What the hell is going on here? You take a short nap, say, 2,000 years, and you wake up to find someone’s taken your land. That’s what I call chutzpah. Although to hear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak of “Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived,” you’d think he’d just taken leave of these honored figures after finishing up a sheepherding shift near a cave in the Judean hills.
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That’s the essence of the secular-messianic theory, a mix of jingoism and messianic religious fanaticism wrapped up with money and connections into a well-oiled marketing machine.
With this in mind, we can turn to the new Basic Law Netanyahu is proposing, that would anchor Israel’s status as the democratic state of the Jewish people. And thus, as they build bypass bridges and make Arab villages disappear, a trans-historical bridge is being built, meant to connect the Babylon exile to the current reincarnation of the Jewish state, as if the intervening 2,000 years never were.
“Without the Arabs’ preservation of their ancient Arabic-Aramaic names, the Zionists would not have been able to recreate their Hebrew map,” wrote Meron Benvenisti in his (Hebrew) book “Dream of the White Sabra: An Autobiography of Disillusionment.”
One may also assume that were it not for the Arabs, Netanyahu would be busy right now defending his patrimony in the Himalayas and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett would be digging some Zulu warrior’s arrow out of his backside, in Africa.
Benvenisti says the Zionists “reciprocated by erasing all the Arab names from the map,” even as each name, “rich in beauty and sensitivity for the surroundings,” was carefully chosen.
This front that Netanyahu puts up is part of his quixotic campaign to prove that Arabs have no roots here.
In this regard he quotes English cartographer Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, who visited the Holy Land in 1861.
By way of validating Stanley’s reference to the emptiness of the land — the Zionist “A land without a people” — Netanyahu recalls that Stanley was “buried only a few meters from Queen Elizabeth I.” A colonialist of the present quoting a colonialist of the past. “And who will stand up for the bride,” asks the Arabic saying, “besides her mother, her aunt and a dozen more relatives?”
It’s unnecessary to note here, that before the Jewish migration to Palestine, during the 1920s, Arabs accounted for more than 90 percent of the population. Theories that deprive them of their right to this land signify a colonialist attitude that relates to native populations as if they were inferior beings.
I checked, and found that the concept of “homeland” has a similar meaning in many languages: The Hebrew word, moledet, has the same root as the word for child, to highlight the place where a person was born. In Arabic, watan is the place where a person resides. In English, as in other languages, the word combines “home” and “land.”
What this all means is that the person is central to defining homeland. There is no homeland without people, and there is no group of people that is cut off from its domain. Nor is there a nation whose purpose is to protect the land of others. But even if we decide that the Arabs are the Jews’ vineyard keepers, after 2,000 years, don’t they at least deserve the status of protected tenants?
Studying roots is a good thing, for those who have already arranged the branches. Those who try to graft the root onto the branch lose the future. How is Netanyahu’s secular enlightenment different from the dark world of mysticism? By the way, this whole question of roots is something that Netanyahu shares with Hamas. He says the Palestinians came from the Arab states, and they say the Jews came from Europe. Each one, in their own way, is robbing the other of their right to the land.
It is very easy to get carried away into this dark labyrinth that Netanyahu is heading for. Good people should stay far away, as all those who go inside lose their morality. The time has come to play on the field of modern values. Leave the past to the people of the past. Choose the future.