Religion Magazine

Racism in Israel: a Dream Deferred

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
A Guest Post by Dr. Harold Goldmeier
Weeks are slipping by since The Honorable Ami Palmor, Director General of the Justice Ministry, presented a 170 pages damning task force Report to Prime Minister Netanyahu reflecting the “grim reality” of racism facing “our dark-skinned citizens.” The Report encapsulates irrefutable evidence of pervasive institutional racism and insidious daily racial discrimination against people of color. The inadequate, and in some cases dismissive responses by government officials and the media to The Palmor Report, only serve to enhance and glorify charges by BDS advocates and Israel’s other enemies she is a racist apartheid state.
Palmor describes the investigation as jam packed with “heart wrenching and hair-raising stories.”  Now, the question is, will anything come of the 53 recommendations made by the multi-ministerial task force?
Upon receiving the Palmor Report, Netanyahu reassured Palmor and the Ethiopian public that his administration is moving ahead with “countermeasures against racism,” since the May 2015 Ethiopian demonstrations and protests brought the grim reality to light. The task force takes no account of what the Prime Minister is talking about and the Prime Minister has yet to elaborate.
I was active in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Like Yogi Berra said, this is “déjà vu all over again.” Whereas President Johnson introduced and signed into law landmark Civil Rights legislation, there has been nary a peep about positive plans to implement the recommendations from Israel’s leaders.
·   The media are giving the Palmor Report short shrift.  None have yet to publish at least the Executive Summary and Recommendations. ·   I cannot find one quotable Minister including those at the helm of Justice announcing actions for implementing pertinent recommendations. ·   Netanyahu has yet to reveal how his government is “uprooting this phenomenon from our lives.” ·   No leader has been given power and authority to get things moving.
Government hags promote a puerile hasbara trying to convince the world Israel is not an apartheid nation, and the State does not deserve to be a pariah in the international community.  But the Palmor Report and Ethiopian narratives give gravitas to charges about racism and racist behavior endemic in Israel, and belies the jingoism of white politicians.
Racist violent behavior by police and security personnel is a focal point of the Palmor Report (and numerous news articles). The Report went public July 31, 2016. By August 2nd, the police and Security Minister superciliously and outright rejected the 15 recommendations, nearly 30 percent of the total, directed at the police. Netanyahu ordered them to return in a week with a better response. Five days later, the police agreed to adopt nine recommendations, reject three others, and discuss recommendations on Taser usage, recording interrogations of minors, and disciplinary measures against racist police officers. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked seems dumbstruck despite evidence racism and brutality against people of color is rife throughout the police and security network.   
Other government employees seem no more sympathetic to the Report findings and recommendations. ·   August 3rd, Arutz Sheva reported Sar-Shalom Gerbi, Chairman of National Service, told Army Radio “there are indeed institutions that refuse to accept national service volunteers of Ethiopian origin.” Gerbi refused to name the institutions, and revealed his agency takes no actions against racist behavior; thus, his office enables and collaborates in perpetuating institutional racism.
·   A week later, LM Manpower placed a help wanted ad with a threat that the employer “does not want Ethiopians,” so better not apply.
·   A Weizmann Institute professor characterized the police roughing-up a black Tel Aviv restaurant owner for no apparent reason, as regularly violent and abusing their power against Israeli’s “who don’t fit the typical Israeli mold (white).”
·   Just prior to release of the Palmor Report, the Beersheba Regional Labor Council ruled black Ethiopian rabbis and religious leaders are purposely paid less by the state and white controlled rabbinical councils for equal work. 
Inferences of zero tolerance for racism mean nothing unless backed-up by deeds.   It is time for the Prime Minister to ·   Fire government personnel who discriminate and exhibit racist behavior if the PM is committed to not “(tolerating) racism in our state.” ·   Clean house in the police and security agencies, and instill a mission of sensitivity and tolerance for racial diversity. ·    Look to adapt and pass landmark legislation like the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent legislation that initiated a sea change against all forms of discrimination with severe penalties. ·   Designate within the office of the Attorney General a proactive Equal Opportunity staff that will seek out and receive complaints of racial discrimination and have the power to recommend legal action and initiate punishments to individuals engaging in racist behavior. ·   Use the Palmor Report as a game-changer inspiring equal opportunity and a tool for eradicating racism against all people of color.
Poet and songwriter Shel Silverstein’s words best describe the value of the Palmor Report: “There’s a light on in the attic.  Though the house is dark and shuttered, I can see a flickern’ flutter, And I know what it’s about. There’s a light on in the attic. I can see it from the outside, And I know you’re on the inside…lookn’ out.”
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