While here in Israel there is always much to contend with, at the moment, we are confronting a preponderance of problems of considerable proportions. They require vigilance and determined responses. It is imperative, however, that we not become discouraged by the scope of our challenges.
Many of the problems we are coping with can be best understood by recognizing the dichotomy of the basic attitudes that prevail with regard to Israel. (Leaving aside here Iran’s stated preference for no Israel – a subject for another posting.)
Zionists unapologetically support the right of Jews to a state as an expression of Jewish peoplehood: This is with regard to Jewish claims to the Land, and Jewish expression within the Land – Jewish sensibility in the national culture, Jewish right of return, etc. Within this view, Arab citizens are accorded full civil rights, but not national rights – national rights belong to the Jews.
Internationalists exhibit a preference for an Israel that is more responsive to Arab demands for inclusion – whether this means Israel as a “state of all her citizens” (which would ultimately accord Arabs national rights) or something less encompassing, such as a right to Israeli residence for PA Arabs who marry Israeli Arabs. Whatever its specific parameters, this position ultimately diminishes Israel’s role as a political embodiment of Jewish peoplehood.
Much of the world, certainly the western world, eagerly embraces the internationalist perspective. This perspective frequently distorts – or ignores – facts regarding Israel, both historical and legal, when they are inconvenient.
Now we are coming to a crunch time on some major issues, and it is critical to consider them with unflinching honesty within the context of these differing views.
If Israel is to be sustained, the nationalist view must prevail!
Again and again we see that, internationally, Israel is held to a different standard than other nations. Across the globe there are wars, with refugees from those wars. They are resettled, and their lives go on – certainly the lives of their children and grandchildren proceed in their new circumstances.
Ah, but not where Israel is concerned. The concept of “Palestinian refugees” has been sustained indefinitely, in very large part by UNRWA, which defines even the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Arabs who left Israel in 1948 as “refugees.” This is a unique definition, applied nowhere else.
I note here that the evidence is that the majority of those Arabs who left the nascent Israel were not driven out by Jews, but rather voluntarily fled or were encouraged by their leaders to leave, with assurances that they would be able to return before long, when the Jews were defeated.
All those who have not “returned” to the areas in Israel from which they or their ancestors departed more than 70 years ago are defined as a “refugees.” Someone who once lived in an Arab village in what is today Israel is a “refugee” if he lives just kilometers away in a Palestinian Authority village. This unique definition has been passively accepted by the world. The EU and numerous nations – including the US, Germany, Sweden, Japan, the UK, Switzerland, Norway, France and Canada – provide donations to sustain the work of UNRWA, to the tune of over $1 billion, without demanding a change in policy.
This image of unending Palestinian Arab suffering is further sustained via the observance of “Nakba” Day, which coincides with Israeli Independence Day. Nakba means catastrophe. The day is marked not only in Gaza and Palestinian Authority areas of Judaea & Samaria where Arabs remember the “injustice” of their historical situation, but also by most Israeli Arabs.
What we see, then, are Israeli citizens participating in an event that marks the founding of Israel, their nation, as a tragedy and something that had best not happened.
Had (Heaven forbid!) the Arabs won the War of Independence, they would have annihilated all the Jews in the land. That intent is clear on the record. We Jews were fighting an existential war, and it is a matter of considerable magnanimity that after the war Arabs who had not fled were permitted by Israel to remain and ultimately be granted citizenship.
And yet it remains politically correct in certain left-wing circles to recognize the “suffering” of the Arabs here in Israel who are marking the “Nakba.” This is in spite of the fact that Israeli Arabs live better lives than Arabs in any of the surrounding states. Far better lives than they would have lived had Arabs secured control of this area.
Just recently a suggestion was advanced that the “Nakba” be taught in Israeli schools.
Such a suggestion – and it was only a suggestion – represents a dangerous creeping advancement of an internationalist viewpoint that seeks to undercut recognition of Israeli’s legitimacy.
Now political analyst and journalist Nadav Shragai (pictured) has warned of intentions by the far-left in Israel to utilize the “refugee” issue to further challenge the Jewish State. Until now, writes Shragai, recognition of the “Nakba” was “limited to a discourse of accepting ‘the other’s tragedy.’”
