It is fair to say that what is going on in Gaza, the Palestinian “Great March of Return”, was for Hamas a kind of calculated propaganda: a way to make sense of its own political life. It is also fair to assert that its permanent, low-intensity war against Israel – meaning a sort of national collective suicide – is the only way the Islamist organisation has to show its power in the Strip. To a great extent, the unnecessary death of dozens of young Palestinians is a cynical power play carried out by Hamas. In the meantime, it must be reminded that the few building materials admitted by Israel in the Strip are used by Hamas to dig tunnels in order to reach the enemy – not to erect houses for its people.
Meanwhile, in Ramallah, West Bank, the Palestinian Authority – in other words, Fatah and the PLO – decided to cut international aid for Gaza, worsening the humanitarian crisis in the Strip. Actually, decision-making in Ramallah is almost paralysed in the absence of credible leadership. They are just waiting for the gradual demise of Abu Mazen’s authority and health to unfold.
This is the state of affairs in the Palestinian camp. However, for how mediocre and regretful Palestinian leaders could be, we cannot change the core of the lasting conflict: Israel is the occupying power and Palestinians are the occupied people. It may be argued that Gaza was liberated in 2005, only to suddenly turn into a Palestinian rocket’s launch-pad toward Israel. Nonetheless, two million people, largely refugees, sons and gran-sons of refugees, locked in a 365 square kilometres cage, are inevitably inclined towards irrationality, extremism, and hate.
“Israel is a democracy and needs to defend itself”, argue those believing that this should also entail an indiscriminate, deadly firing by young Israeli snipers against young Palestinian protesters. Indeed, Israel is a democracy. Thanks to its transparency and sense of justice, deeply rooted in its political system, a president has been arrested for sexual harassment, and a Prime Minister condemned for bribery. However, Israel’s democracy is also an ethnic (or religious) one – and not a civic democracy. It only serves its Jewish citizens, while it ultimately fails to involve the others.
As liberalism comes in different forms, nationalism too is not a unitary concept. A civic nation allows citizenship and equal rights to all those born or living inside the state’s territory. At the opposite, in Israel, ethnic nationhood is conceptualised in a different way. Recently, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked stated that the Supreme Court of Israel should find the legal means to promote the rights of the Jewish people over the human rights of the “others”. At least 20% of the population in Israel is Arab. To what kind of democracy is the Minister referring to?
Landing at Ben Gurion airport, mid-way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, nobody can have any doubt to have reached the Jewish State, land of the Jewish people – the flag, the Menorah as a national emblem, the soldiers, the people, the language, the road signs. Climbing on the highway to Jerusalem, you can find the name of the city in three languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English. But the Arabic name on the road sign is not al-Quds, the Arab denomination for Jerusalem. It is still Yerushalayim, the Hebrew name of the city. What else is this ethnic democratic government of Israel pretending to obtain from the Palestinians and the international diplomacy that the Jewish State does not own already?
During Rosh Ha-Shanah, the Jewish New Year between September and October, the Israelis make statistics. It is a tradition – how many Jews live in Israel, how many are Sephardic or Ashkenazi, how many are Jews in the world and where do they live. Just a dozen of years ago Tel Aviv, at last, exceeded New York as the city with the largest number of Jews residents in the world.
Seventy years since the foundation of the nation, everybody realised that Israel is still the last resort of the Jewish people. They mainly migrate to Israel when they feel themselves in danger, from places where the assimilation failed for one reason or another. It happened in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, in Argentina after the devaluation of the local currency, and in France because of the upsurge of anti-Semitism.
This month, Israel is celebrating seventy years of Independence. It will be another opportunity to make statistics. Last March, the Civil Administration in the West Bank – the Israeli military bureaucracy in charge of the Palestinian occupied territories – already made a new computation – a very vital one to define the future of Eretz Yisrael. Between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River (Israel plus the West Bank), Arab inhabitants are 6.5 million. The same number of the Jewish population. The statistic the Civil Administration sent to the Foreign and Defense Committee of the Knesset, the Parliament of Israel, avoided adding Gaza’s Palestinians: two more millions of Arabs. Anyhow, the demographic parity in Israel and the West Bank will soon be in favour of the Arabs.
The present, extreme right-wing Israeli government has a formula to remain democratic while continuing to grab more Palestinian land, enlarge its Jewish settlements and – in case of need – to shoot and kill Arabs, even if they are just demonstrating and do not present an existential threat to Israel. The big idea is to give individual but not civic liberties to the Palestinians.
Increasingly, this ethnic democracy giving limited right to the soon-to-be majority of the population is looking like Poland. According to the government in Warsaw, the world should focus more on the Polish victims of Auschwitz than on the Jewish ones. Apparently, in this vision of ethnic and religious purity of the nation, the two millions of Polish Jews killed by the Nazis were not Polish. In Warsaw, as in Hungary and an increasing number of European countries, more and more people are victims of a sort of amnesia of their shared history. As is Bibi Netanyahu, willing to expel thousands of African refugees from Israel. Can the State of the Jewish people conceive any deportation of human beings?