A quiet lynch in Tel Aviv-Jaffa
We are having a hard time changing the national anthem for Israeli Arabs - deleting a line or adding a stanza so that they'll feel at home. But is an official municipal logo also so hard to change?
One lynching is not like the other, there's no comparison: One took place in the city square and the other in the city council; one was violent and committed by the rabble, the other was quiet and cultured. But behind both of them stands the same wish: Get rid of those Arabs.
Hundreds of people stood on the sidelines in Jerusalem and didn't intervene. Hundreds of thousands of residents of our city also remain silent. This time, there wasn't even one small demonstration.
Two weeks ago, Ahmed Mashharawi made a suggestion. Mashharawi is a member of the city council and a resident of Jaffa, and his suggestion was to add an inscription in Arabic to the city's logo. Had you participated in a trivia contest and been asked whether or not such an inscription appears, the vast majority of you would have replied in the affirmative: Of course it does.
After all, Tel Aviv has been attached to Jaffa since 1949, and the hyphen between them - Tel Aviv-Jaffa - is a hyphen that connects, not one that separates. Moshe Haim Shapira of the National Religious Party, then the interior minister, even made a nice statement at the time: "At a moment when we are discussing historical values and concepts, we should not be caught up by passing emotions. Jaffa has its own rich past, which should not be underestimated."
But what was understood by everyone then is no longer understood: Ten council members voted in favor, 14 voted against, and the proposal fell.
Sometimes I wonder what we want from Israel's Arab citizens, what exactly their status is here among us. Are they temporary guests? Are they subtenants who are liable to get an eviction notice any day? Or are they full-fledged citizens, in which case it would be good both for us and for them were they to identify with their country and their city?
We are having a hard time changing the national anthem for them - deleting a line or adding a stanza so that they'll feel at home. At present, they are forced to sing "a Jewish soul yearns," and they're damned if they sing and damned if they don't. But is an official municipal logo also so hard to change? Behold, our shared land, that we are very miserly.
On the 100th anniversary of the first Hebrew city, the original logo, designed by artist Nahum Gutman, was changed and updated. Tel Aviv decided to welcome tourists, and to turn its back on its 17,000 Arab residents. Without much hesitation, an inscription in English was added to the logo.
This is not the first time Arabic has been pushed aside and erased. Until 10 years ago, there was no trace of it on municipal signs. Only the intervention of the High Court of Justice repaired that distortion. And this is what former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak wrote (in Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel vs. the Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality ): "Other languages are not like Arabic. Arabic is the language of the largest minority in Israel; it has been here for a very long time ... It is the language of citizens who, despite the Arab-Israeli conflict, want to live in Israel as loyal citizens with equal rights, with respect shown for their language and culture."
This time, too, the High Court will apparently have to intervene. And Mayor Ron Huldai, whose "spirit of the commander" is not the tolerant spirit of the city, will be forced to accept the decision.
Of Tel Aviv's 11 former mayors, two are still living among us - Shlomo (Chich ) Lahat and Roni Milo. I asked them this week whether they understand the furious opposition. Both expressed surprise, and especially at the explanation: "Adding the inscription in Arabic will increase the nation's polarization," said the mayor in a meeting. In other words, if there are no Arabs, there is no polarization.
In three days from now, the school year will begin. This year there will be less need to visit Hebron, because Yesha (the West Bank ) is already infiltrating here, reaching even Tel Aviv: Who falsely accused the latter of being a "bubble," a state within a state? And the mayor, a former school principal and educator, will speak to the students in his arrogant manner about living together and coexistence.