Friday, November 16, 2007

At the Heart of the Matter: The Existential Jewishness of the State of Israel

We have been here before. Our very own Amos Oz posed the question some years ago; Can a state be Jewish? No more so than a chair, he declared. Well, even great writers can sometimes be wrong. Of course a state can be Jewish, and of course The State of Israel is a uniquely Jewish State, established in its modern incarnation as a safe haven for the Jewish people.
No doubt, part of the confusion for many is their insistence on seeing only the religious component of Jewishness. They leave out the notion of Jewishness as a peoplehood; our peoplehood. Am Yisrael Chai (the People of Israel Live). And who are those people? The Jewish People, of course.
Okay, with that as a starting point, we now arrive at the unequivocal refusal of the current Palestinian leadership (and I'm not even talking about Hamas, for whom this isn't even an issue, since they refuse to even recognize 'the Zionist entity') to recognize the Jewishness of the State of Israel. Here's what Saab Erekat, chief negotiator for the PA, Yaser Abed Rabbo and even Prime Minister Salaam Fayad had to say:
On Monday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, "The problem of the content of the document [setting out joint principles for peacemaking post-Annapolis] has not been resolved... One of the more pressing problems is the Zionist regime's insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state.
"We will not agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state," Erekat said. "There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined."
On Tuesday, another prominent Palestinian negotiator, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said, "It is only a Zionist party that deals with Israel as a Jewish state, and we did not request to be a member of the international Zionism movement."

Yesterday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad joined in these statements. And Erekat chimed in again on Al-Arabiya TV: "Israel can define itself however it sees fit; and if it wishes to call itself a Jewish state, so be it. But the Palestinians will never acknowledge Israel's Jewish identity."
Why is this adamant and unequivocal refusal so significant and startling? Because, as Yossi Klein Halevi has said, this cuts to the core existential, identity issue between the Palestinians and the Israelis. While peace talks with, for example, Jordan, Syria and Egypt required no such prior recognition on the part of those states' interlocutors, this was because those negotiations were largely territorial in nature. What is so stunning about this position put forth by the Palestinian leadership ready to embark for Annapolis, is that at this late date in the supposed good faith negotiations over a two-state solution, one for the Palestinian people and one for the Jewish people, we appear to be back at square one. Our very right to exist is again being questioned. And needless to say, this is something that will never again be up for discussion.
For fuller explorations of the speciousness and disingenuousness of the arguments against recognizing the Jewishness of the State of Israel, see the three excellent pieces below.
david brumer

The Crime of Being a Jewish State - Bradley Burston (Ha'aretz)
Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat declared Monday that "No state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity." This ignores the fact that the Saudis are a theocracy of such sectarian dimension that tourists are forbidden from entering the country with Bibles, crucifixes, or items bearing the Star of David.
The bottom line is that if Palestinians want an actual state and not just the trappings, they are going to have to reconcile themselves to the idea of an overtly Jewish neighbor.
The world has shown its willingness to let Palestinians suffer indefinitely. The world has shown its impatience with the glorious victories of Palestine, whether that means Kassam rockets butchering six cows about to give birth in a dairy barn on a Negev kibbutz, or raising an army which spends much of its firepower on fellow Palestinians, as in the memorial rally which left as many as eight dead in Gaza.
What matters, in the end, is not whether the Palestinians choose to formally recognize Israel as a Jewish state. What matters is whether the Palestinians can live alongside a state which happens to be Jewish in character. Can they share the Holy Land with a state in which the dominant religion is not Islam?
Most Jewish Israelis, meanwhile, have come to accept the idea of an independent Palestinian state, in which the dominant religion will certainly be Islam.
If Palestinians cannot bring themselves to accept a Jewish Israel, there is always the default option. For Palestinians to choose not to accept a Jewish state is to choose statelessness.

