In the Yiddish language of my parents’ generation, there is the word sechel, which like many words from other languages can be translated, but in that translation often something is lost. Yes it is smarts, but it is also common sense. And for me it also incorporates something from the German word einfühlung, which we translate into English as empathy, but which literally means to feel into in German. Educated people feel into and have a passion for the life around them- all the life.
Last week there was a meeting in the White House between Israel Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, where Prime Minister Netanyahu clearly showed me that he doesn’t have any common sense (hot nicht kein sechel).
During the 15 minute press conference that he had with President Obama, where President Obama stated that it was only equitable for Israelis and Palestinians to respect the pre-1967 War borders of Palestinian territory as a point of departure in negotiations for a Palestinian state with subsequent land swaps to make both Israel and Palestine viable and defensible states, Netanyahu, whose government takes billions from the United States every year, had the chutzpah to dictate to the American president how it was going to be.
What I found most remarkable in Netanyahu’s statement was his unequivocal statement that “Palestinian grandchildren and great grandchildren” of those that were forced out of their homes in 1948 when the state of Israel came into existence were not going to get a right of return. From his myopic point of view Netanyahu justified this and his assertion that Palestinian land would not be given back in clear derogation of international law by saying:
- Israel was only 9 miles wide in 1967 and to give back Palestinian lands would make Israel indefensible.
- The demography of population had changed since 1948.
- Giving Palestinians, who have been displaced since 1948, the right of return would threaten the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state by the Palestinians’ sheer numbers.
- Israel had absorbed Jews displaced from Arab countries after 1948 and Arab countries should absorb Palestinians.
1. While I understand and believe in the concept of zionism as a solution for 2,000 years of antisemitism during the diaspora, I also do not think that Jews can achieve their right to a homeland by depriving another people of the same right. One would think that after 2000 years of diaspora, Jews should know this better than any other people, but alas, I guess Jews are just as flawed as other peoples around the world who place their own interest over that of others.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917, which supported the right of Jews to a homeland in Palestine, was given by the British Empire. Clearly, they had no right to do this. This declaration came after the British had broken their promise to the Arabs who helped them end 400 years of Ottoman Turkish domination. This was quickly replaced by British and French manipulation of Arabs’ future that we are still feeling the effects of today with the democracy movement sweeping the Arab world in a final attempt to throw off the neo-colonist. A British plan to artificially inseminate the Jews into the Middle East to insure unrest has allowed the British and their American cousins after the Second World War to continue to exploit Arabian natural resources, while keeping dictators in power. This was the same gambit that the British played in India to keep Hindu and Muslim factions in India fighting each other, while the British continued to profit from their grief.
2. As for the changed demographics that Mr. Netanyahu refers to, Israel’s creation of the Gaza Strip as a de facto prison for 1 1/2 million Palestinians, who have been denied all civil rights, along with the settling of Palestinian territory by Israelis, and the further segregation and harassment of Palestinians is the major cause for demographic change, along with Israeli’s need to settle 1 million Russian Jews.
To my way of thinking, it is not a coincidence that many people have remarked at the similarities of Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto. Although Palestinians haven’t been “relocated” to extermination camps, they have suffered the same kind of extreme social isolation that the Jews themselves were subjected to. Those who are themselves the victims of violence often become the perpetrators of violence against others
3. As for the assertion by Prime Minister Netanyahu that giving the right of return to Palestinians would threaten the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, Netanyahu might be right, but only if the unconscionable conditions of the Palestinians living in their own diaspora are allowed to continue. Throughout the world population growth is directly related to standard of living. If Palestinians were not forced to live in squalor in other people’s countries like the Jews did for 2000 years, they might have a significantly lower birth rate and be much less of a threat to the State of Israel.
The ultimate hypocrisy of Netanyahu’s position comes when he asserts that Palestinians who have been in diaspora for 63 years have no right to a right of return, but an American Jew like myself does 1876 years after the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 A.D. against the Romans, who expelled my distant ancestors from Israel.
4. As for the fact that Israel absorbed Jews from Arab countries after 1948 being cited as a reason why Palestinians should be absorbed by Arab countries, this argument is rather specious. Yes Jews were expelled from Arab countries like Egypt, but the vast majority of Jews either wanted to immigrate to Israel or the State of Israel wanted them when they were expelled. This is not nor has it ever been the case with the Palestinians, who neither want to be absorbed in the foreign culture of other Arab countries, which have no desire to have their own populations disrupted by an ethnically unique Palestinian people who are just as entitled as the Jews to having their own country, unless you consider them untermenschen.
Given that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians are not very religious, one might posit an alternative 3 state solution: One for crazy Palestinians , one for crazy Israelis, and the far larger state for Palestinians and Israelis who value living in peace/shalom/salaam more than they do living in a constant state of war that is anathema to both peoples.
If Netanyahu was a well educated leader of his people with a real historical awareness of Israel/Palestine, he might join with the Palestinians in trying to figure out where both Palestinians and Israelis are going to get water from, when the aquifers that the Israelis have been pumping since long before 1948 run dry and the Turks dam up the headwaters of the Jordan and all the other rivers in the Holy Lands in eastern Anatolia as they move to reclaim the empire they lost to the British and the French at the end of World War I.