. Kanaaneh said, shocked the Israeli authorities, which were not used to challenges to official policy. "Both sides understood the significance of the strike. For the first time we were acting as a national minority, and Israel was very sensitive to anything that suggested we had a national identity or a unified agenda, especially over a key resource like land."
Although the strike was strictly observed by Palestinians throughout Israel, the focus of the protest were three villages in the central Galilee that faced the loss of a large area of prime agricultural land: Arrabeh, Sakhnin and Deir Hanna.
The prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and his defense minster, Shimon Peres, acted on the eve of the strike.
"What was surprising was that they didn't send in the police, as you'd expect when dealing with citizens of a country, but the army," Dr. Kanaaneh said.
The government's original plan, he said, was to break the strike and force employees to go to work, but when villagers began throwing stones, the army imposed a curfew.
"When a neighbor called me to attend to his wife who had gone into labor, I walked out of my house towards an armored vehicle waving my stethoscope," Dr. Kanaaneh said. "A soldier aimed his rifle straight at me and I hurried back inside."
Ahmed Khalaila stands by a road sign dedicated to his brother, Khader, who was shot dead by the Israeli army during Land Day protests in the village of Sakhnin in 1976. (Jonathan Cook)
Ahmed Khalaila, who was 18 and living in Sakhnin, remembered being woken early by loudspeakers. "Soldiers were calling out that we must not leave the house ... We couldn't even look out of the windows," he said.
When a neighbor stepped outside her house, she was shot and injured, Khalaila said. He and his older brother, Khader, tried to help the woman. When they were about 50 meters from her, Khader was shot in the head.
"He was still breathing and we hoped he could be saved, but there were checkpoints at all the entrances to the village. We knew no ambulance would be coming for him."
Eventually the family managed to get him into a car and drove towards the nearest hospital. Held at a checkpoint, Khalaila said, the family watched as Khader bled to death as he lay across his younger brother's legs on the back seat. Khader was 24 and recently married.
No one ever came to investigate what had happened, or offered the family compensation. "It was as if a bird had died," he said. "No one was interested; no questions were asked in the parliament. Nothing."
As well as the six deaths, hundreds more Palestinians were injured and sweeping arrests were made of political activists.
Dr. Kanaaneh said the stiff resistance mounted by the villagers eventually forced the government to revoke the expropriation order.
Victory, however, was far from clear cut. The next year, Ariel Sharon, as agriculture minister, announced a program of new Jewish settlements called "lookouts" in the Galilee "to prevent control of state lands by foreigners," meaning Israel's own Palestinian citizens. The three villages were surrounded by the lookout communities, which came to be known collectively as Misgav regional council.
"They were intended to be agricultural communities, but Land Day stopped that," Dr. Kanaaneh said. "Instead they became small bedroom communities, and much of the land we defended was passed to Misgav's jurisdiction.
"Today the owners of the land pay taxes to the regional council rather than their own municipalities, and Misgav can decide, if it wants, to try to confiscate the land again. We may have got our land back, but it is not really in our hands."
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi at the following link: http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090330/FOREIGN/382507494&SearchID=73350038543283
A Doctor in Galilee: A physician's struggle for community health and a people's survival
Posted April 2nd, 2009
A rare glimpse into the dire health situation of Palestinians living in Israel, Hatim Kanaaneh's memoir - "A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel" - reveals the politics of health care and community development affecting the Arab minority in a Jewish-only state. MENASSAT's Tania Tabar interviewed the author earlier this week to discuss Kanaaneh's work.
By TANIA TABAR
The cover of Hatim Kanaaneh's memoir, "A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel," published by Pluto Press (2008).
BEIRUT, April 2, 2009 (MENASSAT) - In his memoir, “A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel," Hatim Kanaaneh tells the story – the hardship, the irony, the internal struggle - of being part of the Arab minority living in Israel.
Known as the ’48 Palestinians, or those “of the inside," Kanaaneh's narrative provides a rare glimpse into the history of Palestinians that remained in Israel (historic Palestine) after the state was formed.
