Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Middle Class Israelis
Leave the Apartheid, Racist State and Its Brutal Occupation Army
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, October 18, 2013
THOSE WHO are interested in the history of the Crusades ask
themselves: what brought about the Crusaders' downfall? Looking at the
remnants of their proud fortresses all over the country, we wonder.
The traditional answer is: their defeat in the battle of the Horns of Hittin,
twin hills near the Lake of Galilee, in 1187, by the great Muslim Sultan
However, the Crusader state lived on in Palestine and
the surroundings for another hundred years.
The most authoritative
historian of the Crusades, the late Steven Runciman, gave a completely
different answer: the Crusader kingdom collapsed because too many Crusaders
returned to their ancestral homelands, while too few came to join the
Crusaders. In the end, the last remnants were thrown into the sea
THERE ARE vast differences between the Crusader state
that existed in this country for two hundred years and the present State of
Israel, but there are also some striking similarities. That’s why their
history always attracted me.
Lately I was reminded of Runciman’s
conclusion because of the sudden interest of our media in the phenomenon of
emigration. Some comments bordered on hysteria.
The reasons for this
are two. First, a TV network reported on Israeli descenders abroad, second,
the award of the Nobel chemistry prize to two ex-Israelis. Both caused much
“Descenders” (Yordim) is the Hebrew term for
emigrants. People coming to live in Israel are called “ascenders” (Olim), a
term akin to pilgrims. Probably the word has something to do with the fact
that Jerusalem is located on a hill surrounded on all sides by valleys, so
that you have to “go up” to reach it. But of course there is an ideological
Zionist connotation to the terms.
Before the founding of our state
and during its first few decades, we saw ourselves as a heroic society,
struggling against great odds, fighting several wars. People leaving us were
looked upon as deserters, like soldiers running away from their unit during
a battle. Yitzhak Rabin called them ‘trash”.
What made the TV story
so frightening was that it showed ordinary middle-class young Israeli
families settling for good in Berlin, London and New Jersey. Some of their
children were already speaking foreign languages, abandoning Hebrew.
Until lately, “descending” was mostly attributed to
misfits, lower-class people and others who could not find their place in
ordinary society. But here were normal, well-educated young couples,
Israeli-born, speaking good Hebrew. Their general complaint – sounding
rather like an apology – was that they could not “end the month” in Israel,
that their middle-class salaries did not suffice for a decent living,
because salaries are too low and prices too high. They singled out the
prices of apartments. The price of an apartment in Tel Aviv is equivalent to
120 months' average middle class income.
However, sober research
showed that emigration has actually decreased during the last few years.
Polls show that the majority of Israelis, including even a majority of Arab
citizens, are satisfied with their economic situation – more than in most
THE SECOND reason for hysteria was the award of
the Nobel Prize to two American Chemistry professors who were educated in
Israel, one of them born in a Kibbutz.
Israel is immensely proud of
its Nobel laureates. Relative to the size of the country, their number is
Many Jews are
deeply convinced that the Jewish intellect is superior to that of any other
people. Theories about this abound. One of them is that in medieval
times, European intellectuals were mostly celibate monks who did not
bequeath their genes to any offspring. In Jewish communities, the opposite
happened: the rich were proud to marry their daughters to especially gifted
Torah scholars, allowing their genes to start life in privileged
Yet here were these two scholars who left Israel
decades ago to graze in foreign meadows, continuing their research in
prestigious American universities.
In former years, they would have
been called traitors. Now they only cause profound soul-searching. One of
the two had left Israel because the highly-regarded Weizmann Institute did
not offer him a professorship. Why did we let him go? What about all the
Actually, this is not a specifically Israeli problem.
Brain-flight is taking place all over the world. An ambitious scientist
longs for the best of laboratories, the most prestigious university. Young
minds from all over the world flock to the US. Israelis are no exception.
We have good universities. Three of them figure somewhere on the list
of the world’s hundred best. But who can resist the temptations of Harvard
THE SUDDEN disillusion caused Israelis to take a hard look
at Israeli academia. It appears that our standards are slipping all along
the line. Our universities are under-funded by the government, the number of
professors and their quality decreasing. High-school students are slipping
in their exams.
funds are swallowed by the army, whose demands grow from year to year,
though our security situation is improving all the time.
occupation of the Palestinian territories is a drain on our meager
resources. So are the settlements, of course. Our government invests in them
huge sums of money. The exact amounts are a state secret.
the long run, a small country with limited resources cannot sustain a huge
army, as well as an occupation regime and hundreds of settlements, without
depriving everything else. One single fighter plane costs more than a school
or a hospital or a laboratory.
BUT MY worry about emigration is not
limited to material considerations.
People do not leave for
material reasons only. They may think that they are emigrating because life
in Berlin is cheaper than in Tel Aviv, apartments easier to find, salaries
higher. But it is not only the strength of the attraction of foreign lands
that counts – it is also the strength or weakness of the bond to the
In the years when “descenders” were considered trash, we
were proud of being Israeli. During the fifties and sixties, whenever I
presented my Israeli passport at any border control, I felt good. Israel was
viewed with admiration throughout the world, not least by our enemies.
I believe that it is a basic human right to be proud of one’s society, one’s
country. People belong to nations. Even in today’s global village, most
people need the sense of belonging to a certain place, a certain people. No
one wants to be ashamed of them.
Today, when presenting his
passport, an Israeli feels no such pride. He may feel a sense of
contrariness (“us against the whole world”), but he or she is conscious of
his country being considered by many as an
apartheid state, oppressing another people. Every person abroad has seen
countless photos of heavily armed Israel soldiers confronting Palestinian
women and children. Nothing to be proud of.
This is not a subject anyone ever speaks of. But it is there. And it is
bound to get worse.
Jewish Israelis are
already a minority in the country ruled by Israel, from the Mediterranean to
the Jordan. The majority of subjects deprived of all rights is growing by
the year. Oppression will necessarily grow. The image of Israel throughout
the world will get worse. Pride in Israel will fade.
EFFECT is already becoming obvious.
A prestigious recent poll
conducted among American Jews shows a marked loosening of the attachment
young Jews there feel for Israel.
The American Jewish scene is
dominated by elderly professional leaders who were never elected by anyone.
They exert immense power over American political life, but their influence
in their own community is slipping. Young Jewish Americans are no longer
proud of Israel. Some of them are ashamed.
These young Jews do not,
in general, stand up to protest. They are afraid of providing ammunition to
the anti-Semites. They are also educated from childhood that we Jews must
stand together against the Goyim who want to destroy us.
of raising their voice, they keep quiet, leave their communities, disappear
from sight. But this process can be utterly disastrous for Israel, Our
leaders rely completely on the stranglehold they have on American
politicians. If these perceive that the Jewish support of Israel is
diminishing, they will be quick to liberate themselves.
another aspect to the Zionist part of the equation.
supposed to bring Jews to Israel. That is what it is all about. But Zionism
can be a two-way street.
itself to be “the State of the Jewish People”. Jews all over the world are
considered de facto Israeli nationals. But if there is no basic
difference between a Jew in Haifa and a Jew in Hamburg, why stay in Haifa
when life in Hamburg seems to be so much better?
I have campaigned
for decades to exchange Zionist theology for a simple Israeli patriotism.
Perhaps the time has finally come to do so – after turning Israel into a
country we can be proud of again.