Currently, however, this has evolved on the far-left “into a discussion of the practical aspects of how the so-called Palestinian ‘right of return’ to Israel within the 1967 borders (sic) will be implemented. This includes mass ‘return’ to [mixed] cities like Jaffa, Lod, Akko, Ramle and Haifa, among others, and the re-establishment and repopulation of hundreds of villages…
“…a probe by Israel Hayom reveals that some left-wing Israeli groups…have been laying the groundwork, both in terms of public opinion and practicalities, for ‘the return.’ They are preparing lesson plans about the possibility as well as documents…”
Focus has shifted from commemorating the “Nakba” to enabling the “return.” Shragai quotes author Adi Schwartz, who says that “the widely-held belief that the demand for a return is symbolic and ‘the Palestinians don’t really mean it’ has no actual basis.
“The moment people arrive with concrete plans, people who think about return in very pragmatic terms, it’s not symbolic.
“This is a wake-up call for decision-makers in Israel…In our minds it is still something ‘small and symbolic,’ but in theirs, it’s a very concrete issue. The guys on the other side really mean it.” (Emphasis added)
Not only do they mean it, they are working on convincing the Israeli public that this is a good thing.
This is not going to happen. But – be clear about this – were it to be realized, it would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state. There would be an influx of Arabs that would overwhelm the Jewish population. That is the true agenda of the “refugee” campaign. It is not about “justice” for so-called displaced Arabs, who are merely political pawns.
In any event, this campaign, short of achieving its full goal, will aim at delegitimizing the Zionist position.
The “refugee” issue is merely one aspect of the broader Israeli left-wing/Arab campaign to weaken or undo Jewish Israel. A number of left-wing NGOs – Zochrot, Badil, Adalah, B’Tselem, etc. – registered with Israel but funded in some significant part by foreign nations, have the goal of undermining the Jewish nation-state. Some of these actively petition for Israel as “a state of all its citizens.” There is an attempt by these groups to represent their efforts as working on behalf of “fairness” for Israeli Arabs, but what they seek would signal the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
More will follow on this.
We are well advised to be on our guard with respect to these efforts and to combat them decisively. But there is solid reason to believe that they will not succeed. I have been writing for some time about evidence that the Israeli populace is moving further right, and in recent months this has certainly been the case.
Some weeks ago, I described the first efforts of the Nachala Movement to establish the beginnings of new settlements in Judaea & Samaria. The good news is that the effort is alive and well. On several sites, there is regular activity.
Says Arutz Sheva (emphasis added):
“There is an awakening, such as we have not seen in many years.
“The Nachala movement comprises dozens of garinim (seed groups) and hundreds of families – sure signs that a new era has indeed begun.
“…a number of garinim have been organizing and conducting daily public activities at these locations. In addition, there are more garinim getting ready to move to various locations, and there are hundreds of activists throughout Israel who are organizing local chapters of supporters. They come to express their support, both ideologically and practically.
“…The public is motivated and determined, especially in light of the absurd situation, where we see daily illegal Arab building activity, on government land.”
Lital Slonim, who heads public relations for Nachala, says, “MKs from the Likud, the Religious Zionism party, and other right-wing parties are in constant contact with us…
“Our goal is the continuation of the Zionist pioneering spirit and movement. Jewish communities throughout the world are looking to the leadership of Israel. They want to see the continued realization of our national aspirations. Individuals and entire communities are happy to be active partners in the establishment of new Jewish communities; in redeeming our Land; in educating the next generation to love the Land of Israel. Our ranks are growing.”
Afternoon prayer (Mincha) on one of the sites:
A cause for genuine rejoicing and much hope!
And then, we see a political shift that is vastly encouraging as well. Not so long ago mainstream media referred to MK Itamar Ben Gvir (head of Otzma Yehudit) as a renegade, a radical, and more. Today he is demonstrating an ability to attract voters who are pleased with his non-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is Zionist approach.
This past week it was announced that Ben Gvir will be running with Bezalel Smotrich of Religious Zionists. Polls indicate a solid run for this party and we can expect Ben Gvir, along with Smotrich, to be a force for Zionism in the coming Knesset.
And lastly, my friends, we have this:
Just yesterday, August 29th, the World Zionist Congress celebrated the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. That it was a gala event is of minor import. What matters is the essence of what was celebrated:
The founding of a political movement to establish a modern state based on the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their historical homeland Israel.
Consider, my friends, how remote and impossible the founding of a Jewish State seemed 125 years ago. No one could have predicted that there would not only be a state for the Jewish people, but that it would be a state of incredible, unimagined accomplishment.
Theodore Herzl told us, “Im Tirzu, Ein Zo Agadah”: If we will it, is no dream.
It is time for us to remember this, and to move forward, intent on protecting and strengthening Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish People.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner.