The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Israel-Palestine:
A Prison for Both Peoples

Nov 9, 2004

The death of Yasser Arafat was greeted by hypocritical statements from around the world, starting first of all with those of George Bush, who said that Arafat's death presented "a new opportunity toward a lasting peace." As if Arafat personally had been the obstacle to peace in the Middle East! Who has created an obstacle to peace if not Israel's army, which has been waging a deadly war against the Palestinian people! And who has given Israeli leaders its full diplomatic, financial and military support, if not the United States!

Both Ariel Sharon and Bush indicated their "willingness" to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, after his election as Arafat's replacement – something both had refused to do with Arafat, again underlining the myth that Arafat was to blame for the disastrous situation in the Middle East. In late January there was an announcement of a possible summit between Sharon and Abbas.

And Abbas has made it clear that he is ready to play this cynical game. While campaigning, declared, "We support the intifada, but we are against the use of arms in the intifada," pointing out to the press that Arafat had never opposed the use of arms – as though the cycle of violence through which this region has been pulled could be laid at Arafat's door. This did not prevent Abbas from proclaiming that his election was a "victory for Yasser Arafat," in an obvious attempt to benefit from Arafat's reputation among the Palestinian masses.

They were not the only ones to lather their statements in hypocrisy. The leaders of the Arab countries went through the motions of honoring Arafat's memory, even while doing everything to bury him as quickly as possible.

Arrangements were made to hold the first part of Arafat's funeral in Egypt, which has a relatively small Palestinian population compared to the numbers living in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon – not to mention the West Bank and Gaza. The Egyptian government arranged for the ceremony to take place far from Cairo, near the airport, on isolated and well-guarded military grounds in the desert. The Arab leaders did not want a replay of Nasser's funeral, when hundreds of thousands if not millions of people had turned up. The sheer power of their massive presence transformed the official ceremony into a demonstration of the strength that masses of poor people can generate.

The same precautions were taken for Arafat's burial ceremony, which finally was allowed to take place in Ramallah only after a round of sordid bargaining with the Israeli government, which at first had refused to let Arafat's body be returned, then agreed only to a very quick burial. The checkpoints between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were extended and reinforced, with help from the armed forces of the Palestinian Authority. Nonetheless, the official ceremony was disrupted by a huge crowd of ordinary Palestinians whose numbers and emotional outpouring took the organizers by surprise.

The leaders of the world, including Arab leaders, did not fear Arafat, even during his lifetime, despite their statements. What they feared were the forces he had come to symbolize, the millions of Palestinians who had been uprooted and chased from their birthplaces. Half of them are refugees in neighboring countries and the other half are reduced to poverty in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, where they continue to face permanent repressive harassment from Israeli authorities and, periodically, military raids and bombings of their neighborhoods.

For many years, the Palestinian refugees were the main destabilizing factor in the Arab countries led by reactionary or dictatorial regimes.

The Palestinians often came under attack from these regimes. It was impossible to watch the Arab heads of state paying their last respects at the coffin of Arafat without thinking back to the massacre of Palestinians carried out by the Jordanian army during 1970's "Black September," or to the massacre carried out by the Syrian army working with Israel to destroy the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Arafat did not truly represent the interests of the poorer Palestinians: first, because his nationalist policy failed to open up the broader perspective of a united movement of the workers and oppressed classes of the whole area; and second because he relied on backing from the world's leaders more than on support from his own people.

But Arafat nonetheless had become the symbol of his people's rebellion and struggle. This is what some people wanted to bury, both physically and symbolically, on November 12, 2004, in Ramallah.

The following article, which first appeared in the French Trotskyist journal Lutte de Classe (Class Struggle) in November, was written before the death of Arafat and the subsequent election of Abbas. But it is still relevant today, giving a painful picture of the situation in which the peoples living in Israel-Palestine are trapped.

January 26, 2004

Pulling out of the Gaza Strip to Better Maintain Oppression

Now that he has opted for the unilateral pullout of all Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip as well as the evacuation of four isolated settlements in the northern part of the West Bank, Prime Minister – and far-right general – Ariel Sharon is being passed off as a man of peace.

He was praised for his initiative by the U.S. administration, which has always given Sharon unconditional support, as well as by European governments, including those pretending to be critical of his policies. During an official visit in Jerusalem, French Minister of Foreign Affairs Michel Barnier said that Sharon's decision to take the road to peace had shown how "courageous" he was.

In Israel itself, Sharon's support came from the left wing, whose leaders defended him against the hostility of the far-right and right-wing parties. If Labor Party leader Shimon Peres had not asked his party to vote for him, Sharon could never have had his plan approved by the Knesset. The new Yahad (formerly Meretz) Party, which stands left of the Labor Party, also gave him their support, while Haaretz, which is said to be a left-wing daily, sang the praises of the "courageous leader" who deserved "support and esteem for his disengagement initiative."

Thanks to the left's support, which allowed Sharon to do without the traditional backing of his own camp, he was able to put together a new majority in the Knesset. His withdrawal plan was finally approved by a vote of 67 to 45 – with seven deputies abstaining. Only 23 deputies from Sharon's own Likud Party voted for their leader's motion, which means that Sharon owed part of his majority to the secular Shinui party, and even more so to the left-wing parties. Most Israeli Arab deputies abstained from voting: they did not want to support a policy which, under the cover of withdrawing from the much smaller Gaza Strip, aims at perpetuating the colonization of a much bigger territory inside the West Bank.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the left ended up giving uncritical support to far-right general Sharon. After all, while the left was in office, its leaders did not even attempt to prevent new settlements in the Gaza Strip. And they made absolutely no effort to remove the Israeli settlers from Palestinian territory – a project that had been discussed for years. The whole situation may seem paradoxical, but it merely illustrates the basic political sameness of right-wing and left-wing Zionist parties. They have always carried out similar policies, and will continue to do so – especially in their dealings with the Palestinian people. For example, until recently, Sharon was seen in Israel as the settlers' best friend, because he had encouraged new settlements; but on the other hand, Shimon Peres, the so-called "dove" presided over the beginning of the settlement policy. During Peres' term as defense minister, the first Jewish settlement was established on the West Bank.

Commentators have noted the similarities between Sharon and Menachem Begin, another right-wing politician who, in 1978, pulled the Israeli army out of the Sinai – an area Israel had occupied since 1967 and where Jewish settlements had been encouraged by the government. But there are also important differences, not even counting the fact that the Sinai is a desert while the Gaza Strip is densely populated. Begin's decision to withdraw from the Sinai came after an agreement had been signed with the Egyptian government; by contrast, Sharon carried out no talks with the Palestinian authority. His planned pullout from the Gaza Strip was a unilateral decision, precluding any talks which might include questions other than the Gaza Strip.

This is precisely what was meant by Dov Weisglass, one of Sharon's main aides, when he declared: "The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda." Weisglass concluded: "The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians."

In any case, Sharon's and Begin's policies were both based on a refusal to withdraw from the West Bank. In 1978, Begin declared: "There will be no other army but the Israeli army west of the Jordan. [...] No state will ever be created west of the Jordan River." Sharon sang the same song when he presented his plan for evacuating the Gaza Strip, stressing the fact that Israel's pullout was going to "reinforce Israeli control over other territories." In order to make things even clearer, the preamble of the disengagement plan states: "There will be no Jewish people in the Gaza Strip. However, it is obvious that the areas of Judea and Samaria [official Israeli names for the West Bank] will remain integral parts of the state of Israel." In other words, the Israeli government will get rid of a handful of settlements which were difficult and costly to defend anyway, evacuating no more than 8,000 people (7,000 from the Gaza Strip and 1,000 from the West Bank), allowing it to strengthen the Israeli presence in and around most of the West Bank settlements. Sharon has clearly confirmed his intention to perpetuate the Israeli occupation and colonization of the West Bank. In other words, he guarantees that the endless war between both populations will continue.

An Open-Air Prison

The Gaza Strip is the smaller of the two Palestinian territories occupied by Israel. About 140 square miles in area, it is home to 1.3 million Palestinians – and a little more than 7,000 Israeli settlers.

During the British mandate, this area was an integral part of Palestine. In 1949, it passed under Egyptian control, but was not annexed. In 1956, after the Franco-British Suez expedition, the Gaza Strip was briefly occupied by Israel – and given back to Egypt a few months later. It was only in 1967, in the wake of the Six-Day War, that Israel re-occupied Gaza. In 1978, when Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Agreements, the question of Gaza Strip's autonomy was vaguely mentioned – and immediately forgotten. The Gaza Strip, far from becoming autonomous, witnessed the development of Israeli settlements which soon covered a third of its territory. Today, a few thousand settlers live on 45 square miles while over a million Palestinians are crammed into less than 100 square miles.

The first Intifada was launched in Gaza in December 1987. Six years later, the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), gave birth to the Palestinian Authority, which was installed in July 1994 and was supposed to "control" more than 70% of the Gaza Strip. The second Intifada began in September 2000, in the West Bank, and quickly spread to the Gaza Strip. Many Palestinians were killed in Israeli retaliation attacks, which also caused a lot of destruction. In Gaza, the Israeli army was ruthless. It still is. There are new casualties all the time, the town's port and airport (financed by the European Union) have been destroyed, villages have been razed to the ground, hundreds of houses have been bulldozed and the population is under the permanent threat of Israeli attacks or bombings.

According to observers, the protection of each Israeli settler living in the Gaza Strip requires three to four soldiers. This aberration explains why there has been a near permanent discussion about pulling out of the Gaza Strip in right-wing as well as left-wing government circles.

If and when they withdraw, Israeli soldiers will leave behind a field of ruins. But their departure is not expected before the end of 2005 – at best. Disengagement is apparently planned to go through different phases. First, three small settlements that are very difficult to defend will be evacuated. Then, two bigger chunks will be dealt with, in the north and south of the Gaza Strip. The adoption of the plan is not in itself a guarantee of its full implementation, since it specifically states that, at each phase, measures necessitated by the evacuation process will have to be taken by the government. In principle, settlers' houses are supposed to be destroyed; only schools and other public buildings will escape destruction and be handed over to the Palestinians.

Now, what will happen once the settlements have all been evacuated – if they ever are? Sharon's plan says that the army "will be redeployed outside [the area], but will remain in the border zone between the Gaza Strip and Egypt." For the past two years, the Israeli army has flattened a lot of houses there, in an effort to transform the zone into a no man's land fit only for military maneuvers. In other words, after its so-called pullout, the army will continue to control the land borders, the coastline and the air space of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians will continue to be totally dependant on Israel for their relations with the rest of the world. Israel's army also reserves the right to launch retaliations against any Palestinians who might be tempted to rebel against their jailers.

As PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas put it in a recent declaration, the Israeli government is merely offering "a prison surrounded by a buffer zone, with the prison key in their hands and no access to the West Bank."

A Catastrophic Situation

Whether under left-wing or right-wing Israeli governments, the conditions for all Palestinians have been continuously deteriorating. This was shown recently by a United Nations report on the food situation in the Occupied Territories. (Israeli authorities were so upset with the report's contents that they asked the U.N. to recall its author.)

The Palestinian Territories, and notably the Gaza Strip, suffer from severe malnutrition. The figures gathered by U.N. researchers are particularly telling. More than 22% of children under five are malnourished, three times the number in 2000. Some 15.6% of children under five suffer from severe anemia – which has negative, irreversible consequences on a child's future development. Food consumption per inhabitant has dropped by 30%. One Palestinian household out of two cannot afford more than one meal a day. Almost 60% of the Palestinian population are poverty-stricken (75% in the Gaza Strip and 50% in the West Bank). The only source of food for half the population is international aid... when it is available. The report contains other statistics showing that living conditions for millions of men and women are in a permanently worsening spiral.

Today's Palestinian economy has much in common with those of poor sub-Saharan countries, whereas there used to be a sizeable middle-income layer of the population. The World Bank blames the food crisis on Israeli restrictions on the movements of the Palestinians, and blockades which kill economic activity. But to these factors must be added the stealing of Palestinian land to expand Israeli settlements; the construction of roads that Arabs are forbidden to use; the building of walls; the destruction of numerous private properties, collective facilities and means of production – all in the name of individual or, more often, collective "punishment."

Stealing and Destroying Palestinian Land

The seizure and theft of land, as well as the destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure and other resources have reached an unprecedented level. Thousands of acres of land have been stolen from them, usually through an expropriation order that comes from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. It declares the coveted land is now "state-owned" or needed "for military purposes" or "in the public's interest." The army then steps in and empties a street, a neighborhood or a zone of its inhabitants. The expelled Palestinians are informed that they may get compensation, but only those who can afford a lawyer have a chance of obtaining any. In contrast, the Israeli settlers who might have to leave the Gaza Strip will be treated differently. Their compensation will be fixed long before the evacuation, probably for substantial amounts.

