On the occasion of my 90th birthday, a panel discussion of eminent historians took place in Tel Aviv’s Tsavta hall on the above question. There follows a slightly shortened version of my own remarks.
WILL ISRAEL exist in another 90 years? The very question is typical of Israel. No one would take it seriously in England or Germany, or even in other states born from immigration, like Australia or the USA.
Yet here, people speak of “existential dangers” all the time. A Palestinian state is an existential danger. The Iranian bomb is an existential danger. Why? They will have their bomb, we have our bomb, there will be a “balance of terror”. So what?
There is something in our national character that fosters self-doubt, uncertainty. The Holocaust? Perhaps an unconscious sense of guilt? A result of eternal war, or even the reason for it?
LET ME state right from the beginning: Yes, I believe Israel will exist in 90 years. The question is: what kind of Israel? Will it be a country your great-great-great-grandsons and daughters will be proud of? A state they will want to live in?
On the day the state was founded, I was 24 years old. My comrades and I, soldiers in our new army, didn’t think the event was very important. We were preparing ourselves for the battle that was to take place that night, and the speeches of politicians in Tel-Aviv did not really interest us. We knew that if we won the war there would be a state, and if not, there would be neither a state nor us.
I am not a nostalgic person. I have no nostalgia for Israel before (the war of) 1967, as some of my colleagues here have expressed. A lot was wrong then, too. Huge amounts of Arab property were expropriated. But let’s not look back. Let’s look at Israel as it is now, and ask ourselves: where do we go from here?
IF ISRAEL continues on its present course, there will be disaster.
The first stage will be apartheid. It already exists in the occupied territories, and it will spread to Israel proper. The descent into the abyss will not be dramatic or precipitous, It will be gradual, almost imperceptible.
Slowly pressure on Israel will grow. Demographics will do their work. Sometime before the 90 years are up, Israel will be compelled to grant civil rights to the Palestinians. There will be an Arab majority. Israel will be an Arab-majority state.
Some people may welcome that. But it will be the end of the Zionist dream. Zionism will become a historic episode. This state will be just another country where Jews live as a minority – those who remain here.
There are those who say: “There just is no solution”. If so, we should all obtain foreign passports.
Some dream of the so-called “one-state solution”. Well, during the last half-century, many states in which diverse nations lived together have broken apart. A partial list: the Soviet Union, Cyprus, Yugoslavia, then Serbia, Czechoslovakia, Sudan. There has not been a single instance of two nations freely uniting in one state. Not one.
I AM not afraid of any military threat. There is no real danger. In our time, no country possessing nuclear arms can be destroyed by force. We are quite able to defend ourselves.
Rather, I am afraid of internal dangers: the implosion of our intellectual standards, the proliferation of a parasitical orthodox establishment, and especially emigration. All over the world, people are becoming more and more mobile. Families disperse. Zionism is a two-way street. If you can be a good Jew in Los Angeles as well as in Tel Aviv, why stay here?
The connection between Israel and the world’s Jews will become weaker. That is natural. We are a new nation, rooted in this country. That is the real aim. Our relations with the Diaspora will be like, say, between Australia and England.
I WANT to raise a basic question: will nationalism itself survive?
Will it be supplanted by new collective modes of organization and ideologies?
I think nationalism will continue to exist. In the last century, no power has succeeded in overcoming it. The internationalist Soviet Union has collapsed and left nothing behind but a rampant, racist nationalism. Communism succeeded only when it took a ride on nationalism, like in Vietnam and China. Religion succeeded when it took a hike on nationalism, like in Iran.
Wherein lies the power of nationalism? It seems that the human being needs a sense of belonging, belonging to a certain culture, tradition, historic memories (real or invented), homeland, language.
I SHALL pose the question in a different way: will the nation-state survive?
In factual terms, the nation-state is an anachronism. It came into being during the last three centuries because the economic need for a large local market, the military need for an adequate army and so forth required a state the size of, say, France. But now almost all these functions have been taken over by regional blocs like the EU.
This is the reason for a curious phenomenon: while nation-states join larger unions, they themselves break up into smaller units. Scots, Corsicans, the Flemish, Catalonians, Basques, Chechnians, French Canadians and many many more are seeking independence.
Why? A Scotsman thinks that an independent Scotland can join the EU and reap all the benefits, without having to suffer English snobbery. Local nationalism trumps larger nationalism.
SO WHERE shall we be in 90 years, at the beginning of the 22th century?
In the year of my birth, 1923, an Austrian nobleman named Count Nikolaus Coudenhove-Kalergi called for a pan-European movement in order to create the United States of Europe. At the time, a few years after World War I and a few years before World War II, it sounded like a crazy utopia. Now we have the European Union.
At this moment, the United States of the World sounds like a crazy utopia, too. But there is no escape from some kind of world governance. The global economy needs it to function. Global communications make it possible. Global spying is already with us. Only an effective global authority can save our suffering planet, put an end to wars and civil wars, world-wide epidemics and hunger.
Can world governance be democratic? I certainly hope so. World communications make it possible. Your descendents will vote for a world parliament.
Will the nation-state continue to exist in this brave new world? Yes, it will. Much as nation-states do exist in today’s Europe: each with its flag, its anthem, its soccer team, its local administration.
THIS, THEN, is my optimistic vision: Israel, the nation-state of the Israeli people, closely aligned with the nation-state of the Palestinian people, will be a member of a regional Union that will include the Arab states and hopefully Turkey and Iran, as a proud member of the United States of the World.
A democratic, liberal and secular state where your descendents will be proud to proclaim: “I am an Israeli!”
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Were their non-Jewish people living in Jewish governed lands, before the exodus? It appears, that there were many Jewish tribes who were struggling against each other, and the practice of taking persons bonded to the tribes that won such struggles, and whose allegiance was suspect, doesn't imply that Jewish people didn't make Jewish people, 'slaves'. Apparently, Abraham was scared he might be similarly bonded by the Pharoah. It is certain, that Jesus was an adherent of Judaism, and that it wasn't the disciple 'Paul' who proclaimed himself a Saint, but others who saw themselves as devout. The noun, 'Christian', is perhaps what a person who discovered that he believes in Christ, wanted to call himself, and if a disciple of Christ was the first to call himself/herself Christian, then is it ascertained, who that original person is? The term, 'Hindu', is a Muslim noun, originally belonging to the name, 'Sindhu', which is the name the Persians gave the Indus River. People living to the east of the river are 'Hindu's'.
Our brain's aren't supposed to have 'developed' or 'evolved' since the times man could read and/or write. How are we evolving as a society, keeping in mind, what we feel is the cause of conflict, is the basis of what we see as our heritage?
My knowledge of history is not so good. Please correct me if found wrong by giving me fitting reply. As far as I know Jews were massacred during Second World War by Hitler and so called Aryan race. They were not even considered as human beings by them. They equaled Jews as rats etc. and they even believe that Jews had no right to live. Jews bore all this. They know how difficult this to live in state of terror is. Particularly the persons who bore such inhumane, illegal, irrational treatment in the past should have view that nobody ever from any religion, caste, belief should be treated like we were treated in the past. Then how Israel justifies his killings of innocent people. Did treatment in the past made the human heart of stone or just Jews have forgotten the pain of their beloved ones?
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