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Whose imagination?


"Compared to the 'Jewish-democratic' imagination that has been developing for some years, the Arabs, especially their representatives in the Knesset, are notable for their lack of imagination."

Salman Masalha

Whose imagination?

For several months we have been witness to various and sundry Knesset bills that have turned Israeli legislation into a circus. First some religious conversion bill or another, then a bill regulating admission to "Jews-only" communities; next, a bill against foreign boycotts of the settlements, and a loyalty law whose purpose is to deny citizenship. And all this, with an air of arrogance.

Which brings to mind the saying that the Arabs are gifted with a vivid imagination, intended not as a compliment to their literary skills but rather just the opposite.

The truth is that there is no greater slander than the one ascribing to Arabs a well-developed imagination. Compared to the "Jewish-democratic" imagination that has been developing for some years, the Arabs, especially their representatives in the Knesset, are notable for their lack of imagination. Again and again, they fall prisoner to the same, old, all-purpose slogans, incapable of extricating themselves.

The passage of the amendment to the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law, as well as assorted conversion and housing bills, constitute a golden opportunity for a reevaluation of the Arab imagination.

When the yearning hearts of cabinet ministers and Knesset members turn democracy into a circus, these moments of grace should be turned to use. And since we are talking about circuses, I would like to enter the ring and try to be a thrilling, surprising acrobat, in the spirit of when in Rome .... You say we have a vivid Oriental imagination? Terrific. I'll give you that vivid imagination to the nth degree. Below are a few legislative initiatives to lay on the desk of the parliamentary circus of the "Jewish-democratic" state:

The first bill to be submitted to the Knesset shall state: "Any elected official who has been tried and convicted of breach of trust, abuse of office, giving or receiving bribes or of any offense involving moral turpitude shall be stripped of citizenship" Is this not a law we can all support? I'd like to see all those corrupting and corrupted individuals squirm - all those abusers of their office and sieg heilers. I'd like to see, for example, how cabinet members with the name, say, Yishai, would react. And how MKs with the name swindler and Asmodeus would respond.

The second bill shall be framed as follows: "The granting of Israeli citizenship to any individual, without discrimination on the basis of creed, race or sex, shall be conditional on fluency in the Hebrew language." That, too, is surely a worthy proposal, is it not? I'd like to see the close-ups of the "Jewish-democratic" stammerers, old and new. I'd like to see how all kinds of spokesmen would react, whether some Lieberman or another Doberman.

Here's another revolutionary draft law: "Receiving citizenship on the basis of the Law of Return shall apply solely to Jews whose Jewishness is recognized in accordance with Jewish religious law" - in other words, someone whose mother was Jewish or who converted to Judaism in accordance with halakha, and who has no other religion. Converts will receive citizenship only if they have accepted the "burden of mitzvot" and maintain a religiously observant lifestyle. All this, so that no one would be tempted to think that Judaism is child's play, not to mention a matter for begging and baksheesh. As Ahad Ha'am said, "More than Israel kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Israel."

And if Israel's "Jewish" Knesset rejects these proposals and continues with its conversion games in order to grant citizenship to "goyim," then so much the better. That would be an opportunity to offer the Palestinian refugees, for instance those in Lebanon, the option of undergoing a more lax conversion and to apply to "make aliyah" to the land of their forefathers. They would be welcomed back with a generous absorption benefits package and the state would see to it that they be sent on an official campaign of "Judaizing the Galilee." In so doing, they would finally realize the right of return to their historic homeland. They will settle and renew the destroyed Palestinian villages, both as Palestinians and as "Jews of Middle Eastern descent."

"For with wise counsel shall you make more" (Proverbs 24:6 ). So here are a few proposals from the vivid Arab imagination. And redemption shall come to Palestine, and to Israel.

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Published: OP-Ed-Haaretz, March 9, 2011

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