Israel is still a young country with many social problems. For many Israelis it is a day of barbecues, plastic and inflatable hammers, foam sprays, vandalism and pollution of public parks with garbage, accompanied by high decibel Oriental Music (Israeli "Arse" Music) bursting one's ears. This year it will be the same pollution and vandalism, which is so much part of the celebrations of Independence Day. It is also a living hell for many household pets who run away from the various firework displays. Who knows how many pets will be abandoned during this time?
The other side of the coin is Al Naqba (The Catastrophe) observed by Palestinians in the occupied territories. It is also observed passively by the Israeli Arab community.
The streets of Israeli cities, towns and settlements are bedecked with Israeli flags as well as blue and white streamers. In contrast to this, in the Israeli Arab towns and villages it is business as usual with no Israeli flags visible anywhere.
The question that should come to one's mind is: Where have we failed to create a feeling of a common patriotism for Israel so Independence Day can be part of the Israeli heritage for all its citizens irrespective of race, colour or creed?
Al Naqba should be viewed as part of the history of Israel's establishment alongside the Zionist narrative. Symbols of Israel's people should be part of a common patriotism which could unite both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. It would create more tolerance and understanding among all Israel's citizens. Lately there have been vandal attacks on mosques and churches by various extremist right wing religious Jewish groups. The most notorious being Price Tag (Tag Machir). All this is caused by lack of education and tolerance towards those who are not Jewish. Racism in Israel is on the increase.
Before the actual Independence Day celebrations, it would be positive for Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel to sit down and discuss each other's history. Ways of creating a common loyalty so that both the Zionist and Arab narrative of 1947/48 should be aired in a feeling of openness between the two peoples. The South African model of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, as was carried out under the patronage of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, be adapted for all Israelis to create healing process, would go a long way to establish a common patriotism.
The next step would be finding symbols that would give Israeli Arab citizens a feeling of identity with Israel. It could be an olive branch or a symbol representing the three monotheistic faiths. These are symbols that recognize the diversity of Israel's people and at the same time create a sense of patriotism common to all.
Celebration of Israel's Independence Day is very partisan when 20 % of Israel's citizens do not identify with Israel.
A common patriotism must begin on the first day at school. Education should be the same for all pupils. Arabs and Jews should be encouraged to go to the same schools. The only time justifying separation is when it comes to religious classes. This is the case in schools overseas where Jewish children learn Tanach, Christian children-the New Testament, Muslims-the Koran. The amount of time devoted for religious studies should be decided by the school committee composed of members of all faiths. Citizenship studies should be the same for all groups.
The biggest problem to initiate a common feeling of patriotism is how it should be done. This would involve total re-education of teachers to guide the transition towards a common patriotism. Programmes for teacher training to receive the tools on how to achieve this would go a long way in reaching this goal. It cannot be done overnight, as the wounds of the conflict and its history runs very deep, and as mentioned earlier in this article, a process of healing based on a truth and reconciliation programme would be a good start.
In many western countries (of which Israel claims to be part), schoolchildren of all faiths pledge allegiance to their countries of birth. This sense of allegiance irrespective of race, color or creed is part of a common patriotism for all citizens.
It could be achieved here in Israel. The advantages are great. One positive aspect would be a total negation of the claim that Israel is an apartheid state which would improve Israel's standing in the world. This would also bring much needed peace closer between Israel and the Palestinians as all Israel's citizens will be united in the desire to end the occupation and reach a just peace with security for all.
When the feeling of a common patriotism is achieved, we will see Israeli flags in Arab villages alongside bunting symbolizing all Israel's citizens' unity imbued with a common pride for the country of their birth.
One thing that needs to be addressed, are American Jews delivering the rally cries all of the time, "They want to destroy Israel," or "It will lead to Israel committing suicide." Israel has now been there for 65 years, and it is not going anywhere. There was an air of vulnerability to Israel at first, but now that air of vulnerability needs to be put to rest. But those still are the rally cries for American Jewry, even though many American Jews have never even been been to Israel. Realize that some of the most extremist parties within Israel have been started by American Jews. It cannot be left up to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to deal with this, nor can it be left up to the synagogues, because many American Jews do not even attend one. But the emphasis now, needs to be placed on Israel coexisting with its neighbors, and that doing so does not equate it with Israel's destruction.
I agree, this also include interference by groups like JStreet and Americans for Peace Now who try to push Israel to make more "sacrifices" for peace, enough people have died from this kind of peace. Americans Jews should simply support the government elected by Israelis and support their policies period.
But the current government of Israel is a coalition of parties, and many of these coalitions have cabinet positions. So supporting a cabinet minister such as Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, is following the government that is elected. As for the Prime Minister he has publicly stated that he supports a two-state solution. So American affiliate organizations really are not working opposite of the elected government of Israel.
