Only aliyah can save Is­rael

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment&analysis - UZI SIL­BER

HIK­ING THROUGH a Galilean meadow dur­ing army ser­vice in pre-in­tifada 1985, a child­hood friend ap­proached a se­verely weath­ered and aban­doned wooden shed. Draw­ing closer, he was able to de­ci­pher a mes­sage sprayed on to one of its crum­bling walls.

“The fu­ture is ours,” averred the roughly scrawled words, whose He­brew pen­man­ship and spell­ing sug­gested the hand of a non-Jew; an Arab field worker, per­haps. The im­pli­ca­tion of the mes­sage was clear: the fu­ture won’t be “owned” by those who pos­sess the present — namely Jews.

On a flight from Tel Aviv to New York some time later, I found my­self seated next to my cousin Moishe, an an­thro­pol­o­gist at a pres­ti­gious Is­raeli Uni­ver­sity. An ex­treme left­ist, Moishe ad­vo­cates, among other po­si­tions, an an­nual com­mem­o­ra­tion of the Nakba (the Pales­tinian de­feat in 1948).

I soon found my­self be­ing lec­tured on Is­rael’s de­mo­graphic im­per­a­tive to im­me­di­ately and uni­lat­er­ally evac­u­ate Judea and Sa­maria.

For­get the damn Ter­ri­to­ries, I pounced in coun­ter­at­tack: what did my cousin sug­gest do­ing about the de­mo­graphic time bomb tick­ing within the sov­er­eign bor­ders of Is­rael it­self? Arabs con­sti­tute one in five Is­raelis. What hap­pens, I won­dered, when they are, say, one in three?

Moishe re­sponded with de­mur­ral: Is­raeli Arabs pose no prob­lem.

Left­ists have long de­cried the de­mo­graphic quandary await­ing Is­rael if she con­tin­ued to hold on to the West Bank. To­day, few con­test the no­tion that Arabs will even­tu­ally out­num­ber Jews in the land be­tween the Mediter­ranean Sea and the Jor­dan River.

But what of the Arab pop­u­la­tion within Is­rael proper? As Hil­lel Halkin noted in the Jan­uary is­sue of Com­men­tary, “any talk of an Arab de­mo­graphic prob­lem (in Is­rael it­self) is for­bid­den. Po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness com­pels the Jewish left to side with Is­rael’s Arab politi­cians and in­tel­lec­tu­als, who have in­sisted that Jewish con­cern about the mat­ter is il­le­git­i­mate.”

Un­for­tu­nately Is­rael’s main­stream lead­er­ship and its al­lies have failed to force­fully counter the ques­tions raised by Is­rael’s op­po­nents: can a self-de­scribed lib­eral democ­racy ig­nore the as­pi­ra­tions of a large pro­por­tion of its pop­u­la­tion by in­sist­ing on iden­ti­fy­ing it­self as an ex­clu­sively Jewish state? How can Hatikvah be the na­tional an­them of a coun­try where a large pro­por­tion of the cit­i­zenry have no “yearn­ing Jewish soul”, don’t iden­tify with the Star of David, or have no “right of re­turn”?

What­ever one may think of him, the late Meir Ka­hane wasn’t in­tim­i­dated by the dilemma: ei­ther Is­rael is demo­cratic, he said, or it’s Jewish; ul­ti­mately, he con­tin­ued, it couldn’t re­main both — that is, un­less Is­rael ex­pelled its Arabs.

Aside from ex­pul­sion, creative so­lu­tions to the de­mo­graphic prob­lem have been floated. Halkin and oth­ers have pro­posed that Jews on both sides of the pre-1967 bor­der would be­come cit­i­zens of Jewish Is­rael, while Arabs on ei­ther side of the same line would be­come Pales­tinian na­tion­als, al­low­ing Is­rael to drop the vast ma­jor­ity of Arabs off its ledger. Then again, such a pro­posal pre­sup­poses the cre­ation of a Pales­tinian state be­side Is­rael.

An­other idea in­volves bor­der shifts. The Tri­an­gle, a re­gion south east of Haifa con­tain­ing the bulk of the coun­try’s Arabs, would be de­tached from Is­rael and an­nexed to the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity whose ter­ri­tory it con­ve­niently abuts. Mean­while the Jewish blocs in Judea and Sa­maria would shift to Is­raeli sovereignty.

Un­for­tu­nately such fancy pro­pos­als won’t fly for one rea­son: Is­raeli Arab leaders aren’t in­ter­ested in re­solv­ing Is­rael’s de­mo­graphic prob­lem. They’d much pre­fer that it fes­ter far into the fu­ture so that the prophecy scrawled on that Galilean shed a gen­er­a­tion ago, may one day ma­te­ri­alise.

So what then is the so­lu­tion? Bar­ring un­fore­seen mir­a­cles, mass Jewish im­mi­gra­tion to Is­rael by the hun­dreds of thou­sands re­mains the only vi­able way of en­sur­ing that the Jewish state’s fu­ture does in-fact re­main ours. Uzi Sil­ber writes for Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post and the New York Times

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