Sunday, October 5, 2014

For the glory of the Middle East

Salman Masalha ||
For the glory of the Middle East

People love to worry about the sociocultural fabric. But as it turns out, concern over this fabric – on the part of both the government and the public – goes in one direction and relates to one ethnicity.

The High Court of Justice recently rejected two petitions. One involved the core curriculum in ultra-Orthodox schools; the other, acceptance committees in small communities. Ostensibly, these petitions address different issues. However, they have a common denominator. The petitioners asked the High Court to require the state to act like a proper state – that is, to break down ethnic and cultural barriers and to bring about economic equality and cohesion among all segments of the population.

The High Court justices chose the path of political correctness, which seeks to perpetuate the separatism among the communities that make up Israeli society.
Among the reasons for rejecting the petition against the law exempting the ultra-Orthodox from the core curriculum, Supreme Court President Asher Grunis noted, “This is an extraordinary petition, in which a third party asks that we require the state to act with paternalism toward the other.” The honorable justice apparently forgot that the entire essence of a “state” is paternalism toward the citizen. What is more, a citizen is not the “other” in the eyes of the state.

Imagine what would happen if Arab schools asked to cancel the core curriculum that is dictated to them, which is sometimes “Jewish and Zionist.” I have no doubt that the justices would side with the state’s position and stress that its obligation is to act with that same “paternalism toward the other.”

When it comes to the fabric, things become clearer. The High Court would be in no hurry, for example, to assist opposition to the destruction of the sociocultural fabric of East Jerusalem. The term “sociocultural fabric” apparently does not apply to the neighborhoods of Silwan or Sheikh Jarrah, because the “human fabric” is a matter for Jews only.

Moreover, not long ago the High Court rejected a petition against the law allowing acceptance committees in small communities. That law states that such a committee may refuse to accept a candidate because of unsuitability to “the social life of the community” or “lack of suitability of the candidate to the sociocultural fabric of the community.” As a racist fig leaf, the framers of the law noted that a candidate must not be rejected for reasons of race, religion, gender, nationality, handicap, sexual orientation, etc. The reasons for rejecting the petition stated that the court, “with its limited resources, will not deal with investigating hypothetical and theoretical claims.”

Are these really hypothetical and theoretical claims? Any rational person knows that discrimination has been practiced in Israel for many years, as noted in the minority opinion – in more ways than one – of Justice Salim Joubran: “The exaggerated discretion given to the acceptance committees, in the context of the years of accumulated experience, does not allow anything to be said other than that it is anchored in a reality of discrimination.”

If I were a cynic, I would ask that the spirit of the law be applied to all areas of the country. For example, it is well known that the Galilee has an Arab majority. Because the heads of the Arab community are concerned over the sociocultural fabric of their communities, they would certainly want to establish acceptance committees, and demand that anyone wanting to live in the Galilee be tested to assure suitability to the sociocultural fabric of the majority of its inhabitants.
Maybe the spirit of the law could be applied to the entire region? After all, the State of Israel – as it conducts itself these days – is not wanted in the Mideast because it does not conform to the region’s sociocultural fabric. One would ask the High Court justices to thoroughly investigate this question. We could even say that in light of the above, Israel has become an honorable member of the region’s dark regimes. Welcome to the Middle East.
Published: Opinions-Haaretz, Oct. 5, 2014

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