The so-called "security fence," sometimes more appropriately called "the apartheid wall," will totally separate Israel from the Occupied Territories when completed. It is being built on Palestinian territory and amounts to the annexation by Israel of 15% of the West Bank. This particular theft has been given some media coverage, but many others go unnoticed. In fact, land stealing is a permanent feature of the situation.

The Palestinians continue to be dispossessed of huge stretches of their land, especially agricultural land, seized to build new settlements, industrial estates, military compounds or roads used exclusively by Israeli settlers. The Palestinians are consequently confined to more and more isolated cities and villages, on shrinking territories.

When Palestinian land is not confiscated, it is sometimes destroyed in the name of "collective punishment." According to the Palestinian National Information Center, between September 2000 and the end of May 2003, the Israeli army uprooted and destroyed around two and a half million olive trees, one million citrus and other fruit trees and 296 hothouses producing vegetables for the local market. It also demolished 2,000 roads, paved and unpaved, while obstructing others with concrete blocks and earthworks.

In this relatively dry area, the distribution and consequently the consumption of water is very inequitable. There are three groundwater layers in the soil of the Occupied Territories, but most of that water ends up in Israel and its settlements. Water consumption figures show that in 2002, a Palestinian received only 70 liters of water a day to meet all his needs, while in Israel or in the settlements, each person consumed 350 liters. And these are averages, which means that many Palestinians suffer from a far worse water shortage. This unfair situation is aggravated by all the destruction, which has made access to water even more difficult for Palestinians. Between June 2002 and February 2003, the Palestinian Hydrological Group recorded the destruction or severe damaging of 600 wells, 42 tank trucks and 9,218 rooftop water tanks in the Occupied Territories.

Blockades and Other Movement Restrictions

The movement restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people also make life unbearably painful. The loss of their freedom of movement entails the loss of many other rights, such as the right to food, to education, to health care, etc.

The economy has almost entirely collapsed. Every day, many Palestinians are simply unable to go to work, to buy something to eat or to get medical treatment. Not only do the blockades cut off the Occupied Territories from Israel, they make it difficult for the Palestinians to travel inside the Territories and to go from one zone to another. Practically all the roads connecting Palestinian villages and towns are closed, either by checkpoints or by concrete blocks, walls or deep trenches. A trip that used to take a few minutes now takes hours – or is sometimes just impossible.

Palestinians who travel, including between towns inside the West Bank, must have a special permit. The permit is often refused without explanation. As for traveling between the Territories and Israel, it has become almost impossible for Palestinians. The work and traveling permits have been suppressed and over 120,000 Palestinians who used to work in Israel have lost their jobs. The only places where they can still get jobs are the industrial estate of Erez in the north of the Gaza Strip or the wall construction sites!

The movement of goods is also controlled through the "back-to-back" system which consists of unloading the goods on one side of a checkpoint before putting them on a different truck on the other side. Given the number of checkpoints in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the system not only increases the cost of transportation; it also slows it down to the point that foodstuffs frequently rot in the sun before they can be handled.

Water shortages have become a major concern. Tank trucks transporting water are often blocked by the army and whole areas are deprived of water for days on end. According to a U.N. report, the village of Beit Furik, near Nablus, had no water for nine consecutive days because tank trucks were not allowed to go through. The situation is particularly serious in 280 rural areas of the Territories that have no well or connection to a drinking water system, and thus depend entirely on truck-delivered water. Another result of the road blockades was the 80% increase in the price of delivered water since September 2000, due to the increase in transportation costs.

According to Avraham Burg, "It is very difficult to imagine the humiliation experienced by an Arab who is despised and must crawl for hours on the blocked and broken up roads he is forced to take." The former president of the Knesset ought to know what he is talking about.

One Wall, Many Walls

Sharon's name will remain linked to the Separation Wall, though the original idea was not his. The first discussions concerning the building of a wall were held by Yehud Barak's Labor government. At the time, parts of the right and far-right, especially the religious parties, were hesitant or even hostile to the idea of a wall dividing Eretz Israel (Hebrew for "the land of Israel"). They felt that formal separation would confirm the abandonment of Biblical land to the Palestinians.

