The US/UK complicity in the ongoing criminal war in Yemen

The ongoing war on Yemen (since March 2015), led by the forces of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been waged with the active support of the United States and the United Kingdom. The aerial and ground assault on Yemen has resulted in a human-induced catastrophe, causing famine, malnutrition and horrendous loss of life, especially among Yemeni children.

Over the month of August, Saudi air strikes have killed Yemeni schoolchildren, and all the consequent trauma that these attacks engendered will take years for the survivors and their families to overcome.

Professor Moustafa Bayoumi, from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, rightly points out that it is US bombs that are killing Yemeni children, and the corporate media maintains a deafening silence on the issue. US defence contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, have built and sold the bombs and weapons used by the Saudi-UAE forces to kill Yemenis.

This war has gone largely under-reported, and so is shrouded in a number of myths. Let us address these misconceptions, and in this way, untangle the complexities of the Saudi-UAE war on Yemen. The New York Times, in an article in June this year, examined the humanitarian catastrophe that is enveloping the people of Yemen. This photo-essay is very moving and heart-rending, and contains a helpful map of Yemen delineating the territories controlled by the various parties.

However, this NY Times digital essay recycles a number of convenient misconceptions that whitewash the active complicity of the United States (and Britain) in this conflict. These myths are regurgitated by the corporate media when they (rarely) discuss the Saudi-UAE war on Yemen. What are these myths?

Firstly, that the Houthis are a Yemeni version of Hezbollah……..not the case. Secondly, that the primary reason for this conflict is the Shia-Sunni split in Islam, making the Yemeni war another stage in a prolonged religious dispute. Thirdly, the conflict in Yemen can be understood as a proxy war between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Let’s untangle these falsehoods, and relate the relevant historical and political background.

The Yemen war is political in origin, not religious

Firstly, let us dispense with the often-recycled myth that this war is a proxy one between Iran and Saudi Arabia – this is pure nonsense. Professor Sheila Carapico, an expert in political science at the University of Richmond, explains that misrepresenting the conflict in Yemen as a proxy war is not only a product of outdated Cold-War thinking, but also diverts responsibility for the criminal nature of the Saudi-UAE war onto multiple parties. The Saudi-Emirati assault on Yemen is an unprovoked act of aggression, and the New York Times published an editorial slamming the Saudi and Emirati forces for committing war crimes.

The Houthis, or more correctly, the Ansar Allah (Helpers of God) are a grassroots political-religious militia that has waged successive rebellions and uprisings against the corruption and injustice of the Yemeni government, formerly led by the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Between 2004 and 2010, the Houthis staged a series of armed risings against the government, maintaining that Saudi influence was increasing in the country.

In the 1990s, the Saudis began to make investments and inroads into the newly reunified nation of Yemen. (I realise that is a lot of background to take in, but please bear with me). The Houthis viewed this as an attempt by the Saudi regime to exert undue influence in the economic and political life of the country. Yemen reunited in 1990, under the President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who maintained his grip on power for 33 years – first as the President of the North Yemen and from 1990 the leader of the reunified nation.

The Houthis are Shia, but they are more correctly Zaydi Shia – which is a entirely different denomination to the main Shia religion practiced in Iran. President Saleh was himself a Zaydi Shia. The main body of Shia belong to the Twelver Shia denomination – and this branch rules in Iran.

The Zaydi Shia, are a distinctive sect with their own theological and religious beliefs. For a Zaydi Shia to convert to the main Twelver Shia in Iran would have the same impact as say a Russian Orthodox Christian converting to Catholicism. The weight of historical schism and the threat of family ostracism would bear heavily on such a move.

The Houthis have their own religious and political genealogy, distinctive from Iran, and the Hezbollah militia. While Iran has expressed support for the Houthis, their assistance has been limited and sporadic. This stands in stark contrast to the unstinting support for the Saudi-Emirati offensive supplied by the United States and Britain.

The Saudi-Emirati goal in Yemen

The Saudis and Emiratis, by invading Yemen, want to prop up their preferred political candidate, the internationally recognised government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. The former Vice President until 2012, Hadi was Saleh’s deputy until the latter was removed in the wake of the 2011 Yemeni protests.

