Is Israel a Sanctuary?
This is insight 2 of 3.
Zionism defines Israel as a Jewish state, and as such, a refuge for Jews who are threatened anywhere in the world. Thus, any Jew, wherever in the world s/he is born, has an automatic right to Israeli citizenship.
After 2,000 years of persecution and the horrors of the Holocaust, the vision of Israel as a sanctuary is to be expected and is certainly justifiable. But what are the repercussions of this vision?
We have a Jewish state, in which the Arab minority (not Jewish by definition) has fewer rights (where they are allowed to live, for instance) than a newly arriving Jew, even if their ancestors were born in what is now Israel.
And Israel, with its Western culture, is a small island in a sea of more than a hundred million Muslims, most of whom reject Western values and feel threatened by them.
The result is that Israel is perceived as a colonizer: an outpost of values that threaten traditional Muslim culture, that usurps Arab land by force and treats its non-Jewish inhabitants as second-class citizens.
It should come as no surprise that the Muslim world would love to eject this foreign body and eliminate Israel’s existence altogether.
Naturally, Israel continues to do whatever it must to defend itself from those repetitive hostile and potentially fatal attempts. That has meant an ongoing state of war. And wars are not simple, easy, or clean; inevitably, there are civilian deaths and violations of human rights.
But Israel’s behavior has not been worse than the United States’ behavior in Vietnam and, more recently, in Iraq. The same can also be said of the French in Algiers and the Allied forces during World War II.
Has the United Nations appointed a committee to analyze their “crimes against humanity”? Never – but it has repeatedly investigated Israel, providing fodder to anti-Semites who need very little stimulus to attack Israel on any front.
Since people generally equate Israelis and Jews, Israel’s numerous wars and its treatment of the Arabs feed anti-Semitism worldwide. This means that in effect, Israel, instead of protecting the world’s Jews, is now threatening their peace in the Diaspora.
Israelis aren’t particularly sympathetic to this argument. “So they [the Jews of the Diaspora] should all make aliya [immigrate to Israel], where the Israeli Army defends us,” they respond.
But is that the best solution? The Jewish sage Rashi once asked himself why God had seen fit to spread the Jews all over the globe. The answer, he concluded, was so that the enemies of the Jews “cannot destroy us easily by finding us all in one place.”
Are we less vulnerable in Israel? Or on the contrary, are we sitting ducks?
The Arabs can lose many wars, the Israelis only one – and that will be its last. Are we so sure we will always win every single war?
What to do?
What to do if Israel wants to be part of the Middle East, instead of a European satellite merely located in the Middle East?
What can we do, without endangering our sense of security, to be part of the world we live in?
We need to start a new page. Relying only on our firepower to keep peace is not sustainable: “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.”
Should Israel give the Israeli Arab population the absolute right to live wherever they like? This sounds like a no-brainer, right? Or how about giving the Palestinians the same “right of return” the Jews have?
I believe such rights are inconceivable as long as suicide attacks by Arabs continue to be a way of life in Israel. What other nation in the world would take that chance under the same conditions?
How about stopping the wars?
We all wish for this, but that wish has not been granted by either government negotiating a peace settlement.
Conduct more humane wars? I honestly believe the Israeli army is as humane as can be expected – but wars are wars, especially when the enemy operates out of hospitals and schools.
So far, it seems to me that the problems of the past will continue into the future.
But they will not be the same. Life does not just repeat itself. The problems will either get better or worse, and the rules of entropy teach us that unless we make something better, it will become worse by default. Evidence? While economic conditions in Israel have improved immensely over the years, its relations with its own Arab population have only become worse.
We need to do something, and that something had better be a paradigm shift in what drives our public policy. Something that will nurture mutual respect and trust (MT&R) rather than mutual suspicion and loathing.
I believe we need to change our educational system. Every high school graduate should speak three languages fluently: Hebrew, Arabic, and English.
We should teach not only Jewish philosophy but also Muslim philosophy.
We should have more joint ventures with the Arab population.
These steps are only a sample of what should be done. They might not be enough to change the picture, but at least they will be steps in the right direction, toward developing some MT&R between the Israeli Arab and Jewish populations – which are the necessary, albeit insufficient, ingredients for a sustainable peace.
The sooner we start, the better.
Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes
To read the next post in the series, titled “Quo Vadis, Zionism” please click here: http://www.adizes.com/blog/?p=369