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October 23, 2014 | 29th Tishrei 5775

Schizophrenia

August 18, 2002
Marc Rosenstein

An imaginary letter from mainstream Israeli society to the Arab citizens of the state:

"Events of the past two years have created a good deal of uncertainty and anxiety on all sides. We thought it would be useful to clarify our expectations of you; herewith are our assumptions:

"This is a democracy. We expect you to be loyal, constructive citizens. That means voting, paying taxes, serving in the army, obeying the law, "playing by the rules;" also, saluting the flag, singing the national anthem, manifesting the kind of loyalty and patriotism that is natural in a modern nation-state.

"This is a Jewish state. Through centuries of persecution, of denial of our basic rights -- even our right to exist -- by just about every nation in the world, we dreamed of the restoration of our own sovereign state, in which no one could persecute us, one little corner of the world in which our culture would be dominant. Finally, half a century ago, our dream came true. While it may be that during those centuries of exile you settled here, our sovereignty here derives from a divine promise as well as a UN resolution; therefore, if you choose to stay, it will have to be on our terms. Our culture will be dominant here, and our language. We will set the curriculum in the schools. We will open our borders to Jews returning to their homeland, no matter why and from where. We know the heart of the stranger, what it feels like to be a minority, and we don't intend to put ourselves in that position ever again. It is your turn to play that role. And if you prefer not to, then the whole world is open to you: you can choose among the multicultural democracies like the US and Canada, and the Arabic-speaking ethnic nation states like Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. Emigration is not so terrible; ask us -- we're experts.

"Actually, it would have made the whole thing a lot simpler if you had just left in 1948; we did our best to encourage you, but you wouldn't give up your land here. We know that actually, you stayed in the hope that eventually, you would succeed in overpowering or at least outnumbering us, and attain sovereignty here yourselves. That is why we have never trusted you, and will never trust you. That is why we will not allow you access to economic resources and positions of political power. That is why we will not include you as a stakeholder in urban and rural planning processes. That is why principals of your schools must be chosen by the Shabak (="FBI)," not according to their educational credentials.

"If you refuse to leave, then we expect you at least to keep quiet. Don't lecture us about democracy; we know what you would do if we gave you equal rights and opportunities. Don't speak to us of Palestinian nationality; there is only room for one nation here. Don't tell us all you want is to be a tolerated minority with equal rights, that you like living in the Jewish state; we don't believe you. Don't cry to us about your suffering brothers in the West Bank and Gaza; if they had continued quietly to acquiesce in the rule of the Israeli military government, as they did for the first twenty years of occupation, none of this would have happened. Don't tell us you condemn all terrorism and grieve for all loss of life equally; we don't believe you (after all, we don't grieve for all loss of life equally; why should we expect you to?). But don't tell us you "understand" why your brothers resort to terrorism; that only proves our thesis that you are all terrorists.

"On the other hand, it is your silence that really gives us the willies. Given how you are treated here, how can you just go on about your business, going to work (if you have work), to school, being humiliated at every security check, building your houses (if you can get a permit), watching on TV as Jewish Israel outwesternizes the west? Any protest on your part is disloyalty and anti-zionism. But your silence is ominous and scary and we don't trust it.

"Another thing: we expect you to dissociate yourselves from the rest of the Arab world. As loyal citizens of Israel, you are expected to identify with the national interests of your country, and not with those of Israel's enemies. However, we reserve the right to associate you with the rest of the Arab world, and to treat you as though you were part of it (you are, aren't you?).

"We hope that this clarification is helpful, and that now we can get on with a constructive coexistence dialog."

 

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