Israel and Racism

John Glaser, August 07, 2013

Mayor Shimon Gapso - Nazareth Illit
Mayor Shimon Gapso – Nazareth Illit

Shimon Gapso, an Israeli mayor of Upper Nazareth, recently said (paywall)  that Upper Nazareth is a Jewish city and “will be Jewish forever.” In response to this, and in consideration of anti-Arab statements Gapso allegedly made in the past (and, say, his opposition to the establishment of Arab schools in his city), Israeli civil rights groups called on the attorney general to investigate Gapso’s racism.

Now, he has written an Op-Ed  in the Haaretz newspaper to answer his detractors. To prove he’s not a racist, he reminds us that the Bible is racist.

As The Times of Israel reported in February, Alon Liel, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general and ex-ambassador to South Africa, believes Israel currently qualifies as an apartheid state.
“In the situation that exists today, until a Palestinian state is created, we are actually one state. This joint state — in the hope that the status quo is temporary — is an apartheid state,” Liel said recently in Jerusalem.

This is not a fringe view. An Israeli survey conducted last year found  that most Israeli Jews support the establishment of an apartheid regime in Israel if it formally annexes the West Bank and a majority explicitly favor systematic discrimination  against Israeli Arabs.

The newly-elected Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, David Lau, was seen on a video telling an audience of yeshiva boys that they shouldn’t watch Euroleague basketball games in public; it was bad for their image. “What difference does it make,” Lau said, “if the kushim who get paid in Tel Aviv beat the kushim who get paid in Greece?” Kushim, especially when used in a dismissive context like Lau did, is a well-understood derogatory term for blacks.


Likud Knesset member Miri Regev is doing fine after having called Sudanese refugees “a cancer on our body”  to a crowd of hopped-up south Tel Avivians in May of last year, shortly before the crowd went on a window-smashing mini-pogrom against the Africans in the neighborhood.

“The mocha-colored guys are smarter, but the dark colored ones are just guys off the street,” Gershon said. “They’re dumb like slaves, they do whatever you tell them.”

[While the word kush has biblical origins (for example, the first verse of the Book of Esther refers to lands of Kush), kushim has been used in Israel as a derogatory term for black people for decades, almost as bad as the N-word (though lacking that word’s deep, painful history). ]

Pini Gershon was Maccabi Tel Aviv’s coach when he was caught on camera in 2000 riffing about how he could tell the difference between the intelligence levels of his players based on their respective skin colors. “The mocha-colored guys are smarter, but the dark colored ones are just guys off the street,” he said. “They’re dumb like slaves, they do whatever you tell them.”

Nor was there any blowback whatsoever after Bibi Netanyahu bragged in 2007 that the cuts he’d made to child subsidies had brought a “positive” result, which he identified as “the demographic effect on the non-Jewish public, where there was a dramatic drop in the birth rate.” Imagine the scandal if an American political leader boasted publicly that his cuts to child subsidies had reduced the “non-Christian” birth rate. Imagine the ADL’s reaction. But in Israel, in 2007, from the mouth of a once-and-future prime minister – nothing.

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