We Jews know a thing or two about displacement. Rabbi Margolin, the EJA Chairman and founder made the point succinctly recently at an event marking the 7Oth Anniversary of Israel’s independence. His ancestors for successive generations lived in Poland, Russia and continued around Eastern and Central Europe before settling in Israel, home.
This is our story. I’m as British as they come, born and bred in London but part of whose family two generations ago was Romanian. Our Comms expert is Israeli via Yemen and Romania, and our policy wonk is Latvian via Poland and Germany. There’s even a group of young people in Brussels who put up other Jews who are in town and need a place to stay and have a Shabbat dinner. What’s it called? Wandering Jews. Ok, so you get the point, it’s in our lexicon, it is for the vast majority of Jews, in the diaspora, or in Israel, our story.
Borders are fluid things. There’s a you tube video that shows how Europe’s borders have utterly changed over the centuries and its quite the sight to see. The Jewish experience is such that we were referred to quasi-politely as rootless cosmopolitans, part of society, yet somehow separate. This of course led to all manner of discriminations and accusations of fifth columnists, questions over loyalty and the usual anti-Semitic tropes born of prejudice, fear and ignorance. But we accepted our fate while longing for a return to Zion. And now, whilst many of us still choose to call Europe home, we have another home, our original place, where our faith was born, where we lived, had a country and now, have it again.
So, it’s difficult not to feel sympathy with the stated Palestinian position of wanting to ‘return home’. But there is a fundamental difference, that if one looks at Europe, provides an answer and some illumination on this difficult subject, and may help some of our readers contextualise things a bit more: ‘To the victor, the spoils’. Its blunt, we give you that, but it is reality.
If we were to extrapolate the logic of the Palestinian leadership, the people and their supporters world-wide to Europe, we would be looking at the following:
Germans with Sudeten heritage should start walking into the Czech Republic and demanding that they can take back land, towns and cities that used to be German under the Reich. Similarly, the descendants of Silesian Germans with regards to South West Poland. Or perhaps those with a tentative connection to Gdansk should march to the city that gave birth to Solidarity and demand that it be renamed Danzig and re-Germanised. And while we are at it, in Kehl just across the Rhine from Strasbourg, millions of Germans should be amassing to reclaim Alsace-Lorraine.
Seems utterly ludicrous, ridiculous and fantastical to even read those words doesn’t it? And yet, this is precisely what the Palestinians expect when it comes to taking back land, much of which was offered to them in 1948 and they refused, and for which they fought war after war, aided by Arab neighbours and aided too by, ironically, Hitler’s Reich. They lost, time and time again. That’s not gloating. That is a fact.
Einstein’s definition of insanity, that of repeating the same action time and time again, and hoping for a different outcome is fitting here too. The saddest, and indeed sadistic, part in all this story, is that not only are the Palestinian leadership indulging and actively encouraging such delusion (to deadly and tragic consequences as this week has shown) but many Europeans – whose history we have briefly outlined above, and who should know better – are too.