The current events in Ukraine, with millions of its citizens fleeing their country in face of the Russian invasion, offers a new, albeit unasked for, perspective on Zionism and The State of Israel. The truth is that except for those who arrive in Israel the rest of the Ukrainians become refugees with an uncertain future. The world knows quite well what it means to cope with refugees, being the ones fleeing Syria or the ones crossing the Mediterranean, be it away from war or famine; the world needs time to process the situation. Israel, on the other hand, even if it means additional strain on its absorption system when crisis occur, is a country made by and for refugees. You could almost say, like those solidarity flyers with certain collectives or when a city is under attack, “I am a refugee”.
However, I am not. Not myself, nor anyone of the thousands arriving from the war in Ukraine. If numbers are anywhere around the four hundred thousand Ukrainians who can apply for Israeli citizenship under The Law of Return, then Israel is facing yet another wave of Aliyah, probably among the largest in its short history. If Russian is already the third language of the land, it will only become more dominant. If Russians are a political force to be reckoned with (ask Avigdor Lieberman), then this Aliyah will have immediate political, electoral consequences. I would stop worrying about the Arab lists to the Knesset; the Russian-speaking citizens of Israel will have lots of influence from now on; if they needed any more.
Whenever I hear naïve proposals regarding a One State Solution to the issue of The Occupation in Judea and Samaria and the status of the Palestinian refugees in Gaza, I always ask myself the same basic question: don’t they realize that such a State would no longer be The State of The Jewish People? Israel is located in a complicated neighbourhood, to put it mildly; it has always been so, from Genesis 12:1. The land promised to Abraham is nowhere else but there, even if you become lax regarding borders, sanctity, and supposed divine rights. This is where our History begins and unfolds, this is home. It has been also home to many other peoples over time, but the Jewish people have built its identity upon it. This is why Jewish refugees come to Israel. It is our final destination.
Zionism became a Jewish option in an era of nationalisms and on the eve of the fall of empires. However, it is not, or should not be, a chauvinistic nationalism nor a force for conquest. We Jews have nothing to do with conquering and subduing other peoples; we have everything to do with our own survival and existence. Zionism is the tool for that end. In the meantime, The Occupation is an anomaly; more than fifty years have been dedicated both to find a viable solution for both peoples as well as coping with the terrorism that comes from this situation. If no solution has turned up, both sides are to blame. However, giving up Jewish sovereignty is suicidal.
Imagine #Ukraine and the Jews of Ukraine without Israel. Truth is, you do not need to imagine: you can see what happens to all the other refugees. As an ordeal only begins, nobody knows when it will end. At the same time, Ukrainian Jews who make it to Israel will become citizens, learn Hebrew, get health-care, and work. Eventually, their sons and daughters will serve in the army. They will be true to their Russian or Ukrainian heritage but they will become Israelis. Eventually.
Are you still eager to further discuss the One-State-Solution from the Jordan to the Mediterranean? Be my guest. Tell me, though, paraphrasing good ol’ Cat Stevens: “where do the children go?”