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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Shimon Peres and the Arab Apartheid Issue

Shimon Peres, Israel’s ninth president, was laid to rest at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem on Friday 30th September 2016. Writing in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Achranot, David Grossman said: “Peres’s entire being stood facing the future. In a country that is being sucked ever deeper into a mythological, religious and tribal narrative, he turned towards the universal, towards science, rationality and the democracy of open information. He cast himself as an anchor on the seabed of the future, the distant, invisible, imagined, utopian and optimistic future, and began tugging himself towards it.” (The article was also featured in the UK’s major anti-Zionist media outlet, The Guardian).

Shimon Peres was a contradiction.  Secular but respectful of religious faith he was humble to the detriment of his political ambitions.  He was a private individual in a job that celebrated public participation. His staff made sure that his every move was posted to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. He relentlessly pursued the fulfillment of his ideas on economics, science and defense, along the way helping to build Israel into a stable and strong country. But he was viewed in Israel as secretive, and therefore untrustworthy.  Ridiculed at home he was admired abroad; described as an international statesman in the same class as Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II.  Domestically, he was a serial loser whose first electoral victory, at the age of 84, occurred when he was elected President of Israel.

If Shimon Peres was contentious, what has emerged from his death and funeral is the work that Israel must urgently undertake to marginalize and exclude the Arab apartheid activists, their Israeli fellow travelers on the far left and those foreign critics for whom, we can do no good.

There are those people who live to remember his failures (and ours) and their hatred is not just our problem but the world’s.  In their eternal denigration of “our kind” this type of person will forgive every abomination the anti-Zionist or antisemite commits while rarely, if ever, acknowledging our shared humanity.

According to the headline in a Times of Israel article published the day of Shimon Peres’s funeral, Ayman Odeh, head of the 13-MK (member of the Knesset) anti-Zionist political bloc the “Joint (Arab) List” extended condolences to the late president’s family but also made it emphatically clear that his group had ‘no place’ in this ‘day of national mourning’

Like every nation, the Arab world has its problems.  The first is a racial ideology that places “the Arab” above all other human beings. Most Arab countries reflect this prejudice within their national legal system.  Not just the Arab nations.  Many Muslim countries are in competition with the Arab world in providing proof of their religious purity.  They are disadvantaged in terms of theological credibility because of their Jonny-come-lately status vis-à-vis their “post-Arab” adoption of Muslim faith.

The second issue is a theological conquest narrative ordained by the Prophet that gives each Muslim the task of not simply defeating the infidel but also humiliating them along the way.  Then the victor refashions their conquered foes history to claim ownership of any good done by their dishonored enemy.

For much of the last two and a half centuries and especially in the 21st Century the Islamist message has been incongruent with a Western (and now) a secular, pluralistic and internationalist outlook that continues to spread its gospel across the globe.  A modern, Western, democratic and secular orientated model for human society stands in contradistinction to an Islamist theology.  And yet, the multiculturalists choose inexplicably, to ignore any misbehavior, to excuse every atrocity carried out in the name of Islam, or worse, to explain away such behavior.  Islamism has given the world Wahhabism (18th Century), Salafism (19th Century), the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda (20th Century) and now in the 21sth Century, Islamic State.  Human misery and death is their shared and unbroken legacy.

Modern Israel was founded along Zionist lines of secular, universal, utopian principles meant to benefit all people.  Being secular, Israel’s Jewish pioneers failed to see and they then failed to acknowledge the religious and racial dimensions of Arab opposition to Jewish self-determination.  They did not appreciate the historical baggage that the Arab conquest narrative endowed them with.  It blinded most Arabs to ever considering an accommodation with the inferior Jew.  That same Arab blindness rules opposition to the state of Israel more so now than before.  This lack of understanding was and remains Zionism’s failure because it prevents us from confronting it.

Post 1948, some of the early Arab Israeli leaders not only accommodated but also embraced the nascent state of Israel.  Their children, people such as Basel Ghattas (Christian) and Haneen Zoabi (Sunni Muslim) went in the opposite direction.

