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An Israeli Arab stands behind a voting booth at a polling station in the northern city of Umm al-Fahm.
An Israeli Arab stands behind a voting booth at a polling station in the northern city of Umm al-Fahm.Credit: Reuters
Haaretz

Home to one people is false

Israel’s sad and quiet day, Memorial Day, segues into the next day’s Independence Day. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose the run up to Memorial Day to declare: Israel is home to one people — the Jewish people. And the follow-up message was: “It is the nation-state of one people … and no other.” In this way, our prime minister leads us into a painful Memorial Day for our fallen by saying, in effect, more will likely fall.

I am okay with Israel as a country created for Jews to live in, to be a homeland for Jews, a sanctuary for Jews, a place where Jewish residents can be defended. And Israel is a place where Jews have lived for centuries.

But a home to one people? Now? Ever?

You know home to one people is false from being in hospital — as I just was — where it seemed that half of both the medical and support staffs were Arab.
You know home to one people is false from my university, where 20-plus percent of students are not Jewish.

You know home to one people is false from driving along Route 6, the new toll road where you see mosque after mosque, and, if you bother to look more carefully, the concrete barrier separating them from us. But even so, many Arabs live amongst us and alongside us in the Galilee, Haifa, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Acre, Jerusalem, the Triangle, etc.

You know home to one people is false from numerous archeological digs that reveal both ancient Jewish and ancient “foreign” settlements — Byzantine, Turkish, British, Egyptian, Caananite, Philistine, Persian, Babylonian, Roman, Greek, whatever. There can sometimes be 20-plus layers of non-Jewish settlements underneath the first unmistakable Jewish relic — and more non-Jewish layers above.

You know home to one people is false because a poll on the proposition would likely show that advocates and supporters are more likely to be Arab-haters.
Imagine a future United States President from a state like Mississippi declaring the U.S. a country only for Christians. Okay, others will be tolerated and have “equal rights,” at least on paper. But what then becomes of the rest of the people in a country declared to be for one people alone? Can Jews be set aside in the U.S. as readily as Netanyahu and his coalition want to set aside the Arabs in Israel?

And why should they — Israel’s Arabs — ever surrender to this unilateral and peace-destroying edict of home to one people? It is false historically, in law, in demography and in shared institutions. Arabs cannot, will not and, in my opinion, should not agree to it. Netanyahu thereby makes clear once again — backed by Israel’s weaponry — that peace is only possible on his terms, while knowing full well his terms will never be met. This is not a declaration of peace but of war, increasing the likelihood of another intifada or wider Israeli-Arab war that will yet again resolve nothing toward a better future for the Israeli majority.

I fear the despair is already setting in. It was reported in Haaretz this week that sales of Israeli flags for homes and cars to celebrate Independence Day are down — way down — this year compared with past years.

Is this not a harbinger of the extent to which most Israelis are becoming disgusted with the country and its current leaders? The leaders focus on representing themselves or their narrow group of constituents but not on the wider population that wants and even craves a better solution based on a nation — Israel — for more than one people.

But they may not get such a solution if Netanyahu succeeds at one people for one nation, reinforced by more settlement or the outright annexation of the West Bank.

There is less hope now than I ever remember in my 37 years living here.

Happy Israeli Independence Day.

Richard Schuster

Nesher

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