Friday, July 09, 2004

 

Seriously, it's not racism. I'm no racist! Are you calling me a racist?

An article in Ha'aretz, beautifully titled Just keep them away from our daughters!, about Ashkelon Likud Party activists and their effort to keep the Arabs out of the Israeli city. As Arabs with Israeli citizenship come to Ashkelon to work as laborers, much to the dismay of some of the local Jewish citizens.
"This is truly a life-and-death issue," says [Pini] Sabah, adding that other cities in southern Israel, such as Ashdod, face a similar threat. "This is not racism," he is quick to point out. "In principle," he does not discriminate against anyone. However, he is not an ostrich that is prepared to hide its head in the sand. He would never dream of opposing Arabs coming to Ashkelon but he cannot ignore what they bring with them, such as "sexual harassment, break-ins into homes and shops, and crime in general."
And anybody who knows a bit about the US's own history of racism might find statements like this eerily reminiscent of the bad old days:
"Suddenly," says [Michel] Buscila, "we start hearing about some of them harassing our daughters and it slowly becomes clear that some of them, just because they are Israelis in every respect, have become a little bit too self-confident; they say to themselves: `I've got an Israeli identity card, I can do whatever I want.' And these people start up with our daughters."
Really it's a "cultural" thing, yknow. And, of course, it's a slippery slope.
"Don't let them sell you a bill of goods," Sabah says, his face expressionless. "We don't want to become another Ramla, Lod, Acre or Jaffa. First, they arrive as laborers. Then they start renting apartments and, after that, they start bringing in their families. We don't want to become an ethnically mixed [Jewish-Arab] city. Because an ethnically mixed city spells trouble in every possible sense and you end up with an eternal headache ... They have their own culture and we have ours. We want to preserve our culture and our standard of living."
The article is very well written, in-depth, and insightful, going on to interview Jewish Ashkelonis who find the racism distasteful and want nothing to do with it, as well as Arab laborers in Ashkelon. And throughout the article, the refrain remains the same: "This is not racism", "Look, I don't want to sound racist", and on and on.

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