He also produces a compelling record of his experience working for the Israeli Ministry of Health, establishing the NGO, The Galilee Society and eventually founding a child rehabilitation center in his village in the north of Israel, Arrabeh.
What connects the narrative threads is the Palestinian struggle for land.
Born in 1937 in Arrabeh, Palestine, Kanaaneh’s family were one of the 150,000 Palestinians – now numbering 1.3 million - who remained on their land when the state of Israel was created in May 1948.
The first person in his village to study abroad, Kanaaneh obtained two Harvard degrees in medicine and public health, and decided to return with his Hawaiian wife Didi to his village near Galilee.
In his attempt to provide much-needed services to the Palestinian minority in Israel (historic Palestine), Kanaaneh explains he worked “to bring the benefits of public health and community development to my people.”
And as he learned about Israel's “intentional neglect of the health and well being of its Arab citizens,” the reader is exposed to what Kanaaneh characterizes as medical apartheid - Israel's "politicization of health."
He quotes a “wise" senior medical co-worker: "Apartheid is unhealthy, full stop."
Kanaaneh’s book is honest in every sense of the word, and does not not shy away from self-criticism. The book in fact encompasses his personal journey and struggle - wrestling with the ethics of working as a medical doctor within the Israeli system - a position in which complicity out of necessity is implied.
“Such self-searching episodes are frequent in the book and led eventually to me facing up, not only to system but to my own role in it,” he told MENASSAT.
MENASSAT interviewed Kanaaneh to discuss his book, the recent Land Day commemoration, Israeli public opinion and what's next for the physician/writer.
MENASSAT: Can you tell me about how the idea to write a book came about? How has it been received?
Hatim Kanaaneh: "Since high school I have written memoirs. Mainly when something disturbed or pleased me I would take time out to write about my feelings."
"Later in my professional life when I didn't have the time to sit down and write I started recording on audiotape."
"Over the years, I accumulated a lot of material and only when I retired some 5 years ago was i able to start listening to the tapes and reading what I had written."
"It occurred to me that there was a lot of material that would be of interest to western readers and that would tell them about the life of Palestinian people in Israel."
"That's when I started selecting pieces from what I had written or taped and the book came out of that."
MENASSAT: The book touches on so many issues Palestinians in Israel are faced with. What really fascinated me was how you discussed the relation of Palestinians to a state that is built with the goal of physically eliminating or displacing the native population. Was it difficult to write about internal Palestinian issues such as the local rivalries, collaborators, informers, and so on?
Hatim Kanaaneh: "There was some of that especially in terms of the groups of people that were co-opted and not so much the individuals. For example, teachers and religious leaders were particularly targeted as potential collaborators and I addressed those issues clearly in the book."
"I didn't set out to write a book of memoirs. What I wrote at the time...I wrote it, or recorded it, was not meant for others but a form of psychotherapy. In that sense, I did not feel the urge to address issues that might be interesting to lots of people as long as they were not directly affecting me personally."
"I did mull it over in my mind, and in my memoirs, the deeper meaning of my own working within the system in as much as that implied being part of the system and thus being co-opted even when I was intent on serving my people."
"Such self-searching episodes are frequent in the book and led eventually to me facing up, not only to the system but to my own role in it."
"As soon as I made that clear to myself, I initiated a project - what eventually became the Galilee Society for Health Research and Services, a non-governmental organization that was independent of government influence and even confronted that governmental system about its shortcomings vis-a-vis the Palestinian citizens of Israel."
"So the issue you raise is addressed in my book only so far as it impacts on me personally and on my role as an 'Uncle Tom.' I was quick to recognize that and managed to deal with it in mid-career."
MENASSAT: Yes, that was a very interesting element to the book - your internal struggle...working in the system. Has this left you to believe that it is useless to work within the system in Israel to achieve self-determination and equality for Palestinians in Israel?
Hatim Kanaaneh: "The moment I realized that I was working within a system that is based on an ideology, the Zionist ideology, of building up a state and a culture designed to disenfranchise me and my people, it became clear that it was useless to try to render service to my people even in such presumably apolitical field as health and community development."
