From Gush Shalom
SHIMON PERES would have enjoyed it. A public battle about his funeral.
The Arab members of the Knesset did not attend. So what?
I did not attend, either. We never liked each other, and my attendance would have been sheer hypocrisy. I don't like hypocrisy.
The Knesset members of the Joint List decided to boycott the event. They accused Peres of having devoted most of his life to the fight against the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular.
(The Joint List is composed of three Arab parties, who mostly detest each other. They were compelled to join forces in Parliament by a law initiated by far-right (some would say fascist) minister Avigdor Lieberman, which raised the election threshold for entering the Knesset. Therefore it is a Joint List, not a United List.)
This decision to boycott the funeral aroused a storm of protest among the Jewish Knesset members. How dare they? Boycotting the dead Peres is like boycotting Israel! They should be evicted from the Knesset! Let all the other members of the Knesset exit the hall when they speak! (Curiously enough, nobody has yet proposed putting them in prison.)
But the really interesting part of the affair was the inter-Arab debate it unleashed. Some Arab citizens denounced the decision of the Joint List. They were immediately accused by other Arab citizens of being "Good Arabs," a derogatory term for Arabs who crave to be liked by member of the Jewish majority, rather like "Uncle Tom" for blacks in the US.
This debate is still going on. It touches the very foundations of the existence of the Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel, which numbers about 20% of the population.
ALL THIS brings me back to my early childhood.
I lived for nine and a half years in the democratic German "Weimar Republik," and another half year in Nazi Germany. We were "German Jews." Meaning: Germans in every respect, Jews only by religion.
In practice it meant that we were Germans, but a different kind of Germans, belonging but not quite belonging, belonging at the same time to some world-wide community called the "Jewish people."
I frequently recall a major event in my life: a patriotic memorial ceremony in high school, some time after the Nazis had come to power. The entire school was assembled in the Aula (assembly hall), and at the end all rose to sing the national anthem and the Nazi one. Since I was a pupil of the lowest class and younger then all the other pupils of my class, I was the smallest boy in school. I was also the only Jew.
Without thinking I rose like all the others, but did not raise my arm for the Nazi salute and did not sing, as did all the others. One little boy among hundreds of larger ones.
When it was finished, some of the bigger boys threatened me with dire consequences if I did that again. Fortunately, we left for Palestine a few days later.