Israeli communist living abroad stripped of citizenship for refusing to support Gaza slaughter

Below, we publish an article sent to us by a young Israeli communist who has been living abroad. After refusing to serve in the IDF, this young comrade faced serious personal repercussions. But after being arrested at a Palestine solidarity protest, he was stripped of his Israeli citizenship and told he would no longer be able to return to Israel. This is a scandalous violation of the most elementary principles of democracy.

Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the actions that led to this young comrade’s arrest (which, as explained, did not lead to criminal charges in the country in which this person presently resides), the removal of a person’s citizenship rights is scandalously draconian and represents a violation of the most fundamental principles of democracy.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights states quite clearly that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality”. This arbitrary removal of an individual’s citizenship, without following any legal process, shows the hollowness of the oft-repeated claim that Israel represents ‘the Middle East’s only democracy’.

That the state of Israel denies the Palestinian people their fundamental democratic rights, not only to a homeland but to equality for those with Israeli citizenship, is well known to all. That such undemocratic and arbitrary methods have in this case been used against an Israeli Jew demonstrates how, despite its claim of providing a democratic homeland for the Jews, there is no democracy in the state of Israel for Jewish citizens either once they dare to step out of line.

As an Israeli citizen and a communist living abroad, I have felt first-hand the immense pressure the Israeli ruling class exerts on Jewish workers to bind them to their imperialist ambitions. My life has been a constant tug-of-war between my personal convictions and the societal expectations imposed upon me by my homeland. My journey as a communist organised with the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) has been one of defiance and sacrifice, leading to a heart-wrenching separation from my family and homeland.

The Israeli state, like any other capitalist nation, is built upon a foundation of exploitation and oppression. The plight of the Palestinian people, subjected to decades of occupation and discrimination, became impossible for me to ignore. Since its inception in 1948, Israel has enforced compulsory military service for most citizens, irrespective of gender, as part of its imperialist agenda. The Conscription Law mandates that all Jewish and Druze citizens over the age of 18 serve in the IDF, perpetuating the state’s aggressive war-mongering policies towards Palestinians and neighbouring states in the region.

IDF Image public domainThrough military service, the ruling class perpetuates a culture of militarism and obedience / Image: public domain

Growing up in Israel, I was inundated with nationalist rhetoric and the glorification of military service. It was ingrained in us from a young age that serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was not just a duty, but a badge of honour.

As I delved deeper into Marxist theory, a stark realisation dawned upon me regarding the methods through which the Israeli state functions to uphold the interests of the ruling class. It became clear that the seemingly noble facade of military service was, in fact, a crucial instrument in perpetuating the grip of the elite. The Israeli state, like other imperialist states, employs its military apparatus not merely for national ‘defence’, but as a means to consolidate and expand its dominance both within its borders and beyond.

Through military service, the ruling class perpetuates a culture of militarism and obedience, stifling dissent and resistance among the populace. Externally, the Israeli state’s military interventions serve to advance the interests of imperialism and the global capitalist system. From the occupation of Palestinian territories to interventions in neighbouring countries, the Israeli military acts as a tool of aggression to secure strategic interests and expand imperialist influence.

When I reached military service age, I made the decision not to serve. This was not a decision that I took lightly. As an isolated communist, as I saw it, this was the only way I had to defy the state and the bonds that forcibly tie me and millions of others to the ruling class. I regarded it as a step towards building a better world, one free from the shackles of oppression and exploitation. In the eyes of this ruling class, refusal is seen as an act of betrayal, a threat to their authority and privilege.

The consequences of my decision were severe. Classified as “an Israeli citizen whose parents reside abroad,” my citizenship status initially provided some flexibility in fulfilling these obligations. I could defer my service while living abroad and visit Israel without being compelled to serve or risking the loss of my citizenship status. However, the conditions attached to these visits proved to be a form of practical exile from Israeli society.

The IDF’s recruitment unit, known as Meitav (which crudely translates as “the best” or “the utmost” in English), issued a document to all diaspora members via their respective embassies. This document outlined the terms of our visits to Israel: we could return for a mere 10 days every month, totaling up to 120 days per year. Yet, additional restrictions in contradiction with these conditions compounded the challenges. We were required to reside outside of Israel for at least 60 days before and after each visit. Moreover, these visits could only occur once a year.

These stringent, contradictory and confusing regulations create convoluted and scarce opportunities for what were termed as “returns”, causing most in my situation to make minimal visits to Israel so as not to fall afoul.

The emotional and psychological toll of these regulations cannot be overstated. They succeeded in severing ties between us and our loved ones, our homes. Picture the profound sadness and regret of not being able to bid a final farewell to a loved one at a funeral, or the frustration of missing out on annual family gatherings. Consider the heartbreak of being absent from significant family events like weddings, births, and graduations due to these laws.

These were not simply inconveniences: they were life-altering events that lay at the heart of our familial connections and traditions. We were left feeling disconnected, isolated, and effectively excluded from our roots, our cultural heritage, and our families.

However, this was far from the full extent of the state’s repressive measures. Despite the supposed ‘flexibility’ afforded to members of the Israeli diaspora in fulfilling their military service obligations, the reality of our status became painfully clear when I attended a protest in solidarity with the Palestinian people as a result of the genocidal slaughter in Gaza currently being enacted by our ruling class. Unfortunately, I got into an altercation with the police and was arrested. I wasn’t charged, and was released with a caution. However, the Israeli embassy was notified, and this is where things took a dark turn.

My arrest was used as an excuse for the most draconian measures, as I was stripped of my democratic rights, with the near-immediate revocation of my citizenship and a chilling refusal of entry into Israel. This abrupt expulsion from my homeland shows the lengths to which the Israeli state would go to silence dissent and maintain its grip on power. We are told by the Israeli ruling class and their backers among the western imperialists, that Israel is “the Middle East’s only democracy”. But what kind of democracy revokes a person’s citizenship merely for protesting?

BN Image World Economic Forum FlickrNetanyahu, merely to stay in power and out of prison, needs to keep this war going indefinitely / Image: World Economic Forum, Flickr

My resolve is stronger than ever, despite state intimidation. I am more determined than ever to continue standing in solidarity with the oppressed, wherever they may be. My expulsion from Israel was an assault on the principles of justice and democracy.

As Israelis, we are told that the state upholds our democratic rights and ensures our security. There is a palpable fear in Israeli society, a sense that we are surrounded by enemies and must defend ourselves. The Israeli state steps forward in the role as our ‘protector’.

But what is the Israeli state actually doing? Netanyahu, merely to stay in power and out of prison, needs to keep this war going indefinitely. Through their actions, the Israeli government is deliberately destabilising the region. New fronts threaten to open up on the Lebanon border and elsewhere. Thousands of Israelis have been displaced from their homes along the border.

Far from guaranteeing Israeli Jews a peaceful, prosperous and secure life, this state is creating ever-greater instability, whilst the capitalist class continues to enrich itself by plundering and exploiting the majority. The siege mentality in Israeli society that they deliberately create is wholly to the benefit of the ruling class and the most reactionary elements in Israeli society. Through their brutal policies, they feed enmity in the whole region towards Israelis, and then use this enmity to rally the Israeli working class around themselves.

Finally, showing their cynical disregard for ordinary Israelis, when any of us dares to use the democratic rights of which the Israeli state is supposedly the guarantor, they immediately turn their backs on us. They strip us of citizenship, imprison and silence us.

I call upon all working class Israelis to reject the state’s oppressive, militaristic policies, to refuse to be complicit in the continual oppression and outright slaughter of the Palestinians, and to rise against the systemic violence perpetuated by our ruling class and the government which act as their puppets. Only a socialist federation of Israel-Palestine, as part of a socialist federation of the Middle East, can create the conditions for a genuinely peaceful, harmonious and prosperous existence for all the peoples of these lands.