‘Feeding a Bedouin’: Roy Oz and Israel’s outrageous racism
Palestinian children watch as an Israeli bulldozer works in the West Bank hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar, July 5, 2018. The Bedouin village outside the Kfar Adumim settlement was targeted for demolition by the Israeli government. | Majdi Mohammed / AP

On July 11,  video footage showing a popular Israeli TV celebrity demeaning Palestinian children from the Bedouin community in the Naqab area went viral on social media.

“Let’s feed a Bedouin. Don’t you want to feed a Bedouin?” Israeli children’s TV host Roy Oz repeatedly asks his children, who were seated in the back seat of his car. Outside the vehicle, two Palestinian children were filmed as they stood waiting eagerly for the cookies promised to them by the Israeli driver.

Palestinian Bedouins are treated like “monkeys,” said Atia al-Asem, head of the Regional Council of Palestinian Villages in the Naqab, after viewing the disturbing footage.

Arab Member of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset), Ahmad Tibi, described Oz’s behavior as the “lowest of human behavior, racist and despicable brutishness.”

Oz claims the video was made some five years ago, and now apologizes for it.

In truth, Oz’s actions were merely consistent with the racist reality that governs Israeli society—its laws, political institutions, media apparatus, its economic sector and popular perceptions.

The thousands of Palestinians who are still living in the Naqab desert have been subjected to a relentless Israeli campaign of dehumanization, racism, and ethnic cleansing.

Racism and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian Bedouin communities go hand in hand. Oz’s video cannot be viewed separately from the Israeli government’s plans to corral Palestinians in the Naqab into isolated and impoverished communities in order to make space for Jewish-only housing developments.

For this sinister scenario to succeed, the Palestinian Bedouins need to be dehumanized by the Israeli political and media establishments. Oz’s racist video is a mere expression of this outrageous reality.

However, the issue exceeds that of the devastation and racism underway in the Naqab, extending into all aspects of Israeli lives.

In July 2018, Israel approved a “basic law,” dubbed the “Jewish nation-state law,” that gave ascendency to everything Jewish and denigrated all else. It was a desperate, and ultimately failed attempt at reconciling the “Jewishness” of the state with universal democratic ideals.

“The Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established,” the new law said, celebrating the country as “the nation state of the Jewish People, in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.”

In accordance with the above assertions, the new definition grants the “Jewish people” everywhere the right to “exercise…the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel.”

The millions of Palestinian Arabs—Muslims, Christians and Druze—who share that same piece of land, though not as equals, have little place in Israel’s undemocratic definition of itself. Needless to say, the nearly 7 million Palestinian refugees were also excluded from claiming any rights in “the State of Israel,” including their internationally enshrined Right of Return.

The Israeli Nation-State Law, however, must not be seen as the event that ushered in institutionalized racism in this country. Israel was founded on the racist principle that it belonged to the “Jewish people” only, and no one else, not even the Palestinian Arab natives of the land.

However, the law is significant in the sense that it represents a crushing blow—the final one, perhaps—to the hope that Israel will eventually come to terms with its past, and embrace humanistic principles of equality, justice and democracy.

That hope—really an illusion—was dashed, and irrevocably so, as there is little resistance within Israel itself by any significant political force that is capable of confronting and defeating the racist, chauvinistic, and ultra-nationalist trends that have always dominated the country.

According to an election survey published in January 2019, those who identified as “leftists” have dwindled  significantly, as they now represent only 12 percent of all Israelis—a number that includes Arab communities, where the left has historically had a strong presence.

This realization might be one of the reasons that made some optimists imagine that the supposed next best thing—Israel’s centrist Blue and White Party coalition under Gen. Benny Gantz—was still able to at least slow down the advancement of right-wing and religious parties.

These hopes persisted over the course of a tumultuous political year that witnessed three major elections in a row, despite the fact that many of Gantz’s stances were equally, if not even more hawkish than those of right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Unsurprisingly, on April 20, Gantz joined Netanyahu to form a coalition government that is arguably the most militaristic in the country’s modern history, as both camps are keen on a new military confrontation with Gaza and a massive annexation scheme of nearly 30 percent of the occupied West Bank.

Armed with constitutional racism, Israeli leaders can now justify, at least to themselves and their constituencies, any action that may be deemed abhorrent, illegal, or racist by the rest of the world.

This is the very reality that allows racist celebrities, such as Roy Oz, to go on safari-like adventures with his well-fed children in their air-conditioned top model vehicles to hand out cookies to malnourished and poor Palestinian Bedouin children in the Naqab.

For Israel, Oz is the epitome of the ultimate victory of the “Jewish people”—as defined by Israel’s racist Nation-State Law—over the alienated, corralled, and victimized Palestinians.

Israeli television host Roy Oz. | Screenshot via YouTube

But racism in Israel is not only the work of political institutions as a direct outcome of the disparities created by Israel’s military superiority and expansive colonial enterprises. It has long passed all of that into many other aspects of Israeli society, and can be felt in other sectors of law, economy, the health care system, and education.

Aside from the racist ideology taught in Israeli public schools, which denies the historical roots of Palestinians in their own land, and often demeans the Palestinian natives in ways that violate the minimal standards of modern education, let alone human rights, the very setup of the educational system is a testimony to Israel’s deeply entrenched racism.

Schools dedicated to Palestinian Arab children in Israel are “a world apart in quality from the public schools serving Israel’s majority Jewish population,” according to one Human Rights Watch report.

“Often overcrowded and understaffed, poorly built, badly maintained, or simply unavailable, schools for Palestinian Arab children offer fewer facilities and educational opportunities than are offered other Israeli children.”

Racism accompanies the average Jewish citizen of Israel from the hospital where they are born, to the iniquitous school system, to the discriminatory business sector, to the utterly racist fans at the soccer field, to the unruly, murderous army and beyond. At every step of the way, Palestinians are belittled, dehumanized, exploited, subjugated, confined, imprisoned, chased out of their homes, and, in many instances, killed.

With that as the everyday reality in Israel and Palestine, should we really be surprised that a morally bankrupt fool like Roy Oz mistreated Bedouin children, offering them candy as if to zoo animals?

The sad truth is, Oz is the actual face of too much of Israeli society—privileged, entitled, racist, and delusional. And the same way Israeli media, which gives the likes of Oz his celebrity status, should be shunned and boycotted, Israel should also be sanctioned and boycotted. Because, without international pressure, Israel will never, on its own, confront its demons of military occupation, apartheid and deep-rooted racism.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article represents the opinions of its author.


CONTRIBUTOR

Ramzy Baroud
Ramzy Baroud

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University.

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR