Can Israel avoid multi-ethnicity?

Sam Smith, 2003 – An aspect of the Middle East crisis that is not getting the coverage it deserves is Israel’s fear of having to become a multicultural state. Many Israeli Arabs have lived in the country as long as Jewish citizens and have no particular desire to be evicted. They are, however, growing faster than the Jewish population especially since Jewish immigration isn’t what it once was.

Thus it is not surprising that Haaretz reports, “More than half of Israelis think the government should encourage its Arab citizens to emigrate from Israel, according to an annual survey by the Israel Democracy Institute. A poll published Tuesday on the state of democracy in Israel found that 62 percent of Israelis support government-backed Arab emigration. . . ”

The leadership is even more insistent. Reports Ynet: “The Knesset will mark a special day dedicated to Theodor Herzl on Monday evening, in accordance with a law passed two years ago. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during a speech that ‘we must ensure that there will be a proven Jewish majority in the State of Israel, otherwise the term Jewish state becomes empty of meaning. The obligation of the national leadership is to be responsible to the vision of Herzl and to ensure a Jewish majority in the State.'”

“Olmert said that ‘this special Knesset session is dedicated not only to marking Herzl’s birthday but also the discussion of his heritage. . . He didn’t invent Zionism, which existed before him, but he turned the dream into a political destination and the dreamers into a national movement. We must live as one people, connected not only to all of the scattered Jewish nation, we must lived as united nation here too. That is Herzl’s vision. His vision, that the Jewish nation has an independent state, was realized, but the mission is not over,’ added Olmert.”

There remains, of course, the irony of Jews supporting the emigration of those of a socially undesirable ethnic background as well as the anomaly of America supporting apartheid in the name of democracy and religious freedom. In the end, however, Israeli Jews may be left with two choices: either have a lot more babies or get used to multi-ethnicity much as white America did after segregation.

Further, the idea of a Jewish state flies in the face of both history and current trends. There are exceptions but they tend to be along the lines of Utah polygamists or Pennsylvania Amish. There’s also the Vatican, to be sure, but the popes have had a number of centuries to establish their ground rules and most of their neighbors believe in them. For its own happiness and even survival, Israel might want to reconsider its mono-cultural myth. Who knows, with some more Arab ministers, judges and legislators, they might even find themselves living in a more peaceful Middle East.

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