Sayed Kashua's children hear only one Zionist story
How will Zionist history make the state’s actions fit its peculiar narrative, the writer wonders.
There’s this public-service commercial in which we see two children, one black, the other white, having fun in a playground that otherwise looks totally white. The white mother quickly pulls her son away from the black boy. Then we see other children playing soccer and one says to another, “Yallah, go back to Russia already, you lot.” Then a lovely, fashionable young Ethiopian woman tries to enter a club with a divine smile that is abruptly erased when the white security woman at the door shoos her away.
In the same commercial, an Arab woman wearing a head covering gets onto a bus with her little daughter. A blonde woman with a nasty look in her eyes spots the Arab woman heading for the empty seat next to her and quickly places her handbag there to prevent her from sitting down. The little Arab girl casts a pained look at the wicked, racist woman. A caption appears on screen: “Yesterday, they didn’t make a place for me, today they’re refusing to rent me an apartment.” It ends with the following message on the screen: “Discrimination is a violation of the law. Together we are fighting it.” Electric guitars that are playing “Hatikva” get stronger, and then a line from the Israeli national anthem flashes on the screen: “Our hope is not yet lost.” The sponsor is the Justice Ministry.
Really? Discrimination is a violation of the law and this is how the Justice Ministry is fighting it? Are the apartment owners, real-estate agents and builders who don’t sell or rent apartments to Arabs, Ethiopians or Russians punished for perpetrating discrimination? Are the municipal rabbis who explicitly call for discrimination against Arabs removed from their posts? And where is the law when it comes to admission committees for communities, family unification, allocation of resources, the establishment of new towns?
Where is the law when the ministry for regional development and the development of the Negev and Galilee urges Jews only to be the redeemers of the lands in the north and the south. And where do the punishments go when Arabs are discriminated against at the airport, to the point where they are classified with a different set of numbers than Jews, which are pasted onto their passports? And we haven’t even mentioned the territories.
I am certain that those behind the public-service item are well-intentioned, and the truth is that it’s hard to be critical of the Justice Ministry these days or the minister, Tzipi Livni, herself. She’s getting enough flak from the right, on the assumption that the definition of left in the current off-the-wall discourse is everyone who agrees that incarcerating people in fenced ghettos is sometimes an immoral act. “Narrative?” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett yelled at Livni this week, in reference to an incident in which she responded wimpishly, in his view, to Saeb Erekat’s assertion that he is of Canaanite descent and that his family lived in this land before the Jews.
“Narrative?!” Bennett reiterated again, talking about the First Temple, Second Temple, Jerusalem and, above all, the Bible. “In the Bible,” the Habayit Hayehudi leader said, continuing the rejoinder he thought that the minister who is supposed to represent the Jewish people should have hurled at the Palestinian negotiator, “the same Bible that all the Muslims in the world, all the Christians in the world and certainly all the Jews in the world believe in, it says, ‘Unto you will I give this land.’”
I know a few Muslims and a few Christians who not only do not believe in the Bible, they don’t believe in any divine book. And there are some who are ready even to doubt the existence of God. I fervently hope that Minister Bennett was wrong and that not all the Jews in the world believe in the Bible or in God. But when the minister’s right, he’s right, and when you have a winning card – a divine ordinance that landed straight from heaven – why use a contemptible word like “narrative” or, heaven forbid, “international law”?
I think about narrative a lot, particularly the Zionist one, in the wake of the curriculum set by the Education Ministry for the children of Israel, my children included. There is just one story there, as you can imagine, and its not based exclusively on a divine ordinance. Sometimes, when I hear ministers and leaders who believe fully that the settlement project is the true Zionism, and when I hear right-wingers talking about “left-wing thought police” and in the same breath observing that what goes for the settlement of Tapuah goes also for Tel Aviv – I wonder whether such comments are not actually pulling the ground out from the ostensible legitimacy of Tel Aviv.
I think about how the history books that we teach our children are written. They declare that the kids will grow up to be part of the most moral army on the planet, an army that is taking giant strides toward becoming a divine troop of angels. I think about the settlers, and wonder how the victors will write the history of our time. Will they be described as few against many. Which, in the end, is the truth? Will the United States, which funds and arms the country, be viewed like Britain of the Mandate era, while the true Zionists of our time will be the heroes who fought against it and were victorious, despite its Arab-leaning inclinations?
How far does what’s happening today resemble the pre-state period, as many of the settlers’ leaders insist? How will the plunder of lands in the name of justice and Jewish law become the redemption of the patrimonial lands? And when another intifada breaks out, will the Palestinians not be considered the Arab rioters who by their deeds inflicted a disaster on their people? How guilty are all those who validated the wrongs of those times by justifying the actions of the messianic Zionists?
But I am really not here to criticize the Zionist left; in the end, the Palestinian leadership decided to forgive, though no request for a pardon was ever voiced. As far as I’m concerned, the peace talks can fail and no Palestinian state within the 1967 lines be established. As far as I’m concerned, let there be one state under Jewish rule, in which the majority will tyrannize the minority and the minority will sit quiescently and say "thank you" – because our hope has not yet been lost – for allowing us to sit next to them on the bus, all the way to perdition.