On the 22nd of October 2014 an East Jerusalem Arab drove his car into a group of people waiting for the Jerusalem light rail service. Two people, a baby and a new immigrant subsequently died as a result of this act of terror. It happened as violence has all but prevented the service from connecting the two halves of the city, effectively re-dividing Jerusalem for the first time since 1967. At the same time, riots on the Temple Mount put a stop to visits by Jews or anyone else interested in visiting Judaism’s holiest site.
One of Judaism’s greatest innovations was for worship to become an intellectual exercise and not an act that was dependent on geography, physical artifact or structure. Nevertheless, power has always demanded of its rulers an imposing physical space as demonstration of their commanding presence. It is as if we are unable to emotionally detach ourselves completely from the Golden Calf. And this applies to most of the world’s faiths today and all of them, at some time in their history. If we recognize this condition as a statement of a human need for physical reassurance then we can also understand both the war waged against us and part of the response that is required from us.
Throughout Israel a conflict over identity is being fought. As distance between Israel’s founding fathers (and mothers) widens, Arabs born in Israel are becoming more Israeli and less Arab. This is a good thing because successful integration in any society is based on a shared identity which may take a single generation to achieve or even two or three generations if there is opposition to this integration.
An ethnic identity is the only thing that keeps Israel’s Arab citizens ‘Palestinian,’ and even that is a lie because Arab identity is postulated on a trans-national ‘universalist’ ethnic indivisibility.
A national identity is tribal and to the fundamentalist Muslim, un-Islamic. In the mythology of the Arab founding narrative Muhammad chose the Arabs for his religious revelation and not the ethnic inhabitants of one geographically limited area. It may be resented by non-Arab Muslims but it is impossible to deny the influence it has had over Near-Eastern politics and ethnic insecurity.
It explains the ethnic bigotry of some of Israel’s Arab members of parliament. It explains the reason why Arabs who renounce this racist faux-legal construct of third generation Israeli-Palestinian identity are violently opposed by professional Palestinian agitators and anti-Zionists. The recent case of a teenager forced to flee for his life from his kith and kin occurred solely because of his public announcement that he was an Israeli Muslim. The viciousness of the Arab reaction is indicative of the threat felt by racists who fear for the fight over what constitutes a legitimate identity. They fear that this fight may be taken into their home territory.
That ‘brave’ 17 year-old teenage boy (as referred to immediately above) is a relative of the anti-Zionist MK (Member of Knesset) Hanin Zoabi. What is remarkable is that she appears to have committed an act of criminal incitement when she justified the kidnapping of three Israeli seminarians who were almost immediately thereafter murdered. Her public denunciation of her young relative was on first reflection mild compared to her public justification for kidnapping. She derided him as “from a divorced family. His mother now lives in Nazareth Illit, where he studies at a Jewish school. He’s sleazy. He’s distorted his identity.”
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/181879#.U6Kiv0DyTWX (18th June 2014)
That Hanin Zoabi MK does not now languish in prison is a display of monumental cowardice by Israel’s parliamentary and judicial leadership. This case clearly demonstrates the fascism that is intrinsic to the Palestinian cause. So the question is – how do we fight this war?
If according to the current narrative a Jew cannot be a Palestinian, then conversely, a Palestinian identity is invalidated by adoption of a Jewish or Israeli identity.
Many years ago Yasser Arafat famously dismissed the suggestion that a Jewish missionary effort might help to resolve the conflict between the two sides by threatening to flood Israel with millions of Palestinians who would ‘convert’ to Judaism in order to take advantage of Israel’s Law of Return. He was bluffing of course. Proselytes away from Islam are tortured and then murdered in the Arab world. Again it is viewed as an act of ethnic betrayal. Identity politics is the Arab way to bully the rest of us into adopting a defensive position. In our post-modern Western world we reject specific national identities as countering a harmonious inter-ethnic existence. But we permit it to our minorities if they are vocal enough and violent enough in their opposition to us.
The issue of resolving Palestine – Israel is therefore also hampered by ultra-orthodox control over religious identity. Mass conversion would be impossible to contemplate and would take centuries to actuate.
Just as Christians, Muslims and Druze are able to settle almost anywhere in Israel, the reverse must similarly apply. It is mainly Arab apartheid that actively prevents Jews settling amongst Arabs. Jewish missionary activity would break down this brick wall of opposition to Arab integration in Israel and it would help to marginalize Israel’s racist opponents both in Israel and in the West by exposing the real nature of their opposition to Jewish self-determination. The media must be encouraged to openly debate this Arab particularistic opposition and yes, it would expose Jewish insecurities about their own religious identity as well as the issues that ultra-orthodox authority have created within Israeli society (as well as internationally). Removing religious coercion would focus religious competition – identity has always been a competition for “souls.”
How to respond to the inevitable riots against integration? Counter them by building thousands of housing units for demobilized soldiers in every town that threatens violence.
Within Israel, the twin actions of encouraging an Israeli identity amongst Arabs and prosecuting those people who threaten this freedom to choose their identity would force everyone to consider their racist positions and to reconcile those positions within a democratic and Western orientated Jewish State. It would lower the heat in Israel’s parliament because passionate positions on intra-Israeli identity are not based on inclusion and as such discourage equality and kinship within society.
And last, it would go some way towards resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict because without a Palestinian base “in-country” there would be no support in Israel, by Arabs, for a Palestinian “Return.” Supporters of the Palestinian Right of Return in Europe and the Americas could only then reconcile their support through antisemitic argument that would be obvious to everyone.