Speaking “Dugri”

Every Israeli understands and uses the Arabic word “dugri” which is loosely defined as “telling it as it is”.

That is to say, telling it from the person’s own point of view which may not be politically correct.

I am not a racist. I do not seek the physical elimination of the Palestinians in our midst, God forbid. We Jews are unfortunately only too familiar with the term “elimination” and we do not wish it upon persons or nations.

However, speaking “dugri”, I do hope for a permanent separation between us and the Palestinians.

I object to the proposal recently made by our Prime Minister Netanyahu, for whom I voted, to cancel the residency permits and rights thereof to thousands of east Jerusalem Arabs who do not have Israeli citizenship. To allow them to live in their homes without benefits of health care and unemployment benefits is equivalent to a death sentence. Collective punishment for an entire society is not acceptable. Stricter punishment by our courts should be reserved for the accused perpetrators and convicted terrorists.

Speaking “dugri”, I oppose the ideas put forth by our Prime Minister. Hopefully, more reasonable minds will understand the dangers we would face in an international outcry accusing us of racism and inhumane treatment of those Arabs living under our “occupation”. The Geneva Convention requires us to provide for the care of subjects living under occupation of foreign powers.

Our Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, is absolutely correct when he commented that the problem is not one of settlements or violations to the Status Quo arrangements on the Temple Mount. The problem is simply stated… the Arabs do not want the Jews to have a state in their midst. They would prefer that we had accepted Herzl’s Uganda proposal.

Looking at a map of the Middle East, we note that we are surrounded by twenty-two Muslim countries. Twenty of them are Arab countries. Two Muslim countries are not Arab, namely Iran and Turkey. If Israel was not to exist, there would be a unified Muslim world. We are the thorn in the side of all Muslims, preventing such a unity. And I bless God’s name each day of my life for being a thorn. I wear it with pride.

Before 1882, we were tolerated by the local Palestinian Arabs, mostly peasants (felaheen) because our numbers were few and we were not seen as a threat to them. But when the Bilu’im and the chalutzim began arriving, Arabs opened their eyes and began to fear loss of their lands.

True, most of the Arab land was owned by absentee landlords, rich Arabs living luxuriously in Beirut, who employed tenant farmers to work their lands and to turn revenue over to the absentee land owners.

But when Jewish pioneers arrived, settled in previously Arab dominated communities, and began working the land, planting and sowing, thousands of Arab tenant farmers were displaced. Our hard-working pioneers sang as they toiled. “Artza alinu. Kvar charashnu, gam zaranu, aval od lo katzarnu”

We arrived in our homeland. We have already ploughed the soil, we have planted the seeds, but we have not yet reaped the harvest.

The harvest was reaped in 1948 upon our independence after sixty-six years of tilling the soil, building cities and homes and dwelling in them. Our labors were a threat to our Arab neighbors who were immediately incited by their religious leaders and the Grand Mufti to eliminate the Zionist Jews from the land.

My family arrived in Palestine in 1909 and settled in Jaffa. In 1915 the Ottoman Turks expelled them, together with other Jews, to Egypt during the First World War.

With Allenby’s victorious entry in 1918, my family returned to British Mandate Palestine and rented an apartment in the new all- Jewish city of Tel-Aviv. Shopping in Arab markets in Jaffa which had been cordial in 1909 now became hostile. We were not wanted.

Speaking “dugri”. We had no other place to go. Eretz Yisrael was promised to us in God’s covenant with Abraham. “To your seed I will give this land”. And so, a new problem arose. Abraham’s seed consisted of his two sons, Yitzchak the Hebrew and Ishmael the Arab. To which of the sons did the land of promise belong?

From the 1920s until our independence in 1948, there were frequent riots, pogroms, murders committed by the sons of Ishmael upon the sons of Yitzchak while the British mandatory authorities often closed a blind eye.

After our War of Independence, hundreds of thousands of our Arab neighbors fled the country on the advice of their political and religious leaders or were “encouraged” to flee by the advance of our army knocking at their gates. New communities of refugees found some form of shelter in neighboring Arab countries. Thousands of them are still living in the camps in which they first arrived in 1948.

Moshe Ya’alon spoke “dugri”. Not settlements. Not Status Quo. For the Arab world, the only problem is the Jews of Israel whom they would very much like to see eliminated. We are at “peace” with neighboring Egypt and Jordan but it is a cold peace. There is no tourism, no friendly relations person to person, but there is no war. And we can live comfortably with that.

The Palestinian Authority needs to recognize that we are here forever whether they like it or not. They cannot defeat us, they cannot destroy us, but they can, if willing, come to an arrangement with us to cease the violence and terror and to sit with us and talk about a compromise.

Let us sit down and talk together. But let us talk “dugri”.

Next week, on 9th November, Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet with the out-going American President Obama at the White House. What can those talks really accomplish? Iran is a done deal. Settlements will not be disbanded. The UN will not send troops to protect the Palestinians as Abbas has requested. The rioting and terrorism will continue, regrettably, for a long time. A future Palestinian state is still an Arab dream that may never be realized. Other than handshakes and photo-ops, what can these two leaders accomplish?

Speaking “dugri”, I feel that it is all futile. But speaking “dugri”, it costs us little to make an attempt and hopefully to garnish improved relationships. America keeps reminding us that they have our back. The question is: who has our front?

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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