At the end of the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the protagonist Tevye and his friends are banished by the Russian authorities from their village, Anatevka. It is a very moving scene. (Above is a picture from a current production of Fiddler in Jerusalem; full disclosure: I play Tevye.)
Night after night in the theater, as Israeli Jews watch actors reenact the Jewish exodus from a mythical shtetl (loosely based on the events of 1905), I wonder to myself how many of them make a connection between wha they see and the forced exodus of Palestinian Arabs from their villages. And if they make the connection, what is the effect?
From my own limited experience, I have found that refugees, or more accurately, their children, are not particularly sympathetic to other refugees. Of course, I shouldn't generalize. But I hear the argument that since we (or our parents) were able to become acclimated in our new lives, why should we shed tears for other refugees who haven't done the same thing? In Israel you hear this sentiment expressed by Ashkenazim about the Sephardim (Orientals): "My parents came here as poor refugees and worked hard to pick themselves up. Why should I feel sorry for those whiners?" And you also hear, "OK, they were also done an injustice, but, hey, they should get over it already after forty three years." When I point out that many Palestinians have indeed worked hard to pick themselves up, in America, France, Jordan, I get the response, "So what are they whining about?" This is from Zionists who claim a right to return to Eretz Yisrael after a two-thousand year "exile".
When I see the end of Fiddler I cannot help thinking that the Russian authorities who forced Jews like Tevye to sell their houses were in a better moral position than the Jews who refused to allow Palestinians back into their homes. After all, the authorities gave Tevye and his friends three days to sell their houses and made it clear to them that they would not be returning. They sold their property at a loss, obviously, but they sold. In the case of the Palestinians, those who left their home during fighting were not allowed back into their homes after the area was seized by Israel – even if they were still in the vicinity. Ah, but you will say that the Jews didn't do anything against the Czar. Uh…how many Jews led the revoution?
Today along the 443 road there is a demonstration noting 43 years of Occupation. This is from the press release of the organizers:
The villages Yalu, Imwas and Bet-Nuba in the Latrun enclave were completely destroyed by the Israeli army during the occupation in June 1967. On some of their lands settlements such as Mavo Horon were built; other lands became the Canada Park, where Israeli citizens spend their leisure time.
For many years the uprooted residents of the three villages used to convene on these lands on the 4th of June. Yet, even this symbolic act was taken away from them with the erection of the Separation Wall. The land which used to be their home is now forbidden for visitation. However, the uprooted residents don't comply with their expulsion and insist on their right to return.
The majority of the families live today in the villages around the road 443. During the 80's, thousands of dunams were expropriated from the residents of these villages under the pretense that the road will serve them as a major route to Ramallah. However, the road is closed to Palestinian vehicles for years. The Supreme Court has ordered to open a section of the road, in a way that will not enable easy access to Ramallah through the checkpoints of Bitunia or Kalandia. The opened road will hence lead to nowhere.
In our joint rally on June 4th we will raise our voice against the policy of expropriation and segregation and call together for life in dignity, equality and freedom.
The story of Yalu, Imwas, and Beit Nuba is particularly sad, as described here
Tom Segev and Jessica Cohen write that, in 1967, Yalou was one of three populated villages in the Latrun area where residents were told to leave their homes and gather in an open area outside the villages, after which they were ordered over loudspeakers to march to Ramallah. Segev and Cohen estimate that about 8,000 people left as a result of that order. They also write that, "In the general order distributed to Central Command soldiers, Imwas and Yalu were associated with the failure to take the area in 1948 and were described as 'terms of disappointment, terms of a long and painful account, which has now been settled to the last cent.'"
So this was a "price tag" operation – failure to take the area in 1948 sealed the villages' doom in 1967.
In Fiddler on the Roof Tevye's daughter converts to Russian Orthodoxy and marries a Russian named Fyedka. When Fyedka hears of the expulsion order of the Jews he becomes sickened and, together with Chava, decides to leave Anatevka. He obviously does not believe that things can be changed.
Will we Israelis be forced to become like Fyedka? Or will we, like Tevye's other son-in-law, Perchik, stay here and fight the injustice?