Is Israel a Jewish State? - Jeff Jacoby
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert announced that he expects the Palestinian Authority to finally acknowledge Israel's existence as a Jewish state. If the more than 55 countries that make up the Organization of the Islamic Conference are entitled to recognition as Muslim states, and if the 22 members of the Arab League are universally accepted as Arab states, why should anyone balk at acknowledging Israel as the world's lone Jewish state? There are many countries in which national identity and religion are linked. Argentinian law mandates government support for the Roman Catholic faith. Queen Elizabeth II is the supreme governor of the Church of England. In the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the constitution proclaims Buddhism the nation's "spiritual heritage." "The prevailing religion in Greece," declares Section II of the Greek Constitution, "is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ."
In no region of the world do countries so routinely link their national character to a specific religion as in the Muslim Middle East. The flag of Saudi Arabia features the Islamic declaration of faith; on the Iranian flag, the Islamic phrase "Allahu Akbar" (God is great") appears 22 times. In the Palestinian Authority's Basic Law, Article 4 provides that "Islam is the official religion in Palestine." The refusal of the Palestinian Authority to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate Jewish state isn't a denial of reality; it is a sign of their determination to change that reality. Like Arab leaders going back a century, they seek not to live in peace with the Jewish state, but in place of the Jewish state. (Boston Globe)

The Recognition Sham - Editorial
The Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state suggests that all their solemn and myriad expressions of Israel's right to exist did not mean anything. They did not mean that the Palestinians accepted the Jews as a people (as Palestinians expect to be accepted), or that Israel is the legitimate expression of the Jewish people's right to self-determination. If Israel is not a Jewish state, it is Palestine, which is exactly the point.
There is no way for Israelis to understand the refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state other than as a rejection of the two-state solution and the embrace of the "strategy of stages," whereby a Palestinian state is not an end of claims against Israel, but a down-payment toward Israel's destruction. As Olmert says, there is no point in entering a "peace process" on this basis. Without mutual recognition, there is no basis for negotiation. (Jerusalem Post)


Anonymous said...

The insight required to explain why these three lucid pieces will have no effect is beyond the keenest wisdom. Erekat knows that Saudi Arabia is not only an Islamic state but a state named after a single religious family and its particularly vicious version of Islam. But Erekat also knows that for some bizarre reason, the world does not notice this anomaly (nor the anomaly of the other country named after a family, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan) and will not challenge his words about Israel being the only nation where religion and nationhood are intertwined; or if somebody does notice, the challenge to Erekatian veracity will be branded bad manners at best, at worst a result of the AIPAC-neocon cabal, for it follows that since Israel is the only country embracing a religion, no Islamic Republic of Iran or Pakistan or Libya can exist. And if somebody points out that the Palestinians are the only group that claims nationhood but has no specific civilization to drive their putative nation, no shared history to make it cohere, and no civil society to prevent perennial blood-feuds, the outcry will be tremendous, for just as Israel is unique in violating the defintions of nationhood, the Palestinians are the perfect example of a nation, in suspended animation only because of that very same AIPAC-neocon cabal. You see, only Jews can be unquely unfit to make a nation. Frenchman might compose France, Italians Italy, but Jews not Judea. Jews cannot make a Jewish nation, even though Jews invented nationhood (see my _Ancient Zionism_, published by Free Press). Palestinians, on the other hand, the inventors of the modern suicide bomber, "democrats" whose gangs cnnot function without outside financing, can nevertheless compose Palestine the way Greeks create Greece, if Jimmy Carter were only heeded. Why this logic is clear to the the illuminati, and why Jimmy Carter can sleep at night, defy the wisdom of the ages. Unless one believes in ant-semitism, whose reach and depth also defies wisdom, and whose existence is itself believed a smoke screen sent up by our favorite cabal, Erekatian truth rules.

Lao Qiao said...

Erekat, although a member of Fatah and not Hamas, is fighting against the creation of a Palestinian state with all his resources. He knows that an independent Palestine can exist only with Israel, not against it. If Israel were to be destroyed, the other Arab states would divide the territory and massacre the Palestinians along with the Israelis.
The Arab world rejected an independent Palestine when the UN voted for partition in 1947. It rejected it when the Arab states, meeting in Sudan in 1967, voted for the THREE NOES OF KHARTOUM. It rejected it at Taba in 2000. Given a choice between independence an virtue (with "virtue" defined as dying in a jihad while killing Jews), virtue always wins.

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