March 29, 2014
Changing the Flag
The old flag is based on the British one, the Union
But what does this flag mean for today’s New Zealanders? Very little. Sure, they
are close to the
A national flag should unite all the citizens of a country, evoke their loyalty and strengthen their patriotism. It certainly should not leave out significant portions of the population.
Therefore the government of the southern island-state has decided to discard the flag that has a meaning only for a part of the population and adopt a new one, which will be meaningful to all. A competition for a new design is under way.
This belatedly follows the example of
THE PROBLEM with our flag is very much the same. Adopted by one of the first
Zionist congresses, it is based on the Jewish prayer shawl and the ancient
Shield of David. It was designed for a world-wide political movement whose aim
was to create a secure homeland for the Jewish people. With the establishment of
the State of
It serves today as the flag of the state, the flag of the international Zionist movement, and, in the eyes of some, the flag of all Jews.
It is not, however, the flag of all of
From the first day of the state, I have advocated the adoption of a new, inclusive flag. Like today’s New Zealanders I felt that with all due respect to our origin, history and cultural background, we Israelis live in a different reality. A large number of our co-citizens are not Jewish, and the symbols of our state should reflect this.
Frankly, I also think that it is not a very good flag. Flags should be seen from a distance. Originally, flags were used to mark the place of the king in a battle, so that every soldier knew where his commander was. It should stand out.
The colors of our flag – white and light blue – are aesthetic, but ineffective. Against the background of the blue sky and the white clouds, it almost disappears. Raise together a dozen white-and-blue and a single red flag, and your eyes will be drawn to the red one.
BUT THE main argument against the flag is less aesthetic than political.
Long before Binyamin Netanyahu came up with the ploy of demanding that the
It is much more than the flag of an ordinary state. It embodies the claim of the state to represent all the Jews around the world.
Have the Jews been asked whether they want to be represented by the government
Curiously enough, this question is never raised. Not by the Palestinians, not by the Americans, not even by the Israelis themselves.
Before our government demands that the Palestinian leadership recognize Israel
as the Nation-State etc, should not the Jews in
Without a world-wide referendum of the Jewish Diaspora and the affirmative answer of a large majority, the Israeli claim is baseless. Indeed, it is a form of imperialism, an effort to impose by force a kind of sovereignty on a subject people.
Before such a referendum can take place, several questions must be answered: Who
is a Jew? A son or daughter of a Jewish mother? What about a Jewish father?
People converted to the Jewish religion?
By whom? Only by an Orthodox rabbi?
What about converts accepted by “reform” or “conservative” rabbis? What
about atheists, can they become Jews represented by
About all these questions there is no agreement among the Israelis themselves. So what meaning does the demand for recognition have, except as a ploy to sabotage peace negotiations?
THE QESTION of a referendum also arose this week in a different context.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is restless again. True, his entire ministry is on strike. The main office and all the Israeli embassies in the world are shut. But Lieberman does not rest.
This week he announced that he had instructed the legal advisor of the ministry to submit a legal opinion about his proposal for territorial exchanges. According to his plan, a large area of sovereign Israeli territory inhabited by Arab citizens would be transferred to the future Palestinian state, together with its population, in return for Palestinian areas inhabited by the settlers.
The undisguised purpose of the swap would be to reduce the number of Arab citizens, making the Jewish state more Jewish.
On the face of it, this may be seen as a fair proposal.
First of all, it means that Lieberman is for the establishment of a Palestinian
state next to
All Israeli ultra-nationalists are facing a dilemma: what is more important, geography or demography? The Jewishness of the entire land which was promised to us by God, or the Jewishness of the population of the Jewish state?
The bulk of the rightist movements prefer the land to the people. They want to keep all the country “from the sea to the river”, even if it means that the Palestinians will be a majority of the population. For them, an eternal occupation would be a good solution, an apartheid state is also acceptable.
Another wing of the rightist camp believes that it is more important to have a state in which the number of non-Jews would be negligible, guaranteeing that the Jewish state would remain Jewish forever. The Lieberman solution is designed to achieve this.
For this purpose, Lieberman is prepared to change the geography of
THE LEGAL advisor took his task seriously and produced a long and well-reasoned report. He dealt mainly with the question whether such a solution would be compatible with international law. Nor surprisingly, considering his situation, his answer was yes.
No population would be removed. No property expropriated. The Palestinians
living there would be able to retain their Israeli citizenship, if they desire
it, as well as their Israeli social security rights. They would just cease being
inhabitants of the State of
A fair, even benevolent solution. Except for one little point: the Palestinian inhabitants would not be asked.
After a thorough study of precedents, the legal advisor concluded that international law does not demand a plebiscite. And indeed, Lieberman strongly objects to any such consultation.
Why? Because the people concerned have already made it absolutely clear that they would refuse such a transfer.
That is a great compliment for
Their second-class status is obvious. The news reminds us of it almost daily. What is less obvious, but not less real, is that the Arab population is deeply rooted in Israeli reality, economic and political.
The other side of the coin is that
MANY COUNTRIES in history have learned that expelling a population is often
extremely harmful for the economy. When
The Arab citizens of
Changing the flag would be a symbolic part of that effort.