An evil spirit is infiltrating public discourse: the spirit of expulsion. The zealots among the settlers still mostly use the slogan "Kahane was right," but the slogan "No Arabs - No Terror" is representative of increasing numbers of spokesmen. It happens whenever there's a proliferation of terror attacks. Kahane relied on God, Rehavam Ze'evi on David Ben-Gurion. Ze'evi tried to dress up his expulsion plans in the costume of decency: His planned expulsions would be "by agreement," meaning on the basis of an agreement between the state of Israel and the state that would absorb the expelled.
This week, Ze'evi's heir, former minister Benny Elon, gave up the "agreement" element: He proposed to exploit the current war, and under cover of the battles, to "evacuate" the refugee camps in the West Bank. Elon was allowed to express those views on Israel Radio.
Minister Ephraim Sneh recently came out with a plan to transfer some Israeli Arab towns, including, apparently, one city, Umm el Fahm, to Palestinian sovereignty. Like physical transfer, the legal transfer proposed by Sneh is an expression of the desire to get rid of all the Arabs: those in the territories and those in Israel. While still in uniform, Dr. Sneh liked to nurture his image as one of those officers who knew how to help the Arabs. In government cabinet sessions he sounds like a Lieberman-Landau clone. Some participants find it difficult to believe their ears. Passionately supporting that transfer concept, the minister was allowed to propose on one of the TV talk shows that Israel expel relatives of suicide bombers.
Israeli law and international law do not allow a person's citizenship to be revoked. But the law is only a law, so Eli Yishai, the interior minister, is hurrying to prepare legislation that would allow the state to strip citizenship from those it chooses. One of the suicide bombers lived in the territories, but was an Israeli citizen by virtue of his parents' marriage. Yishai has already ruled that there will be no more family reunifications. He also wants to take action against residents of the territories who hold Israeli identity cards. The result could be the same as in Jerusalem: a flood of people with Israeli ID cards in the West Bank swarming into Israel, but that problem could be solved if Sneh's proposal is accepted.
This is not merely a matter of clean language. If the wave of terror propels Israel back to the troubles of the 1930s, the next stage of deterioration is possible. Leaders of the Zionist movement discussed the transfer idea; up to the War of Independence it was only written and spoken about, but there is a link between the idea and the Palestinian tragedy of 1948. In advance of the Sinai operation of 1956, plans were drawn up for the mass expulsion of Israeli Arabs from the "Triangle."
In the Six-Day War, nearly a quarter million Palestinians from the West Bank moved to Jordan, many by force. It wasn't easy for them to return, and not all managed to do so. This is where the danger lies when the possibility of transfer becomes part of the political discourse, when it seemingly becomes a legitimate subject. Like military orders that have a black flag hanging over their illegality, there are ideas that should have black flags over them.
Ephraim Sneh doesn't usually think in moral-humanistic terms. Like a good Mapainik, he thinks about what's feasible. If he could take a few minutes off from plotting his transfer plans, he should go over to the government secretariat's office and look up the minutes of the meeting from July 21, 1948. He'll find the following comments by then-agriculture minister Aharon Tzizling, who believed that not was expulsion was immoral, but also threatened the security of the fledgling state. "There are still those who are not properly assessing what kind of enemy is growing outside the borders of our state. Our enemies from the Arab states are nothing compared to those hundreds of thousands who, out of hatred, frustration, and bottomless enmity, will storm our state, no matter what kind of arrangement is made," said the minister. He meant the refugees, many of whom are still in camps and with them second, third and even fourth generation refugees, some of whom have become suicide bombers. It's doubtful that there are many other predictions that were proven to be as accurate and as tragic, as his.