Saudi Arabia, ever watchful of the political changes taking places in the nation to their south, organised a transition process which saw Saleh removed. The Houthis claimed that this change was simply cosmetic, and did nothing to resolve the longstanding issues of poverty, corruption and unemployment plaguing the country.

In the 2000s, former President Saleh tried to suppress the Houthi rebel militia with the backing of Saudi Arabia. The latter failed numerous times – and the Houthis acquired experience in battle. The Saudis, along with their Emirati counterparts, have a long history of influencing the developments in Yemen, and from the early 1990s invested in that country.

Interestingly, while the Saudis and the UAE have been cooperating militarily in their offensive in Yemen, both have been pursuing rival economic objectives. The Emiratis have also invested heavily in Yemen, in particular in Southern Yemen – that portion of the country controlled by the socialist-oriented Southern Transitional Council. South Yemen was until 1990 a Marxist republic until its reunification with the north. The Emiratis have made a strong move into southern Yemen, hoping to turn Yemen into an economic reservoir of their own.

The Emiratis have largely taken the lead on the ground in Yemen, and have employed foreign mercenaries as well to beef up their military commitment. Interestingly, the chief of the Emirati Presidential Guard, an elite fighting force, is an Australian, Mike Hindmarsh. The Emiratis have also grabbed the island of Socotra, an ecologically-rich Unesco-protected island off the coast of Yemen.

A subset of the war on terror – now allying with Al Qaeda

The Yemeni government of Ali Abdullah Saleh joined with the United States, from 2001, the global war on terror. Saleh allowed the United States to launch drone strikes against purported Al Qaeda targets in the country. The Houthis, an overtly nationalistic militia, strongly opposed the 2003 American invasion of Iraq and Yemen’s approval of that invasion. There are current reports that the Saudi-Emirati forces have been quietly arranging secret deals with Al Qaeda fighters, employing them to join the battle against the nationalist Houthi militia.

As Al Jazeera reported:

In one conflict, the US is working with its Arab allies – particularly the UAE – with the aim of eliminating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). But the larger mission is to win the civil war against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

And in that fight, al-Qaeda fighters are effectively on the same side as the Saudi-led coalition and, by extension, the US.

“Elements of the US military are clearly aware that much of what the US is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP and there is much angst about that,” said Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation.

Shifting and fluid alliances are nothing new in Yemen. Saleh, a wily politician whose career was marked by knowing when to change sides, tacitly supported the 2014-15 Houthi takeover of the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Saleh turned against his former Houthi allies in late 2017, stating his willingness cooperate with Saudi Arabia. That proved to be his last opportunistic betrayal – in December 2017, Saleh was assassinated by the Houthi movement.

The pipeline of arms

The Saudi-Emirati war on Yemen would not be possible without the uninterrupted pipeline of armaments, military, logistical and intelligence support from the United States and Britain. The insatiable drive for corporate profits is resulting in the deaths of Yemeni people, famine and malnutrition in that nation, and ongoing war crimes.

The United States and the UK are not bystanders, but rather active participants in this war.  The carnage in Yemen is not the result of ancient tribal feuds, or historic religious schisms, but the product of current political and economic priorities. It is time to change these priorities to relieve the suffering inflicted by a socioeconomic system that puts corporate profits ahead of people’s lives.


The ‘Irish were slaves’ myth is a toxic falsehood

Liam Hogan, Irish historian and writer who works at the Limerick City Library, has been working feverishly over the past six years to debunk a pernicious falsehood that has been circulating social media – that the Irish were white slaves. He was interviewed by Pacific Standard magazine about his work, and you may read his comments here. Let us  examine this harmful nonsense about how the ‘Irish-were-slaves too’, why it is a dangerous, and why we should exert efforts to combat it. In fact, let’s take the last part first.

If something is patent nonsense, then surely by just ignoring it, it will eventually disappear? Unfortunately, this is not possible in this case. Why? The Southern Poverty Law Centre provides the answer. In an article entitled ‘How the Myth of the “Irish slaves” became a Favorite Meme of Racists Online”, the author of the essay states that:

Propaganda is cheap to produce on the web. And a purposeful lie in an age of “viral content” not only can race around the world in a day but resurface time and time again with surprising resiliency.

