In May 1291, exactly 710 years ago, the last of the Crusaders were thrown from the sea-wall of Acre into the sea. Yitzhak Shamir might have said: "The Muslims are the same Muslims, the Crusaders are the same Crusaders and the sea is the same sea."
Paraphrasing Shamir's famous saying: "The Arabs are the same Arabs, the Jews are the same Jews and the sea is the same sea." - meaning that it is the unwavering aim of the Arabs to throw the Jews into the sea.
Among the Christians were eighth generation Sabras, the Crusaders' presence in the country had lasted for almost 200 years. There were many reasons for the eventual downfall of their enterprise. One of them was the problem of the new immigrants.
The participants in the First Crusade were adventurers imbued with religious zeal, and they conquered the country with blood and fire - much blood and much fire. But gradually they adopted the easy-going Eastern life-style, learned the geo-politics of their new homeland, made treaties with Arab rulers and began to integrate themselves into the region.
They are sure that the whole of Eretz-Israel "belongs to the Jews", that we, the old-timers, have become tired and weak, and that they, the immigrants from Russia, must save Israel from perdition and the gas chambers of a second Auschwitz.
And then a new wave of immigrants arrived, again adventurers imbued with religious zeal. They were outraged when they saw the Christians wearing oriental dress and entertaining Arab nobles. The new immigrants destroyed the fabric of co-existence, which had begun to emerge, and started a new war against the Arabs. This happened time and again, in every generation, until the Crusaders succeeded in uniting the whole Arab world against them, engendering a fanaticism which had not existed previously. It all ended on the sea-wall of Acre...
I was reminded of this historical example last week when I saw the chapter on the recent Russian immigration in Haim Yavin's TV series on the election upheavals in Israel. According to Yavin, the almost all the "Russians" are unbridled nationalists, born Arab-haters. They are sure that the whole of Eretz-Israel "belongs to the Jews", that we, the old-timers, have become tired and weak, and that they, the immigrants from Russia, must save Israel from perdition and the gas chambers of a second Auschwitz.
This did not surprise me at all. Ten years ago, when I visited Russia several times in the course of writing my book "Lenin Does Not Live Here Anymore" (published only in Hebrew), I was astonished by the anti-Muslim, anti-Armenian and anti-Georgian racism I encountered everywhere in Moscow. At the time I wrote that with the evaporation of Marxism, nothing was left of Bolshevism but an extreme, totalitarian, racist and anti-democratic nationalism. I coined a formula: "Bolshevism minus Marxism equals Fascism".
(By the way, 70 years of Communist indoctrination in Soviet schools disappeared without leaving a trace. It might be worthwhile for Education Minister Limor Livnat and all the other Bolsheviks in our government, who believe that the schools can "instill ideological values", to ponder this fact.)
The million immigrants from the former Soviet Union are a part of this Russia. Like all new immigrants, they bring with them the world-view that they have absorbed in their former homeland and apply it automatically in their new surroundings. Greater Israel instead of Great Russia, Arabs instead of Uzbeks and Tartars - everything is the same.
At meetings of the far right, these Russian meet American settlers, who come with myths of the Wild West. In their eyes, , the Arabs equal the Red Indians and the settlers are the white pioneers. For them, too - everything is the same.
Trouble is, the "Russians" may decide the fate of the nation in future elections as they already have in the past.
However, nationalism is not the only component of the "Russian soul". There is also a profound longing for peace ("mir"), born of the memories of the murderous Nazi invasion, and perhaps of the Napoleonic war. There is also a deep antipathy to religious coercion, especially on the part of the hundreds of thousands of Christians who came here under the "Law of Return". All these tendencies are fighting each other in the hearts of the new immigrants, and the Israeli New Left can influence the outcome.
The Israeli cocktail contains a million religious people of all shades, almost all of them, right-wing. There are a million Arab citizens, almost all of them left-wing. We must not, under any circumstances, resign ourselves to the addition of a million "Russians" to the rightist camp. We must battle for their souls.
The sea is the same sea, but we are not condemned to be the new Crusaders, creating the situation for the appearance of a new Saladin.
Uri Avnery is a journalist, peace activist, former member of the Knesset, and leader of Gush Shalom, the most militant part of the Israeli peace movement.