The Holocaust's shadow over Israel's choices
The Jewish state's fixation with preventing annihilation actually undermines its security.
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The situation, as it stands, strains Israel's awkward identity as both Jewish and democratic. Eventually, Israel will be forced to choose one or the other because it will become impossible to untangle itself from an unrealized Palestine.Skip to next paragraph
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To remain Jewish will require apartheid measures that ensure Jewish minority control over land that will soon have a Palestinian-Arab majority, or (and even more unthinkable) ethnic cleansing. To remain democratic will mean merging Israel proper and the occupied territories – the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
With these alternatives in mind, two states becomes a much more palatable option – not for Palestine's sake, but for Israel's, and that's how it needs to be sold to Israel and its supporters.
Absent occupation, Israel could allocate more money and attention to internal necessities, namely poverty, education, and environment. With the army out of the West Bank, the 1.2 million Palestinians who live as Israeli citizens might begin to feel more Israeli, no longer viewing their state as at war with their people. The world could finally see Israel the way many Jews have long seen it: tranquil and vibrant, with a brash but pensive culture; Zionism, at last disconnected from occupation, would again be understood as a positive force for justice and social welfare.
None of this can happen until Israel gets its mind out of the Warsaw ghetto and embraces its 21st century strengths. It would be a substantial sociological shift, but it could be hastened in the near term politically if the Netanyahu government agreed to truly unconditional talks about two states. Such a move would force the fractured Palestinian camp to decide whether it is more interested in forming its own state or destroying the Jewish one.
Israel risks little by talking because it holds the keys to a home for Palestinians. Palestinians are free to demand right of return, for example, but do so at their peril. Such nonstarters only serve the notion that they aren't serious enough to make the painful choices necessary to obtain a state, as Jews did in 1947 when they accepted an imperfect UN partition. Ultimately, Israel can walk away without affecting day-to-day life. The Palestinians don't have that luxury; the occupation consumes them.
Israel's founders, given only three years between Auschwitz and independence, didn't have time to process the trauma that had besieged their people, entwining the Holocaust into Israel's DNA. Those who today fill their shoes must find a way to remember the Holocaust without reliving it, lest Israel be forever haunted by memory and never see the power it now wields to make peace and save its moral core.
Bill Glucroft is a writer who has worked in Israel for both Zionist and Israeli-Arab organizations. He blogs at mediabard.org .