|Justice Joubran (Haaretz photo by Tomer Appelbaum)|
Right-wing politicians were outraged, demanding Justice Salim Joubran’s resignation, when at the celebration for retiring Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, he (the only one of the 15 high court judges who is an Arab) was not singing Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikva.” The NY Times and Haaretz both observe that “Hatikva” is exclusively Jewish. Rather than insisting that non-Jewish Israelis sing what is really a Zionist anthem, Israel would be well-served by looking for a more inclusive alternative entirely, or coming up with a new set of lyrics that celebrate the country’s beauty and significance in a way that is not ethnocentric. Sadly, in the currently charged political atmosphere, any such move to symbolically enlarge Israel’s tent will be resisted fiercely by the right as a step away from Zionism. This is how the NY Times encapsulated the matter:
…. For those familiar with the lyrics to Israel’s anthem, “Hatikva,” (in English, “The Hope”), it comes as little surprise that a Christian Arab like Justice Joubran might not embrace its focus on the 2,000-year-old “yearning of the Jewish soul” to be “a free nation in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.”
And just as those on the right took the opportunity to lament what in their view is the disloyalty of Israeli Arabs like Justice Joubran, the left seized the moment to urge a rethinking of the lyrics to make them more inclusive.
“The time has come for Israel to consider changing the words of its anthem so that all Israelis can identify with them,” the newspaper Haaretz said in its Friday editorial.
It added, “The lyrics of Israel’s anthem were written in 1878 by Naphtali Herz Imber as an expression of the national sentiments of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people only. No Arab citizen who had any self-respect, political awareness or national consciousness could sing these words without committing the sins of hypocrisy and falsehood.” …
Joubran standing with hands folded in center of 2nd row, with Beinisch in front between Peres & Netanyahu (Israeli Government/European Pressphoto Agency).