In a recent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Daniel Sokatch and David N. Myers wrote
Israel has been beset by a pair of controversies relating to its Arab minority: first, the proposal over whether to resettle Bedouin Arabs against their will in state-sponsored towns, and second, the renewed call by Israel’s foreign minister to “transfer” Arab residents of northern Israel to a new state of Palestine should one be established.
I have no intention of discussing all the rights and wrongs (far too many of the latter) on all sides of the Israeli/Palestinian debate. Though I did get a degree in Middle Eastern Studies a long time ago, I wouldn’t claim to have special insight into that part of the world. But I’ve been there, I know a few people there, and it’s in the news constantly, so I can’t help but think about it a lot.
As the American daughter of an American Jewish mother who can readily trace my roots to the shtetls of Eastern Europe, from which my Orthodox Jewish grandparents emigrated early in the 20th century or I might not ever have been born, I am entitled to Israeli citizenship. This always-open offer is not made to Palestinians who’d like to come back to their homes, nor to non-Jewish refugees from any state, in any condition of need.
All Jews in the world are eligible, under Israel’s 1950 Law of Return, to be fast-tracked to Israeli citizenship. . . . Palestinian Arabs and Druze born in Israel are citizens by birth. But residents of East Jerusalem, . . . are not. They are conditional residents.
Thus, here is my solution to one part of the complex Middle East imbroglio: I hereby offer my potential Israeli citizenship to someone who needs it a lot more than I do.
I’m very happy to have been born in the United States, which is not a theocracy. I believe that those who would take away this too-rare freedom will not prevail, including those right-wing Christians who don’t comprehend the genius with which this nation was founded. (I’m sorry the land was taken by force from the natives who lived here first. I don’t know how to apologize for that wrong except to help ensure we’ve seen the last of such imperialist bullying.)
Israel was set up to fulfill an old Zionist dream, among other reasons. It’s maintained in part by those who continue to take orders from an ancient and imaginary deity. I’m not going to engage in debating the viability or righteousness of a land where Holocaust survivors went, when other viable options didn’t appear to exist. Plenty of blame over that may be apportioned to a number of nations.
The very idea that I, or my children, or their children, would be accepted as citizens in another nation because our ancestors believed in a Jewish god, or followed the traditional rituals regardless of what they believed, strikes me as lunacy. I thereby give up my unearned right to take the place of a needier non-Jewish refugee, whether Arab or African or any other ethnicity, nationality, or race.
As Sokatch and Myers wrote in their op-ed
Rights of residence and freedom in personal status issues should be the same for all citizens, whether they are Jewish according to religious law, Jewish only by citizenship or non-Jewish.
Let the conversation begin.
Perhaps a means test? As space allows, allow to apply for citizenship those with the greatest need, as well as those who have demonstrated the most compassion and cooperativeness with others. But who their ancestors deemed worthy of worship? In the long term, that’s a counter-productive—and downright silly—notion.
[NOTE: As always, the opinions expressed here are my own and are not necessarily representative of Brights in general.]