Opinion

If Palestinians Have 22 States, Israeli Jews Have 200

The notion that the Palestinians have 22 states to go to is a blend of malice and ignorance: The Palestinians are the stepchildren of the Arab world, no country wants them and no Arab country hasn’t betrayed them

Palestinians in Beirut protest an Israeli assault on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Sunday, September 22, 2002.
AP

Here we go again: The Palestinians have 22 states and, poor us, we have only one. Benjamin Netanyahu isn’t the first to use this warped argument; it has been a cornerstone of Zionist propaganda that we’ve imbibed with our mothers’ milk. But he returned to it last week. “The Arab citizens have 22 states. They don’t need another one,” he said on Likud TV.

If the Arab citizens of Israel have 22 countries, the state’s Jewish citizens have almost 200. If the prime minister meant that Arab citizens could move to Arab countries, it’s obvious that Jews are invited to return to their country of origin: Palestinians to Saudi Arabia and Jews to Germany.

Netanyahu belongs in the United States much more than Ayman Odeh belongs in Yemen. Naftali Bennett will also find his feet in San Francisco much more easily than Ahmad Tibi in Mogadishu. Avigdor Lieberman belongs in Russia much more than Jamal Zahalka belongs in Libya. Aida Touma-Sliman is no more connected to Iraq than Ayelet Shaked, whose father was born there. David Bitan belongs to Morocco, his birthplace, much more than Mohammad Barakeh does.

To really understand Israel and the Palestinians - subscribe to Haaretz

The notion that the Palestinians have 22 states to go to is a blend of malice and ignorance. Underlying it are the right wing’s claims that there is no Palestinian people, that the Palestinians aren’t attached to their land and that all Arabs are alike. There are no greater lies than these. The simple truth is that the Jews have a state and the Palestinians don’t.

The Palestinians are the stepchildren of the Arab world. No country wants them and no Arab country hasn’t betrayed them. Try being a Palestinian in Egypt or Lebanon. An Israeli settler from Itamar is more welcome in Morocco than a Palestinian from Nablus.

There are Arab states where Israeli Arabs, the Palestinians of 1948, are considered bigger traitors than their own Jews. A common language, religion and a few cultural commonalities don’t constitute a common national identity. When a Palestinian meets a Berber they switch to English, and even then they have very little in common.

The suggestion that Israel’s Arab citizens move to those 22 states is despicable and mean, well beyond its reference to a common language. It portrays them as temporary guests here, casting doubt on the depth of their attachment to their land, “inviting” them to get out. The amazing thing is that the ones making such proposals are immigrants and sons of immigrants whose roots in this country still need to withstand the test of time.

Palestinians are attached to this country no less than Jews are, possibly more so. It’s doubtful whether the hysterical clamoring for foreign passports would seize the Arab community as it did the Jewish one; everybody was suddenly of Portuguese descent. We can assume that there are more people in Tel Aviv dreaming of foreign lands than there are in Jenin. Los Angeles certainly has more Israelis than Palestinians.

Hundreds of years of living here have consolidated a Palestinian love of the land, with traditions and a heritage – no settler can match this. Palestinians have za’atar (hyssop) and we have schnitzel. In any case, you don’t have to downplay the intensity of the Jewish connection to this country to recognize the depth of the Palestinian attachment to it.

They have nowhere to go to and they don’t want to leave, which is more than can be said for some of the Jews living here. If, despite all their woes, defeats and humiliations they haven’t left, they never will. Too bad you can’t say the same thing about the country’s Jews. The Palestinians won’t leave unless they’re forcibly removed. Is this what the prime minister was alluding to?

When American journalist Helen Thomas suggested that Jews return to Poland she was forced to resign. When Israel’s prime minister proposes the same thing for Arabs, he’s reflecting the opinion of the majority.

From its inception, the Zionist movement dreamed of expelling the Palestinians from this country. At times it fought to achieve this. The people who survived the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the expulsions of 1967, the occupation and the devil’s work in general have remained here and won’t go anywhere. Not to the 22 states and not to any one of them. Only a Nakba II will get them out of here.