"I deemed it unwise to break away completely from the system because then I would have lost touch with the bigger picture and what was happening within the system."
"That's why I and a few fellow Arab health professionals built an alternative mechanism to serve the Arab community in which we lived. At the same time, we had to keep in touch with the system and even maintain some influence within it, limited as it was."
"The alternative mechanism as I mentioned was the Galilee Society, which has since become a leading organization for the civil society structures of the 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of Israel."
"It has served as a hot house for the establishment in the early years of functioning of such prominent NGOs as Ittijah, the Arab Union of Community-Based Organizations, and Adalah, the Organization for Arab Minority Rights."
MENASSAT: In my opinion, one of the most bold and powerful statements your book is: ''It now occurs to me that there is a different form of genocide practiced against us, a chronic and hidden genocide. …Israel’s intentional neglect of the health and well-being of its Arab citizens amounts to the intentional liquidation of many people, especially children. Infant mortality rates among Arabs in Israel have been twice the levels of Jews in Israel since the establishment of the state.'' Can you comment on this?
Hatim Kanaaneh: "I think the statement speaks for itself."
"It is factually correct. At its core is the willful neglect by the state of parts of its citizenry set aside strictly based on its ethnicity."
"As I have said repeatedly in my book, groups of Jewish immigrants who arrived in Israel with health conditions worse than our own have been targeted by the state for preferential treatment and sophisticated socio-economic programs that brought them to a health-care level much better than our own."
"The statement you quote puts the emphasis strictly on infants because of the starkness of the comparison that the Infant Mortality Rate allows."
MENASSAT: I think you did a great job of portraying the feeling of Palestinians in Israel vis-a-vis Jews living in Israel. You even referred to it as, ''the emotional schizophrenia of our daily lives.'' Why was it important to discuss this? Do you think it will help people understand the position of Palestinians in Israel?
Hatim Kanaaneh: "Yes, indeed it does in my opinion. Once again what you are reading in the book reflects my own internal struggle in my effort to seek some psychological internal balance."
"It would be strange and highly improbable if we were to work and be in daily contact with the Jewish majority in Israel and not admit to any positive feelings towards those individuals."
"Yet, the collective that makes up the Zionist political majority of Israel embodies all the comparative disadvantages and inequities that befall us."
"So, in reflecting on my own mixed feelings, I do to a great extent illustrate the bind in which my entire community finds itself. And it is good for the world to realize the daily tension of our lives."
MENASSAT: What about the situation now? Israel has turned more openly to the right. The idea of transfer is even more normalized in public opinion than ever before. Where does this leave Palestinians? Do you still have hope?
Hatim Kanaaneh: "The Israeli Jewish public opinion has never been this racist before."
"True, the danger of transfer or wars is ever present and it causes me, personally, to fear for my life and that of my community. Yet, there are signs that the world is waking up to fascist threat of such people as Lieberman and Netanyahu."
"That provides a glimpse of hope for us."
"We should not forget that there are Israeli peace activist who oppose this. Even if they are small in number, their voices probably reach a larger audience in the world than mine and yours do. Again, that has an element of reassurance in it."
MENASSAT: Also, Monday was Land Day. What does the day mean to Palestinians? It has been over 30 years since the 1976 incident that saw thousands of Palestinian protest government appropriation of Arab-Israeli land, and Israel is still trying to confiscate their lands.
Hatim Kanaaneh: "It is 33 years to be exact!"
"What Land Day signifies is the ability of our community to act in unison when it comes to the issue of land. No other occasion has elicited such a unified response from Arab-Israelis."
"True, land confiscation still happens, though to a lesser degree than before, and with a greater degree of resistance than before."
"Let's remember that I am speaking of the Palestinians within the Green Line, the 1948 community and not of Gaza and the West Bank. Especially in the West Bank the confiscation of land is rampant under the heavy hand of the occupying armed forces and the rightist settlers."
MENASSAT: Last question. What are you working on now? What's next for you?
Hatim Kanaaneh: "I am busy with promoting my book to the widest possible readership in the West. It was entered in the competition for the 2009 George Orwell Prize for Political Writing and placed on the long list of 18 out of 180 competitors."
