Friday, July 18, 2003

Right of return for ten million Germans
Shlomo Avineri in the Jerusalem Post:

The evening proceeded along the expected trajectory, until a Lebanese academic raised the issue of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.

The senior German minister listened attentively, and then said: "This is an issue with which we in Germany are familiar; may I ask my German colleagues in the audience to raise their hand if they, or their families, were refugees from Eastern Europe?"

There was a moment of silence - the issue is embarrassing in Germany, fraught with political and moral landmines. Slowly, hands were raised: by my count, more than half the Germans present (government officials, journalists, businessmen) raised a hand: they, or their families, had been Vertriebene, expelled from their ancestral homes in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia after World War II.

It is estimated that up to 10 million were expelled; with their descendants today they make up almost double that number - almost one in four Germans.

Amid the hush the German senior minister continued: He himself was born in Eastern Europe and his family was expelled in the wake of the anti-German atmosphere after 1945. "But," he added, "neither I nor any of my colleagues claim the right to go back.

"It is precisely because of that that I can now visit my ancestral hometown and talk to the people who live in the house in which I was born - because they do not feel threatened, because they know I don't want to displace them or take their house."

Read on.

How very wise and sensitive of this senior German minister. We could further develop this, but I think it is an excellent example because it does not mention Jews and therefore is not emotionally loaded for the Arabs. Of course, the question to be asked is if the Arabs could give a damn about Israelis feeling threatened by their demands. If they don't, then, unlike the Germans with regard to Eastern Europe, they can't be very interested in making peace with Israel.

More: The Head Heeb discusses this. And Cookie, based on an unrelated article, thinks she deserves refugee status too.