The article continues:

Such is the case with the myth of “Irish slaves,” an ahistorical reimagining of real events weaponized by racists and conspiracy theorists before the Web and now reaching vast new audiences online.

It is not entirely surprising that this toxic myth of ‘Irish-were-slaves’ has attracted the support of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Holocaust deniers on the Internet. This claim of Irish-white-slavery has gained prominence since the emergence of anti-racist movements in the United States, such as Black Lives Matter. The purpose of this meme is not to unify, but to divide. This myth serves to derail current conversations about race, racism, ethnicity and slavery.

When African American organisations raise the issues of racism, police brutality, the legacy of slavery, current economic inequalities – there will be an army of online trolls who will divert the conversation into the blind-alley of ‘but the Irish were slaves too, and they got over it.’ You may see an example of such a claim here, in an article written by Liam Hogan. The statement is ‘when was the last time you heard an Irishman bitching about how the world owes them a living? You won’t……The Irish are not pussies looking for free shit.’

In 2015, at a neo-Confederate rally to support the continued flying of the slave-owning flag in Mississippi, one white supremacist demonstrator said that “There were a lot more white Irish slaves then there were blacks. And the Irish slaves were treated a lot worse than the black slaves.”

Indentured servitude versus perpetual racialised chattel slavery

Let us be clear on what we are talking about. This is not a matter of debating semantics. This is not a matter of quibbling over the meaning of words. Granted, academics can spend an excessive amount of time and energy debating the meanings of this or that word. However, we can examine the historical record and find the falsity of the ‘Irish were slaves too’ meme.

In daily conversation, we use the word ‘slavery’ to mean any kind of forced labour. There have been many types of slavery throughout history. Various empires – the Assyrians, Romans, Greeks – used slaves in their economies. The British, in their conquest of Ireland, were brutal, vicious and unrelenting. The Irish, mainly Catholics, were shipped off to Barbados, Montserrat and other British colonies as indentured servants.

Here is where the duplicity and deceitfulness of the ‘Irish were slaves’ myth becomes apparent. There are significant, qualitative and vast differences between indentured servitude and racialised hereditary slavery. The myth of the ‘Irish were slaves’ deliberately conflates the two different forms of forced labour. Indentured servitude involved a fixed contract, usually between four-to-seven years, and the servant was recognised as a legal person with rights. It was a harsh existence, brutal and exploitative to be sure – but it was a different form of forced labour than slavery.

The transatlantic slave trade was racialised; black Africans were kidnapped as property. They had no rights whatsoever – they were slaves in perpetuity. Their slavery was hereditary – their children were slaves, their grandchildren were slaves. Families could be sold off, and children separated from their parents. The African slaves were treated as livestock. The legal architecture of the British colonies, such as in the North Americas and the Caribbean, relegated the black African to that of a sub-human, soulless, beast of burden who could be worked to death.

Irish in Barbados and Montserrat

The deliberate conflation of indentured servitude and the transatlantic racialised slave trade does not have any foundation in the historical record. The British, when first settling the Leeward islands, such as Barbados and Montserrat, established a legal system for distinguishing the rights and responsibilities of indentured servants as opposed to African slaves. The indentured Irish included prisoners of war, the poor, vagrants, any Irish Catholic deemed undesirable – and they were transported to a harsh existence in the Caribbean, working in the sugar plantations. Many died during their term of service.

The transatlantic slave trade however, involved the transport of millions of black Africans, who were worked to death in the sugar and tobacco fields. The island of Montserrat became the one place in the British empire where the Irish were the majority of white settlers – and they participated in the slave trade. The Irish became slave owners and slave traders. They participated in the economic ascendancy of the white planter class in the Caribbean. It was not only in the Caribbean where the Irish were slave owners and slave traders.

In the slave-owning states of the United States, Irish planters had established themselves and gained their wealth through the slave trade. Since the beginnings of the transatlantic racialised slave traders, Irish entrepreneurs established themselves in Liverpool, Bristol and other cities to take advantage of this slave trade. Former Irish indentured servants, having survived their servitude, took up the slave trade and acquired their own wealth after their servitude contract expired.