It was no-one’s fault. Israel was a wasteland that had been abused and desolated by over a thousand years of willful neglect. Arab and Bedouin marauders destroyed any possibility for material or physical progress; the Ottoman Empire in its last few hundred years was relentlessly corrupt and just let the gangs get on with extorting whatever they could from whoever they could.  “To a very large extent Palestinian Arab middle and professional classes ‘emigrated’ with most of their property as soon as it was proposed that a Jewish state should be established in the country.” (“Whose Land” by James Parkes). The issue here is that a group of people without leadership soon descends into anarchy. Leaderless, the people will listen with eagerness to any demagogue who will offer them a way, any way. If they were told to flee by their Arab brethren, they would do so.

Israel in 1948 had a nation to build, with few resources and always under threat of violence from its Arab enemies. Israel had to find a way to feed and protect its people against a bellicose enemy.  That enemy talked itself out of any peaceful debate through its perceived hostility.  The Arab world used triumphal and irredentist rhetoric and religious bigotry to preclude debate with their Jewish enemy (as Palestinians continue to do today) and it ethnically cleansed all its Jewish citizens.  A people who, just a few years earlier, had suffered the slaughter of a third of their number was threatened by the Arab world with “finishing the job.” Consolidation and protection took precedence over creating an integrated society.  Israel’s mutually antagonistic ethnic groups incrementally grew more distant with each passing decade. The dominant Ashkenazi Jews dictated government policy while doing nothing to discourage separate non-inclusive identification. A melting pot takes multiple generations, a collective will to integrate and it requires a national dialogue which with one exception (Mizrachi-Sephardi society) did not exist.

Religious groups remained wholly uninterested in integration and therefore accommodated each other only to the degree that self-interest dictated their engagement with the state.

It is therefore hardly surprising that the Joint (Arab) List as referred to earlier is primarily interested in sowing discord between Israeli Arab and Israeli Jew.  A person born in Israel is an Israeli by nationality, whether they are ethnically Arab, Circassian, Jewish, or anything else.  The politics of division is meant to create a fractured society that will become unstable and inevitably ungovernable.

Arab MKs like Ghattas and Zoabi and religious leaders such as Raed Salah of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Chapter preach division. They want separate education, cultural autonomy and administrative independence from the Jewish state. Arabs live throughout the state. A Jew could only ever aspire to live among the Arabs if he or she first converts to Islam. Violence is the Arab response to physical co-existence with Jews.  The apartheid that exists in Israel is Muslim, it is Arab and it is essentially unchanged from its pre-1948 prejudiced origins. It is the same bigotry that greeted The First Aliyah (between 1882 and 1903).  It is the same religious hatred that has greeted successive waves of Jewish immigration to the Holy land for over one thousand years.

In 1948 and beyond, the State of Israel had neither financial resources nor the concentrated intellectual focus to address the integration issues of all its citizens. Many of them were waiting for the state to fail and the victorious Arab armies to destroy the Jewish Republic.  Suspicion, fear and the politics of sectarian advantage dominated the first phase of development.

While Ashkenazi and Mizrachi Jews now intermarry at a rate that is greater than 50% there will always be those people who will want to point out that the cup is almost half empty rather than greater than half full. Dissatisfaction and discord encourages the bureaucracy of state to buy off the professional malcontent.

Israel may not be able to solve the intractable conflict between the Jewish state and Arab Palestine but it must address the Jews as well as Arabs who sow discord in society by emphasizing our differences. The MKs who refused to participate in Israel’s day of national mourning did so but their excuses are mendacious at best. They could not forgive a Jewish state its existence if it was located on the dwarf-planet Pluto.

The next phase in the development of the state must address prejudice and inequality from every quarter of society and that includes the ultra-orthodox bigots who deny Mizrachi children places in their schools, as well as the people who fear the Arab moving in next door.  It includes the racist who chants abuse in football matches and MKs who rejoice at our enemies’ successes against us.

The MK who urges separation from Israel and subsumation into the greater Arab world does not desire peace or justice but the next phase in an Arab conquest story that should shame them but only inspires them to greater degrees of prejudice.  The Jew who wants to keep the faithful loyal to a narrowly interpreted sectarian image of circumscribed piety does not care for the survival of the state but only for his own narrowly tribalistic and dysfunctional world view that can only, counter-intuitively inhibit Jewish spiritual growth in the reborn Jewish state.

The next phase in Israel’s development must see every effort made to integrate all sections of society into a Zionist state for all its citizens.  That is what the dreamers saw, on both Left and Right, in the original Zionist vision.  Shimon Peres would smile at that.

Shanah Tovah to everyone.