The wall is a huge electrified barrier under permanent surveillance. It is a big metal fence in some places, and in others, a concrete wall over 25 feet high. Its cross-section includes a series of obstacles: a row of barbed wire, the wall or barrier itself, a ditch, another row of barbed wire and, on the Israeli side, a road that is patrolled by the army. Going sometimes deeply into West Bank territory, the wall in fact annexes land which belongs to Palestinian people, some of whom are cut off from their fields or wells or even totally imprisoned by the wall.

According to an Israeli human rights organization, the wall will separate 72,000 people living in 36 villages from their land, and 128,000 people living in 90 villages will be almost totally imprisoned by the wall. The wall will also annex to Israel the greater part of the western groundwater layer, which supplies half the West Bank's water needs. Finally, because of the wall, 97 medical care centers and 11 hospitals will be separated from the people they serve today.

The wall is planned to be built not only on the western side of the West Bank, but also in the east, near the Jordanian border. The U.N. report mentioned above confirms that a second wall-building phase has already been planned. Plans include an extension of the wall through the center of the West Bank, allowing Israel to annex the Jordan Valley. These plans are discussed openly and publicly in Israel. In March 2003, an article published by the right-wing Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot stated: "This wall will take away almost half the area remaining for the future Palestinian state [...] The Palestinians will be locked in a sort of elongated sleeve, and it is clear that in such a cage spirits will definitely ferment even more than at present."

Upon completion, the wall, which is expected to be 440 miles long (so far, 125 miles have been built) will represent Israel's determination to isolate the Palestinian population inside genuine Middle-Eastern "Bantustans." ("Bantustan" was the term used for the isolated and impoverished regions in which the apartheid regime of South Africa forced much of the black population to live.) Some believe that five separate Bantustans could ultimately be set up, while others think there should be only three.

Meanwhile, the map of the West Bank is covered with long streaks representing the wall and other barriers. There are walls protecting the Israeli settlements and the "forbidden-road" system used by the settlers. There are walls isolating Palestinian villages and towns. Inside Palestinian towns, there are more walls, the purpose of which is not always clear, as in Abu Dis and Sawahreh. For example, the town of Abu Dis has been cut in two by a wall that has no opening. But the Israeli police allows people to climb over the wall – that is, those who are fit to do so. Here is a town where people have to scale a wall to go to school, to the hospital, to work or do their shopping!

A Paradise for the Bosses

Under the Oslo Accords, a series of industrial parks were to be built along the Green Line. This plan was never really implemented. Today, there are only two active industrial parks; the older one, in Erez, employs 4,500 Palestinian workers and the more recent one near Tulkarem, in the West Bank, 500.

The building of the wall has put industrial parks back on the agenda and plans for new ones are openly discussed. Ehud Olmert, Israel's Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, strongly supports the idea and claims that "industrial parks resolve both the problem of Palestinian unemployment and that of the high cost of labor for Israeli businesses, which are currently relocating to the Far East." To better convince his audience, a senior official of the same Ministry asked: "Why do you think the Erez industrial estate is still attractive for 200 factories that have stayed put despite all the terrorist attacks? The most important motive is the low wages paid to the workers: around 1,500 shekels ($332) as against 4,500 shekels ($995), which is the minimum wage in Israel. What is more, the employers don't have to abide by Israeli labor laws."

Some Israeli bosses invest in the vicinity of the wall – to take advantage of the lack of environmental controls. Geshuri, for example, a company that specializes in pesticides and other chemical products, was located until 1985 near Netanya in Israel. Following the inhabitants' repeated protests, the plant was transferred near Tulkarem, a big city in the West Bank, where it still is, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority has more than once asked for it to be moved. Many Israeli companies could be tempted to imitate Geshuri and move some of their plants into areas where Israeli environmental laws do not apply.

