Kfar Vradim Wants To Stay Jewish! The Nerve!
Horrified that rather than sell plots to Arabs, Kfar Vradim council shut down expansion plans for their town? For some strange reason, there was a rather low key reaction to this news. Some social media shares of the few articles published, but nothing earth shattering.
Yes, there were the regular cries of apartheid. And the antisemitic +972 magazine used the opportunity to say that even the left-wing Ashkenazi elite are racists and colonialists. Haaretz saw fit to publish two articles on the topic, one a news report and the other an opinion piece. Blaming the so-called extremist right-wing government (I really do think if the government was trying to be extremist right-wing, it should try a little bit harder), Haaretz’s editorial team wrote:
Indeed, discussions of the “Jewish character” of Kfar Vradim are no coincidence. They are a direct result of the racist winds blowing from the cabinet.
But, in general, the mass media have so far remained silent on the topic. I have the feeling, however, that this little tidbit will be pulled out of a hat for future use in vilifying Israel as various opportunities present themselves around the world.
What are “the racist winds”?
This is probably related to the fact that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said that if there was a conflict between a democratic position and one that protected the Jewish character of Israel, she prefers the latter. And, of course, Bibi’s announcement on election day last (about how the Arabs voters were galloping to the polls so Jews better get out there and vote Likud).
Without going into reminders of the racist winds blowing in the apartheid judenfrei states all around us and the increasingly violent antisemitism in France, for example, let us look at what Kfar Vradim’s decision means.
Ethnic Segregation Around the World
People are tribal. Even no-longer-tribal societies are tribal. All this means is that people find comfort in being among those who are similar to themselves in some self-defined meaningful way. And these boundaries are fluid. In a foreign country, hearing your native language being spoken draws your attention and you may gravitate toward that person. In a sea of foreigners, it is a relief to be able to have a conversation in which the underlying codes of behaviour, the nuances of gesture and intonation are understood without need for explanation or worry that the other may take offense. Perhaps you have little else in common with some of these who speak your language and when the group reaches a certain size, it will break down into sub-groups. In other circumstances, other characteristics may take on greater significance than native tongue; for example, gender orientation, professional affiliation, the divorced versus the marrieds, and more.
There is voluntary ethnic segregation whereby members of ethnic groups prefer to live together in the same neighbourhood. As long as these are not legally mandated ghettos, there is no problem.
Growing up in Toronto in the 50s-60s, I lived in what we affectionately called “Bathurst Manor ghetto”. A huge proportion of the population was Jewish. I went to public school and almost all the pupils and many of the teachers were Jews. Then, similar to what had happened decades earlier in more southern districts of Toronto, non-Jews began moving in as their economic status improved and Jews moved farther north. Synagogues, Jewish private schools and kosher shops mushroomed in these new neighbourhoods.
As the various ethnic populations grow, Toronto, like so many other cities around the world, has its “Little Italy,” “Chinatown,” and more.
Did you know that Japan has a “Little Brazil” and South Korea has “Islamic Village” and “French Village,” among others? In fact, ethnic segregation and the migrations of ethnic groups as a group within their cities is common. This has been the topic of academic research (see here and here and here, for example) as sociologists and population geographers explore human connections and migration patterns.
Only when the ethnic segregation concerns the majority group is it called discrimination.
Ethnic Segregation in Israel
When Arab towns in the Galilee seek to block the sale of plots to outsiders, it seems not to be a problem. And these outsiders are defined as anyone who is not a member of the local tribe. Similarly, there is no problem when a Druze village blocks the sale of plots to the non-Druze. Nobody calls this discrimination.
However, when a small mostly Jewish town prefers not to expand rather than to sell a large block of plots to Arabs, this is called discrimination.
There is no problem when a small number of non-Jews buy plots in what is predominantly a Jewish town (or Haredi in a secular town). In fact, Kfar Vradim has Arab home owners. The small minority does not change the nature of the town. But when the small minority becomes a large minority, the changes are easily felt. This is the point at which members of the ethnic group in a large city in another country, begin to move to another suburb and the newer ethnic group becomes the predominant one.
But Kfar Vradim is not a large city with multiple suburbs and new suburbs going up. It is a small town that wants to preserve its particular atmosphere and character. And what is wrong with that? If it is okay for a Bedouin town to want to preserve its special character, then it is okay for a Jewish secular town as well.
The Real Issue
It appears that the Arab families seeking to build a house in Kfar Vradim want to improve the socioeconomic environment in which they raise their children. Land is not allocated to Arab villages that would allow their expansion, and infrastructure and services in most Arab villages do not reach the standards of those found in most Jewish towns. This is what should be protested, not the fact that a secular Jewish town wants to remain secular and Jewish.
Feature Image Credit: wikimedia