Rattling the Cage: Ambassador of racism

Israeli Arabs can't be forced to become citizens of Palestine.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
You hear all these staunch Jews screaming "anti-Semitism!" when anybody accuses Israel of racism. Then you read the story in Tuesday's Jerusalem Post about the presentation to the paper's editorial staff by Danny Ayalon, the former ambassador to the US, former co-chairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh and current Israel Beiteinu candidate for Knesset. What anti-Semitism? What further proof does anyone need that racism has left the margins of Israeli politics and entered the mainstream? It's become respectable. Now it wears a suit and tie and speaks perfect English. There was a time when the idea of kicking Arab citizens out of the country was limited publicly to the thugs of Kach. Later it was codified into a political program by Avigdor Lieberman, founder of Israel Beiteinu, who exudes every bit as much brutality as the Kachniks, but is much smarter. Now there's Danny Ayalon, a kind of poor man's Bibi Netanyahu, a smooth, well-spoken, well-dressed, Americanized Israeli to present this plan to separate masses of Arab citizens from the democratic State of Israel - and he makes it sound so polite, so unthreatening. So civilized. 'IT CAN be explained to Obama and Hillary," he told the Post. (I wasn't there, I just read the story.) "They are both very intelligent, and they both have the capacity to think outside the box. You can reason with them and they would like to see more creative ways to end the conflict." So what's Ayalon's plan? It's Lieberman's plan, it's Israel Beiteinu's plan - to swap land along the Green Line with the Palestinian Authority. The point of the deal is that a couple of hundred thousand Israeli Arabs in the Triangle east of Hadera would find themselves living in a Palestinian state, while a large number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank would end up living within the sovereign, recognized borders of Israel. "[W]e should trade populated areas, and we wouldn't need to remove anyone from their home," Ayalon said. So clean, so elegant. There is one messy detail, though: The Israeli Arabs in question don't want to be traded. They don't want to live in a Palestinian state. They want to go on living in Israel. ACCORDING TO the Post story, Ayalon "said that Israeli Arabs have privately praised the idea." Well, I imagine there are a few who would prefer to live in a Palestinian state if they didn't have to leave their homes, and Israel Beiteinu's program would give them that opportunity. But they are a trace element among the country's 1.3 million Arab citizens. Every Israeli Arab I've read, every one I've talked to understands this plan matter-of-factly for what it is - a means for Israel to get rid of them whether they like it or not. I asked Nazareth Mayor Ramez Jeraisy about it and he said, matter-of-factly, that "virtually all" Israeli Arabs want to remain citizens of this country and not become citizens of Palestine. Anyone who thinks about it for a few seconds will understand why, but that's not really relevant here. What's relevant is that a democratic country cannot forcibly strip people of their citizenship strictly because of their ethnic identity, and that is what the smooth, well-spoken ambassador Ayalon and his cohorts in Israel Beiteinu are proposing. There are lots of Jews living in the Triangle, too, but under Israel Beiteinu's plan they wouldn't lose their citizenship, only the Arabs. And the Arabs wouldn't lose it because of what they did, but rather because of who they are - Arabs. "It can be explained to Obama and Hillary," says Ayalon. That's a presentation I'd make sure not to miss. A lot of Israelis think the "Populated Area Exchange Plan," which Lieberman proposed four years ago, is a wonderful, Zionist project. For now, at least, it could never get past the Supreme Court, but with the rising hostility to the court, I'm not sure that's always going to be the case. The way things are going in this country, who knows - it may be possible one day for the Knesset to forcibly strip the citizenship of a couple of hundred thousand Israeli Arabs, or even more, and get away with it. That would be the end of Israeli democracy. There is no way the country could do such a thing and go on calling itself a democracy; nobody would take it seriously. And the spectacle of the "Population Area Exchange Plan" being happily marketed by an establishment figure like Danny Ayalon - a former ambassador to the US, a recent co-chairman of one of the major organizations linking Israel and American Jewry - shows how far racism has spread through our body politic. He comes across so much nicer and safer than the glowering, death-threatening, allegedly mafia-linked Lieberman. I don't know which of the two is more dangerous.