Thursday, March 9, 2017

Opinion I Would Be Happy to Live on an Israeli Yasser Arafat St.

Every nation’s heroes are stained with blood. Some of the heroes for whom Israeli streets are named have a lot more blood on their hands than Yasser Arafat did.

from Haaretz Gideon Levy Mar 09, 2017 2:43 AM

Yasser Arafat with Palestinian security forces in Gaza in 1995. AP
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I would be happy to live on Yasser Arafat Street in Ramat Aviv. It would be inspiring to live on a street named for a Nobel Peace Prize winner; it would instill hope to live on a street named for a former enemy and the founding father of the neighboring nation, members of which lived in the village on whose ruins the neighborhood was built and who himself tried to make peace with Israel.

The gesture of a street named for the destroyed village, Sheikh Munis, would also be a high honor for the neighborhood and the country. If Israel only had a little more confidence in the justice of its path, the idea wouldn’t be so far-fetched.
But I live on a street that bears the name of an Anglo-Jewish statesman, the viceroy of India, Rufus Daniel Isaacs, the Marquess of Reading. I doubt that there’s a single person living on the street who knows who he was or why a main street is named for him.

Our streets are generally named for Zionist activists and rabbis, which is certainly acceptable. Less acceptable is to use such names for streets where Arabs live. Dov of Mezeritch, Besht (Baal Shem Tov), Zalman Meisel, Shivtei Yisrael and Avodat Yisrael are streets in Arab Jaffa. In some mixed cities the provocation is even more brazen. The main street in Ramle of course bears the name of Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl, while Hapalmach, Ha’etzel, Beitar and Yitzhak Sadeh are streets where at least some of the residents are Arabs. In Lod the situation is similar; Tzahal Boulevard near the Al Omari mosque, and Eliyahu Golomb, Exodus and Aliya Bet streets near the market and Khan el-Hilu.

There are almost no Arab street names and certainly no sensitivity. The entrance bridge to Nazareth is named for IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, one of the greatest Arab-haters, who compared them to drugged cockroaches. Since the bridge was built, his legacy echoes for every Nazareth driver who crosses it. That’s how an Israeli minority is treated.

But that’s not enough. The Arab town of Jatt decided a few months ago to name a street after the father of its nation. The existence of an Arafat Street in the State of Israel came to the authorities’ attention belatedly, but it’s never too late to cause a scandal and oppress a minority. The prime minister said he would not agree for the country to have “streets named after the enemies of Israel.” The interior minister was told to act, the local council chairman capitulated and the name of the street was removed. There is no Arafat, his name has been erased. Maybe the street will instead be named after Elor Azaria. That would be amusing if the effort to delete, overwrite and choke off any national sentiment wasn’t so shocking. Only Jews may be remembered.
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