"I will be traveling for book events in the U.S. I maintain an active blog in which I write in the same spirit of my memoirs of old. Perhaps something will come out of that as well. I do gardening and I hunt for fossils. That keeps me busy."
MENASSAT: Thank you so much for the interview. Is there anything else you would like to add, that I may have missed?
Hatim Kanaaneh: "I should have mentioned that this interview is the first of its kind in an Arabic country. It is my hope that one day A Doctor in Galilee will be made available in Arabic."
Shattering the Myth of Democracy and Equality in Israel
An Interview with Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh
by Angie Tibbs / April 6th, 2009
Hatim Kanaaneh was an eleven year old boy when his peaceful village of Arrabeh, Galilee, was invaded by Jewish terrorists and the villagers forced to surrender in 1948. What followed was living under a military regime, which had absolute powers, a life filled with terror and humiliation, coupled with a curtailment of freedom and infringements on human rights. Discrimination was evident in all aspects of everyday life, even in the education system, something Dr. Kanaaneh experienced first hand when he was denied entry to the Hadassah medical school because he was deemed to be unqualified.
He later attended Harvard and received his medical degrees, following which he returned to Galilee where he worked as a physician for thirty-five years. He founded the Galilee Society for Health Research and Services, and also the Elrazi Center for Child Rehabilitation, the first such facility specifically designed to serve rural Palestinian children. He is now retired from clinical practice but continues to be an active member of the Galilee Society and serves on the Board of Directors of Elrazi.
Dr. Kanaaneh’s memoirs have been published in a book, A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggles of a Palestinian in Israel, (Pluto Press, June 20, 2008), which gives readers an in-depth look at the struggles he, and the Palestinian minority in the Jewish state, have faced over the last 60 years, and which they continue to face. His first-hand experience of life inside Israel contrasts with ex-US President Jimmy Carter’s contention that the term “Apartheid” only applies to Israeli practices in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza.
I spoke with him via e-mail.
Angie Tibbs: Dr. Kanaaneh, it’s been almost 61 years since Arrabeh was forced to surrender to Jewish terrorists. What is life like today, not just for the people of Arrabeh, but for all Palestinians who are living inside what is called Israel?
Dr. Kanaaneh: A prime feature of our life is our imposed separate residential areas, separate towns and villages. Even in so-called ‘mixed cities’ some Arab slums are separated by concrete walls and barbwire from the better-off Jewish neighborhoods. Our communities, with one or two exceptions, fall in the bottom three centile rungs in the socio-economic grading of Israeli communities.
AT: Tell me about that.
Dr. K: Our towns and villages have fewer internal resources, be it industry, commerce, tourism, or agriculture. And they receive much less financial assistance from common central budgets, only 3-5% of the total.
Sixty-one years after the establishment of the state, one has to be blind not to see the physical differences between an Arab town, even the best-off one, and a Jewish town: pot-holed roads without sidewalks, no public spaces, no private lawns, overcrowding, children playing in the streets for lack of playgrounds, … and the list of signs of neglect is endless.
But these are only the physical symptoms. At a deeper level we constitute an undesirable element, a foreign element in the body of a state whose planners and decision makers define it to exclude us. Israeli Zionist Leaders have variously likened us to a cancer in the body of the state or a fifth column not to be trusted. At best we are seen as a hindrance, a stumbling block for planners to maneuver around in formulating their visions of the future of the state. At worse, we are a demographic ticking bomb to be dismantled at all costs.
The late Rabin was the most tolerant of Israeli leaders, accepting our presence up to a limit of twenty percent of the total population of Israel, a limit we have nearly reached now. That kind of pronouncement by presumed liberal leaders of Israel is ready fodder for incitement by openly racist politicians, the likes of Avigdor Lieberman, an immigrant from Moldova, who legitimized and popularized the concept of transfer to where over two thirds of Israeli Jewish adults approve of it.
