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While the Israeli and world media focused on the Sharon government's defeat in the recent Knesset budget vote (69 to 43), another vote took place that same day, with significant long-term consequences, about the right of Jews to build communities for themselves in their historic homeland. Narrowly defeated by a vote of 40 to 38, the bill would have allowed the Israel Lands Authority (ILA) to establish a "small community" for "one particular sector" of the population.
National Union MK Tzvi Hendel submitted the bill, in response to two recent events that have cast doubt on the 130-year-old Zionist enterprise.
In October 2004, the Israel Lands Authority canceled a tender for leasing 26 lots in Karmiel's Givat Hamachosh Jewish neighborhood. The cancellation was in response to a petition submitted to the Haifa District Court in September against the ILA, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and the Karmiel Municipality, by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and the Arab Center for Alternative Planning. They claimed since the lots were being offered to Jews only, the tender adversely affected the country's Arab citizens. Rather than open the tender so that Arabs could lease land and move into the neighborhood also (which would have changed the status quo from a Jewish neighborhood into a mixed Jewish-Arab one), the ILA and JNF chose to withdraw the offer.
Let me point out here, the JNF collects monies worldwide - mostly from Jews - for the express purpose of reclaiming through purchase, the Land of Israel, and resettling Jews in their ancient homeland.
An earlier court ruling in March 2000 determined that the agreement through which Israeli state lands (Jewish national lands) are transferred to the Jewish Agency, for the establishment of Jewish towns, was illegal. The court's decision came in response to a petition submitted by an Arab family wishing to buy property in the town of Katzir (they were turned down). This too would have changed the status quo.
Events like these have begun threatening the national affirmative action program Jews have implemented for the last century and a half to re-establish their homeland under their own control, reversing the effects of nearly 2,000 years of brutal occupation and exile, by the Romans, Arabs, and others.
Hendel's bill sparked a wild debate in the Knesset, with left-wing MKs expectedly opposing it. Labor's MK Ophir Pines-Paz labeled the bill "racist and anti-constitutional," arguing it would not stand up in the Supreme Court. He also accused Hendel of trying to turn Israel into a racist state. Yahad-Meretz's MK Zahava Gal-On also called Hendel's bill racist and anti-democratic. Left-wing politicians have long ago abandoned the Jewish national enterprise, and regularly ignore the overtly racist idea of a Judenrein (Jew-free) Palestinian State. But what was surprising, was that a majority of cabinet ministers in Sharon's Likud-led government decided a few weeks ago that they were opposed to the legislation, and worked to ensure that it would not pass. So much for Likud's slogan, that it represents "The National Camp".
Beyond the express purpose of using Jewish money to redeem parts of the Jewish homeland, and to use the Jewish State's resources to build towns for Jews; why would Israeli Jews prefer to live in Jewish-only communities rather than mixed neighborhoods with Arabs?
Several of the larger cities in Israel have mixed Jewish-Arab populations (Jews and Arabs generally live in their own neighborhoods), but most of the smaller towns are either Jewish, Arab, or Druze. Let's look at what's happening in Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab town near Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Recently, the Lod Deputy Mayor Emil Haddad (Likud) called for the evacuation of the Jewish residents from the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood. In the last ten years, the neighborhood went from being completely Jewish to 70% Arab residents. Haddad claims he's "saving" the Jews living there, from constant harassment at the hands of their Arab neighbors. Haddad's plan involves convincing the Housing Ministry to buy out the Jews living in Ramat Eshkol, move them to a new neighborhood (yet to be built), and use the homes in Ramat Eshkol for Arab housing.
Wherever there's a problem with Arabs, a new "disengagement" plan?
Speaking with Israel National Radio, Rafi Kicheli, another of Lod's deputy mayors (from Yisrael Beiteinu - a component of Hendel's National Union Party) explained that, "The problem started 15 years ago when the government decided to bring Arab collaborators from Judea and Samaria to live in Lod. Each of the 80 families brought their entire clan with them, transforming the neighborhood into a place of drugs and crime. The neighborhood, though, still has synagogues and many Jewish families continue to live there."
Attacking Haddad's proposal, Kicheli said, "We would rather bring in new immigrants to Ramat Eshkol, perhaps open a religious education facility which would strengthen and build the community, rather than abandoning it." Kicheli accused Haddad of developing a disengagement plan to transfer Jews from Lod. "We are no longer talking about Gaza, but a place just three kilometers from the airport which was a completely Jewish neighborhood just ten years ago," Kicheli said.
Yisrael Beiteinu chairman and National Union Party leader Avigdor Lieberman said the situation was "horrifying," and warned, "We understand that there is pressure from Arabs, and people are running away. That's how we ran away from Lebanon, that's how they want to run away from Gush Katif and now they want to run from Lod. This is a dangerous precedent with ramifications for other mixed cities like Ramle, Upper Nazareth and Jaffa [southern Tel-Aviv]."
In contrast to some Jews being encouraged to flee their towns, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) released figures that prove that the Oslo War has not stopped Jews from moving into Judea, Samaria, (the West Bank) and Gaza (Yesha). Jews continue to build up their homeland. New housing sales around the country, in the private sector, declined by 8% since January 1, 2004; according to the CBS, with the exception in Yesha communities, registering an 11% increase. Also, the Jewish population of Yesha grew by 5.3% last year, in spite of the security situation, and now numbers 231,800, in contrast to Israel's overall growth rate which has slowed in recent years (in 2000 it was 2.6%, in 2001 it was 2.2% and in 2002, it was 1.9%). So, regular harassment by Arabs hasn't stopped all Jews from carrying out their national mission.
But the Oslo War, its terrorism, death and destruction, have hardened Jewish attitudes toward both the "Palestinians" and "Israeli Arabs".
