It is not every day that a publisher decides to print his positions in his newspaper, and therefore great importance should be attached to what Amos Schocken wrote in his article, "Toward the next 60 years" (April 19). Many of the points he raises are correct and logical, especially regarding the imperviousness of the government and Israeli society to many material and social aspects of the Arab public's life in Israel.
It is difficult, however, to agree with him on one point - the issue of the national anthem. It is certainly possible to understand the feelings of Israel's Arab citizens who find it difficult to identify with "the Jewish soul's yearning," but making this the starting point for a proposal to replace "Hatikva" with what Schocken calls a democratic and egalitarian anthem is a far cry. If the anthem is nothing but the lowest common denominator acceptable to all groups in Israel, then one must take into account the ultra-Orthodox Jewish public, for whom "Hatikva" is not acceptable due to its Zionist nature. Furthermore, for the Jewish national-religious public, "Hatikva" is defective because it does not mention the Lord.
A serious look at national anthems around the world - and I am sure Mr. Schocken will not object to going beyond the provincial Israeli confines - finds the large majority to be problematic. It is enough to cite as examples two strictly democratic countries - Britain and France. The British national anthem entreats the Lord to watch over the country's monarch, who is also the head of the Anglican Church. Millions of Catholics, non-Anglican Protestants, Muslims and Jews, among others, live in Britain today. There is also no small number of republicans there who would like to do away with the institution of the monarchy completely. Did Jews or Muslims ever suggest changing the British national anthem? Did any British liberal ever claim that the anthem's words affect his rights or status?
The French national anthem, "La Marseillaise," is a revolutionary song full of violence and threats against those who oppose the Republic. It is no secret that to this day, there are many millions in France who consider the execution of Louis XVI a historic crime, and one could imagine that they disagree with the words of the anthem. However, they do not propose changing it.
For better or for worse, a national anthem symbolizes the dominant historical trend - which sometimes (as in France) was born of blood and fire. I understand the difficulty of Israeli Arabs, just like that of Jews or Muslims in Britain, or royalists or Muslims in France - but the latter are not suggesting their national anthems be changed. Citizens may decline to sing the anthem, but they should be expected to respect the symbols of the majority.
In neither Britain nor France does the minority question the legitimacy of the body politic that represents the beliefs, the symbols and the narrative of the majority. In Israel, the Arab proposal to change "Hatikva" stems not from the difficulty of singing the words of the anthem, but rather from the desire to question the State of Israel as the national state of the Jews. It is preferable to say these things openly.
The Schocken family, like tens of thousands of other Jewish families in Germany, enjoyed equal rights and unprecedented economic prosperity during the period of the German emperors, Kaiser Wilhelm I and Kaiser Wilhelm II. Did any one of them consider demanding that the German national anthem be changed because it was an anthem of emperors and Christians?
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