The delusion of return

It’s difficult not to feel sympathy with the stated Palestinian position of wanting to “return home.”

May 21, 2018 21:13
3 minute read.
A Palestinian girl drinks from a public tap at the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip

A Palestinian girl drinks from a public tap at the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/ REUTERS)


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We Jews know a thing or two about displacement. Rabbi Margolin, the European Jewish Association chairman and founder made the point succinctly recently at an event marking the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence. His ancestors for successive generations lived in Poland, Russia and continued around Eastern and Central Europe before settling in Israel.

This is our story. I’m as British as they come, born and bred in London, but part of my family two generations ago was Romanian. Our comms expert is Israeli via Yemen and Romania, and our policy wonk is Latvian via Poland and Germany. There’s even a group of young people in Brussels who put up other Jews who are in town and need a place to stay and have a Shabbat dinner. What’s it called? Wandering Jews. Ok, so you get the point – it’s in our lexicon. It is, for the vast majority of Jews, in the Diaspora or in Israel, our story.

Borders are fluid things. There’s a Youtube video that shows how Europe’s borders have utterly changed over the centuries, and it’s quite the sight. The Jewish experience is such that we were referred to quasi-politely as rootless cosmopolitans, part of society yet somehow separate. This of course led to all manner of discrimination and accusations, questions over loyalty and the usual antisemitic tropes born of prejudice, fear and ignorance. But we accepted our fate while longing for a return to Zion. And now, while many of us still choose to call Europe home, we have another home, our original place, where our faith was born, where we lived, had a country and now, have one again.

So, it’s difficult not to feel sympathy with the stated Palestinian position of wanting to “return home.” But there is a fundamental difference, that if one looks at Europe, provides an answer and some illumination on this difficult subject, and may help some of our readers contextualize things a bit more: “To the victor, the spoils.” It’s blunt, but it is reality.

If we were to extrapolate the logic of the Palestinian leadership, the people and their supporters worldwide, we would be looking at the following: Germans with Sudeten heritage should start walking into the Czech Republic and demanding the right to take back land, towns and cities that used to be German under the Reich. Similarly the descendants of Silesian Germans with regards to South West Poland. Or perhaps those with a tentative connection to Gdansk should march to the city that gave birth to solidarity and demand that it be renamed Danzig and re-Germanized.

And while we are at it, in Kehl just across the Rhine from Strasbourg, millions of Germans should be massing to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine.

Seems utterly ludicrous, ridiculous and fantastic to even read those words, doesn’t it? And yet, this is precisely what the Palestinians expect when it comes to taking back land, much of which was offered to them in 1948, which they refused, and for which they fought war after war, aided by Arab neighbors and aided too by, ironically, Hitler’s Reich.

They lost, time and time again. That’s not gloating. That is a fact.

Einstein’s definition of insanity, that of repeating the same action and hoping for a different outcome, is fitting here, too. The saddest, and indeed sadistic, part in all this story is that not only are the Palestinian leadership indulging and actively encouraging such delusion (to deadly and tragic consequences as this week has shown) but many Europeans – whose history we have briefly outlined above, and who should know better – are too.

The author is director of public affairs for EJA: European Jewish Association, a Brussels- based NGO which represents and acts on behalf of Jewish communities across the EU and wider European continent, at the heart of European institutions and at bilateral level with member states.

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