While the government is made up of parties, true but, it is the prime minister who is in charge of the platform. For example the government of Israel will not freeze building in the settlements, that is their policy, Jerusalem will never be divided, Palestinian refugees and their children and grandchildren will not be let into Israel etc.... The fact the Tzippi Livni and her measly 5 other parliament members do not agree do not make it policy. Just the same as the fact as Naftali Bennets party which is twice as large believes that Israel should annex areas of the west bank is not government policy.
So yes they are working against the government. American Jews should simply stay out of Israeli politics...
But Naftali Bennett says he against the confiscation of private Palestinian land, and as of yet I have not heard him come out and say the West Bank should be annexed. The one who is advocating annexation is Moshe Feiglin. He could not run for the Likud Party, so he formed his Manhigut Yehundit, and ran under it. But Moshe Feiglin has spent a 6 month prison term for sedition against the State of Israel. So really these annexationists can make a great deal of noise, but annexation would require a Knesset vote, and it would not seem possible that the majority could be achieved. Also with division, it would have to be done based on demographics. Jerusalem is 65% Jewish, and the West Bank is 75% Muslim. So there is political room for Netanyahu to work with.
Tim, you need to study up a little bit about Israeli politics. One of the major diplomatic initiative Naftali Bennet spoke about in the election campaign was annexation of area C. Tzippi Livni is for Freezing settlement building and splitting Jerusalem, this too requires a Knesset majority that can not be achieved, but this is not the point. Furthermore, he is not for taking of private Palestinian land he is for redefining what the term means. currently that term does not require an Arab on the side to claim it is there, simply areas that Israel did not take as state land, even if there is no know owner...
One thing that is open to the negotiations is land swaps. Which is the reason why the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations needs a head strong mediator, a person who can say "yes you can do this, no you cannot." They just cannot be left on a bilateral level, that was the reason why Ehud Olmert's plan was rejected. But is John Kerry going to be man enough to perform that task? One advantage that Tzipi Livni has over Naftali Bennett is that Netanyahu appointed her as chief negotiator with the Palestinians. It seems to be Bennett could disallow the partition of Jerusalem (personally, I do not see how the city can be partitioned, the Western Wall is just feet away from the Dome of the Rock). As for Israel to annex Area C, that is where Kerry would have to come in.
Israel would not exist except for the commitment and loyalty of American Jews.
The only thing I question about is how do American Jews see Israel existing in the Middle East? An armed to the teeth camp, where all surrounding Arabs and Muslims are subhuman cutthroat killers, or seeing the surrounding Arabs and Muslims as neighbors? Israel just cannot be an armed camp, where all outsiders are their perpetual enemies. That is ghetto mentality, and American Jews can live anywhere they want, work any type of job that they want, and can marring whoever they want. The last time Anti-Semitism was truly a factor within American society, was during the McCarthy Era from 1950 to 1956. But many American Jews want to live with this ghetto mentality, and forever keep Israel on guard to perpetual enemies. If you did not agree with that type of sociology, then you get branded as a Nazi. So no matter if hell or high water, Israel just cannot live along with the Arabs and the Muslims. I refuse to accept it.
Of course Israel has to be armed to the teeth, that is th only reason for its survival today. That is not an American thing, it is a factual thing, that a majority of Israelis would agree with. The new middle east that was proposed by Peres ended up to be a disaster. The only way to survive in a bad neighborhood is to be prepared and ready for war at all time. When you are strong and only then Arabs will makes peace, they dont make peace with teh weak.
Unfortunately, with Shimon Peres turning 90, it does not seem possible that he will live to see a new Middle East. But we definitely can. At the Peres Center for Peace is a Facebook that anybody can get into. Which shows how vital citizens' grassroots participation is. Obviously, Israel has the most sophisticated intelligence system in the world, so there are many things it knows, that we at grassroots do not know. But as a grassroots participant, I will do whatever it means to achieve peace and coexistence. This is the reason why I stay in contact with so many Arab and Muslim non-government organizations. So can they change their governments? That is the challenge which is presented to them. But I got these individuals on this website. Israel can stay strong, but let us not confuse strength with paranoia. Because when anybody embraces paranoia, they turn into a bully. Anybody.
Missiles on your cities and your enemies building nuclear weapons are facts not paranoia. To pretend the Arabs do not want to kill Jews or destroy the country is simple nativity, they say it themselves, it is in their school books, on their TV, in their charters and declared by their leaders. Lets not bury our head in the sand and pretend we are in la la land. Peace with Arabs only happens when Israel is strong.