Bonded servitude was a form of labour used by the British empire to get rid of persons that were deemed undesirable by the English ruling class. Irish political prisoners, among others, ended up transported to Barbados, Montserrat – and eventually the British penal colonies in Australia. None of this is to deny the brutal reality suffered by the Irish indentured servants. Our purpose is not to diminish the suffering of those transported to the colonies.

This system of indentured servitude was a world apart from the the transatlantic African slave trade. Indentured servants had recourse to the courts to challenge any mistreatment; the African slave had no standing because they were not considered a human being. Black African slaves could be worked to death, even killed, without any consequences to the slave owners. When Britain formally abolished the slave trade in 1834, former slave owners including Irish, were compensated for their ‘loss of property’ by the British government.

Harmful memes

Australia today has millions of citizens claiming to be of Irish background – and every March 17 – Saint Patrick’s Day – the shamrock and green colours are prominent in the many ‘Irish pubs’ in Australia. The Irish in Australia have a long and proud history. Wearing the shamrock, decked out with a green shirt and drinking green beer – these are harmless pursuits, and so we say good luck to you. If you wish to engage in the Paddy Whackery that accompanies Saint Patrick’s Day, then that is your pleasure.

These are harmless passtimes. However, the ‘Irish were slaves too’ myth is a toxic meme, recycled and regurgitated whenever there are conversations about racism and racial issues today. Not only does this poisonous nonsense deceitfully equate indentured servitude with racialised perpetual slavery, it is also serves to remove the guilt of white supremacy. If the racial component of African slavery is removed, then the crimes of white supremacy can be written out of the historical record.

When Kanye West, American rapper and serial egomaniac, stated earlier this year that slavery was just a lifestyle choice, he was – whether intentionally or not – removing the culpability of white supremacy and white racism. When the current Housing Secretary in the United States, Ben Carson, refers to slaves as just immigrants, he not only demonstrates his woeful ignorance of American history. He is removing the racial guilt attached to white supremacy. In this day and age of social media, millions read these comments and follow them.

Debunking this myth is not merely an academic exercise. To use an expression even Trump-supporters can understand – this is fake history, weaponised in a modern context against the struggle of African Americans. This false and deceitful equivalence of suffering only serves to validate the viewpoint of the racist Alt-Right; if the Irish were slaves too, and they got over it, why can’t the blacks? The ‘Irish were slaves too’ meme originates from a position of division, not from empathy or solidarity in suffering.

The emphasis of the ‘Irish were slaves’ myth is to divert attention from the crimes of white supremacy and promote a pseudo-historical narrative of ‘white victimhood’. The rise of ultra-rightist white nationalist anti-immigrant politics and rhetoric has provided a renewed platform for toxic memes such as the ‘Irish were slaves’. It is no coincidence that the ‘Irish were slaves’ meme has spread in those societies built on white settler-colonialism, such as the United States and Australia. Stories of ‘white victimhood’ only poison current discussions and moves towards combating racism and anti-immigrant xenophobia.



UK police and intelligence are using children as spies

The Guardian newspaper reported, in July this year, that British police and intelligence agencies are using children (under 18s) as undercover operatives in their efforts to gather information on drug gangs, terrorist groups and sexual trafficking networks. The Home Office, the department responsible for intelligence gathering and policing, has requested that the use of covert human intelligence sources (CHIS) – a fancy title for spies – be extended from one month to four months in the case of juveniles.

This practice of using children as spies came to light because the House of Lords legislative scrutiny committee – tasked with reviewing changes to existing legislation – raised concerns about the use of children in such dangerous and criminal environments. While the UK police and intelligence authorities have asked for an extension of the period in which children can be deployed as spies, there was no explanation as to how an authorising officer would assess the psychological risks to the welfare of such children.

One of the main reasons that we in the West feel revulsion for militia groups such as Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and others is their reputed willingness to use children in combat situations. Whether directly in the field as soldiers, or as backup in logistics and intelligence operations, these kinds of groups stand condemned in our sensibilities because of their ruthless capacity to subject juveniles to violent and brutalising environments. The practice of recruiting and using child soldiers is provided as evidence of the shocking brutality of our opponents – rightly so.

