Netanyahu’s Evil Definition of Citizenship

The demand that the Jews of France, Germany or the United States be treated as equal citizens loses its validity when the country making this demand says Arabs aren’t wanted.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he arrives at a synagogue to attend a ceremony to the victims of the kosher supermarket attack, Paris, January 11, 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he arrives at a synagogue to attend a ceremony to the victims of the kosher supermarket attack, Paris, January 11, 2015.Credit: Reuters
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call to French Jews to move to Israel shouldn’t arouse anger or insult, neither in Israel nor in France. All Netanyahu did was once again express his beliefs on the meaning of citizenship. For him, true citizenship can only be held by those to whom the state truly belongs: the ethnic group forming the majority.

Since he believes that a “nation-state” can’t tolerate the existence of foreign ethnic groups — they belong in their natural homelands — Netanyahu is consistent. The Arabs in Israel have 22 countries for realizing their culture and nationalist desires, while the Jews, who only have one, are outsiders in every other country and must return home. What culture and nationality can Jews have other than Judaism?

The unavoidable meaning of this delusive view is that the Arabs cannot be loyal to a state that isn’t “theirs,” so it would be ridiculous to ask Jews to be loyal to a state that isn’t theirs — and of course, without loyalty there can be no citizenship. The lesson is that it’s natural for Jews to be persecuted in every other country, as Arabs and Muslims are persecuted in every country that isn’t theirs.

This isn’t just a nationalist theory based on an evil, perhaps even a racist, definition of citizenship. This skewed perception, which tramples the universal idea of citizenship, includes forgiveness for anti-Semitism. If world leaders adopted this outlook, they could claim that anti-Semitism would only end after all Jews left their native countries, and that if the Jews remained spread out around the world, there would be no refuge from anti-Semitism.

Netanyahu isn’t alone in his beliefs. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who emotionally embraced French President Francois Hollande this week, declared in 2010 that the multicultural approach had "failed, utterly failed.”

Her remarks were directed at the Muslim community, and they reflect the findings of a study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which found that 55 percent of Germans believed that Arabs were not pleasant people. Merkel’s statement also reflects the views of Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer, who called on Arabs and Turks to return to their homelands.

National purity is the brother of racial purity. When a state creates legislation that discriminates against religious or ethnic minorities, when it denies their language official status and ignores “anonymous” attacks on their holy sites, when their individuality is considered a violation of national unity, that country cannot speak out against other countries that treat their diasporas similarly.

The demand that the Jews of France, Germany or the United States be treated as equal citizens loses its validity when the country that demands this has made clear the Arabs aren’t wanted there and should “return to their homelands.” Such a policy undermines the right of Jews around the world to ask for equal treatment as French, American or German citizens.

Just as Israel is a state of its citizens that must view all of them — Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze — as its reason for existing, Jews in other countries should be considered equal citizens. Each side is entitled to demand equal treatment for its people.

That is the essence of human rights and treaties signed by the countries that have embraced uniform definitions of those rights. French Jews who are fearing for their well-being and flocking to travel agencies should check if the price of refuge in the Jewish state includes forgoing the democratic principles they learned in France.

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