Barely a month after the spiritual leader of Shas called for exterminating Arabs, Israel’s tourism minister proposed getting rid of ‘illegal’ Palestinians. Speaking on Israeli Army Radio, Rehavam Zeevi said that “We should get rid of the ones who are not Israeli citizens the same way you get rid of lice. We have to stop this cancer from spreading within us.” Zeevi is the leader of the far-right National Union party that advocates the expulsion of Arabs living under Israeli rule. This extremist bigot, a vocal advocate of ethnic cleansing, sits in the Knesset. He even has a full ministerial portfolio in the ‘unity’ government led by Ariel Sharon, a notorious war criminal. Rehavam Zeevi is the guy responsible for bringing in the tourist dollars. So the same guy responsible for promoting foreign visitors is taking an active role in advocating the expulsion of the native people. What is the Israeli travel slogan? “Visit Israel and help us exile the native Palestinians”?
One need only recall the measures taken by Europe and America to isolate Haider of Austria for remarks that were considered anti-Semitic. The xenophobic Haider advocated reducing the number of immigrants coming into Austria in language that was quite mild compared to the regular outbursts of hate speech coming out of the Knesset. All this talk of ‘expulsion’ and ‘transfer’ should not be considered idle conversation. The destruction of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and Gaza is just the most recent example of intensifying the violence of the occupation. Sharon and Zeevi and others are openly declaring their intent to deal with the demographic Palestinian ‘problem’ in a manner similar to what happened in 1948. The vast majority of Israelis, across a wide political spectrum, from zealous settlers to the self-appointed ‘left’, insist that any final solution must include a limit to the number of native Palestinians allowed to live within the borders of the ‘Jewish’ state. Indeed, Israelis abandoned the Oslo agreement when they realized that the Palestinians were not going to just forget about their right of return.
Talk of mass expulsion has always been considered polite conversation in Israel. Most Israelis are quite comfortable with a military regime that restricts the Palestinians to a few tiny pockets of their ancestral homeland. From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, four million Palestinians are densely packed into tiny urban islands completely under Israeli siege or military occupation. As far as the Israeli public is concerned, they are out of sight and out of mind.
History was not supposed to be this difficult for the Zionists. In their dogma, the Palestinians should never have been hanging around the Holy Land in the first place. They had no ‘historical ties’ to the land. Besides, if they were not so stubborn they could have just disappeared and melted into the surrounding Arab world. It was an act of anti-Semitism for a Palestinian to simply aspire to live in the land of his birth, since this kind of defiance pre-empted the ‘ingathering of the ancient Hebrew people’ who had a land deed registered in the Torah.
When a Palestinian encounters another Palestinian for the first time, the first thing they ask is for your address. They want to know from which ‘house’ you came. Such is their intimacy with their homeland. Even as exiles, they are a provincial people who ascribe certain traits to those who grew up in a Haifa house as opposed to those stubborn folks from El-Khalil or the urbane Jeruslamite. The Ramallah Palestinians have their own clubs, even in their north American exile. To the Israelis, Palestinians are just bundles of flesh that can be ‘transferred’ here or exiled there. They see the Palestinians as people without memories who should just ‘move on’ and find some other country; become an Egyptian or a Syrian or a Greek.
It is a rare Israeli who acknowledges the great harm inflicted on this innocent nation. Demonizing the Palestinians is a Zionist imperative. The arrogant Israeli contempt for the natives was an essential component of ‘making a Sabra’. And of making the Shatilas and the Qibyas. If the majority of Israelis ever abandon their Euro-centric racist contempt for the ancient natives of Palestine, they would finally become aware that the Zionist narrative is a historical fraud. The whole Zionist creed is based on historic fiction combined with a bizarre notion of exceptionalism.
Zionism is the last surviving 19th century ideology; a wicked bit of social experimentation that has produced a twenty-first century legacy of a nuclear theocracy led by a war criminal. They have created a ‘Jewish’ state that is now experiencing a collective dementia that allows them to ignore half the people living under Israeli rule.
The day Israelis, and for that matter American Jews, start to shed their absurd historical mythology; The day they stop electing racist demagogues and war criminals to high office; The day they wake up and learn to count and realize that any way you slice it, even without returning refugees, Palestine is still half Palestinian. When the day comes and the world starts holding them accountable for fifty years of apartheid rule and violent Jewish supremacy. When Sharon is restricted to the confines of a detention cell in the Hague. When Israelis and Jews apologize and pay reparations for the massive dimensions of their crimes. Maybe on that day, you can book a flight to Israel with a safe social conscious. In the meantime, a full tourist boycott would send a chauvinist Israel a message that appointing a vicious bigot as a tourist minister is almost as bad as electing a war criminal as Prime Minister.