Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Why Do Some of the Best and Brightest Israeli Youth
Emigrate to Other Countries?
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, August
emigrants living in Germany organized a rally in Berlin against
Israel’s assault on Gaza, July 30, 2014.
THE SCENE at Ben-Gurion airport
this week was rather astonishing.
More then a thousand young male
fans came to welcome the two Israeli Judo fighters - one female, one male
- who had won a bronze medal each at the Olympic games in Rio.
was a very raucous welcome. The crowd went wild, shouted, pushed, raised
Yet judo is not a very popular sport in Israel. Israeli
sports enthusiasts pack the soccer stadiums, as well as the basketball
courts. But in these two sports, Israel is far from winning any medals.
So Israeli crowds suddenly became judo fans (some called it "Jewdo").
People who did not go wild with enthusiasm were considered traitors. We
did not hear anything about the judo champions who got the gold or silver
medals. Were there any?
WE CAN only imagine what would have
happened if the Israeli Olympic contingent had included Arab athletes.
Arabs? In our contingent?
True, Arabs constitute some 20% of the
Israeli population, and some are very active in sports. But God – or Allah
– saved us from this headache. None made it to Rio.
But there is
another question that should have drawn attention. Israel is – by its own
official definition – a "Jewish state". It claims to belong to the Jewish
people. It considers itself, in a way, the headquarters of "world Jewry".
So why does no one in Israel take the slightest interest in the
medals won by Jews and Jewesses in other national delegations? Where is
Jewish solidarity? Where is Jewish pride?
Well, it simply does not
exist where it counts. In the Olympic Games, a highly nationalistic event,
nobody in Israel cares about the Diaspora Jews. To hell with them.
It seems that in sport, more than anywhere else, the distinction between
Israelis and Jews is fundamental . So fundamental, indeed, that the
question did not even arise. Who cares.
THE QUESTION did come up
in the course of a debate which arose recently.
It started with a
small article of mine in the liberal Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. I pointed
out that some of the best and the
brightest of Israeli youth have emigrated and struck roots in foreign
countries. Oddly enough, their most popular new homeland
is Germany, and the most preferred city is Berlin. I asked the emigrants
politely to come back and take part in the struggle "to save Israel from
Some of the Israelis in Berlin declined politely. No, but
thanks, they said. They feel at home in the former Reichshauptstadt, and
have absolutely no intention of coming back to Israel.
struck by the fact that not one of the writers even mentioned the Jewish
community in Berlin or anywhere else. They don't see themselves as members
of the Jewish communities around the world, but rather of a separate, new
Israeli Diaspora. Like most Israelis, they harbor a secret contempt for
But this cannot hold. Except for those few who are
completely liberated from religion and tradition, Israelis abroad will
still need to be married by a rabbi, their new-born sons to be circumcised
by a rabbi, and at the end to be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Soon enough,
they will be full-fledged members of the local Jewish communities.
For these Jews, the entire process will have been completed within six or
seven generations, from Diaspora Jew to Israeli, from Israeli back to
THE FOUNDER of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl,
believed that after the creation of the "Jewish State" (not necessarily in
Palestine), all the Jews in the world would go and settle there. Those who
did not, would just assimilate in the countries where they lived and cease
This was a simple idea, because Herzl was a naďve
person, who knew very little about the Jews. Because of that, he did not
conceive a future difference between the Jews in the Jewish State and all
the others, who would stay where they were or emigrate to other countries,
like the USA. The term "Jew" came to mean many different things.
Jews were proud to speak of a "Jewish people", a unique people dispersed
around the world. As a matter of fact, there was nothing unique about it:
this was the normal situation in the Byzantine empire, and later in the
Ottoman Caliphate. Some aspects of it were maintained in the British
Mandate, and exist even today in the laws of Israel.
system, called by the Turks "millet", peoples are not territorial units,
but geographically dispersed religious communities governed by their own
religious leaders, subject to the Emperor or Sultan. The Jews were no
different in this respect from the Hellenes, the various Christian sects
or, later on, the Muslims.
Only with the advent of modern
nations, based on territories, did Jews become almost unique. Other
religious peoples reformed themselves and became modern nations. The
stubborn Jews rejected change and remained a dispersed ethnic-religious
Herzl and his followers wanted to change this and to
belatedly turn the Jews into a modern nation, with a "fatherland" of their
own. That was the meaning of Zionism.
So why did they not make a
clear distinction between the members of their new nation and the Jews
around the world? Well, there never was a clearly defined Zionist
ideology, like the Marxist one, Also, they were afraid that a clear-cut
separation from Jewish religion would harm their cause. So they left it
muddled-up – Jewish religion, Jewish Diaspora, Jewish people, Jewish
State, all the same.
The idea was that making no distinction
between a Jew in Berlin and a Jew in Tel Aviv made it easier for
Jews around the world to go to Israel. Nobody thought about the fact that
this bridge had two directions. If it was easy to go from Berlin to Tel
Aviv, it was equally easy to go from Tel Aviv to Berlin. That's what is
THIS MIGHT well not have happened, if the new
nation created by Zionism had been called by a new name.
group of intellectuals once proposed just that. They wanted to call the
members of the new nation in Palestine "Hebrews", while continuing to call
the members of the Diaspora "Jews". This was strongly condemned by
Zionists. Though popular slang did unconsciously adopt this distinction,
it took no official hold.
With the creation of the State of
Israel, there seemed to be a natural solution: There was the Jewish
Diaspora and there was the State of Israel. Jews in Israel became Israelis
and were proud of it. When asked abroad what they are, they would
naturally answer "I am an Israeli"', never "I am a Jew". I strongly
suspect that a young Israeli emigrant in Berlin today would still give the
But there is a problem: more than 20% of Israeli
citizens are Arabs. Are they included in the concept of the Israeli
nation? Most of them, and almost all Jewish Israelis, would answer with a
No. They consider themselves a Palestinian minority in Israel.
simple solution would be to recognize "Israeli Arabs" as a national
minority, with full minority rights. But the Israeli leadership is quite
unable to do that, Therefore we have a rather grotesque situation: the
Israeli government registration authority, which asks for the individual's
"nationality", refuses to register "Israeli" and insists on "Jewish" or
“Arab" (In Israel, nationality does not mean citizenship).
appeal was made by a group of Israeli citizens (including me) to the
Supreme Court against this decision, but it was rejected.
had an argument about this with Ariel Sharon. I asked him: "What are you
first, an Israeli or a Jew?" He answered without hesitation: "First of all
I am a Jew, only then an Israeli." My answer was the opposite: "I am first
an Israeli, only then a Jew."
Sharon was born in a communal
village and knew next to nothing about Judaism. But he was educated in the
Zionist education system, which is totally committed to producing Jews.
If he were alive today, Sharon would certainly have congratulated the
Israeli judokas. It would not have crossed his mind to ask about Jewish
Share the link of this article with your facebook friends