An Israeli Solution to the US Racial Crisis?

Lieberman Race Protests

With America gripped by conflicting rhetoric over the nature of race relations and police performance, has anyone yet suggested this solution: Just get the African-Americans to go back to Africa?

If so, surely it would be from the political fringe. If anyone knows of a more mainstream source among right-of-center bulwarks like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh-type radio programs, please comment below.

But essentially, this is a talking point on racial issues in Israel. And it is not a marginal viewpoint, but from the center of current government.

A little over a week ago, according to Reuters:

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman proposed on Friday that Arab citizens of Israel be offered financial incentives to leave the country and relocate to a future Palestinian state.

“Those (Israeli Arabs) who decide that their identity is Palestinian will be able to forfeit their Israeli citizenship and move and become citizens of the future Palestinian state,” he wrote in the manifesto, entitled Swimming Against the Stream, published on his Facebook page and his party’s website.

“Israel should even encourage them to do so with a system of economic incentives,” he said.

Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel, Our Home), captured 11 of 120 parliament seats in the most recent elections, as part of the winning coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

Encouraging Arabs to leave is not official government policy, but apparently leading Israeli politicians believe it is good rhetoric to rally their base, at the least.

America did have a moment in history when such views were put forward. Certainly the context in Israel today is different than America, both then and now.

But America, despite its faults and residual, often unconscious biases, has forged a society establishing full racial equality in law and in the mindset of most its citizens. The protests today are demanding improvement of an already present good.

The sometime (perhaps often?) poor administration of this good speaks to the widespread triumph of the ideal. Comparing it to other contexts reminds about how fleeting an ideal can be, and how easily it can be threatened.

Israel seeks to navigate two principles not easily combined given its demographic makeup. It wishes to be both a Jewish and a democratic state. As I wrote in an earlier post summarizing the critique of Stephen Sizer, especially as concerns the Occupied Territories, one of these principles seemingly must slide.

Perhaps not. But fortunately America can sidestep the question. It is not a nation for whites, blacks, Jews, Arabs, or anyone in particular. It is a nation for citizens.

Cultural questions still seek definition by many, or perhaps, there should be no definition, for many others. This debate is warranted, within the scope of the Bill of Rights.

But Lieberman’s debate is not. Certainly not in America; morally not, I and many Jews would argue, in Israel.

Or should those who disagree be sent to exile instead?


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