As a Zionist, I believe that a Jewish state is a necessary condition for the continued survival of the Jewish people. Our state faces some acute challenges, including the direct military threat from Iran and its proxies and the recent coalescence of a global anti-Jewish conspiracy of the Left. But there is another, chronic, struggle, and that is with the Arab Muslims of the land of Israel.
I am deliberately not distinguishing between the Arabs of Judea/Samaria, Jerusalem, or the rest of Israel, because the difference is only a matter of degree of hostility. In some cases the hostility is explicitly based on religion, insofar as it is unacceptable for a Muslim to live under non-Muslim (especially Jewish!) sovereignty. In others, it is nationalistic, either a broader Arab nationalism or the ‘Palestinian’ version; and finally there is simple ethnic/cultural rejection of the Other. It wouldn’t be wrong to add that there is an element of envy and greed to take for themselves the fruits of development that have come to the Jewish population as a result of their enterprise.
Be that as it may, the violent behavior of Arabs toward Jews in the land of Israel has a long, ugly history, including a murderous pogrom in Tzfat in 1834, riots in Mandate Palestine in 1921, 1929 (including the Hevron massacre) and 1936, the intifadas, and of course the long history of terrorism – both the ‘official’ variety of the PLO and Hamas and the ‘personal’ kind – here.
Recently, the ‘Oslo Generation’ of Arabs influenced by Palestinian Authority media and the educational system established by Yasser Arafat have been engaging in activities ranging from harassment to assault to murder of Jews. Social media have taken the place of inflammatory speeches by the Mufti, to great effect, but the idea is the same. They’ll make our lives hell, they think, and we’ll leave.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky recognized early that the Arabs will not reconcile with a Jewish state unless there is absolutely no alternative. In his 1923 essay “The Iron Wall,” he wrote,
To imagine, as our Arabophiles do, that they will voluntarily consent to the realisation of Zionism in return for the moral and material conveniences which the Jewish colonist brings with him, is a childish notion, which has at bottom a kind of contempt for the Arab people; it means that they despise the Arab race, which they regard as a corrupt mob that can be bought and sold, and are willing to give up their fatherland for a good railway system. …
As long as the Arabs feel that there is the least hope of getting rid of us, they will refuse to give up this hope in return for either kind words or for bread and butter, because they are not a rabble, but a living people. And when a living people yields in matters of such a vital character it is only when there is no longer any hope of getting rid of us, because they can make no breach in the iron wall. Not till then will they drop their extremist leaders whose watchword is “Never!”
As in so many things, Jabotinsky was prescient.
What is the solution? Is there one?
Historically, a conqueror either killed a conquered people, enslaved them, or expelled them. The first and second options are morally unacceptable, and the third impractical and probably politically impossible (although it’s certain that if the Arabs had won any of our wars they would have implemented a combination of all three).
Meir Kahane suggested (Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews, 1987) that those Arabs who would agree to “accept the Jewish state of Israel as the exclusive state of the Jewish people” could stay as resident aliens with civil but not political rights, while others could accept compensation and leave or – if they refused – be expelled. This is a somewhat kinder solution than killing or slavery, but was still considered beyond the pale.
And that is unfortunate, because – as Jabotinsky made clear – there is no voluntary solution possible. The more we try to conciliate the Arabs and compromise in order to try to satisfy their national aspirations, the more we display to them our weakness and inability to hold on to the land that we’ve taken possession of.
Today the Arabs are confident that they are winning. We continue to send them the message that for whatever reason, we are weak, we are paralyzed and can’t do anything to stop them. The only way to stop Arab terrorism and harassment is to change the rules, to turn things upside down. To create an iron wall. To make the actions of the terrorists – the big ones and the little ones – themselves negate the Palestinian project.
So what do I suggest?
First, take away the oxygen of publicity. Israel is full of foreign ‘journalists’ with agendas, international activists, operatives of hostile NGOs, and so forth. Get rid of them, and don’t let them back in. Declare flash points like Nabi Saleh military zones and arrest ‘Palestinian’ and left-wing journalists when they enter them. Take away press credentials from the provocateurs. Don’t allow foreign sources to bankroll Israeli subversives. If Palestinian radio and TV are guilty of incitement, take them off the air. Why should Israel be as much of an open society as the US is when the threats facing it are so much greater?
Second, whenever possible, expel troublemakers. Perhaps we can’t implement Kahane’s solution in general, but we could for specific cases, like the Tamimi family. Bassem Tamimi was born in Judea/Samaria in 1967 prior to Israel’s conquest of the area, and may have Jordanian citizenship. If so, he should be deported. Israeli Arabs involved in terrorism could have their citizenship revoked and be sent to Gaza or the Palestinian Authority. Those actively working to destroy the state should forfeit the privilege of living in it. And while we are talking about troublemakers, throw European ‘charities’ out of the territories.
Third, make terrorism unproductive. New construction in Judea and Samaria should be undertaken in honor of the victims of terrorist atrocities. The homes of terrorists should be destroyed. Israeli Arabs whose family members are caught throwing rocks should be barred from receiving National Insurance payments, as MK Miri Regev has suggested. Symbolic terrorism, like the vandalism at the Mount of Olives cemetery, should be taken seriously and the perpetrators punished. Needless to say, there should never, ever, be a prisoner release for political reasons or in exchange for hostages.
Fourth, although we don’t have to exclude all Arab residents of the state from participating in politics as Kahane wanted to do, there should be no anti-Zionists in the Knesset. What is the message sent by the presence of Haneen Zoabi, when she has clearly violated the Basic Law which excludes anyone who negates the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state? Ask the Supreme Court, which voided a law passed to expel her on just these grounds.
For Jabotinsky, Zionism was a given, “moral and just.” Before we can demonstrate to the Arabs that the land of Israel belongs to us, we need to believe it ourselves. Unfortunately the legal establishment in Israel, especially the Supreme Court, seems to have de facto accepted the idea that Israel is already a ‘state of its citizens’ and not primarily a Jewish state. It’s quite likely that most of my suggestions above would run afoul of the Court. A new Basic Law declaring that the state belongs to the Jewish people and exists for their benefit could make it easier to fight back.
The Arabs justify their violence by asserting that the land is theirs and they are “resisting occupation” when they throw their firebombs (they often falsely claim that such “resistance” is legitimate under international law). International opposition to Israel is based on the idea that we are “illegal occupiers.” So why doesn’t the government adopt the Levy report, which presents a juridical opinion that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is not a belligerent occupation, and Jewish communities there are legal? Why isn’t there an official, well-funded information campaign underway to present Israel’s legal and moral position to the world? And why isn’t there a similar campaign to delegitimize the false ‘Palestinian narrative’?
To answer the question I posed earlier, yes there is a solution to Arab hostility. It is to understand that we will never make Zionists out of the Arabs, but we can give them a choice: they can be good neighbors despite their animosity – or they can leave.