Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Ira Sharkansky
Letter from Israel 

Palestine and Jewish security


The latest news for those dreaming of a Palestinian state is the refusal of the United List, a group of four largely Arab parties, to sign an agreement with Meretz to provide to one of them the excess votes left over to each after the parceling out via Israel’s system of Proportional Representation.

This would have been a standard technical agreement, common between parties close to one another on the political spectrum, to assure that their cluster does not lose any votes to the mechanics of dividing votes for the 120 Knesset seats.

The United List failed to agree because one of its components refused to reach an agreement with a “Zionist” party.

Meretz is the furthest left of Israel’s largely Jewish political parties. most likely to have Arabs on its list of MKs and to attract Arab voters. If any political party is prominent for its concerns in behalf of co-existence, it is Meretz.

The party leader of Meretz explained the Arabs’ rejection of cooperation as their unwillingness to compromise on nationalism and isolationism for the sake of common interests.

If the action of the United List means that it also won’t agree to support a party labeled “Zionist Union” as the leader of the government coalition, Benyamin Netanyahu can count on another term as Prime Minister. Without the Arabs, those who used to be called “Labor” haven’t a snowball’s chance you know where.

You like the idea of co-existence? So do I, but all the signs are that Palestinians are not ready for it.

Plenty of individuals are. They include some of my good friends, with whom I discuss just about everything in the university gym and swimming pool, and its locker room. A lot of it is locker room banter, but some is serious politics. Then there is my Palestinian PhD, teaching at a Palestinian university, with whom I have a warm personal as well as professional relationship.

It’s the Palestinian leadership that isn’t ready to live with us.

They are not ready to recognize the symbolic issue of Israel as a “Jewish state.” They say it would limit opportunities for Arabs in Israel, yet Israel’s Arabs and other non-Jews have greater rights than the rights of Palestinians in the Palestinian Authority, or any citizen of a Muslim country.

The failure of Palestinians on questions of co-existence is a death sentence for the possibility of a Palestinian state.

When a Palestinian lecturer received an invitation from his alma mater to give a presentation at an academic conference is Israel, his dean refused permission for him to appear at the university where he had earned three degrees.

Our neighbors from Isaweea include numerous people who shop and work in the stores of French Hill, drive the taxis we are likely to use, manage and staff the gas station on the border of French Hill and Isaweea.

However, other people from Isaweea are known for their rabid opposition to dealing with anything Israeli. They throw stones and fire bombs, torched the gas station, and make those willing to deal with Israeli Jews fearful for their lives.

Friends with whom I can talk politics say they cannot exercise their right to vote in Jerusalem municipal elections, due to pressure from other Palestinians.

Our relations with the different parts of Palestine include imperfect accommodations with respect to the West Bank, and something else with Gaza.

Any further development toward a Palestinian state has to wait on a Palestinian leadership willing to recognize Israel’s existence, and its geographical development since 1967. Whether that is feasible seems likely to depend on what happens in the larger community of Islam. The current prominence of extremists is not encouraging.

All this contributes to the feelings of many Jews of Israel who worry about their security. Perhaps it’s part of our genes. More likely it reflects the large proportion of the population that are grandchildren of Europeans who experienced the Holocaust, or Middle Easterners who left home with few belongings.

The reality is that road accidents are more costly than anything the Arabs have tried over the most recent 40 years. And Israel scores relatively well on the common measures of road safety, e.g., a third better than the US.on fatalities per kilometers driven, and 72 percent better on fatalities per 100,000 population.

Reports suggest that the Jews of the Europe and the US are also feeling insecure.

I know of no reliable measure of Jewish insecurity by country of residence, but the Jews of Europe and the US are disadvantaged, compared to those of Israel, by virtue of having to rely on Gentiles to protect them.

It’s no news that demands to boycott and sanction Israel are fashionable on the better campuses. Palestinians are behind much of it, but there are many participants without Middle Eastern roots, and not a few Jews.

The latest sign of scum to reach my mailbox is an article from the New York Times of last week reporting a problem in student government at the prestigious UCLA. One student with a name that might be Jewish name challenged a Jewish student who was a candidate for a student government position.

The effort to keep a unit of student government judenrein, or at least free of Jews who might be too Jewish in their attitudes initially succeeded, then failed after pressure from a faculty advisor. In making the New York Times, it reached one measure of having been a significant event.

It’s only been a month since Barack Obama called murder in the Kosher market of Paris a “random shooting.”

I don’t see the solution to the Jewish problem in Western Europe or North America as a one-way immigrant’s flight on El Al, or--as one of my correspondents reported doing--arranging with a Gentile neighbor to provide refuge in the basement when the pogroms begin.

By all the conventional measures, Jews in almost every country where they are numerous have the clout to protect themselves. Yet the capacity is not worth much if the Jews are afraid to use it. Tolerating a President’s comment about random shooting or a University Chancellor’s statement that an effort to exclude a Jew from campus government is a “teaching moment” is not enough.

The Jewish president of my own alma mater opposed boycotts of Israeli academics, and was upset with one of his own Jewish faculty members who signed on to a statement that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is  “one of the most massive, ethnocidal atrocities of modern times.” Yet the College President also wrote that finds many of the current Israeli government policies “abhorrent.”

Here we come to a problem.

Jews should not feel unable to criticize the actions of the Israeli government, but “abhorrent” is a bit strong when used by someone who claims literacy, when it is not coupled with a consideration of the violence directed against Israel.

Perhaps the distance of American Jews from the US military explains their innocence of what soldiers are trained to do. Much of it may qualify for the label of “abhorrent” when described at a cocktail party, or in a university class where the teacher and most students have not had military experience.

Few Israelis, including those who criticize their own government, can claim ignorance of what is taught in basic training. Dispute and self-criticism are among the traits that have made Jews strong, and explain the strength of Israel’s democracy under difficult conditions. Yet it is a strength that has to be used in order to be worthwhile. Excluding a Jew from a university committee is not a “teaching moment,” and the killing of Jews is not a “random shooting.”

Ira Sharkansky is a professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018