There is a name for people who believe the Jews are entitled to a state of their
own in the Land of Israel, who believe that the State of Israel is rightfully a
Jewish state and should remain one. They are called “Zionists.”
thing in Israel is to force Arabs who live in this land to declare that they are
Whether they’re Palestinians in the West Bank who want to
be free of armed Israeli control, or they’re Arabs who want to marry Israeli
citizens and make their lives in this country, first they have to say publicly
that they’re Zionists – they have to recognize, accept, affirm that Israel is a
Jewish state. Any Palestinian who wants to negotiate freedom and independence
from Israel, any Arab who wants to become a citizen alongside his or her Israeli
spouse, has to first raise his or her hand for the Jewish state, for the Zionist
On the loyalty oath for new citizens, the government decided last
week to require it only of naturalized citizens – i.e. gentiles, mainly Arabs,
who marry Israelis and want to come live here. But this was so obviously unfair
to Arabs, it played so badly overseas, that now the government wants to change
it to require all new citizens, gentiles and Jews alike, to take the
The new version is less obvious in its unfairness, but it’s still
completely unfair – this time to Jews as well as Arabs. Why does anybody have to
be a Zionist to become an Israeli citizen? By saying that, the government is
saying about one-third of the population – including virtually all the Arabs and
haredim, along with a small minority of secular Jews – don’t deserve their
citizenship. They don’t belong in this country.
WHEN SUPPORTERS of the
loyalty oath go on about how Israel is a democracy, I wonder what they could
possibly mean. Zionism is a political ideology. Forcing people to swear loyalty
to a political ideology as a condition of citizenship is about as
anti-democratic as it gets.
On the demand that Palestinian negotiators
recognize Israel as a Jewish state, it seems that the point of this is to close
the loophole in the Palestinians’ standing recognition of Israel, which is that
they can still demand the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees,
which, if implemented, would spell the end of Israel.
But we’ve always
insisted on the Palestinians giving up the right of return, or at least giving
up the implementation of it, so why make it harder for them to reach an
agreement with us – unless that’s the point of this new demand? And that is the
point of it, the whole point.
It was cooked up three years ago during the
Annapolis peace talks by – who else? – cabinet ministers Avigdor Lieberman and
Eli Yishai for the purpose of doing what they made no secret of wanting to do –
hamstringing the Annapolis peace talks. Until three years ago, no Israeli
government ever demanded that any Arab entity recognize Israel as a Jewish state
as a condition for peace, but Lieberman and Yishai came up with a brilliant
“motherhood and apple pie” issue that no loyal, patriotic Israeli could refuse
Since then, a solid consensus has formed behind this novel
idea that any Arab who wants something from Israel – say, freedom or citizenship
– has to first show his respect by endorsing Zionism.
To discredit this
policy, it should be enough to recall that its originators were Lieberman and
Yishai. But evidently, this is not enough.
Millions of Jews who are wary
of Lieberman and Yishai have signed on to the demand that Palestinian
negotiators and prospective Israeli Arab citizens declare for
The ironic thing is that it’s not the Arabs who are being
coerced by this attempt, it’s the Jews. Arabs show no inclination ever to make
any statement in favor of Israel as a Jewish state, yet Jews have fallen into
line behind the spiteful, futile idea of forcing Arabs into it.
who’ve been coerced into taking a loyalty oath – a new one. Once they had to
swear that they’d never agree to a Palestinian state, then that they’d never
agree to redivide Jerusalem, now it’s that the Arabs have to become Zionists, or
at least say they have.
The demands for Arab recognition of, or loyalty
to, the Jewish state are expressions of the extreme national egocentrism that’s
been suffocating this country. If we’re committed to keeping Israel Jewish, the
Arabs have to be committed to keeping Israel Jewish, too, otherwise we can’t
trust them. If we say it’s our right to build settlements, they have to say it’s
our right to build settlements, otherwise we can’t trust them. If we say
Jerusalem is our capital and not theirs, they have to say Jerusalem is our
capital and not theirs, otherwise we can’t trust them.
This is beyond
egocentric, it’s monomaniacal, autistic. I think it’s fair to expect the Arabs
to tolerate a Jewish state, to agree not to try to destroy it, but we shouldn’t
expect them to see the justice in it. That’s for Zionists to see, and Arabs
cannot be expected to be Zionists.
Unfortunately, Zionists, or most of us
anyway, are the only people in the world who refuse to understand this.