Earlier this month, Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav was asked during an interview with the Israeli Arabic-language weekly Kul al-Arab whether he'd accept in principle the return to Haifa of "tens of thousands of Arab refugees" who left it in 1948.
Yahav replied he "wouldn't mind their return" in the context of a peace agreement, adding: "In all sincerity I feel the refugees' painâ€¦ because my father too tasted the bitterness of homelessness and loss after he fled Germany."
There's no ambiguity about Yahav's motivations. As he noted in the interview, Haifa's 35,000 Arabs comprise 13% of its population and Haifa has become a magnet for Arab villagers (a fact Yahav welcomed). Any politician worth his salt is bound to try to suck up to potential voters.
The problem isn't so much Yahav's vote-getting scruples as what his prattle portends. Hitherto only Israeli Jews on the outermost fringes of the loony Left dared explicitly advocate what the Arabs sanctify as "the Right of Return" - i.e. inundating Israel with millions of hostile irredentist Arabs, thereby wiping the Jewish state off the map.
Most noteworthy is a bunch called Zochrot (not run by women, despite the misleading Hebrew feminine conjugation). This outfit - born in 2002 - campaigns to commemorate Arab hamlets within the Green Line which villainous Israel allegedly obliterated. The not-so-subliminal message is that nothing Zionist in this land is legitimate. In no time, however, Zochrot's overt operational bottom line has evolved to facilitating the "Right of Return."
Imperceptibly and lots more rapidly than imagined, the "Right of Return" is gaining adherents. For faithful followers of fashion in voguish avant-garde circles, faddishly thumbing noses at the Jewish collective is de rigueur and proof positive of enlightenment.
Yahav's chatter, though, is far more alarming - because he's no oddball iconoclast but a solid rock of the establishment, a veteran Laborite before jumping on Kadima's bandwagon. That so seemingly mainstream a politician can tamper with existential taboos without generating even a displeased murmur - to say nothing of outraged fury - should tug hard at remaining Zionist fire bells.
Where, one may ask, are all those selectively indignant left-wing voices, who shriek to denounce the remotest Holocaust association suggested by rightist political rivals? But what's verboten for some obviously fails to raise a single righteous leftist eyebrow.
Israel Radio, TV talking heads or sanctimonious star scribblers didn't rush to recruit the obligatory incensed survivor to decry Yahav's specious Holocaust-trivializing exploitation of his father's suffering. Politicians didn't rake Yahav over the coals. If anything, Yahav's political stock probably accrued value in Israel's bon-ton bourse.
WHEN MAKING his spurious analogy, Yahav conveniently overlooked some minor details. His father never launched bloody attacks to throw Germany into the sea and replace it with a Jewish Reich. Odds are Yahav's father didn't slaughter a single German. He didn't stab, shoot, burn, ambush, deploy car-bombs or otherwise mass-murder German passersby indiscriminately.
Indeed, his father probably sported a thoroughly Germanized name and did his darndest to blend in and convince all and sundry of his Teutonic tendencies.
The fact that Germans still wanted him dead attests not only to the futility of obsequious Jewish attempts at assimilation, but to the incontrovertible need for a strong Jewish state.
Yahav now arms that state's worst mortal enemies with new ammo. From here on they can quote him to bolster their demagoguery that Palestinian Arabs are as wronged as Holocaust victims, that Israel is a Nazi clone and that its defense forces are the SS reincarnate.
Why didn't Yahav remind his interviewer that the flight of Haifa Arabs in 1948 alarmed Yishuv leaders and they tried to stop it? Ben-Gurion sent Golda to Haifa Beach to plead with departing Arabs, but they were terrified of their despots. Yahav could have cited for the benefit of Kul al-Arab readers Ben-Gurion's May 5, 1948, diary entry, in which he expresses puzzlement at the Arab abandonment of Haifa:
"What could cause so many thousands to flee thus?" B-G asked in his own private journal. Discussing Haifa's desertion on May 11, 1948, Golda admitted: "We entered this war unprepared for victory."
Is Yahav unaware of Arab autocrats' threats to treat as traitors those Haifa Arabs swayed by Jewish entreaties to stay?
Could a mayor be ignorant of his own city's relatively recent past? Why didn't Yahav stress that Haifa's Arabs weren't driven out? His sins of omission confer credibility on Arab fabrications.
When comparing Palestinian refugees to asylum-seeking Jews, Yahav must have known that these very Arabs tried to deny folks like his father refuge here, and indeed succeeded in condemning untold multitudes of them to the gas chambers.
Same said Arabs' revered leader, Haj Amin el-Husseini, hobnobbed with Hitler, Himmler and Eichmann, spent WWII under their hospitable auspices in Berlin, egged on the "Final Solution" and foiled rescue plans. Are his disciples and torchbearers guiltless?
Was Yahav unaware that Arabs, who bewail their displacement, became displaced in a war of aggression they initiated in order to displace Jews?
Perhaps Yahav should recall Ben-Gurion's determination that "just as it is impossible to resurrect 6,000 of our finest sons and daughters who fell in the War of Independence which the Arabs forced upon us; or heal the thousands maimed in that same Arab onslaught; or bring back the millions who could have been saved from the Holocaust had the Arabs not barred their entry to Eretz Yisrael; or breathe life into all those they massacred before 1948 - so it is impossible for those called Arab refugees to demand the right to return as if nothing had happened."