Israeli companies are not the only ones to be interested in industrial parks in the areas where Palestinians live. Palestinian bosses have also lined up to buy land on which they intend to build industrial parks, knowing that security will be under Israeli control. Their projects are not unanimously approved of on the Palestinian side. Some openly oppose them saying: "Similar projects did not work in the period that followed the Oslo Accords and they won't work any better today. They're just a way of covering up the ghastly reality. These Palestinian businessmen don't care about the unemployment of their fellow citizens; they care about their own idleness. This plan is understandable only from the Israeli viewpoint: it will consolidate the apartheid and turn Palestinians into a people of slaves."

"A People Oppressing Another People Cannot Be Free"

What Sharon's policy really means is consolidating apartheid and enslavement. It is perhaps more brutally imposed than the policies carried out for decades by his right-wing and left-wing predecessors, but it is basically the same. The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the dismantling of Jewish settlements are part and parcel of Sharon's policy. In no way are they gestures of good will toward the Palestinians, nor do they indicate that the Israeli government has acknowledged Palestinian national demands. Nothing in the adopted pullout plan says anything of the sort. On the contrary.

In these conditions, pretending that Sharon's plan shows even the smallest desire for peace is a fraud. This fraud was warmly perpetuated by Western governments, but also by the Israeli opposition, who, in the end, recognized themselves in Sharon's policy, including its most negative consequences for Palestinians. The fact that today, the most vociferous and self-styled "radical" opponents to this policy in Israel are to be found in the far right, especially among religious extremists, is not good news for the future and for the people of this country.

However, there are also men and women in Israel who understand the humiliation felt by Palestinians, are sensitive to their hardships and dare voice publicly their disapproval of the policies carried out so far. They may be only a small minority today, but they are the only ones who resist the strong pressures exerted on all Israelis. Their existence and their courage were revealed when youth called up for military service as well as some reservists refused to serve in the Occupied Territories. These men and women are not numerous, but they are the only ones who represent any hope for the future, especially if some of them take up the fight for the emancipation of all Israeli and Palestinian workers.

This is not inconceivable since the Israeli people are themselves victims of the situation. They are exposed to unemployment, price increases and austerity budgets. For 2005, the government has planned huge cuts in the social programs and massive lay-offs in public services, despite financial aid from the United States – without which the present Israeli policy could not be carried out. For example, the annual budget for the settlements swallows up 535 million dollars, that is, half the U.S. civilian aid. But more importantly, Israeli people themselves suffer more directly. For decades, they have been forced to live with a finger on the trigger and have been killed by the thousands in the name of colonial policies.

If the course of things is not reversed, the anti-Palestinian repression will reinforce the army's role and the weight given to its most reactionary elements. Religion's influence is growing inside the army. Some units are entirely formed on this specific basis and are given a large autonomy that allows yeshiva (religious school) students to serve in the army without interrupting their studies. Theoretically, these students are supervised by army officers, but practically speaking, a lot – if not most – of the time, they are under the rabbis' supervision. And most of them would probably obey their rabbis and not their officers, should army orders contradict the directives of their religious leaders. This is no doubt why the Israeli press believes that part of the army could refuse the orders to evacuate the Gaza Strip settlers.

Israel, which has always been presented as the Middle East's only democracy, never was a democracy for the Palestinians or the Israeli Arabs. This lack of democracy is not just a fact, it is written in the law. Paradoxically, there is no Israeli nationality. Israeli citizens have one of many possible nationalities: they can be Jewish, Druse, Circassian, Bedouin or Arab. This entails other differences: for instance, Jewish nationals enjoy more rights than other nationalities, especially the Arabs. Israeli Arabs are "legally" second-class citizens who suffer many discriminations sanctioned by law. The 1950 Law of Return, based on the rabbinic definition of a Jew, gives Jewish people the full right to emigrate to Israel wherever they come from. The 1950 Abandoned Property Law states that the land left behind by Arabs – who were forced to flee during the 1948-1949 war – has become the property of the state of Israel. There are laws forbidding Arabs who refuse to recognize the Jewish character of the Israeli state the right to take part in elections, etc. Some 17 laws include some sort of discrimination against Israeli Arabs.

Under such conditions, it's possible that the limited democratic features of Israel, which today are enjoyed mostly by Jewish people, will not survive, being replaced by a military power or by an increasingly theocratic power – or both. The whole Israeli population will remain under that threat as long as Palestinian people continue to be oppressed, as long as the countries' two peoples are not considered equal, which implies recognition of the Palestinians' right to national existence and the possibility of equal development for both peoples.