How do I feel living in such openly hostile socio-political environment? I feel quite insecure: mentally anguished and physically threatened. I function with an ample reserve of paranoia, constantly on the lookout for signs of harmful intent behind every move by anyone outside my immediate circle of family and friends. When I start doubting those, I will know that I have lost the fight.
AT: Progressive writers, Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri, wrote a 12-part series entitled “Defining Israeli Zionist Racism” which deals at length with racism inside Israel. What, if any, discrimination and/or racism have you observed and/or encountered?
Dr. K: Discrimination is a built-in part of life and the laws of the country. Remember that what we are dealing with here (and the basic issue of contention in the conflict between Zionism and all of us native Palestinians) is a conflict over land.
As a Palestinian I am disqualified by law from equal access to land ownership or use. This is given a deeper expression in the form of the Law of Return granting any Jewish person anywhere in the world automatic citizenship with all the benefits that accrue with it of access to land, housing, financial and social assistance, and to the symbols of the state while no Palestinian who is not born here can dream of ever becoming a citizen.
Recently laws were passed specifically to prevent our children from marrying other Palestinians and from the right to bring their spouses under the standing laws of family unification applicable to Jewish citizens.
The absolute majority of land we, the Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel since its establishment in 1948, once owned has been confiscated for the benefit of our Jewish co-citizens through a maze of some three dozen laws specifically designed for the purpose. Were it not for the 1976 uprising that has come since to be commemorated as Land Day, we would have lost the remainder. We, nearly one-fifth of the total population of Israel, now own about 3 % of its land. After all, we are dealing with what has been defined by Zionism as ‘the land of Israel’ in an ethnic sense, a definition that excludes us, Palestinians. The last stroke in the continuing saga of disenfranchisement is the requirement from us to pledge allegiance to Israel as the state of the Jews. And once we take such an oath, it would be up to the same racist crowd to define what constitutes a breach of it, a process inevitably leading to our expulsion one way or the other.
Beyond such basic discriminatory laws the whole official system and all Zionist civilian structures, many of which are legally entrusted with state-level powers and duties, are imbued with a sense of messianic zeal. Our experience with such bodies is not unlike a preview of the current practices in the Palestinian Occupied Territories where Palestinians are not allowed to drive on roads for settlers. The multitude of new settlements, named ‘Mitzpim’, or hilltop lookouts, are intended to guard the land in Galilee from us, its indigenous population, and they are surrounded by barbwire and interconnected by special roads that bypass our villages. True, we were not prevented from using those roads, but they were of little use to us because they led only to the various settlements.
At the practical level this translates into set rules and regulations that exempt Palestinians like me from all sorts of benefits if they are not openly anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian. Much of this is practiced under the blanket justification of security, the holiest of all holy cows in the country.
AT: What about employment opportunities for Palestinians, in particular, young people?
Dr. K: A psychologist colleague just informed me that he had gone through two years of theoretical and practical training as a lie-detector expert/operator before he found out that one needs to have served in the Israeli armed forces to qualify for a license.
Our youth, unlike Jewish youth, are exempt from the draft. Positions from which they are disqualified on this basis when they seek employment run the gamut from civil aviation all the way down to the manufacturing of ice-cream.
The worst part of the daily discrimination that we meet with is the fact that much of the final decisions on so many little items are left to the discretion of low-level bureaucrats. These, by and large, have been brought up on a deeply self-centered world-view that sees the world as one of constant struggle between ‘us’-the Jews and ‘them’-the Goyim and considers one’s duty as serving his own people. This, of course, leaves me out of ‘the favors’ many officials consider it their duty to do their clients. Intentional obstructionism is more often what we face.
Another area in which this phenomenon is evident is the differential implementation of the law. Take, for example, the practice of house demolition within Israel. Mind you, we are not speaking here of the savage collective punishment practiced by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. We are speaking of the practice of demolition of homes built without permit within Israel proper.
In absolute numbers there are more illegally constructed structures in Jewish communities, but the demolition is practiced almost exclusively against Arab home owners. The basis for the construction of homes without permit is also rooted in discriminatory practices in the laws of zoning which in many cases have retroactively criminalized all residents of many villages whose existence predated the state, itself. Such “Unrecognized Villages” are frequently the site of home demolitions.
