By Dwight Owen Schweitzer
To even focus the debate on the ‘right of return’ as a part of an overall Palestinian settlement is to be blind to demographics. For those who are, and rightfully so, concerned about the recently invented ‘right of return’ as a fundamental right of Palestinians, they ought to keep three thoughts in mind.
First, at current and projected birth rates Israel will have an Arab majority of its own citizens in a generation or two even if no ‘outside’ Palestinian Arabs add to their numbers and shorten that time frame.
Second, Libya has ironically provided both the response and the standard for answering those claiming a right of return. He has offered to compensate Jews who were forced out of Libya (and who didn’t take homes away from Palestinians in Israel), an idea that should become the demand to every other Arab state on behalf of Jews who they evicted from their countries, usually without any of their possessions, no matter that they were accumulated for generations if not centuries.
Similarly, when those claims are recognized, Israel should consider a quid pro quo; paying the former residents of Israel (which has been Israel for over 3000 years I might add) who fled (few were actually evicted) in 1948. The valuation method to compensate them for their holdings should be the same valuation formula that Libya will establish for their evicted Jews. The statistics of refugees are roughly equivalent in actual numbers although the value of what Jews were required to leave behind would in all likelihood vastly exceed the value of what the “Palestinians” chose to abandon.
Third, and most important to the survival of the land of Israel as a Jewish state, is the creation of a Constitution for the state of Israel which will, among other ‘survival’ centered provisions, require that all Arabs living in Israel vote in the Arab (Palestinian) state and similarly require all Jews living in the Palestinian state to vote in what is now Israel. This will at least insure that Israel will not lose its democracy by having that democracy used to legislate its demise. Too many Jews have died for too long to allow shortsightedness and petty rivalries to obscure how fragile our grip on the future is, for the real threat to Israel’s’ survival comes not from without but from within.
It is a common fallacy to think that the incremental resolution of issues is an acceptable process for reaching global solutions. History teaches us otherwise time and again and it is about time we got the message. There is only one Jewish state and we had best think long term as I do not think we will be given a second chance to reclaim our birthright, especially if we are accomplices in our own disenfranchisement.
So to those Jews in Israel who now hold the proxies of every non Israeli Jew anywhere in the world, wake up to your responsibilities to us and to generations of Jews yet unborn. Take the steps necessary to insure that there will not only always be a Jewish Israel but that it be a secular Jewish state that harkens back to the words of David Ben Gurion when he said in answer to the question who is a Jew; “a Jew is anyone who says he is”. The United States has survived and prospered with a separation of ‘church’ and state and it is a model that recognizes the difference between patriotism and zealotry, and for Israel to survive as the homeland of the Jews that is not a distinction without a difference.
Monday, September 06, 2004