Odeh Bisharat is an Arab novelist, political writer and activist, who is also – quite painfully for him – a citizen of the Jewish state of Israel. He recently published an op-ed in that flagship of Jewish shame, Ha’aretz, in which he describes the display at Arab schools of the flag of the state of Israel, the very Jewish magen david, as “an act of sadism:”
After all, the national flag … is related to the Arabs’ tragedies from 1948 to the present. It provokes considerable sadness, bitterness and even revulsion. It was under this flag that most of the Arab villages were captured in 1948, and later their residents were expelled under this flag, and in the shadow of this flag all those villages were destroyed. …
The Arabs don’t object to the flag because of what it symbolizes for the Jews — a state and independence — but because of what it symbolizes for the Arabs: expulsion and destruction.
I understand. After all, Jews were forced to stand in view of all kinds of flags, from the Roman standards that symbolized the destruction of our holy Temple and expulsion from our homeland of Judea, to the Christian cross of persecution, and even the twisted cross of Nazi Germany.
But painful or not, there is an important lesson conveyed by the flag of the state of Israel to its Arab residents, a lesson that Bisharat rejects with his “sadness, bitterness and even revulsion.” That lesson, which the editors of Ha’aretz also would prefer not to learn, is that the Jews won their War of Independence in 1948, a war that was forced upon them by the refusal of the Arab residents of the land and their Arab neighbors to accept any Jewish state, no matter how small.
It was a vicious war, in which the Arab armies eliminated any trace of Jewish presence in the areas they controlled, expelling or murdering the people and destroying synagogues and even cemeteries. The Arab nakba was nothing compared to the “war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades,” in the words of the Arab League’s Abdel Rahman Azzam, that would have occurred had the Arabs won.
But note: they didn’t win. A Jewish state was created, one which does not insist on ethnic purity within its borders; and Odeh Bisharat lives and works in it, received a university education in it, can vote and hold political office in it, and is not punished – indeed, he is paid – for vilely speaking out against it as he does.
Nevertheless, he should be aware that the Jews didn’t go through the trials of blood required to create their state to turn it into a “state of its citizens” or a binational state. It is and will be a Jewish state with a Jewish flag, other Jewish symbols, a right of return for Jews only, and even a Nation-State Law that asserts those propositions.
Bisharat does not like to be reminded – it is a “sadistic” torture – of the fact that a Jewish state was established on land that he believes should belong to Arabs. I am sure that if it were pointed out to him that there are 21 explicitly Arab states in the world and only this one Jewish state, he would say that there is only one Palestine, and that it should belong to the “Palestinian people.”
Excuse me, but this is rubbish. “Palestinians” didn’t even self-identify as such until the mid-1960s, when the KGB suggested that this would be a good strategy. Palestinian Arabs are mostly descended from 19th and 20th century migrants from various countries in the Arab world, and their culture reflects that. Unlike the Jewish people, they do not have a unique language, religion, or place of origin. What is specifically “Palestinian” about their culture is its ultra-violent hatred and rejection of Jewish sovereignty; as well as airline hijacking, suicide bombing, and stabbing random Jews in the street. What else is “Palestinian?”
Odeh Bisharat does not have a deed to this land. If the Arabs of Palestine had any claim to justice, it was blown away by the hundredth exploding bus or pizza restaurant. His “revulsion” is misdirected: it should be aimed at the real architects of the nakba, the Arab states that tried to wipe out the Jews and then put the Arab refugees of 1948 in camps instead of resettling them, as Israel did for the Jews fleeing Arab countries. It should be aimed at Haj Amin al-Husseini, who incited pogroms against Jews and then went to Germany to work with Hitler to create a Middle Eastern edition of the Holocaust. It should be aimed at Yasser Arafat, who made himself fabulously wealthy by stealing aid intended for Palestinian Arabs, while masterminding international terrorism and creating an educational system that has been successfully breeding murderers since 1993.
Arab citizens of Israel need to think regularly about these things. They would rather not. It’s more comfortable to see themselves as victims or resistance fighters. But if they want to live here, to enjoy the benefits of a relatively uncorrupt and highly developed modern society, they will have to understand that here they will always be Arabs living in a Jewish state. If displaying the flag on every school, Arab or Jewish, will help make that clear to everyone, it’s worth Bisharat’s discomfort.