A recent study by Haifa University's National Security Studies Center shows that nearly half of the Jewish public - 47.7% - opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, even in the framework of a peace agreement. Also, a majority of the Jewish public in Israel - 63.7 percent - believes that the government should encourage Israeli Arabs to emigrate from Israel. The survey also found that 48.6 percent of the Israeli Jews polled said the government was overly sympathetic to the Arab population, and that if national elections were held today, close to 30% of the public would support a Kach-like party (whose platform was to expel Arabs from Israel and Yesha). Over 55% of the Jewish public feels that Israeli Arabs are a threat to national security, and there is widespread Jewish support of Israel's counter-terror methods, with nearly 80% of Jews supporting Israel's policy of killing terrorist leaders.
So, with over four years of the Oslo War, and the growing "Palestiniazation" of Israeli Arabs, more than 60% of Israeli Jews think the government should "transfer" Israeli Arabs, and almost 30% support a Kach-like party to implement it. Even "Palestinians" are having second thoughts about living in the Land of Israel.
The results of a survey by the Maagar Mohot Interdisciplinary Research and Consulting Institute Ltd, in collaboration with the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, were presented at the recent Jerusalem Summit conference. In it, they found that over 70% of Arabs in Yesha could be induced to permanently leave.
According to the study, almost 2/3 of the Palestinian population is dissatisfied with their quality of life. Only about one third of the population believes that the chances of improving their quality of life are good. Most the population (60%) believes otherwise. Most Arabs (53%) believe that the Palestinian Authority is not doing enough to improve their quality of life. Almost half of the Arabs surveyed (46%) believe that the PA is corrupt and 42% state that they have considered emigrating permanently to some other country. Half the population (50%) state they do not discount the possibility of emigrating permanently to another country, if they had the means to do so, while 17% stated explicitly that they would emigrate permanently. In answer to the question "What would induce you to emigrate permanently, only 15% stated that nothing would induce them, while 71% specified one or more material factors that would induce them to emigrate permanently (such as substantial financial compensation, a guarantee of a good job abroad, or good level of housing).
Several elements on the Israeli political right, including the National Union, with MK Benny Elon's "Peace Plan," Dr. Paul Eidelberg's Yamin Yisrael Party and his "Jewish Constitution" movement, some in the National Religious Party and Moshe Feiglin's Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership faction in Likud), are thinking in this direction. But, this idea of financial incentives, most directly corresponds to the proposal put forward by the former Kach Party leader, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, over 20 years ago.
Was Kahane right?
Interestingly, in an October 2004 survey commissioned by Israel's Channel 2 TV, it revealed that 58% of adults aged 18-22 support "transfer" (the expulsion of Arabs from Israel), 26.4% believe the slain Kach Party founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane, was correct in his call to expel the Arabs, while one-third believe the Kach Party should be declared a legal organization once again. According to a concurrent Maariv report, a survey questioning 500 Israelis (representing a cross-section of society) revealed that 13.1% favor a national leader like Rabbi Meir Kahane (pro-Jewish, strong, and consistent).
Armed with the knowledge of popular support, Kach activists have recently launched a campaign to annul the decision to ban their political party as a terror organization and to reinstate it to full legal status. Rabbi Kahane was first elected to the Knesset in 1984. His party was later banned from running in the 1988 elections, after the passage of anti-racism and anti-democracy legislation aimed at disqualifying the Kach party. Kach had been polling 10-12 Knesset seats, before the disqualification. Rabbi Kahane was assassinated two years later, in 1990, by an Egyptian terrorist while on a speaking tour in New York.
Kach activists sent a formal request to the Prime Minister's office calling on the government to reverse its decision that Kach is a terrorist group. In their letter to Prime Minister Sharon, the prospective Kach leaders stated, "Declaring Kach a terror organization is a sin, since it is clear to everyone that Kach members do not espouse terror and none of our leaders have ever been convicted of terrorist activity. As far as we know, Kach was outlawed due to political considerations, and now that the Jewish people are divided over fateful questions there is a need to allow for maximum freedom of speech."
Kach activist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who signed the letter to Sharon, pointed out that, "There is no better time than now to reinstate our legal status, since, as seen in the survey, a third of the public believes that Kahane was right and they are with us."
Ben-Gvir added that activists are planning to start hanging posters across the country calling for the party's return to politics.
That most Jews in Israel prefer to live in their own communities should come as no surprise. It was the purpose of re-establishing an independent Jewish State in the first place. After nearly 2,000 years of bitter occupation and exile, Jews desired to return and liberate their ancient homeland. After centuries of Christian and Muslim persecution while in exile, Jews looked forward to re-establishing their own independent national life, without Christian or Muslim interference.
After the rise of the State of Israel, Arabs in Israel, who were part of the enemy population, were given citizenship. But citizenship meant equal civil and economic rights, not equal national rights. Too many Israeli Arabs today identify with and actively work for the Palestinian cause. Israel is a Jewish State. The state's land resources are meant to rectify the 2,000 old national tragedy of occupation and exile, promoting the immigration of Jews worldwide, and the building of new Jewish communities. Jewish Affirmative Action is a national requirement to right a historic wrong against the Jewish people and nation of Israel. Added to the national rivalries on the part of Israeli Arabs toward Jews, the crimes perpetrated by Arabs against Jews (i.e., drugs, prostitution, etc), and one can understand why may Jews don't want Arabs in their neighborhoods, or in the country at all.
By the way, if it troubles you about Israel contemplating buying the Arabs out, or throwing them out; ask yourself this:
"How much does it bother me that the proposed Palestinian state that George W. Bush, Tony Blair, the Quartet (US, EU, UN, and Russia) support establishing, is intended to be an 'ethnically pure' Arab state...no Jews allowed?"
Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst and consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations and Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko
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