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Of Multiculturalism, Patriotism and Zionism

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Last week, the people of Switzerland voted in favor of a law limiting the number of immigrants. It should revoke the right of Europeans to come to work without needing a working permit and limit the entrance to those the country really needs.

Having a lot of foreigner friends who came to study and had to leave at the end of their studies, I always thought it was a big loss for the country that educated them and invested in them. Moreover when you know that the unemployment rate n Switzerland is one of the lowest in Europe, it is hard to understand that people think that “foreigners are stealing the locals’ job”. If companies are hiring foreigners given that it’s still more complicated than to hire a Swiss, it must be that they didn’t find the right local for that position.

There is something else that I have a hard time to comprehend: the notion of patriotism. I was born in one country with two passports like many of my friends, grew up in an other one and always had friends coming from all over the planet. I always thought it’s a chance to get to know other’s culture, learn a few words in their language and understand their different vision of things. In my mind, in which country I would live would depend on my personal choices, desires and job opportunities, not because I was born there. So for me the notion of belonging to a nation is quite blurry. Even when living in the countries where I have the nationality from, I am most of the time considered a bit as a foreigner. And I am fine with it, fine with being a little different, although when I look at some of my friends (I’m looking at you the American-Chinese-French-Swiss German girl in particular), I don’t consider myself as really exotic. I am proud of all my passports for all the good things that those countries are able of sometimes, but when I see European countries shutting themselves away I am concerned. When a Spanish girl explains to me that the regions there see themselves as so different to one another that they want to become independent, I am puzzled. For me beside the food and the language, there is no real difference between a German, an Italian and a Swed. Okay they speak different languages and have different cultural references, but nothing that cannot be learnt and could justify to attack each other. So why are borders so important?

I probably sound utopian or just like my inebriate friend L. who asks “why can’t we all just get along together?”, but I’m really sincere. I tried to explain my point of view to one of my Israeli friends who responded that it was just the way it has always been and there was no chance it would change before centuries. His answer didn’t help but made me realize there was an anomaly in my reasoning. I firmly maintain what I said earlier with one exception: with the risk of having some of my Facebook friends unfriending me, Israel. I am a Zionist, deeply, completely, intensely. For those who still think it’s a bad word, it only means that I support the state of Israel and its nature of a home for all the Jews who want to live there, or have no other place to go. I find it great that there are Jews in most of the countries in the world and I fear the day it would not be the case anymore, but because I am aware that this might happen I will support the existence of Israel against all criticisms.

And that’s how I realized my incoherence: because Israel is threatened on a daily basis, the feeling of belonging to a nation is very strong here. And although there are a lot of things I disapprove here, I consider the nationalism to be normal. So maybe the consciousness of belonging to a people simply arises when you feel threatened or attacked, and maybe if one day the UK decided to attack France to impose its gastronomy or Belgium wanted to invade Switzerland to steal the recipe for chocolate would I understand the importance of the nations I belong to but until then, I will probably continue to say “I’m French among other things”. Or Swiss. Depending on the day.