By Dow Marmur
Jerusalem (Dec. 28, 2017) – Dr. Dmitry Shumsky was born in Ukraine, came to Israel at a young age and now teaches Jewish history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He’s also a regular columnist in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz.
His column on December 27 started with a story about a childhood friend who came with his family to Haifa from the former Soviet Union and would wonder why local Arabs didn’t move to Jordan or some other Arab country. When the Jews felt unwanted in the Soviet Union, he argued, many left for Israel, the Jewish state, as soon as that became possible. Why don’t Arabs, obviously unwelcome in Israel, do something similar?
Israel’s current minister of defense, Avigdor Lieberman – himself an immigrant from Moldavia (at that time part of the Soviet Union) and now the leader of the “Russian” political party Yisrael Beiteinu – apparently thinks along similar lines when he argues for de facto expelling Israel’s Arab citizens from the Jewish state. One of his proposals has been to annex parts of the West Bank that now have Jewish settlers and hand over parts of what’s now the State of Israel that has a large concentration of Arabs to a Palestinian state or, better still, to Jordan, as well as “transferring” Arabs who now live in Jewish areas.
Needless to say, Israeli Arabs are not amused. They see the land on which they now live as their own irrespective which government has the upper hand. To stay on home turf is infinitely more important to them than to live elsewhere in any Arab state, even if it’s Palestine.
In fact, many of them apply the same logic as Shumsky’s childhood friend, albeit in the opposite direction. They’ll tell you that the reason why they have a Jewish problem is because Hitler killed most of Europe’s Jews. Some of those who survived, together with others, came to the country which “Jewish mythology” told them was theirs, but in fact has always belonged to the Palestinians. In colonialist fashion – with the help of colonial powers – the Jews expelled most of the indigenous Arab population. Now when Hitler is dead, the Jews should leave this land and return “home” to Europe and to other countries where they belong,
Those who argue in this way aren’t impressed by facts, neither by those proven by archaeology that Jews have lived in this country from time immemorial nor by modern history that indicates that Jews, from Europe and from many other countries, came to settle in Eretz Yisrael long before Hitler.
The two mythologies, one arguing that the Palestinians don’t belong in Israel – even the term Palestinian is new and artificial – the other that Jews have no roots here and thus no place here, are irreconcilable.
Does that mean that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved? Not as long as ideologues have the upper hand. However, pragmatic Palestinians may settle for an accommodation that doesn’t include permanent peace but a long-term armistice that allows a Palestinian state with a Jewish settler minority. And pragmatic Jews may settle for East Jerusalem, albeit under another name, being the capital of that Palestinian state while the Jewish state will always have an Arab minority.
Realists tell us that that’s a pipe dream. The best we can hope for, they say, is the present unsettled situation to continue to be more or less permanent. Let’s pray for the pipe dream come true.