Monday, September 5, 2011

Which people, what justice?


Who doesn't want "social justice"? Or "peace" or "equality"? But underneath these pretty slogans, things look different. We frequently come up against examples that reveal the lie behind the words.

Salman Masalha

Which people, what justice?

Even if the slogan uttered by tens of thousands in the streets of Israel of late is pleasant to hear, it is the greatest of lies. Were its users asked to explain which "people," demand what "justice" for which "society," the slogan would crumble.

The state and all its institutions have never acknowledged the existence of an "Israeli people." It is doubtful that the demonstrators recognize its existence. Therefore their lofty cry of a people demanding "social justice" cannot be put into practice, in light of the absence of the existence of said "people."

There is no shortage of nice-sounding slogans. Who doesn't want "social justice"? Or "peace" or "equality"? Who doesn't long for "coexistence"? But underneath these pretty slogans, things look different. We frequently come up against examples that reveal the lie behind the words.

Take, for example, this example of someone who was certainly raised on the principles of "social justice" and Zionist "equality" - Modi Bracha, a resident of Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael and deputy head of the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council. As he explained last month in a Haaretz story about opposition to expanding Jisr al-Zarqa, "No one needs to teach me about socialism, but if a farmer received land then why should he relinquish the asset that is supposed to provide him a living?"

To spell it out to the champions of "social justice," Jisr al-Zarqa is the only Arab community that "socialist" Zionism left along the coast. The community is trapped between the sea and the coastal road, between Caesarea and Ma'agan Michael. Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics can surely add to the explication: The population density in the village is catastrophic, 7,730 people per square kilometer, compared to an average density of 321 per kilometer for the whole country.

In order to ease the overcrowding, the Haifa District Planning and Building Committee seeks to to implement a plan under which land from the neighboring communities of Ma'agan Michael, Beit Hanania and Caesarea would be expropriated to Jisr al-Zarqa and the coastal highway would be diverted to the east. It turns out that residents of the three communities are fiercely opposed to the "social justice" reflected in the plan.

They are, of course, in favor of lovely slogans about coexistence and the like: "We are in favor of coexistence and peace. Despite the differences in mentality, we are doing a lot in this regard," said Beit Hanania Councilman Arieh Freedman in the same article. "We are not opposed [to the scheme] because they are Arabs; they are good neighbors and we have no beef with them," Freedman emphasized.

Later on his worldview was revealed in all its glory: "... but from a national perspective, too, I am opposed to the idea of taking land from a Jew to give to an Arab ..." He even warns the authorities: "If the plan is approved, there will be a mass departure: People will sell their homes and the existence of the community will be threatened."

Freedman and his ilk, who are "in favor of coexistence and peace," in favor of "social justice" and the like, must be told that European Zionism searched for a place in the Middle East, and there are many Arabs who live there. One must cope with this fact of life.

So it's nice to wave the flag of the social justice that the people demand, but it seems that first of all the people must demand a clear definition of justice, and of a people.
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Published: Op-Ed, Haaretz, 5 Sep. 2011

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