Op-ed: State of Israel’s anthem is a reflection of Jewish yearning for a national home; Arab citizens cannot and should not be part of that yearning, but it should not stop them from being loyal citizens.

It’s unpleasant being a Muslim citizen in Holland, where the national anthem says, among other things: “I am of German blood… a pious Christian.” And it’s unpleasant being from South Tyrol, a former Austrian region which was annexed to Italy, because the Italian anthem talks about fighting the Austrians. And it’s unpleasant being a member of the Slovak minority in the Czech Republic, because the anthem there deals with the Czech race.

I could go on. Most anthems in European countries had and still have a dark, religious, nationalistic tone.

That doesn’t make these countries dark, religious or nationalistic, because anthems usually reflect a national struggle for freedom. They don’t reflect the entire population, nor equality or universal rights, with all due respect. They reflect a history of revival, war, tradition, religion and liberation.

The Israeli national anthem, “Hatikva,” is no different. It doesn’t reflect the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights; it reflects the Jewish yearning for a national home.

Israel was established as a national home for the Jewish people, just like most European countries were established as a national expression for groups which demanded and received the right for self-determination. The battles were usually extremely bloody and included the expulsion of foreign populations, while carrying out wide-scale ethnic cleansings. Tens of millions were forced to leave their homelands. Millions were killed during the transfers in the first half of the 20th century.

Those who want to force Israel's Arabs to sing 'the Jewish soul yearns' are presenting an unfair and unjust demand (Photo: Reuters)
Those who want to force Israel’s Arabs to sing ‘the Jewish soul yearns’ are presenting an unfair and unjust demand (Photo: Reuters)


So the Arab citizen’s situation in Israel is no different. The State of Israel’s anthem is a reflection of the Jewish yearning for the establishment of a national home. The Arab citizen cannot and should not be part of “the Jewish soul yearns.” It shouldn’t stop him from being a loyal citizen, just like a Muslim citizen in Holland should be a loyal citizen and a Slovak citizen in the Czech Republic should be a loyal citizen.

So there is no need for coercion. The soul of an Arab citizen in Israel doesn’t yearn. On the contrary: He shares the pain for which many of his people or family members became refugees. It’s his right to share the feeling of the Nakba, even if there were endless nakbas, and even if the nakbas suffered by the Jews in European and Arab countries were much more brutal and painful. Grief is grief and pain is pain.

Israel’s Arabs should be brought closer, not driven away. Those who want to force them to sing “the Jewish soul yearns” are presenting an unfair and unjust demand. It’s an order they can’t obey. Whoever wants to, can say the words. And whoever doesn’t want to, doesn’t have to express the words. He has to honor. He has to stand up. That’s what every member of a minority group does in civilized countries. There is no need for more than that.

Despite their political leadership, in which many choose provocations over a battle for equality, an absolute majority of Israel’s Arabs are loyal citizens. They don’t have to become Zionists in order to be loyal. The percentage of Muslims who join jihad in Israel is lower than the percentage of Muslims who do so in every country in Europe.

This is a badge of honor for the Muslims in Israel. It stands as proof that they are not getting dragged into incitement. It stands as proof that they understand that despite a “handful” of Beitar Jerusalem fans, they are part of the State of Israel, even if they do have justified claims against the State.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked did the right thing when she immediately clarified that she is against Knesset Member Robert Ilatov’s proposal to disqualify an Arab candidate for judge unless he agrees to recite “the Jewish soul yearns.”

If there is anyone who should be disqualified, it’s Ilatov himself. We have enough anti-Zionist provocations from the Arab leadership’s side. That doesn’t justify anti-Arab provocations from the Jewish side.

As reported by Ynetnews