Posts Tagged ‘israel’
Anti-Arab slogans and graffiti are widespread in Israel, and Adalah, the legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, estimates that there are more than 50 Israeli discriminatory laws against Arabs. A new law making Israel the “nation-state of the Jewish people” that clearly discriminates against Arab citizens has already been passed by Israel’s cabinet. Dozens of Knesset members also support it.
This violent and irrational Israeli hatred and maltreatment of Arabs needs an explanation. In my view, it derives largely from the destruction of European Jewry during World War II. [. . .] To atone for this crime Europe encouraged the settlement of Holocaust survivors and other persecuted Jews in a faraway Middle Eastern country they did not know and whose people and culture were alien to them.
It was not the answer. In Palestine, the Jews were forced to acclimatise to an unfamiliar place and required to accept a new identity as “Israelis”. A Zionist history was created for them with the religious scriptures as a reference point. Their own past, despised by Zionism as assimilationist or passive in the face of Christian persecution, was to be discarded, and their mother tongues had to give way to a new language, Hebrew. Above all, they had to learn to be a majority when they had always been a minority. And all this in a short period of time as Israel was being rapidly established to defend against a hostile Arab environment that rejected it. That hostility was another challenge the Jewish immigrants had to face and that made all their other difficulties worse.
The solution to this tortured situation lies in what may be called the Jewish right of return. Under this right, Europe would welcome back its previous Jewish citizens, at least those still alive, and their descendants, offer them compensation, fund their resettlement and provide jobs and housing. These costs could be defrayed against the EU’s current massive bilateral trade with Israel worth $36bn (with many trade agreements favouring the latter) and its generous grants to its scientists.
Germany is the model for this Jewish return. After reunification in 1990, it welcomed Jews to its towns and cities, with the result that an estimated 15,000 Israelis are now living in Berlin alone, which is experiencing a Jewish renaissance, and many more are applying for German citizenship. Other European states should follow suit, as should Arab countries with Jewish communities who had resettled in Israel.
Where can I begin?
Most of the countries of origin of Israel’s Jewish population–in central and eastern Europe, in the Middle East and North Africa, and beyond–are substantially less economically developed than Israel. Even in fast-developing central Europe, living standards still lag behind Israel’s, to say nothing of poorer countries like Romania, or Ukraine, or Yemen. There really is no economic incentive for Jewish immigration specifically targeted to ancestral countries of origin. Germany has attracted many tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants since reunification, but most of these Jews are migrants from the former Soviet Union and Germany is still much richer than even Poland or Hungary.
Are there non-economic incentives? I am very skeptical of this. In the case of central and southeastern European countries which belong to the European Union, getting an EU passport might well be an incentive for many Israelis. That is it. The old Jewish-Christian communities of central Europe have been almost entirely destroyed, and negative associations understandable remain strong. There is very little alive for potential Jewish immigrants to cling to.
Perhaps most importantly, the majority of Jews in Israel were born in Israel. Ancestral countries of origin are increasingly irrelevant in a mixed population, perhaps almost as irrelevant as they are in another country of recent mass immigration like Canada. Why should they leave their homeland for lands that offer very little that is attractive to them, and does so only at significant cost? A Jewish exodus from Israel may actually aggravate existential issues and Israel-Palestinian conflict: Would a Jewish population weakened by mass emigration and reduced to a hard core of isolated people be more tractable to the Palestinians, or less?
I may get what Karmi is saying. It would have been very nice of these genocides and forced migrations had not happened. They did though, changing things irrevocably and beyond hope of reconstitution. All we can do is live realistically within the world that the past has created.