Israelis tend to warn of the ‘Islamization’ of Europe in the wake of attacks like those in Brussels. But the fear of Muslims in a country where Jews and Muslims must live together is simply not an option.
After events like the terrorist attacks in Brussels or Paris, it has become common to hear Israelis say that “Europe is finished” or that it is being “conquered by Muslims.” In fact, people say these things even when there are no attacks. Regardless of inherent racism, I do not really understand the logic behind such statements. In France, seven percent of the population is Muslim. In Belgium it is six percent. In Britain — less than five percent.
In Israel, on the other hand, more than 20 percent of the population is Arab, the majority of whom are Muslim. Add to that 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank. Even if we don’t count Gaza, Jews and Arabs live side by side in every part of this country — in a way that doesn’t exist anywhere in Europe.
They say Israel may become a bi-national state sometime in the future, but the truth is we are already living in a bi-national reality — we are just in denial about it. If there are Israelis who believe we cannot live alongside Arabs or Muslims, then the only logical step for them is to run away from here as fast as they can. Any imaginable future scenario here will necessarily include more Arabs and Muslims in Israel than in those areas of Europe with large Arab populations.
Many years ago I saw Professor Aviezer Revitzki speak on a televised political discussion which devolved into generalizations about how Israel would spearhead a clash of civilizations. This was more or less the consensus in the study, from both left and right. “I don’t want to be the spearhead,” Revitzki announced (I am quoting from memory), “since that the part that is eroded and destroyed first.” Wise words.
If the world is moving toward all out war, Israel is probably the worst place to be. I’m happy to say that I don’t think that is the direction we’re headed. I do not have a simple solution to the current wave of nihilistic terrorism, and I don’t know anyone who does. Regardless, the numbers show that Jews and Arabs have to learn to live in this land side by side.
The terror attacks and the rightward shift in Europe might relieve some of the pressure from Israel, a fact which causes some Israelis to feel Schadenfreude. The truth of the matter is that Israelis and Palestinians are in the same boat. A clash of civilizations is the worst possible scenario. After all, this is not Europe, and we do not have the privilege of becoming Islamophobes.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.