The press reported that Prime Minister Netanyahu had offered to extend the prior construction moratorium on settlements if the Palestinian Authority accepted Israel as a Jewish state. The offer was summarily rejected by President Abbas, even as the latter pondered using the United Nation’s Security Council to endorse a resolution unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state. This “state,” no doubt, would be Arab in character with Islam as the official state religion, as with 20 other Arab countries in the Middle East.
This is not a new issue. What follows are excerpts from a prior blog I wrote on this subject last year and a more recent commentary by Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe.
June 16, 2009
As a result of Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit with President Obama, the State Department has a new mantra: a freeze on settlement growth, even if it is natural, and a Two-State Solution. Sunday, the Prime Minister announced his acceptance of a Palestinian State, living peacefully along the Jewish State, but one that is demilitarized and no security threat to Israel.
The Prime Minister also stated that no successful final agreement will be accepted by Israel unless the Palestinians recognize it as a Jewish State. This requirement has created much agitation among the Palestinian leadership, rejecting it out of hand. It will send out the wrong message for the Arab-Israeli minority, they say, which constitutes one-fifth of Israeli's population, and complicate the repatriation of Arab refugees, who for two generations have been exiled in refugee camps (amidst the trillions of petro-dollars earned by their Arab brethren).
This argument is farcical. There are over 20 Arab states, each of which has Islam as its official religion, where, at best, they tolerate religious minorities or at worst discriminate against them. In many Arab countries, the proselytizing of other religions is a capital offense. The number of minorities in Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, and even Iraq has significantly been reduced due to their intolerance. Israel, the Jewish State, on the other hand, recognizes, by law, the rights of all minorities and has Israeli-Arabs in The Knesset and other important governmental positions.
But now we read on www.ynetnews.com, the on-line version of the leading Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, that a Hebron resident is being brought before a special Palestinian tribunal because he committed the "sin" of trying to sell land to an Israeli. Hatem Abdel Kader, who serves as Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad's advisor on Jerusalem Affairs, clarified that if he was found guilty of selling land to Jews, he should be executed.
Now we know that Palestinian leaders want to have a State for themselves which would exclude any Jews, but don't want a Jewish State because it might offend the sensibilities of its Arab minority.
So no to a Jewish State, but yes to a Judenrein Palestinian State.
Fasten your seatbelts, we are in for a turbulent ride.
The undeniable Jewish state
IS ISRAEL a Jewish state?
Is the pope Catholic?
Nothing about Israel could be more self-evident than its Jewishness. As Poland is the national state of the Polish people and Japan is the national state of the Japanese people, so Israel is the national state of the Jewish people. The UN’s 1947 resolution on partitioning Palestine contains no fewer than 30 references to the “Jewish state’’ whose creation it was authorizing; 25 years earlier, the League of Nations had been similarly straightforward in mandating “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.’’ When Israel came into existence on May 15, 1948, its Jewish identity was the first detail reported. The New York Times’s front-page story began: “The Jewish state, the world’s newest sovereignty, to be known as the State of Israel, came into being in Palestine at midnight upon termination of the British mandate.’’
Today, half the planet’s Jews live in that state, many of them refugees from anti-Semitic repression and violence elsewhere. In a world with more than 20 Arab states and 55 Muslim countries, the existence of a single small Jewish state should be unobjectionable. “Israel is a sovereign state, and the historic homeland of the Jewish people,’’ President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly last month. By now that should be a truism, no more controversial than calling Italy the sovereign homeland of the Italian people.
And yet to Israel’s enemies, Jewish sovereignty is as intolerable today as it was in 1948, when five Arab armies invaded the newborn Jewish state, vowing “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre.’’ Endless rounds of talks and countless invocations of the “peace process’’ have not changed the underlying reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is not about settlements or borders or Jerusalem or the rights of Palestinians.
The root of the hostility is the refusal to recognize the immutable right of the Jewish people to a sovereign state in its historic homeland. Until that changes, no lasting peace is possible.
That is why the Israeli government is correct to insist that the Palestinian Authority publicly recognize Israel as the Jewish state. It is the critical litmus test. “Palestinian nationalism was based on driving all Israelis out,’’ Edward Said told an interviewer in 1999, and the best evidence that most Palestinians are still intent on eliminating Israel is the vehemence with which even supposed “moderates’’ like Mahmoud Abbas will not — or dare not — acknowledge Israel’s Jewishness as a legitimate fact of life. “What is a ‘Jewish state?’ ’’ Abbas ranted on Palestinian TV. “You can call yourselves whatever you want, but I will not accept it . . . You can call yourselves the Zionist Republic, the Hebrew, the National, the Socialist [Republic]. Call it whatever you like. I don’t care.’’
There are those who argue that Israel cannot be both a Jewish state and a democracy. When Israel’s parliament decided last week to require new non-Jewish citizens to take an oath of allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic’’ state, some people bristled. “The phrase itself is an oxymoron,’’ one reader wrote to the Boston Globe. “How can a state openly favor one ethnic group over all others and declare itself to be democratic?’’
But there is no conflict at all between Israel’s Jewish identity and its democratic values. Indeed, the UN’s 1947 partition resolution not only called for subdividing Palestine into “independent Arab and Jewish states,’’ it explicitly required each of them to “draft a democratic constitution’’ and to elect a government “by universal suffrage and by secret ballot.’’ The Jews complied. The Arabs launched a war.
Many of the world’s democracies have official state religions. Think of Britain, whose monarch is the supreme governor of the Church of England; or of Greece, whose constitution singles out the Eastern Orthodox Church as the country’s “prevailing religion.’’ The linking of national character with religion is a commonplace. Israel stands out only because its religion is Judaism, not Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism.
Nor is democracy incompatible with ethnic distinctiveness. Ireland waives its usual citizenship requirements for applicants of Irish descent. Bulgaria’s constitution grants the right to “acquire Bulgarian citizenship through a facilitated procedure’’ to any “person of Bulgarian origin.’’ It is not oxymoronic to describe Ireland as “Irish and democratic’’ or Bulgaria as “Bulgarian and democratic.’’ Israel’s flourishing little Jewish democracy is no oxymoron either.
It is something different: a beacon of decency in a dangerous, hate-filled neighborhood. If only its enemies could shed their malice, what an Eden that neighborhood could become.
Jeff Jacoby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.