Eighty-three years after the National Socialist government of Germany passed the Nuremberg Race Laws in 1935, the Zionist government of Israel has decided to follow suit.
It wasn’t inevitable, but perhaps predictable. Eighty-three years is a long time to hope history wouldn’t repeat itself, even with some of the same players. And besides, whatever’s happening today with Israel’s treatment of its 1.8 million Palestinian citizens bears no resemblance to what happened back then with Germany’s treatment of its Jewish citizens; though of course they weren’t citizens after 1935, so perhaps the comparison isn’t apt.
The Nation State law in Israel merely privileges Jews, which can’t possibly amount to second-class-ifying Palestinians. And any resemblance between the wall surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto and the fence surrounding Gaza – and the shelling of those imprisoned within it – is purely coincidental. Just because two things look the same doesn’t mean they are. The identity of indiscernibles is an anti-Zionist trope. And anti-Zionism is just another word for anti-Semitism.
Critics of the new law concede that it doesn’t change anything. It merely reiterates what was unequivocally promulgated seventy years earlier in 1948.
True, but not entirely. It puts the world on notice that more sinister things are on their way. Those 1.8 million Palestinians – and their 3.5 million brothers and sisters in the Occupied Territories – are costing seven million Jewish Israeli taxpayers considerably. One way or the other they have to be got rid of. A two-state solution provides relief from both the economic and human costs of occupation, but it also provides a place to which Palestinians must ‘return’, as distinct from the may return cited in the Israeli Law of the Return.
And why not? Most Jews were no more native to Palestine than most Palestinians will be to the West Bank and Gaza. What’s important is having one’s own country. What’s less important is where.
The Palestinians know this is what a two-state solution is all about. And it’s that awareness that accounts for their being less than entirely sanguine about an ‘independent’ Palestinian state. The two-state solution is just the Israeli euphemism for what, prior to the fall of Apartheid in 1989, the South Africans euphemistically called the ‘Homelands’.
And the Israelis, for their part, want guarantees of security from any sovereign ‘homeland’, a guarantee they can never have without that second state being governed, as is the West Bank today, by a Quizling regime.
So some of us Jews – and by the way, in much the way only blacks can call each other nigger, we call ourselves self-loathing – are still holding out hope against all hope for a one-state solution, in which Jews and Arabs alike will share all of what was once Palestine, with a Law of the Return applying to Jews, certainly, but equally to Palestinians displaced by the wars of ’48 and ’67.
The ratio of Palestinians absorbed by the world outside of Palestine is not orders of magnitude off that of Jews still in Diaspora. Both run at about twice the number living in-country. That’s also on par with Italians living outside Italy, Greeks outside Greece, Portuguese outside Portugal, and so on. But to refer to them as in diaspora would be a bit of a stretch.
Not so with Jews and Palestinians. Why not? Because Jews and Palestinians living abroad identify in a way that Italians and others do not. That identification is unlikely to dissipate soon, in part because of the Shoah and the Naqba, but also because there are those in-country who depend on those out-country to so identify.
In this Israel/Palestine is not entirely unique. For many years Irish-Americans considered themselves Irish first and Americans second. One of the vectors that brought the Troubles in Northern Ireland to an end was that Irish-Americans began to perceive the silliness of the Catholic/Protestant divide.
And so one source of hope is that Jewish and Palestinians in diaspora will begin to feel a similar embarrassment, and start sitting around each other’s tables. For one thing Palestinians can cook and Jews can’t. For another Jews are funny and Palestinians aren’t. Ultimately these are the things that matter. Walls that wail and domes that rock are the things of children’s songs.