That is quite interesting, because Britain has its own problems with regard to the recruitment of child soldiers. The UK government has come under heavy criticism for its drive to recruit disaffected and marginalised teenagers into the ranks of the military. Exposing children to violent environments and intimidation have lasting and adverse psychological impacts.

Children are used by narco-trafficking networks in order to ostensibly fly under the radar of the law enforcement authorities. UK police are arresting ever-greater numbers of under-16s for heroin, crack and/or cocaine dealing. Such groups use violence and intimidation as a daily tactic to ensure the loyalty of their members, and intimidate outsiders and civilians into fearful submission. The British government authorities intend to return such children into these kinds of violent subcultures.

Former UK undercover police officer Neil Woods, spoke of his experiences as an undercover operative. He now runs the company Leap – Law Enforcement Action Partnership. Woods, in describing the environment of a drug trafficking network, elaborated that one tactic that these groups use to keep people in line is rape. The latter was used against the female relatives of those in the gang who were suspected of disloyalty or of being informants.

Keeping children in such environments only increases the risk of psychological harm to the juvenile CHIS. The Home Office thus far has not explained what criteria are used to evaluate the risks of maintaining a child inside such an organisation, as opposed to the value of the intelligence gathered. Lord Trefgarne, who headed the legislative scrutiny committee, has asked for information on how many juvenile informants have been deployed, and what assessments, if any have been undertaken to assess their psychological state.

Let us briefly set aside the ethical considerations in using children as undercover spies – and let us adopt a practical point of view. Can a child, however intelligent or resourceful, provide useful intelligence about a drug trafficking or sexual exploitation network? Psychologists and experts who have examined this area are – at a minimum – highly critical of the value of such information-gathering. Do children have the social and emotional intelligence to handle the changing dynamics and shifting loyalties of a drug gang? Can they handle the trauma of witnessing terrifying violence on a daily basis?

Joseph Pistone, former FBI agent and undercover operative, wrote of his experiences infiltrating Mafia networks in the United States. His book about his life as an undercover operative was dramatised in the film Donnie Brasco. A trained professional, he wrote of the daily stresses, anxieties and tension of posing as a ‘jewel thief’, all the while keeping his social antennae attuned to the fluid dynamics of rival factional loyalties. He did this for the purpose of gathering meaningful intelligence about the criminal operations of the Mafia family he infiltrated.

Pistone detailed the backstabbing, duplicity, deception and violence that were part of the daily life of being involved in a criminal enterprise. It took a toll on his family life and well-being. Can a juvenile, however excellent their academic skills, handle the unique pressures of being an undercover informant? Michelle Jones and Dustin Johnson, two scholars who work in the field of child psychology, wrote that:

Quality, accurate information that can be acted upon quickly by security forces is vital in covert operations. A child doesn’t have the cognitive abilities to recall or collect the kind of nuanced information that is likely to offer significant benefit to the investigation. So if the child is only providing low-level intelligence or information, is it really worth risking their safety to get it?

Just Security, an online forum based at New York University School of Law, published an article about the use of child spies in the UK. Authored by two practicing barristers, Shaheed Fatima QC and Hanif Mussa from Blackstone Chambers in London, the writers elaborate on what the use of juvenile undercover operatives says about British society. They quote the words of Nelson Mandela, who said that “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

Rights Watch (UK) commented on this issue, saying that:

Enlisting children as foot soldiers in the darkest corners of policing, and intentionally exposing them to terrorism, crime or sexual abuse rings — potentially without parental consent — runs directly counter to the government’s human rights obligations, which demand the interests of children be placed at the heart of decisions which affect them. It’s also an affront to the government’s own safeguarding guidance, which requires our public authorities to help children escape crime, not become more deeply embedded in it

The Guardian newspaper, in its editorial commentary back in July, made a telling observation. It noted that years of neoliberal austerity have undermined social services to the point of breakdown, leaving children, among others, particularly vulnerable:

Years of austerity have stretched services to breaking point. Youth and social services and educational provision cannot meet the demands. This, as well as broader social and economic marginalisation, is the context of the frightening rises in knife crime and gang violence.

If the economic programme of a society leaves children vulnerable and marginalised, then it is high time to ditch that economic platform for one that prioritises the needs and welfare of the society’s most precious citizens.

Israel’s nation-state law is an open declaration of apartheid

In late July 2018, the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – passed a contentious nation-state law that explicitly defines Israel as an exclusively Jewish state. This law was passed narrowly after a heated debate. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, along with his ultra-right wing Likud coalition government, has been pushing for the approval of such a law for a long time.

This nation-state law basically entrenches Jewish ethnic supremacy as the main legal foundation of the Israeli state. It is an open declaration of apartheid, making the Arab minority in Israel second-class citizens. You may read the full text of the nation-state law here.

For instance, the law states that national self-determination in the state of Israel is exclusive to the Jewish people. The Arabic language is demoted from the status of an official state language, and supports the exclusion of Arabs from the building of Jewish communities and state institutions.

The Arab minority citizens inside Israel, the descendants of those who were left within the borders of Israel proper at the conclusion of the 1948 war and Nakba, are never mentioned in this law. Arab lawmakers in the Knesset loudly protested the passage of this law, and one was forcibly ejected from the parliament. The main head of the Joint List Alliance, the combination of Arab political parties in the parliament, denounced this law as the death of democracy. It is arguable whether Israel ever was a democracy, and we shall return to this point later.

Stating the obvious

This law, a frequent hobby horse of the Zionist right-wing parties, was hailed by PM Netanyahu as a historic milestone in Israel’s history. There is some merit in this description, because the passage of this law undermines the claim, frequently made by Israeli government figures and its Zionist supporters, that Israel is a democratic state that welcomes all its citizens regardless of ethnic background.

However, Professor Waxman from Northeastern University, states in an article that this law is merely stating the obvious – Israeli lawmakers have passed a series of laws establishing and entrenching Jewish ethno-supremacy in all areas of economic, political and social life in Israel.

From its inception, the Israeli ruling class has implemented a series of laws designed to exclude the Palestinians – and the Palestinian Arabs left behind inside Israel – and construct the edifice of an apartheid state. The 1950 Law of Return, for instance, automatically grants citizenship to any Jewish emigrant moving to Israel. Palestinians, and advocates of Palestinian refugees, have pointed out the basic contradiction in claiming to be a democratic state for all its people, but then establish the automatic supremacy of one ethno-religious group above all others.

The new nation-state law stipulates that building Jewish settlements is of ‘national value’. The construction of such settlements is encouraged with the passage of this law. Escalating Jewish settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories will only entrench the existing trend of state-segregation of Palestinian communities. As Ramzy Baroud, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle, states in his article:

Apartheid is not a single law, but a slow, agonizing build-up of an intricate legal regime that is motivated by the belief that one racial group is superior to all others.

Not only does the new law elevate Israel’s Jewish identity and erase any commitment to democracy, it also downgrades the status of all others. Palestinian Arabs, the natives of the land of historic Palestine upon which Israel was established, did not feature prominently in the new law at all.

Israel was never a democratic state

Baroud wrote that “While it would be accurate to argue that the Jewish Nations-state bill is the officiation of Apartheid in Israel, this realization should not dismiss the previous reality upon which Israel was founded 70 years ago.” This is an important observation, and should be kept in mind when examining the foundations of the Israeli state. The ruling class in Israel, and its supporters in the United States and Australia, claim that while there are faults, Israel is at its base a liberal democratic society.

A variation on this claim is that while the 1967 war, resulting in the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and the Gaza Strip, corrupted the basic essence of Israeli society, prior to that war, Israel from 1948 was constructing a standard Western liberal democracy. These claims have no foundation, and it is important to examine these in order to understand how the nation-state law was passed as ‘icing on the cake’ so to speak.

At first glance, Israel appears to be a liberal democracy. The Arab minority in Israel, comprising about 20 percent of the population, enjoy certain civic rights, can vote, form their own political parties and have consistently pushed for greater representation in Israeli state institutions. The Balfour Declaration, while pledging British government support for the construction of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, did state that the rights of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine should be respected. The 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence does state that the Arab residents of Palestine are welcome participants in the building of the fledgling nation.

