Israel-Palestine: Play it Like it Lies
The response of an abundance of Israel’s Arab citizens to the fourth round of battles with terrorists in Gaza reveals that, often, Arab citizenship in the Jewish state involves an inbuilt lie. This problem, having citizens in Israel who hope to destroy it, traces back to 1948, when the honorable architects of modern Israel reasoned that those resident in the land at the nation’s launching should be citizens. Even as Palestinian Jews and Jewish immigrants present at Israel’s inception would be citizens, so too would residents of other faiths and ethnicities—Palestinian Muslims, Druzes, Assyrians, other Christians, Circassians, Baha’is and Samaritans. Descendants of those people, like children of the Jews, have had democratic privileges and first world economic, social and personal freedoms and opportunities that modern leaning people in other nations of the Middle East have been struggling to gain. But the advantages have had no effect on the lie.
Shunned in Muslim nations and welcomed in Israel, Christian residents are increasing in number, and some are choosing to serve in the IDF. Tortured and executed in Shiite Iran, the Baha’i have made Israel the geographic center of their faith. Many Druses, who like Jews are drafted into the IDF, have risen to crucial positions in both the military and the government. But for numerous Arab Muslims the advantages of citizenship have not purged an adversarial loyalty. They consider the creation of Israel the Nakhba, the catastrophe. Take note: not “a” catastrophe, “the” catastrophe, the worst cataclysm in their history. They are citizens who want to see their state’s demise. Prescient as well as principled, Israel’s founders expected some Arab Muslim disloyalty, and those citizens were therefore declared free of serving in the military. Despite their conflicting loyalties, Arab Muslim citizens saw that exclusion as discrimination.
Whether the latest conflict between Israel and terrorists in Gaza be traced to the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish youths in Gush Etzion (which Jews bought in the 1920s and 30s, developed in the early 1940s, lost to Jordan in the War of Independence and regained when Jordan chose to fight in 1967), or to the Israeli government’s forceful response to the kidnappings and murders of the three youths, or to the loathsome revenge killing of a Palestinian Muslim teenager by three deranged Israelis, the rioting in the Galilee and Jerusalem by Israel’s Muslim citizens in sympathy with their terrorist Palestinian coreligionists reveals yet again the crucial lie involved in their situation: they are Israeli citizens, but they identify with and some have aided terrorists who attack the state.
Their position is an exaggerated version of the Palestinian Authority’s. The Authority cooperates with Israel in many ways but pays salaries to imprisoned terrorists, whom it treats as heroes, and considers dead terrorists to be martyrs. When Israel has to respond to terrorism, the Authority ignores the provocations and denounces the Jewish state. The Palestinian Ambassador’s speech at the U.N., during the latest battles is a good example. He called Israel the aggressor and did not mention the terrorist kidnappings and murders or the terrorist rockets that preceded Israel’s respose. Instead, without noting that civilian Palestinians were dead because Hamas used them as human shields, he read a list of their names and in that utterly disreputable context declared, “This is not simply the Palestinian narrative, this is fact,” as if that lie about his lies, like a double negative, would make them true.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which has become a cottage industry, employing many of the people it was created to serve and dependent upon their continued displacement for its survival, administers to Palestinian Arabs displaced in 1948 and their descendants. But it depends for its survival upon the extended displacement of those people. Thus, the UNRWA is also self contradictory. When it discovered terrorist rockets in two of its schools, it denounced the breach of its “neutrality.” Have the rockets since then “gone missing,” as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon now claims, or did the UNRWA “demand” that the terrorists come and remove their rockets as “Algemeiner” reported earlier? No one has a use for the rockets but the terrorists, so in either case it is undoubtedly they who have taken possession of them. The UNRWA is therefore abetting terrorism because no one can doubt that those rockets stored on its premises will now be used to target Israel. Meanwhile the Secretary General has accepted a flight to the Middle East in a plane chartered by Quatar, one of the sponsors of the Hamas terrorists.
A broad honest response to such contradictions can result in long term peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Recognizing the problem of divided loyalty, Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel should be allowed to declare that they are citizens of the groups they favor. On the one hand, they should be issued the equivalent of American Green or European Union Blue Card residency, freedom to live and work in Israel as long as they abide by the laws. On the other hand, they should be absentee voters, free to function politically as citizens of their favored Palestinian Muslim group. Thus, while retaining the privileges of residence in a first world state, they will free themselves of the burden of living a lie while retaining the everyday advantages of Israelis.
Under that circumstance, the perception of second class citizenship because of exclusion from the army vanishes. If they wish to serve in a military, they can move and serve the Palestinian Authority. In either case, their wound of inherited hypocrisy will be healed.
Similarly, Arab Israeli politicians, some of whom serve in the Kenesset but are loyal to Hamas and/or the Palestinian Authority, can either leave and seek political office among their brethren or abandon politics, find gainful employment in Israel and remain there as Green/Blue Card carrying residents. Those displaced persons served by UNRWA can also declare citizenship in the institutions of their people. No longer displaced, they will be citizens of the Palestinian Authority who choose to benefit by and benefit the UNRWA.
As for Israeli Jews who live in the Judea and Samaria/West Bank region, their presence can be regarded in the same manner. They will be the equivalent of Green/Blue Card residents with absentee voting rights in Israel. Their case is somewhat different, of course. With the exception of areas linked to Jerusalem, the Israelis in the Judea and Samaria/West Bank region occupy land that is agriculturally inferior. They live on the high ground, and there is a reason for that. Whatever they and others think about religious explanations of their presence, they serve an immediate practical purpose. From the vantage of high ground military attacks by land can be foreseen and more readily repulsed.
The history of modern Israel is filled with attempts by its enemies to mount unanticipated attacks–through tunnels from Gaza most recently and on Yom Kippur from Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1973 most despicably and dangerously. That festival is Israel’s most somber holy day when even moderately observant Jews are weakened by an around the clock fast. Israel does not want to face another such attack without looking down at its enemy, and even as Israel will be living with “green/blue card” residents, under the terms here proposed, so will the Palestinians of the Judea and Samaria/West Bank region, with Israeli Jews occupying militarily crucial areas.
The problem of two peoples on one land will thus be laid to rest. They will be two peoples occupying one land as two nations with each living honorably in both. Israel will be a Jewish state in which resident Arabs are welcome, and the same in reverse will apply to Jewish residents in the Judea and Samaria/West Bank region. Indeed, that region may want to welcome Israeli entrepreneurs to improve the likelihood of employment for its large population. Peace and prosperity can follow.
Albert Wachtel is a professor at the Claremont Colleges whose editorials have been published and syndicated by the “Los Angeles Times,”,”The Wall Street Journal” and “San Francisco Chronicle,” among other newspapers. He is also the author of “Critical Insights: James Joyce” (Salem Press, 2013).