The cumulative end result of all the openly discriminatory laws, the hidden disadvantages, and the differential application of the rules and regulations are clearly seen in comparative figures from officially published data of the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics.
As a Public Health practitioner I can point to the single most telling indicator of the well-being of a community, that of Infant Mortality Rate, or the number out of a thousand infants born in a certain year who die before their first birthday. This statistic regarding the most vulnerable segment of a population reflects such community attributes as the income level, the level of education, the sanitation, etc. etc.
The relative ratio of the IMR between Arabs and Jews in Israel has run at the level of almost exactly 2 since ever statistics were collected on both groups. In the last decade it has been on the rise, a reflection of increasing discrimination. One could look at many other statistics such as the level of poverty, education, housing, etc. and the gap is obvious, but IMR sums it up best.
AT: Do you see East Jerusalem being annexed completely by Israel, and, if so, what will happen to the Palestinians living where they have lived for millennia although the land has been rechristened Israel?
Dr. K: Jerusalem has already been unilaterally and completely annexed by Israel. What many people do not realize is that the city’s municipal boundaries have been expanded tremendously since its annexation to include many formerly independent Arab communities as well as some pristine wilderness turned into housing projects.
Generous funding from Jewish communities around the world and from Western governments made this possible. Yet part of the overall plan is to render the expanded city the Jewish-only capital of the state and of world Jewry. The residents of the old city of about 300,000 Palestinians were granted residence status but not full citizenship in Israel. They are slowly but constantly coerced by various means, legal and otherwise, to evacuate their Jerusalem homes and neighborhoods.
AT: How do Palestinians living in Israel view the ongoing Israeli attacks on their kin in Gaza and the West Bank?
Dr. K: At the personal level I can answer that best by referring you and your audience to my blog where the attack on Gaza featured in more than one posting. To sum that up I can testify to a sense of anger, frustration and impending danger. The daily scenes of war atrocities and destruction are enough to move the conscience of anyone with a morsel of humanity. When the violence is visited on one’s own brethren and next of kin the effect is doubly infuriating.
As a community we reacted by withdrawing into self-imposed isolation in our villages and slum neighborhoods in the cities. There was also an outpouring of donations of food, clothing and medicine though little if any was permitted to enter Gaza. More important, perhaps, were the daily demonstrations in our communities against the carnage, a way for our youth to vent their anger in non-violent ways.
Psychologically, a common theme I have heard expressed by many individuals around me is the fear for our own future.
AT: How so?
Dr. K: The worst case scenario we fear is of the world averting its eyes from our suffering and allowing Israel one day to drive us out of our homes under an imposed news blackout when the next war breaks out with a neighboring country, say, Syria or Lebanon. If the world could sit still and not be moved to protect our brothers and sisters in Gaza from the white phosphorous and DIME bombardments and from the endless air, sea and land assault against them, why would it lift a finger to protect us from summary expulsion from our homes? And such contingency plans for our expulsion are known to exist.
In recent weeks the plot of such conspiratorial theories has thickened even further: In recent years drugs have slowly become available on our streets with little interference from the police. More recently guns and live munitions have become easily available to our youth and the police seem to keep its eyes closed. Older and wiser members of our community theorize that this is done consciously in preparation for the final assault so that the Israeli authorities can claim that an armed uprising is brewing in our community and this would be enough of an excuse for calling in the tanks, the F-16s and the Apaches.
I cite this only as an example of the degree our paranoia has reached as a result of the attack on Gaza.
AT: You mentioned a very real fear is that the world will turn a blind eye to your suffering and allow Israel to one day drive you out of your homes. Who do you see as the strongest supporters of the Palestinian people in their struggle?
Dr. K: At the official level few countries, with the exception of Iran and of South American nations recently liberated form the clutches of USA hegemony, such as Chavez’ Venezuela, openly support the Palestinian people. None of the world’s heavy weights stands behind us. At the individual level, again, few in the world are informed and concerned enough to give our issues much thought. That leaves the fringe activist community in Europe and North America as our best defenders in the corridors of effective power brokerage.
