Palestinians should have the right to return… and live

At the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, opened with these words, “Abraham passed the greatest test of faith and the right to be the father of our nation. In Jerusalem, King David established our capital three thousand years ago as the eternal, undivided capital of Israel.” He went on to offer praise for the IDF’s brave and heroic defence of the ‘Jewish State’.

Meanwhile seventy miles away the Israeli army were giving their brave and undivided attention to defending the nation’s borders by ensuring that Israel remains divided with the blood of its original inhabitants, the Palestinians.

Apart from the dubious historical claim that King David established Jerusalem 3000 years ago, note Netanyahu’s reference to Jerusalem being ‘undivided’. This is code for not sharing Jerusalem with the Palestinians. Jerusalem is for Jews only.

But the inhabitants of the ‘nation’ of Israel do not come from a cohesive geographical area, nor do they share a common history. The Ashkenazi have their antecedents in Eastern Europe and Russia. The Mizrahi in The Maghreb and the Middle East and the Sephardin who can be traced to the Iberian Peninsula, Finally there are  130,000 Ethiopian Jews, some of whom claim descent from Menelik, King Solomon and Queen Sheba’s son.

Historical accuracy is difficult wherever you look in the world and nowhere more so than in Israel. There are those who claim some Jews are not descended from Jews at all. One of these, Professor Shlomo Sand, a Tel Aviv University historian, published this claim with his Invention of the Jewish People. He was reinforcing Arthur Koestler’s The Thirteenth Tribe published in 1976. He advanced the idea that the Ashkenazi Jews are not descendants from the Israelites of antiquity, but from Khazars, a Turkic people whose origins were in the Caucasus region (historical Khazaria), and who converted to Judaism in the 8th century. They later migrated north and westwards into current Northern and Eastern Europe.

In the last thirty years, 300,000 people from Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union have arrived in Israel as “Jews’. Most of them are Halakhally, claiming at least one Jewish member in their family. It is estimated that 40,000 are practising Orthodox Christians.

Under the ‘Law of Return’ Israel grants automatic citizenship to anyone who has a Jewish grandparent, yet as many as a quarter of those who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet countries are not considered Jewish according to the official Israeli rabbinate.

I have been told the story of one such ‘Jewish’ family. Two years ago, and claiming her maternal grandmother had been Jewish, a Russian woman, her husband and two children emigrated to Israel. They arrived in Tel Aviv and were given a house, some welcome money and school places for their teenage children. No supporting documents were asked for. The mother was happy with her new life, but the father didn’t like it there and they were both concerned that the two teenagers would become liable for military service.

In Germany, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has been encouraging Jewish immigration for those of ‘Jewish nationality or have at least one Jewish parent or one Jewish grandparent.’ Over 33,000 Israelis have emigrated to Germany since 2000. And that figure excludes those who haven’t taken out German citizenship. So the two applied for entry to Germany on the same basis as they used to enter Israel. They live there now, happy to have reached security at the centre of Europe, in a country that they have as much a link to as they did to historical Palestine.

Meanwhile back at the US Embassy, the opening prayers were offered by Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor who once said that Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral land. ‘Religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism,’ he said, ‘lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.’

The situation in Israel is indeed Hell for the people whose home has always been there, brought to them by the madness at the heart of Zionism.

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