By Roger Sheety
A June, 2013 speech by Bill Clinton honoring war criminal Shimon Peres has highlighted the extent to which Israeli anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab bigotry has become acceptable within Western mainstream discourse.
In a racist echo of Golda Meir, who once admitted that she had trouble sleeping because of the number of Palestinian babies being conceived, Clinton said: “No matter how many settlers you put out there [in the West Bank], the Palestinians are having more babies than the Israelis as a whole…. You’ve got an existential question to answer.”
Clinton, who was reportedly paid $500,000 to publicly share his hatred of Palestinian babies, couched his bigotry as part of a speech on “peace” and the bankrupt “two-state solution.” Said Clinton: “If you don’t have a vision of where you want to wind up, bad things are going to happen sooner or later…. You have a better chance if you are driven by a vision of peace and reconciliation.” In plain language, if Israel does not return a mere 22 percent of the 100 percent of Palestinian land it stole, it will soon (horror of horrors) be overrun with Palestinian children.
Clinton’s racist comments, reported worldwide by mainstream media mostly without irony, were also an extension of current U.S. President Barack Obama’s own fear and hatred of Palestinian children, which he expressed clearly in May of 2011 to the delight and cheers of his American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) audience in Washington:
“Here are the facts we all must confront. First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This will make it harder and harder—without a peace deal—to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.”
For Palestinians, of course, neither Clinton’s nor Obama’s morally abhorrent remarks come as a surprise since they have long been accustomed to Israeli racism and its accompanying violence and brutality. Racist terms like “demographic bomb” and “demographic threat” are so common in Israeli media and discourse that they barely register any protest in the so-called “Jewish and democratic state.”
We are not talking about Israeli soccer fans thuggishly chanting “death to Arabs” at sporting events (a common occurrence these days), but rather racist incitement from the highest elected officials. Both Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, for instance, have used the phrase “demographic threat” in public statements regarding Palestinian citizens of the state. In 2003, as finance minister, Netanyahu would say, “If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens” (“Netanyahu: Israel’s Arabs are the real demographic threat,” Haaretz, December 18, 2003).
Similarly, Peres would publicly muse in 1977 on the “problem” of the growing Palestinian population of Jerusalem: “I do not want to wake up one morning to discover that Jerusalem is subject to the demographic fate of [the] Galilee” (“Israel’s Geographic-Demographic Threat to Identity,” Royal United Services Institute News Brief, January, 2011). Ehud Olmert, as well, in a speech to the Knesset in 2007, would speak in alarming tones of a pending “demographic battle drowned in blood and tears.”
In 2009, Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Atias would instigate hatred against Palestinian citizens of the state and justify apartheid in a speech to the Israel Bar Association. “I see [it] as a national duty to prevent the spread of a population that, to say the least, does not love the state of Israel,” said Atias. Speaking in particular against the Palestinian population of the Galilee, he added: “If we go on like we have until now, we will lose the Galilee. Populations that should not mix are spreading there. I don’t think that it is appropriate [for Arabs and Israeli Jews] to live together” (“Housing Minister: Spread of Arab population must be stopped,” Haaretz, July, 2009).
Michael Oren, the current Israeli Ambassador (and chief propagandist) to the U.S., would even write a lengthy and deeply racist article published in Commentary magazine in 2009, titled “Seven Existential Threats,” and which included the sub-heading “The Arab Demographic Threat.” He would opine in a grave, apocalyptic voice that “the Palestinian population on both sides of the 1949 armistice lines is expanding far more rapidly than the Jewish sector and will surpass it in less than a decade.”
This trend must not continue, continues Oren, because “Israel, the Jewish State, is predicated on a decisive and stable Jewish majority of at least 70 percent. Any lower than that and Israel will have to decide between being a Jewish state and a democratic state. If it chooses democracy, then Israel as a Jewish state will cease to exist.”
Israeli academics and intellectuals, too, have joined the racist chorus of incitement and, simultaneously, of justification of war crimes against Palestinians. So Benny Morris, for example, after documenting the destruction of Palestine, the massive ethnic cleansing, the theft of land, and the massacres and rapes of innocents, would then vindicate every crime of the Zionist colonial-settler state from 1948 to the present.
“There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing,” said Morris in a 2004 interview with Ari Shavit. “That is what Zionism faced [in 1948]. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.”
Then, jumping ahead six decades, he refers to Palestinian citizens of the state, who were not ethnically cleansed, in typically racist terms: “The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb. Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state” (“An interview with Benny Morris,” Counterpunch.org, January, 2004). Morris would thus set the stage for future ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, including the current operation in the Naqab (“Negev”) where tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouin have been targeted for forcible removal from their ancestral lands.
Furthermore, these terms, once used exclusively against Palestinians, are now also utilized by both Israeli officials and citizens to shamelessly incite hatred against African asylum seekers, as well as African Jews who are, nominally, citizens of the state. As reported by Haaretz in 2010, for instance, Netanyahu said, the “flood of illegal workers infiltrating from Africa [was] a concrete threat to the Jewish and democratic character of the country.” Without skipping a beat, he would then associate asylum seekers with smuggling of drugs, terrorism, and general decadence, and so justifying the building of yet another apartheid wall to keep out the unwanted (“Netanyahu: Illegal African immigrants—a threat to Israel’s Jewish character,” Haaretz, July, 2010). See, in addition, the superb work of David Sheen who has meticulously documented recent shockingly fanatical anti-African marches in Tel Aviv, organized and led by elected Israeli officials and community leaders, in dozens of official reports, interviews, and video testimonies (www.davidsheen.com/racism/).
It is impossible to imagine Clinton, Obama, or any major political figure for that matter, talking about any other national, ethnic, or religious group in such unapologetically racist terms. Would either have made analogous comments regarding, for example, indigenous South Africans during the days of South African Apartheid? Or against North American First Nation peoples today? Would an Australian or Canadian housing minister ever speak about a minority group within their countries with the same unabashed hatred as Ariel Atias? Had they done so, the response of Western liberal pundits and intellectuals would have been swift and indignant—and rightfully so.
Ethnic cleansing, land theft, destruction of hundreds of ancient towns and villages, massacres, military occupation, and apartheid over six and a half decades in Palestine are all deeply tied together with Israeli/Zionist racism. Indeed, Israeli bigotry has often been and continues to be used to sanction and sanctify Israeli crimes against humanity; thus do attitudes and actions simultaneously fuel and feed off each other. That even supposed progressives have adopted Israeli attitudes towards Palestinians in their public statements as their own (with little or no controversy), and therefore also excusing Israeli crimes, shows the vile depths to which mainstream media discourse has sunk.
– Roger Sheety is an independent writer and researcher. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.