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Yigal Bin-Nun: Arab migration has been the best thing that’s happened to Europe

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Arabs in Europe are a fact of life. It’s time we started to accept that there’s no way to block the migration of Chinese, Pakistanis or Arabs to Europe. They will continue to arrive there for the foreseeable future, and there’s no point in burying our heads in the sand.
Absorbing immigrants is never easy; it is accompanied by the traumas that are the lot of every immigrant. Newcomers are always exploited, humiliated and discriminated against. But after a while, the overwhelming majority is absorbed and become integral parts of the absorbing country’s population. It’s true, Europe won’t be what it once was, but that’s a good thing.
Immigrants may be discriminated against today, but who will stop Arabs, Indians and Chinese from being elected mayors, MPs or party leaders in Europe someday?
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Arab migration has been the best thing thats happened to Europe
Migration can be a good thing - just look at the Arabs in Europe Israel needs to readjust its mind-set about migration, otherwise it's going to end up looking like the global village idiot.
By Yigal Bin-Nun|Nov. 15, 2013 | 5:01 AM|
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An official from the Immigration and Population Authority questioning a Sudanese migrant.Photo by Alex Levac
Let me start from the end. Arab migration has been the best thing thats happened to Europe in the past 50 years. France isnt what it used to be, or The Arabs are taking over Europe, are the type of responses I get from people when they learn Ive been living in France for 14 years. They expect me to agree, of course, as if the rest of the world hasnt changed at all. As if France is obligated to remain how it looked in the movies from their childhood that starred Jean Gabin, Alain Delon or Louis de Funès. As if Europes worst disaster is the Arabs. As if its obvious that this deterioration must be stopped.
But theres nothing to stop. Arabs in Europe are a fact of life. Its time we started to accept that theres no way to block the migration of Chinese, Pakistanis or Arabs to Europe. They will continue to arrive there for the foreseeable future, and theres no point in burying our heads in the sand.
Absorbing immigrants is never easy; it is accompanied by the traumas that are the lot of every immigrant. Newcomers are always exploited, humiliated and discriminated against. But after a while, the overwhelming majority is absorbed and become integral parts of the absorbing countrys population. Its true, Europe wont be what it once was, but thats a good thing.
Immigrants may be discriminated against today, but who will stop Arabs, Indians and Chinese from being elected mayors, MPs or party leaders in Europe someday?
It will happen sooner than we think. And thats what scares the average Israeli. Because, in his view, Arabs are terrorists, anti-Semites and anti-Israel. They will impose Sharia law in Europe. Its true there are Arab terrorists who have exhibited the lowest possible levels of hatred and racism. But most of the Arabs in France, for example, have become French patriots. Israelis would be surprised to learn that many Arabs in France are fond of Jews and are surprisingly admiring of Israel - even more than native Frenchmen.
There is no way to know how many Arabs or Muslims live in France today, because registration by religion or ethnic origin is forbidden there by law. But the more migrants from Africa and Asia who arrive, the better off Europe will be. Sooner or later, their children and grandchildren will marry into veteran European families and change the demographics of their countries.
Europe will be different. It will not be the Europe that sank into the most extreme form of racism in world history; the Europe that inflicted horrors on the human race. Europes lesson from the mid-20th century is clear: Ethnic-religious-nationalist insularity is a recipe for disaster that scientific advancement and high culture didnt prevent.
The issues involved arent simple. The developed countries defend themselves in sophisticated ways. Now that the era of colonialism, exploitation, discrimination and prejudice has passed, weve entered the era of welcoming tolerance.
In North America, and particularly in Canada, the relevant term is multiculturalism. This is a sympathetic-sounding term that means, "You migrants from weak countries have a culture, and we respect it as we respect our own culture. We will not impose our culture on you. On the contrary; we will help you preserve your culture."
Thus, to maintain their superiority, the cultural establishment boxes the migrants into the folklore of their countries of origin and creates segregation - a mild form of apartheid - between itself and the cultures of the migrants (Arabs, Indians, Chinese, Africans and more). Universal cultural achievements remain the purview of the enlightened nations, and the rest are forced into the class of folk traditions.
So it has been in Israel as well. They called this multiculturalism the melting pot, but actually the veteran population controlled the high culture and left the immigrants in the ghetto of folklore.
The establishment went out of its way to foster ethnic celebrations as a substitute for cultural development. In other words, well give you a lot of Mimouna and Mizrahi songs on the radio, and well kiss the hand of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef – just leave us to run the Philharmonic, Habima, the opera and academia.
The establishment preserved its power through hypocrisy and by pulling the wool over peoples eyes. It created mono-ethnic communities made up entirely of immigrants, thus significantly delaying their absorption into general society.
Despite its cultural advancement, Israeli society suffers from extreme segmentation. One could almost say there are several different peoples living in Israel who are totally separate from one another.
This hermetic compartmentalization doesnt bode well from a demographic perspective. Israel is one of the few countries in the world whose citizens identity is officially dependent on their ethnic origin. The exclusive dependence of Israeliness on Judaism was proper, perhaps, when the state provided a humanitarian solution to Holocaust refugees and Jews from countries of distress. But what justification is there nowadays for having our Israeli identities determined solely by religious criteria?
Zionism, which wanted to create a refuge for Jews, has achieved its goal and its job is done. Israel cant continue to champion anachronistic ideas. Is there still a need for the Jewish Agency? Wouldnt it be more worthwhile to replace it with a national immigration agency that would balance the countrys needs with humanitarian considerations?
Other orderly countries have overcome the problem by halting the recording of religion or ethnic origin on any official document, open or confidential.
We must not act as if we are different from the rest of humanity in todays global village. We are strong enough to stop acting as a distinctive race and to start being a normal nation, without ethnic, religious or gender segregation.
ThewriterisahistorianandBibleresearcherattheParis-SorbonneUniversity.
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