Helen Thomas’s “gaffe”: Where do they go back to? And how many passports does an Israeli need?
Helen Thomas, veteran of the White House Press Corps, got drummed out of her job for saying Jews had no right to be in Palestine and should go back where they came from..
Since most of Israel’s Jews, by now, were born there (and if not, their children and grandchildren have been born there), they can’t exactly go back where they came from, so “going back” is certainly not an acceptable or humane approach. And it sounded a whole lot worse, that when asked where they should “return” to, she named Germany and Poland: regardless of the fact that 65 years have passed since the end of the Third Reich, it evoked a nightmare image of people being sent back to certain death.
If Helen Thomas had said Jews who came from America or Russia should go back there, it would have been a bit more kosher, and a bit more accurate. The biggest waves of new settlement (and West Bank settlers), numbering over a million and reproducing rapidly, are from America and Russia. And a few have indeed gone back.
As it happens, Jews are leaving Israel in droves. And others are, literally, visibly, queueing up for passports to have at the ready.
Israeli government statistics in November 2003 estimated that 750,000 Israelis (12.5% of the country’s entire Jewish population) were living abroad, with numbers rising. These ex-pats, known unflatteringly as Yordim (literally, people who descend; once described by Yitzhak Rabin as “weaklings”), generally head for north America, but many are indeed going to Germany (fastest-growing Jewish population) and Poland (which is offering huge incentives) both of which give access to the whole EC.
Others keep it as an option, or feel happier knowing they’re not trapped there. A 2008 survey by the Jerusalem-based Menachem Begin Heritage Center (no less!) found that a staggering 59% of all Jewish Israelis had approached or intended to approach a foreign embassy to ask for citizenship and a passport.
Most intended to continue living in Israel, which allows such dual citizenship, and this habit of hedging one’s bets has been called “territorial therapy”, a psychological outlet or mechanism utilized by many Israelis to counter the stress of living in a dangerous political situation in the Middle East. “A variety of polls over the years have shown that it is common for Israelis to actively and seriously consider that they or their children might leave Israel to live in other parts of the world, primarily the United States and Canada.” (Wikipedia)
Major reasons for leaving are economic, disagreement with government, security issues, and the “excessive role of religion in the lives of Israelis”.
♦ If Helen Thomas had said that Palestinian exiles should all stay in refugee camps forever, no-one would have batted an eyelid and she’d still be in her job.
♦ One State supporters can absolutely say without a hint of double standards that people being shunted and swapped around, pushed out, “going back where they came from” and suchlike, on either side of the divide, is wrong, leads to bad seeds for the future, and is no solution. To quote again from settler poet Nahum Pachnik, “there is plenty of space in the country, what we need is space in our hearts”
♦ It’s quite a telling fact that millions of Palestinians living in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza can’t get one passport, while Israelis, it seems, can have two.
♦ 59% of the (presumably adult) population is an overwhelming majority, especially as many of the remaining 41% are old or infirm, are not free to travel or have no valid claim to another country’s citizenship.
♦ All that suffering, aggression, deaths, homelessness and deprivation that the Palestinians have gone through so Israel can be a Jewish State, and it seems these Jews don’t really care all that much for it.
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