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My Love Poem to the Israeli Right

Well, OK. Not exactly. It's not a love poem to the entire Israeli right. Just to one particular member of it, Moshe Arens. And not even a love poem for all his views. But for a column in today's Haaretz … Read More

By / July 31, 2007

Well, OK. Not exactly. It's not a love poem to the entire Israeli right. Just to one particular member of it, Moshe Arens. And not even a love poem for all his views. But for a column in today's Haaretz expressing his opposition to the Knesset's Jewish National Fund bill, its recent attempt to enshrine racism into Israeli law.

Thanks to Amechad, one of my readers, for pointing me to this pleasantly surprising view from the godfather of the modern Likud and former defense minister:

Last week the Knesset passed in preliminary reading a law that would require the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to allocate land that it owns only to Jews. Presumably this means that Jews who are not citizens of Israel would qualify, but Israel's Arab citizens would be barred from access to land owned by the JNF. A blatant violation of the norms of democracy. But wait a minute, you might say, was not the Jewish National Fund founded in 1901 so the Land of Israel could be redeemed and come under Jewish ownership? Yes, of course, but something else happened in the meantime. In May 1948, the State of Israel was established, guaranteeing equality to all its citizens. The ultimate purpose of the Zionist Congress that decided on the establishment of the JNF – the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine – has been achieved. In a democratic state one cannot condone laws that discriminate between citizens on ethnic grounds. That was certainly not part of Herzl's vision of the Jewish State. …The proposed JNF law has nothing to do with this mission. Hopefully, it will not go beyond the preliminary reading in the Knesset.

In all the thinking I've done about this law in the past week or so even I hadn't thought of the preposterous proposition that I, who am not an Israeli citizen, could lease JNF land in Israel; but an Arab who is an Israeli citizen cannot. Why? Because he is Arab and I am Jewish. Is this the type of Israel we want to embrace?

I am happy the State of Israel exists. I am happy it has served as a haven for Jews who needed a safe home of their own in the past century. But must we Jews lord our superior rights over Israel's Arab brothers and sisters?  Is this what our ancestors meant when they called for Israel to be a "light unto the nations?"

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