Potentially, the Arab and Islamic masses are a shoo-in as our back-up crowd, but they lack the freedom and democratic means to pressure their dictator presidents, kings and emirs to respond to their wishes. Their countries’ governments mostly follow the straight and narrow path dictated by their American allies with their a’ priori acceptance of all things Israeli.
In the end, we Palestinians, inside and outside historical Palestine, are left burdened with the task of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps; we are our own best spokespeople and supporters. Despite our spacial dispersal, internal factionalism and disunity, we have so far managed to put our issues on the world’s agenda, albeit belatedly and haltingly. Our resilience and stoicism have proven to be valuable assets in a less-than-caring world.
The Jewish people have elevated their past suffering and future potential to axiomatic heights in the world’s conscience. It is now our turn.
AT: What do you see happening in the future with respect to Palestinians living in Israel? Are you anticipating any improvement or do you expect things to get worse?
Dr. K: It is likely to get worse before it gets better. In the long run, I remain optimistic that general decency and common sense will triumph. The ‘democratic and Jewish state’ that Israel declares itself to be is an oxymoron by definition.
I see it as a three-piece puzzle that has space for only two. One part has to go. So far the Zionist system in Israel has skimped on democracy and successfully hidden the way it has disenfranchised a fifth of its population from the international community. That is no longer possible especially with the rise of civil society organizations and the advent of the Internet.
Also, I do sense a new readiness in the West, and specifically in the USA , to listen to an alternative discourse coming from quarters other than the standard pro-Israel lobby, even if it is still very reluctant to change its stand on ‘minor matters’ such as the issue at hand.
Rightists in Israel who make up the clear majority in Israel have expressed their views clearly in our last elections. Such leaders as the new Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, seem to share my analysis of the three-piece puzzle. The only difference is that they plan on throwing the Palestinian minority out and thus maintaining a truly Jewish and democratic Israel.
I am gambling on their failure and betting on the commitment of the majority of humanity to justice and equality. In taking such a risk I am counting heavily on the promising views of President Obama, for example.
It may not happen in my lifetime, but I foresee the eventual decline of fascism and fanaticism in the world, including in our region, and the rise of secular humanitarian views and solutions to common problems.
I know many decent people around me, both Jewish and Palestinian, and I would like to think that our shared humanity and decency are slowly contagious. If good people like you keep the world alert to the short-range dangers and help us avoid a calamitous quick end of our combined dreams through the actions of the Liebermens and Netanyahus, then the rise of true democracy in Israel can be expected.
This will ultimately be the nucleus of the one-state solution for Palestine and Israel.
AT: Thank you very much, Dr. Kanaaneh.
• Dr. Kanaaneh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angie Tibbs is a writer/activist. She can be reached at: email@example.com. Read other articles by Angie.
This article was posted on Monday, April 6th, 2009 at 8:00am and is filed under Discrimination, Education, Israel/Palestine, Racism,
The interview has appeared on other websites including:
Uruknet as well: http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m53216&hd=&size=1&l=e
Redress (UK): http://www.redress.cc/palestine/atibbs20090408
Iraq War: http://www.iraqwar.mirror-world.ru/article/194101
Here is a commentary about it in
Institutional Racism in Israel
I have frequently compared Israel as a state to apartheid South Africa. Citizens of the country are defined and confined by race. it is not just that all ethnic Jews, wherever they were born, have a right to live in Israel whereas many ethnic Palestinians who were actually born in Israel do not. Jews in Israel have a right of immigration for their spouses; arabs in Israel do not. Arab Israelis are actually forbidden by law from marrying Palestinians outside Israel. Many Arab communities are physically cut off by barbed wire.
It is worth reading this interview with Dr Hatim Kanaaneh. ... just concentrate on the substance of what old Dr Kanaaneh, who uses language with care and neutrality, has to say.
Here are some key parts:
Discrimination is a built-in part of life and the laws of the country. … … but IMR sums it up best.
It is worth reading the whole interview carefully. Israel now has a Foreign Minister from a party whose major election platform was the need for further action against Israeli Arabs.