If you want to understand the magnitude of the Palestinian tragedy and the depths of their dilemma take a look at the recent decree issued by the Israeli Ministry of Education which in essence asks Jewish and Arab schoolchildren to sign the Israeli declaration of independence as part of the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel.
In a statement distributed to the schools the ministry’s Society and Youth Administration set the following objectives for the jubilee: "To commemorate the passage of 60 years since the establishing of the state of Israel in the Arab and Jewish educational system; to strengthen the sense of belonging to, pride in and love for the 60-year-old state among all who attend educational institutes; to help all Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and other youth to form a clear vision of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state; to inspire a sense of responsibility and social commitment among the young and to encourage them to become active participants in the affairs of society."
A quick glance at this text is sufficient to realise that there are no Palestinian Arabs in
There is a very persistent mode of colonialism at work here. It was not enough for this colonialist drive to seize a people’s land, kick out the inhabitants, bring others to take their place and destroy the fabric of an entire society, and then justify this on the grounds of a divine promise while, in the same breath and with the same degree of sincerity, regarding itself as a secular national liberation movement. No, it insists that its victim must admire it and recognise not only its existence but its historical legitimacy. It is determined to imprint itself beneath its victims’ skin through the ritual signing of a declaration of independence that simultaneously celebrates their own defeat.
The Zionist colonialist enterprise is unique in its perpetual obsession with identity, its insistence on playing the role of victim, and the unyielding persistence with which it seeks to legitimise itself by inspiring the admiration of its victims, as if it has done them a great favour by liberating them from their national territory and identity and taking these "burdens" on its own shoulders. In return for such magnanimous sacrifices it expects its victims to display their gratitude by standing with it in its struggles and to share its distress at having been forced to inflict such disasters on others. At any display of ingratitude by those victims — when, for instance, they try to reassemble their torn national self — it wags its liberal-minded finger at them and reproaches them for reverting to nationalist demagoguery, chauvinism and other such outmoded fashions in this age of globalisation.
The manifestations of chauvinism and of the infatuation with nationalist symbols are ubiquitous: in national anthems, patriotic marches, quasi- military scouting societies, flags on every schoolhouse and licence plate, in the laws that are promulgated with seasonal regularity on how to treat Zionist flags and symbols. Surely this indicates a national chauvinism and degree of fanaticism rare in today’s world? Having school children, even Jewish school children, sign the national independence declaration takes nationalism to the level of religious rite, with the schoolchildren, pen in hand, mystically embodying the venerable founding fathers of the nation. If the Arabs did anything remotely similar
The current minister of education and culture, to whom credit is due for this enlightened brainstorm, represents the liberal wing in the Zionist establishment. The Zionist left, as historically represented by the Zionist Labour Movement and its offshoots, was the practical founder of the Israeli state project: it took up arms and fought the Arabs, forged relations with
I will not, of course, attribute to the Zionist state all conceivable evil, let alone the power of diabolical magic, as some less familiar with the nature of its project might do. Nor will I confuse my analysis of the Ministry of Education’s decree with the justifications cited by its authors. Zionist liberals obviously have a different take than mine on the decree. They regard the declaration of independence, which in one paragraph calls for the equality of all citizens irrespective of religion, race or sex, as a relatively progressive document, certainly when compared to the prevailing racist political culture that has infected schools and young people. As such, signing this document becomes an act of enlightenment, reviving the "universal values" upon which
Whatever value this justification has extends only as far as the battle to determine the nature of the prevailing culture among a Jewish Israeli public. It does not wash in Arab-Israeli society. To the Arabs discrimination is not a phenomenon of recent progeny that has taken a sudden dangerous turn with the spread of a racist culture among Jewish school kids. It existed well before the occupation of 1967, regardless of the sanctities mouthed in
At the same time that the independence of the Zionist state was proclaimed on the
Permit me to assume the role of devil’s advocate for a moment:
Up till now, Azmi, you’ve only talked about Zionist practices, whereas the document under discussion is fine. Just because practice strayed from the text, why throw out the baby with the bath water?
Firstly, the Israeli declaration of independence is not an abstract theory. It was meant to go into effect upon proclamation and to shape the process of nation-building on the basis of its constituent provisions, notably the definition of Zionism as a national movement to establish a state on the basis of an exclusive self-acclaimed historical and religious right based on Biblical scriptures and the "uninterrupted" continuity of the Jewish presence in Palestine.
But what about that paragraph on "equality"?
The document was also intended to camouflage the nature of the Zionist colonialist enterprise, and it performed it function. The commitment to the principle of equality was one of the prerequisites for
Just to refresh the memory, let’s take a look at some of the paragraphs in the document that the Arab-Israeli student is expected to sign:
"After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
"Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, immigrants and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.
"In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
"This right was recognised in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917…"
Arab students in
"The state of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."