One thing Michal and I love about Israel is the relative lack of political correctness. Yet, it exists. A perfect example is the timely question asked by a young girl to her mother, blogger Sarah Tuttle-Singer: “Is ‘Hatikvah’ a racist song?”
Sarah replied, “Wow, what a great question. Why are you asking?” Then ensued a conversation about the Zionist feelings expressed in the song and the indifference to these sentiments of one-quarter of Israelis, mostly Muslim Arabs. In the end, Sarah’s daughter agreed to sing Israel’s national anthem, but said, “I think they [Palestinian-Arab Israelis] should have their own anthem, too, if they want, in Arabic, just like we do [in Hebrew]. And I also think we should also sit down and write one together that’s in Hebrew and in Arabic and combines all of the things we all dream about…”
To my way of thinking, this is political correctness gone amuck, especially considering that the Muslim Arabs deny Jewish rights to the land. In PC-mad America, there were discussion (circa 2006) about a Spanish version of the Star Spangled Banner. What if Latinos (if that is the correct term these days) insisted on a Spanish version of the anthem that disparaged America’s inclusion of Texas? That’s what many Israeli Arabs (most of whom call themselves “Palestinians) would like to see, if not even more drastic anti-Israel measures.
In the United States, nearly all immigrants share the basic ethos of American freedom and liberty, even if they have little else in common. Freedom and liberty are the unique national attributes of the US, unlike many other countries (Spain, France, Germany, Japan, Thailand, etc.) where there is a distinct national character which the citizens share and most hope to preserve.
Israel has a similar, unique character, which represents the national aspirations of the Jewish people, a dream that harks back thousands of years to Jewish kingdoms in the Land of Israel, a dream which always remembered and celebrated.
The fact that other religious groups share our country but don’t share Jewish aspirations is not surprising. But that’s no reason to diminish Israel’s ethos as the Jewish State to accommodate a minority which mostly disdains the Jewish dream.
Not fair, you say? Remember whom we are dealing with. Many Muslim countries are titled Islamic States, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a whole, they show remarkably little tolerance for the religious sensibilities of their non-Muslim inhabitants, be they citizens or visitors. Not only that – there are 57 of these Muslim countries, not one, like the sole Jewish State of Israel.
This question reminds me of another one asked in Florida, a whole generation ago, by my mother’s friend to her granddaughter. “Why don’t you go out with Jewish boys?” The teenager’s response was, “That’s racist.” I think that was at the beginning of the wave of political correctness that has swept over the West. Not marrying someone of a different race or religion because of either factor could be evidence of a racist attitude, or it could stem from the recognition that widely divergent histories and outlooks may not be a good foundation for marriage. But to describe a marriage between cohesive groups as racist? Nonsense!
A marriage between Jews is likely based on cultural affinities, socializing from youth, or sharing important religious traditions. It should be a real stretch to describe as racist Jews marrying Jews, or for that matter, any marriage between groups who share life experiences. Yet, when DIVERSITY becomes a slogan that overrides all else, describing Jewish marriages as racist can result.
Diversity is not a religion or the guiding light of life. It’s a factor to be considered. The aspirations of minorities in all countries deserve consideration. But a line must be drawn when or if minority aspirations differ from the majority ethos or much worse, contradict them. Such is the case in Israel, where a large percentage of Israel’s largest minority, Arab Muslims, condemn the celebration of Israel’s independence as a catastrophe (naqba).
Let’s get this straight: Israelis have a right to national aspirations, just as the inhabitants of other countries do. The State of Israel is an established fact. It doesn’t include a Palestinian state inside of it, nor should it.
So, Hatikvah should remain as is, the national anthem of the State of Israel. Those who don’t share the aspirations voiced in the song should still respect it and the country it represents. To think of changing a country’s anthem to suit divergent aspirations for the sake of diversity and political correctness is folly. It’s the first step in surrendering the guiding national force to dissident citizens. So the answer to the question, “Is ‘Hatikvah’ a racist song?” is emphatically “NO!”