Photo: Reuters
'Discrimination is discrimination, and is illegitimate in any measure'
Photo: Reuters

Beware demographic hysteria

There will be a Jewish majority in Israel for years to come

Sunday's Supreme Court decision was a negative benchmark, not only for Jewish – Arab relations, but also for the State of Israel and its Jewish majority. The court used security claims to limit marriages between Arab citizens of Israel and West Bank and Gazan Palestinians, but everyone knows the court's real intention in this decision was to minimize the number of Arabs in Israel, to satisfy "demographic" requirements.


In general, Israel acts like it is dancing around a bonfire of demography. All arms of state are enlisted to this dance, starting with the bureaucrats who allot state funding, and continuing all the way to limits on potential marriage partners.


The problem is that about a fifth of Israel's citizenry find themselves at the heart of the fire itself. This situation detracts, on a daily basis, from the legitimacy of the Israeli citizenship of Israeli Arabs, for the main goal here is to minimize their numbers.


Israeli democracy


The three basic pillars of Israel's democracy – the Knesset, the government and the Supreme Court – have joined together on this issue to serve the will of the Jewish sector, with the "demographic claim" at its center. De facto, the branches of Israel's government are beholden to the will of the Jewish majority, and do everything in their power to march according to its demands.


But the truth of the matter is that it is not only the public that influences the authorities, but vice versa, and Sunday's ruling will have far-reaching affects about the lack of legitimacy that the Jewish public has for the citizenship of Israel's Arab citizens.


Judicial wisdom


What should a young Jewish kid think when he can marry a Jewish girl from overseas and she will be welcome to come and live here, while his Arab friend cannot marry his girlfriend from the territories and live here? The 11 justices that heard the case would surely have been horrified to read last week's results released by the Israel Democracy Institute, that fully 62 percent of Jewish Israelis would support an initiative to encourage Arabs to emigrate from Israel.


Did the six who formed the majority opinion understand that their decision would contribute to possibly more extreme results in next year's poll? Did their decision reflect the opinion of the Jewish majority in Israel, or did it influence it?


Judicial acrobatics


In order to serve the demographic claim the Supreme Court did frightening acrobatics, with two outrageous claims: One, the claim that the law provided for "measured discrimination," brings to mind the sad European joke, "Who is an anti-Semite? Someone who hates Jews more than necessary."


Discrimination is discrimination, and is illegitimate in any measure. But those demanding "measured discrimination" in fact want to justify discrimination, but they hide behind the word "measured," as if the whole thing were somehow rational. They are only fooling themselves.


Hot potato


The use of the security claim is extremely shaky, and does not stand up to closer inspection. If marriage really were a security issue, it would be possible to deal with it as such. For instance, we could undertake comprehensive background checks, or we could demand draconian profiling in order to screen potential citizens.


But the secret of the Supreme Court ruling is the attempt to hide the truth: Behind the thin veil of the security claim are the trampling hooves of the demographic threat that cannot hide its klutzy dance.


The Arab minority has taken yet another blow, but it is the state, and the interests of the Jewish majority that will suffer. For the higher the flames jump out of the Jews' demographic bonfire, and the more the Arab minority at its center is tortured, the potato in the middle will get more and more burnt. Eventually, we will no longer be able to pass this hot potato from hand to hand.


We must calm down, lower the flame and take a careful look at reality: Barring some ecological catastrophe, there will be a Jewish majority in this country for at least the next 100 years. Instead of addicting ourselves to alarm and panic and doing bloody battle over the end of days, we need the country's best minds to turn their energies towards creating a fair, model democracy that will allow the Jewish majority and the Arab minority to live together in coming generations.


Those who value Zionism must rescue it from demographical hysteria that has gripped Jews in recent years, and has removed all wisdom from it. This is the Jews', and the Arabs', chance to live here together. The Supreme Court would do well to help the nation reach this goal.


Shalom (Shuli) Dichter is a co-director of Sikkuy -The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel


פרסום ראשון: 05.15.06, 20:12
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