Auschwitz borders. That ominous phrase, so elegant in its horror. A go-to mantra of the right for more than four decades, it has proven so durable in linking a West Bank withdrawal to the annihilation of the State of Israel that it has outlasted countless anti-peace process ad campaigns (Yesha zeh kan the ubiquitous signs once read: Judea, Samaria and Gaza are right here).
Just last week, National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, addressing a settler protest against the government, explicitly summoned up the specter of Auschwitz borders to explain why Israel must never return West Bank and East Jerusalem land. There was some irony in the timing, however: Two days after Landaus speech, a demographic study showed that at this point, it is the Auschwitz borders that are right here.
The report, by Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola, found that Jews, as defined according to the Interior Ministrys criteria, now represent slightly less than 50 percent of the total population of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. If people ask when Jews will lose their majority, DellaPergola was quoted as saying, referring to the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, then its already happened.
That is to say, had Israel taken the advice of the right in 2005, and quashed the notion of a pullout from Gaza, non-Jews would already constitute the majority in land under Israeli control. In a mere six days, the disengagement gave Israeli Jews a population edge of 1.5 million, but the margin is anything but assured.
We know down deep that the loss of a Jewish majority is how the Jewish state ends. And in our heart of hearts, we already know how this plays out. Stall to death any reasonable peace overture. Pointedly ignore the Palestinian Authoritys dedication to and success in curbing terrorism. Foster settlement even if it means endangering the security relationship with our one imperative ally, Washington. Result: preclude an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Auschwitz borders will be sealed. And, with them, Israels fate.
Differences in Jewish and Arab birthrates are only the beginning. The very measures Israel is taking and will need to take to offset the ill effects of keeping the West Bank and all of Jerusalem may themselves lead to an atmosphere in which sizable numbers of Jews seriously consider making their futures elsewhere.
The more anti-democratic the laws passed to shore up a diminishing Jewish majority, the more repressive the anti-Palestinian measures ordered to shield settlement, and the faster and more profoundly Israels legitimacy will be eroded. Rejection of peace talks will cost Israel dearly in diplomacy with moderate Arab states. The choice of permanent occupation over addressing reasonable Palestinian aspirations will make it more and more difficult for Israels allies to understand and support its measures for self-defense. An Israeli last stand for occupation will further strengthen the hand of Iran and, with it, Hezbollah and Hamas.
If the right succeeds in quashing the two-state option, and the Palestinian Authority disintegrates, leaving the local field to Hamas, such targets as Ben-Gurion International Airport, the towers of Tel Aviv and the settlements themselves will be much more difficult to defend. The security burden of policing an anarchic West Bank will greatly intensify. The number of secular soldiers avoiding army service will mount. For many of those who do serve, years of corrosive duty, patrolling the likes of Hebron and the Gilad Farm, will tempt them to make their after-army trip abroad as permanent as the occupation. The longer the occupation endures, the more likely it is that Jews will find themselves a minority in Israel and the West Bank. The apartheid analogy will be complete.
Israel will be increasingly vulnerable to economic sanctions and loss of investor confidence. As morale darkens, the societys ability to withstand the threats of terrorism, a resolute Iran and a brittle economy will be compromised. A foreign passport will become an increasingly valued commodity.
In a perverse new reading of Never again! many Jews, sensing that these Auschwitz lines have become a trap, arent about to wait around for the end this time. Those who can get out, will. Those who cant, will watch how Greater Israel has given way and given birth to an independent Palestine from the river to the sea.
The right, which never misses an opportunity to quote Abba Ebans 1969 statement about the pre-Six-Day War borders being Auschwitz borders, fails to mention that its author ardently supported ceding occupied land for the sake of Israels future. Indeed, Eban once told a hard-line government that in refusing territorial compromise, Israel was tearing up its own birth certificate. Israels birth is intrinsically and intimately linked with the idea of sharing territory and sovereignty.
The right is unmoved. If the religious among them are correct, any demographic issues will be rendered irrelevant by the coming of the Messiah, who constitutes a democracy of one.
And if the right is wrong? Still traumatized by the Gaza disengagement, the pro-settlement minority has put the rest of us on notice: If the right cant have Israel, then none of us will.