“Hatikvah” Must Remain Part of Israel’s Public Life

June 13 2018

With the conclusion of the academic year approaching, Tel Aviv University has announced that there will be no singing of “Hatikvah” at its graduation ceremony, to avoid causing discomfort to Arab students and their families. Daniel Gordis comments:

This stated reason, it seems to me and many others, is a pretext, and a dangerous one at that. Israel’s Arabs know well that they live in a Jewish state. And for all the complexity that living as an Arab in an expressly Jewish state invariably entails, nothing about having the national anthem sung at a graduation ceremony of a public university would surprise them. Israel, after all, has had this conversation before.

When Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch stepped down from the Supreme Court in 2012, the justices gathered, and . . . sang “Hatikvah.” One of the justices present was Salim Joubran, an Israeli Arab. The cameras at the event showed him standing respectfully, but not singing. As is to be expected in Israeli society, some of the political echelon’s hot-headed rightists assailed Joubran, but most Israelis had sympathy for his predicament and admiration for the dignity with which he comported himself. After all, many Israelis wondered, why would an Israeli Arab (a Maronite Christian in Joubran’s case) sing an anthem that begins “As long as a Jewish soul yearns in the heart within,” and then continues, “Our hope is not yet lost, to be a free nation in the land of Zion.” . . . Arab students graduating from state-funded universities thus have Joubran’s model to follow. . . .

What is perhaps even more astounding than [Tel Aviv University’s] decision not to sing “Hatikvah” is the relative nonchalance of Israelis who read about [it]. Perhaps Israelis consider academicians irrelevant, an intellectual echo-chamber entirely out of touch with the people. Perhaps. But the nonchalance is dangerous, for it allows the legitimization of the delegitimization of Israel’s foundational idea—the creation of a state that would be specifically dedicated to the flourishing of one people, the Jewish people.

To be sure, to look at Israel through an American, Jeffersonian lens is to see a strange country. But that’s precisely the point. Israel was never intended to be a liberal democracy in the American mold. It’s an ethnic democracy, something entirely different. The first words of the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson wrote are “When in the course of human events,” while Israel’s declaration begins, “In the land of Israel, the Jewish people was born.” Everything else is commentary.

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More about: Declaration of Independence, Hatikvah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli democracy

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy