Privatizing Zionism

Privatization and discrimination work together in Israel

Recently in the Negev region of Israel, police stood by as Jewish teenagers emptied 30 Bedouin houses of their contents. Then bulldozers destroyed the homes. All those present, Jews and Bedouins, were Israeli citizens.

These demolitions are part of Israel’s strategy to “Judaize” the area. New Jewish farms and settlements will be established on the land. There is little concern for the Bedouins who have lived here since they were relocated to the region by Israel in the 1950s after their original lands were seized.

When one of the teenagers was asked why he takes part in the demolitions, he replied: “I am a Zionist and what we are doing here today is Zionism.”

The teenager was not wrong. Zionism’s major goals have always been the same. Only the methods have changed. Traditionally, the state “Judaized” space. Over the years, though, the government has been out-sourcing more and more of its responsibilities to private firms. The teenager himself was hired by a personnel agency that was employed to expel the Bedouins.

Bedouin land will now be sold at rock bottom prices to big real estate moguls, who will plan and build Jewish villages and towns. The private contractors will make huge profits, for the difference in price between “unplanned” land and land that has undergone “planning” is enormous.

The same process occurs in the occupied Palestinian territories. In the early 1980s, the Israeli government allowed private contractors to appropriate land in the occupied West Bank and sell it at great profits. Meanwhile the military created and armed settler militias to help it police the Palestinian inhabitants.

Today even military checkpoints in the West Bank are being privatized. Five have been handed over to private subcontractors who are Israel’s version of America’s Blackwater Corporation. The notorious checkpoints will now become sites of even more misery for Palestinians trying to pass through.

Zionism’s privatization is a tactical change. The state is handing its responsibility over to private entities that are legally even less liable than the state. The result is an unrelenting corrosion of moral accountability – as the Israeli Bedouins and West Bank Palestinians have discovered.

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