These declarations have been consistently undermined by the actions of the Israeli ruling class and its political representatives. Since 1948, the Israeli state has been conceived of, and constructed as, an ethnocracy, a state based explicitly on Jewish national supremacy. A multi-ethnic democracy was never on the cards when constructing the new state of Israel.

The claims of Israel to be the only democracy in the Middle East are undermined by two interrelated developments; the discrimination against the Arab minority in Israel, and the foundation of Israel by Labour Zionism as an exclusively Jewish state. Kim Bullimore, writing in Red Flag magazine, wrote that:

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has used both legal discrimination and military force to ethnically cleanse and oppress the indigenous Palestinian population, imposing an apartheid system inside both the Zionist state and the Palestinian territories seized in 1967.

Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian, has written extensively on how Israel used military administrative measures against the Arab minority population inside Israel from 1948 onwards. The Palestinian Arabs, left behind after the 1948 Nakba, were subjected to a low-intensity type of warfare, banished into ghettos, and villagers driven off their land by the Israeli military governors. Ironically, the type of martial law used to deprive Palestinian Arabs of their citizenship was based on the British Mandate regulations implemented during the time of Mandatory Palestine.

For Palestinian Arabs, life in pre-1967 Israel was an experience in being subjected to the harsh regime of martial law. Subjected to military checkpoints and travel permits when travelling, the Israelis also used the tactic of home demolitions to target Arab families who resisted the Israeli authorities. This tactic is still being used by Israeli military forces today.

The Arab minority

The Arab citizens of Israel have been continuously subjected to forms of racial and ethnic discrimination in all facets of life. Adalah, the legal advocates for the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, have documented systematic discrimination against Palestinian Arabs in housing, education and employment. It is interesting to note that the kibbutzim, widely hailed as a socialist experiment, were founded on confiscated Arab lands. Rather than constructing a socialist utopia, the kibbutzim movement is an extension of the colonial project of Zionism, uprooting and excluding the Palestinian Arabs from economic life.

None of this is to suggest that the Arab minority in Israel have been passive victims, quietly acquiescing to a life of marginalisation. They have organised and fought back in various ways. However, since Netanyahu came to office in 2009, his government has done its utmost to erect further barriers to restrict the economic and political life of the Palestinian Arabs. Foreign Affairs magazine examines the plight of the Arab citizens of Israel and their struggle against the intricate legal structures of apartheid.

The International Crisis Group published a paper in 2004 that elaborated how the Palestinian Arab minority are cut off from the mainstream Israeli economic and political structures. The ongoing marginalisation of the Arab minority touches the very heart of the Israeli polity – a Zionist state or a democratic state. For the large part, the Arab citizens occupy separate, ethnically homogenous towns and villages distinct from the wealthier, and commercially successful Israeli Jewish population.

It is a historic irony that Labour Zionism, while taking great pains to portray itself as advocating a socialist vision, ended up constructing an ethnically separatist state. The socialist Zionists had to choose – either side with socialism and its definition of a multi-ethnic, egalitarian ethos, or with Zionism and its exclusivist Jewish nationalism. Interestingly, the white supremacist and Alternative Right spokesperson Richard Spencer has spoken of his admiration for Israel, and his support for the passage of the nation-law.

Spencer, and his co-thinkers, the European ultra-rightist and anti-semitic parties, have long admired the state of Israel as an example of the ethno-supremacist state they wish to see in their own countries. Netanyahu can count on numerous ultra-right friends in politically powerful positions in Europe.

The nation-state law is another, significant step in constructing an apartheid-type state in Israel. The Morning Star newspaper stated that this law indicates a further deterioration into fascistic treatment of a national minority, and undermines any claim about establishing democracy. In the wake of this law, the Middle East Monitor suggests that it is high time to restore the United Nations resolution 3379, which defined Zionism as a form of racism. This resolution, revoked in 1991, helped to bring the Palestinian question to the attention of the international community. Given the discriminatory practices of the Israeli government, its description of Zionism as a form of racism was ahead of its time.