Monday 10 April 2006

Whither Israel?

The future of the State of Israel hangs in the balance. Israel can no longer sustain her inherent ambivalence. Is she a Zionist state, a homeland for "the Jews"? Or is she the Middle Eastern outpost of liberal democracy, in which the large Arab minority enjoys equal citizenship? She cannot be both, and has tried for far too long to do this impossible thing.
Half the world's Jews already live in Israel, but the other half could move there any time it liked, and could only be accommodated by displacing the Israeli Arabs (including members of the Knesset, a Supreme Court judge, and even several members of the national football team). While the Law of Return remains in place, the Arabs can never be equal citizens (which is to say, true citizens at all), and so Israel remains, to that extent, not a democracy, but an ethnocracy.
The Law of Return is based on the Nuremburg Laws, but the Zionist project was several decades old by the time of the Second World War, and its pioneers, by fighting the British, effectively fought for Hitler, in the process inventing much of modern terrorism. It is high time to draw a line under Zionism, and, by repealing the Law of Return, to bolster Israeli resistance to the impractical, but until that point unanswerable, Palestinian demand for a comparable right even in relation to Israel's pre-1967 borders.
An Israel which thus really did grant genuinely equal citizenship to all her people really would be democracy's standard-bearer in the region. But an Israel in which the ethnic majority (for now - it might not even be that for much longer) carries on reserving the right to displace some of its fellow-citizens, on grounds of ethnicity, in favour of its own ethnic group cannot be any such thing.

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