Until very recently, Germany had been seen as a staunch defender of Israel in the United Nations. The recent resolution of February 18, condemning Israel for building homes for Jews in territory acquired in 1967 comes at a time when Israel’s neighbours, particularly Egypt, are entering an unstable time. Egypt, which for 30 years has had a “cold peace” with Israel now has a new regime that may very well want to renegotiate or abrogate its peace treaty with Israel. In the rapidly changing climate of the Middle East, the west’s wishful expectations that the Arab masses want democracy and peace have been evaporating. It is hardly reasonable under such circumstances for Israel to negotiate with its neighbours when there may be no one to negotiate with.
Both Israel and Germany absorbed huge influxes of refugees at the time of their respective births as 20th century republics. Germany absorbed approximately two million ethnic Germans who fled Germany’s European neighbours. And Israel absorbed about a million Jewish refugees from neighbouring Arab states. Both countries fully integrated their compatriot refugee populations to the extent that more than 60 years later, no one differentiates socially between the grandchildren of refugees and the descendants of those who had never lived outside their respective country’s borders.
Israel’s neighbours, by contrast, have refused completely to absorb those who fled Israel in 1948, not at the urging of Israel but of Arab governments. Failure to absorb these refugees was a callous political decision by the Arab world to use refugees and their grandchildren as a human weapon against Israel. The Palestine Authority continues to call for the destruction of Israel in its popular media and in its educational system.
Israel and Germany have absorbed their refugees and moved on. The Arab world has chosen not to do so, and nursed grievances that were of its own making, over 60 years ago. Germany has, through its support of a resolution condemning Israel for building homes for its citizens in territory acquired in 1967, during a war waged by Israel’s neighbours to wipe it off the map.
Young Germans say that they want bygones to be bygones, that Germany’s sins of the mid 20th century should not be raised again. By holding Israel responsible for the plight of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948, It is Germany and not Israel that is reopening the past for inspection.