by Ariel Kahana
Only with the arrival of 2017 will the Obama-Netanyahu quarrels, like the one that happened this week over the cancelled meeting, come to an end. But then the really difficult war will begin, the war over national consciousness
“The past actually happened, history is what someone wrote down”, the American comedian Whitney Brown once said. This pithy saying exactly describes the approaching critical year of national consciousness. Even at the beginning of the year 2016, all eyes were set on 2017. During that year Israel, the Palestinians and everyone who is connected to the Jewish-Arab battle over the Land of Israel, will mark the one hundred year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, seventy years of the partition, and fifty years since the Six Day War. The battle over the world’s memory regarding these points in time will be almost as bitter and difficult as the wars that accompanied each one of them. Palestinians and their supporters, including self-hating Jews from Israel and the diaspora, have already begun preparations to undermine our rights to the Land in general and to Judea and Samaria in particular. Israel, perhaps thanks to a prime minister with an especially developed historical awareness, has also begun positive preparations. This is good.
Already during the last Jerusalem Day the government determined that a ministerial committee would begin planning celebrations for the jubilee year of the city’s unification. The task was assigned to Minister Miri Regev and an inter-ministry committee was established, headed by Managing Director of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Yossi Sharabi. On the next Jerusalem Day the government is expected to approve the plan and the events themselves are already expected to begin. Simultaneously, Minister of Education Bennett announced that the academic year for 2017 will mark fifty years of the unification of the eternal capital of the Jewish People.
However, neither Netanyahu nor Bennett took advantage of their authority to sharpen the message which is no less important: the jubilee year of the return of the Jewish People to the historical tracts of the Land of Israel, meaning Judea and Samaria. One need not be a rightist in order celebrate the miracle of this war of salvation, and one need not be religious to claim that Alon-Moreh, Beit-El, Beit-Lehem and Hevron are the cradle of the Jewish People’s homeland. There is, of course, a political dispute over the question of what to do in these tracts of land today, and it is clear that the educational system must not get involved in the bitter argument. But the past must be told. If not, others will come and rewrite history, and actually, they are already doing this.
The Palestinians have already succeeded for some time to penetrate the international consciousness with the lie that they are an ancient people that have, from time immemorial, lived in the land. They scream “It is all mine”, but are answered by our side with “okay, then we will divide it” and not “It is all mine”. It’s no wonder that many people, and not only the ignorant, are convinced that the State of Israel arose on the ruins of the state of Palestine, even though such a thing never existed.
Israel refrains from screaming about its fundamental rights in Judea and Samaria. And as long as it continues to do so, Israel can expect to suffer a crushing defeat in the battle for national consciousness since her claims are not convincing. The Palestinians in 2017 will scream “Fifty years of robbing us of our country and usurping our lands”. Israel, as it has through the years, will mumble that her actions stem from security needs. That is, she will say implicitly that the land indeed is Arab, but the occupation, the theft and the usurpation, are done in the name of Israel’s security. With such a message as this it is impossible to win. Just as it is impossible to settle in a neighbor’s home just because he is an irksome nudnik, it is also impossible to justify the theft of another people’s land on the grounds of national security. “Give them what is theirs, and solve the security problems in another way”, is the outsider’s expected response.
The Israeli hasbara system has not internalized this fundamental point. In the opinion of the hasbara people, the claims of history and rights are automatically connected to a contemporary political solution. Therefore it is preferred to obscure the past. Instead of differentiating between rights and an agreement that perhaps will exist in the future, both are treated equally. This is analogical to a lawyer not representing the reasons that the accused is not guilty because of misgivings that the judge will not be convinced, which might lead to him actually not being convinced. Like a dog that returns to its vomit, Israel goes back to her futile security claims and flees from the main question – the question of the right to the Land.
The only one in the Israeli system that has understood this concept is Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. She had some time ago already formed a team and a plan to promote hasbara projects that underscore Israel’s rights in Judea and Samaria. The program includes a presentation that will move throughout the country to tell of the continuity of Jewish communities in the Land of Israel over the years, film clips and hasbara dossiers in Hebrew and English. But in order to implement it, the approval of the minister of the treasury, Moshe Kahlon, is required. “The idea is to emphasize of liberation and the return to the territories of the Land, rather than the term “occupation”, say those in Hotovely’s office. The Yesha (Hebrew acronym for Judea, Samaria and Gaza) Council plans its own celebrations to mark the jubilee year of the return of the Jewish People to its historic inheritance. The question is why Prime Minister Netanyahu and head of HaBayit HaYehudi Bennett, who are polished public relations presenters and understand the matters at hand, stand on the sidelines. Why do these two leaders not also initiate celebrations and courses of action to send this essential message, which they both know so well: the historical miracle of the return of the Jewish People to the heart of its homeland.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav for Women in Green
Source: Makor Rishon, March 11,Yoman section, issue 970, pg. 10
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