Efforts to monitor anti-Semitism are not matched by similar steps to confront racism against Arabs, writes Emad Gad
Both the state of Israel and Zionist organisations closely follow everything they consider anti- Semitism, an activity which has picked up added steam after the US Congress issued a law establishing an office in the Department of State to monitor anti-Semitism around the world. The office issued its first report on anti-Semitism this year, which included a detailed list of incidents around the world, although many of them are less anti-Semitic incidents than criminal or individual cases. Yet even as American efforts to monitor anti-Semitism increase, there have been no similar steps taken to confront racism against Arabs. Indeed, Zionist anti- racism organisations make no mention of racist policies and statements made by Israeli figures. This garners reaction from the Arab world, leading many to wonder about the double-standard and its consequences.
Any attempts to combat racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism must be comprehensive, meaning they must also address Israeli racism against Arabs, who are Semites as well. Tolerance of anti-Arab acts and statements issuing from Israel will only generate feelings of hostility among Arab societies towards current efforts aimed at combating discrimination and racism in general. Thus any successful plan to combat racism as a general phenomenon must be based on comprehensive international conventions.
Discussing Israeli concerns to monitor anti- Semitism, Roi Nehemias wrote an article in Yediot Aharonot on 24 February about a visit by Israeli Deputy Education Minister MK Michael Melchior to Qatar. Melchior went to complain about an anti- Semitic series being broadcast on Qatari television. Melchior said he complained to the general director of the Qatari Foreign Ministry, Jaber Youssef Yassin Al-Taji, asking him to personally investigate the issue. Melchior added that Al-Taji, a member of the Qatari royal family, was angry to learn of the series and strongly condemned such programmes. "After reading the news story you published on the website, I raised the issue during my meeting with Al-Taji," Melchior said. "He boasted of the freedom of expression in the country, seen in the criticism of Al- Jazeera, but he strongly condemned the series and promised to address the problem."
Melchior visited Qatar on the invitation of the wife of the prince, who heads the Qatari Fund for Education, Science and Social Development. This was the first visit by an Israeli official to the country since the economic conference held in Doha in 1997.
In contrast to the Qatari response, there was no Israeli response to racist, anti-Arab statements made by an Israeli university professor in a lecture at Haifa University. The professor, David Bukay, made several racist comments about Arabs, enraging Arab students in the class. As a result, an Arab student who expressed his disapproval of these statements was harassed. Moran Zelikovich wrote a story about the incident on 24 February in Yediot Aharonot entitled "Arab university students against racist lecturer".
"Dozens of Arab students demonstrated in front of Haifa University today protesting against a decision to summon their colleague before the disciplinary committee because he asked a lecturer to refrain from using anti-Arab racist statements and described him as 'a racist Arab'," Zelikovich wrote. "The professor, a university lecturer, said, 'the Arabs are only interested in sex and alcohol. They're fools who have contributed nothing to humanity.' The disciplinary committee will meet today to determine the steps to be taken against the student.
"The incident occurred about a month ago. The student alleges that during a lecture to students with the Political Science Department, David Bukay made anti-Arab, racist comments. In addition to saying, 'the Arabs are only interested in sex and alcohol,' he added that all wanted men should be rounded up, have guns put to their heads, and filmed, to show their foolishness.
"A student in the department, Fadi Abu Younis, then engaged in an argument with the lecturer. As a result, he was summoned before the disciplinary committee on charges of disrupting the lecture, insulting the lecturer, and illegally organising against the lecturer. Arab students say they support their colleague and decided to stage a protest against what they say is gagging of free speech and the political, racist harassment of Arab students at Haifa University.
"After the incident, Abu Younis said he was unable to remain calm when faced with such racist statements. 'The lecturer treated the Arabs like idiots,' he says. 'He repeated that they have contributed nothing to humanity. He wanted us to understand that Arabs are natural-born criminals and that there can be no peace with the Arabs because they're liars. At that point, I said sarcastically that I agree that the Arabs are racist, since the lecturer is of Syrian origin, and I called him a racist Arab.'
"Abu Younis adds, 'this is a person who makes generalisations about an entire people, about the Arab world and the Arab minority in this country. This is dangerous. There have been other cases in which lecturers have made racist statements and no one has complained.'
"Haifa University commented on the incident as follows: 'Haifa University has a special body for relations between Arabs and Jews. The university believes in encouraging tolerance, mutual understanding, and co-existence based on fundamental values as part of its official and academic mission. Racist statements are entirely unacceptable at the university. Thus, the university dean examined the matter and met Fadi Abu Younis and several other students. He concluded that the lecturer, David Bukay, did not make the statements attributed to him, and that the class discussion involved legitimate statements on historically and politically relevant topics.'"
Thus was a decision made to quickly close the case in such a way as to deepen Arab resentment at the display of racism while any racist statement made by Arabs is quickly denounced as anti-Semitism. This can only have serious, unproductive consequences in the long term.
To read more about anti-Arab racism in Israel, please visit the website of Arabs Against Discrimination www.aad-online.org.
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