Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Racist patriarchy in Israel

This is an example of racist patriarchy. A man, Sabbar Kashur, has been imprisoned for doing nothing more than having consensual sex with a woman, whose name has not been disclosed. Both parties were of age, and no one alleges that the transaction took place without consent. Initially, this was not clear, as the original complaint suggested that there had been some coercion. But as the woman's testimony in the course of the trial made clear, the only crime that Kashur, now convicted of rape, committed was to have allowed the woman to believe that he was Jewish, when in fact he was an Arab. He did not even actively perpetrate a deceit, merely chatted the woman up and didn't say "by the way, I am an Arab". And that has earned him 18 months in prison, on the basis of a plea bargain. Judge Tzvi Segal explained:

"The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price – the sanctity of their bodies and souls."

Are you getting it yet? Sex with an Arab constitutes a violation of the sanctity of body and soul - an "unbearable price". This is not a freakish opinion in Israeli society. For example, half of Israeli Jews believe intermarriage between Arabs and Jews is equivalent to national treason (that demographic 'timebomb', you see). Some are determined to enforce this sexual separation through violence or policy. Gangs of men in a Jerusalem neighbourhood roam around, behaving as a de facto vice and virtue squad, to 'protect' young Jewish girls from Arabs. One local authority has set up a squad of counsellors and psychiatrists to 'rescue' Jewish girls who are dating Arabs.

Hostility to inter-marriage and cross-ethnic dating pervades Zionist culture, and is reproduced at structural and institutional levels from the cradle to the grave. There has been a raft of legislative measures since 1948 that are designed to frustrate socialisation between Jews and Arabs, and the existing structures of segregation in education and housing ensure that intermarriage is already very rare. Jonathan Cook, quoting the Israeli sociologist Dr Yuval Yonay, points out that Israel's education system, designed to inculcate Zionist principles in Israeli Jews, largely succeeds in foreclosing Jewish-Arab relationships. The Israeli far right has long wished to enforce the stigma on such relationships with legislation. Meir Kahane, before he was thrown out of the Knesset in the 1980s, attempted to do just that. The current political climate in Israel, with the most racist Knesset of all time and a host of discriminatory measures in the pipeline, will tend to compound this trend.

The woman who filed the charge can hardly be burdened with most of the responsibility. Who knows what pressures she was under? Perhaps no pressures other than the racist ideology that she will have internalised if she is a normal product of the Israeli education system. But perhaps it was put to her that her honour as an Israeli Jewish woman, and that of her family, had been sullied by her treasonous intercourse with an Arab from East Jerusalem and that, if she wished to expiate her crime, she should say that she had been raped. Whatever the case, without the backing of the forces of racist patriarchy her complaint would not have resulted in a conviction. It's not as if it's easy for women to get their complaint heard and a conviction obtained when a rape really has occurred. It's not as if the criminal justice system throws its weight behind women every time they experience domestic violence, harrassment, or sexual violation. This was a complaint that, with its obvious paucity of evidence of any kind of violation or assault, could easily have been dealt with outside of the courts. Instead, they devoted their considerable resources to keeping this man in lockdown - he was under house arrest for almost two years while the case was brought to trial - and so loading the scales against him that even when no evidence of rape emerged, he still ended up 'guilty'.

The court has therefore come down on the side of racist patriarchy, effectively joining those vice and virtue squads in 'protecting' Jewish women from any desire they may have to have sex and romance with Arab men, conserving the sanctity of the Jewish body and soul, and ensuring that the female body is strictly harnessed to the urgent task of perpetually regenerating the race. The criminal justice system itself, from the police to the prosecution and the judges, conspired to deliberately frame a consensual sex act as a violation. The fact that the verdict was secured with a plea bargain suggests that the defence also participated in this charade, intimidating and gaslighting Kashur so thoroughly that he ultimately 'confessed' to having committed a 'crime' and officially expressed a desire to be reformed. This is a calculated deterrence of inter-racial love, sex and solidarity. Perhaps it was seen as a necessary move due to the disproportionate presence of women among the Israeli peace movement, and the fear that their fraternising with the enemy is undermining militarist-nationalist morale. More likely, I think, such judgments are a logical corollary of founding a polity on the creation and maintenance of a demographically preponderant oppressor group through sheer military violence. A militarised colonial state, even one with a thin liberal democratic veneer, is necessarily a racially supremacist patriarchy, and would be so even without outlandish stunts like this conviction.