20 Reasons why Israel, within any borders, cannot be “The Jewish State”
The last attempt to re-start Two State negotiations has failed. The big power Quartet (UN, EU, US and Russia) met in Washington on 11 July, planning to offer one good thing to each side to entice them to go further. But it wasn’t theirs to offer.
The PA was offered the “1967 borders with land swaps”. But Israel didn’t agree to that. In turn, under Israel’s dictation Obama had said “frankly what everyone knows is that Israel is and will be a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people”. But even the Russian leg of the Quartet would not allow the inclusion of “Israel as a Jewish state” in the concluding statement of the meeting.
Here are some of the reasons that this is not “what everyone knows”. And equally, why Israel’s establishment insists on this wording as its absolute bottom line, and why Netanyahu said recently that it was not about “a kilometer here or there, but about identity”.
A denial of history and the Nakba
♦ Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is a formal declaration of apartheid, saying of the 20% of Palestinians living within Israel’s pre-1967 borders that it’s not their country. Whether “Jewish” is an ethnic or a religious thing, no other country that defines itself as the exclusive property of one controlling ethnic or religious group would qualify for common acceptance under today’s “humanitarian globalisation” standards, any more than would a “white” homeland.
♦ The formula completely wipes out the legal and moral rights of millions of Palestinians to return home to their homeland, whether from exile abroad, from the West Bank and Gaza or from within Israel itself.
♦ The Zionist state is not merely declaring that in its own view it is the Jewish homeland: it is demanding that the Palestinians acknowledge and validate this too.
♦ Palestinians would thus not only give up all claims for the future, but would also be forced to re-write and falsify their past, agreeing to the lie that it was never their land, and accepting the Zionist myth that it was a “land without people” into which the Palestinians had only recently migrated from around the region.
♦ This casts the Palestinians as the interlopers, trespassers and recent immigrants instead of being its indigenous population that had created landscapes and cities and civil institutions and legal systems, buried their ancestors and planted the ancient olive and citrus groves.
♦ This narrative, that Israel is the Jewish homeland that was “reclaimed”, is the central justification for dispossessing almost an entire country-full of people and harassing, insulting, damaging and dominating the remnants.
♦ If you accept that, then it is the Palestinians who get to be de-legitimised and punished. Their resistance and refusal to accept defeat is then depicted as the act of aggression, and all Israel’s military invasions and border-creep, pseudo-legal theft and looting are transformed into a morally justified re-possession and legitimate self-defence. This is the narrative that says a Palestinian state must be unarmed and defenceless.
♦ The title “Israel as a Jewish state” sums up the obsession and entire philosophy of the separatist vision of Zionism, as taught in its schools, as the basis of all propaganda and belief, as the central operating system for all parties from “left” to “right” and all religious shades from atheist to bible-thumping fanatics. The uniting factor is not so much who the state includes (which allows for exceptions when it suits them), but who the state excludes, who it is against, who has to be hated and despised and feared and ethnically cleansed.
♦ That this definition should be explicitly accepted by the world community and by the Palestinians has now been promoted to be a precondition for talks, so before even sitting down they must give up on their history, the right of return, and their own legitimacy in the land, thus further weakening their negotiating position.
Unacceptable for “the Jews” too
♦ The vast majority of “The” Jewish people live by choice in other countries that they regard as home, where their roots go back for generations and mostly pre-date the existence of Israel, and for whom Israel was never a “mother country” that they left and wish or claim to return to.
♦ Even the Jewish Agency for Israel, once the spearhead of the Zionist project of Jews moving to Palestine and taking it over (“aliyah”), “made a big splash last year announcing a strategy that deviates from its historic mission of aliyah, stressing that it would now focus on peoplehood and “Jewish identity”.
♦ This worry about Jewish identity stems exactly from their very own Zionist project, which substituted Israel and its values for those of traditional Jewish culture. Israel, that was supposed to be a shining light to the nations that would hold Jews together in its reflected glory, has now divided the engaged Jews into bitterly opposed camps, while the less committed are drifting away, questioning, alienated and increasingly disengaged not merely from Israel but from the Jewish community itself. As one person recently put it in a Forward comment, “The whole confusion between being a Jew and loving Israel stems from Israel’s conflating of Judaism, the religion, with Zionism, the political movement which entailed, or rather was fundamentally based on, dispossessing another people.”
♦ The definition of “Jewish state” also enables Israel to claim that all statements and actions against it, or on behalf of Palestine or in favour of a united country for all, are “anti-semitism”. This has caused dangerous confusion in the fight against genuine anti-semitism, and helped to convince some misguided anti-Zionists that Jews are the problem. While actions such as boycotts, flotillas and fly-ins — all supported actively by thousands of Jews across the world — are denounced as an “existential threat”. Meanwhile, it is falsely thought that anyone who is pro-Israel cannot be anti-semitic, a dangerous assumption when you consider the growing numbers of natural and potential anti-semites (e.g. the American religious Right and the anti-Muslim fascist parties that Zionists are happy to befriend, such as Dutch fascist Geert Wilders and the English Defence League, which keeps a Jewish section as a handy fig-leaf) who are actively campaigning for Israel. Nobody seems to be worried about that. As British MP Tom Watson declared, “People tell me that Fox News is positive about Israel but negative about Jews”. Fox’s pro-Israel but anti-semitic celebrity talk-show host Glenn Beck was recently welcomed to Israel and invited to address the Knesset.
♦ “Jewish state” can mean ethnic Jewish (home of a “Jewish nation”, if such a thing exists) or religious Jewish. The increasing appearances of the Jewish State designation in rhetoric and law have seen a further empowerment of the aggressive, neo-fascist and anti-democratic nationalist orthodox faction. Once a tiny minority, it now holds pivotal positions in the army, in the state bureaucracy, in the judiciary and in education. With an average birthrate of 7 children per family, in another generation it will have electoral dominance too. Yet ideologically, they represent only about 15% of Jews worldwide.
♦ Jews globally have much to object to about Israel, which set out from the start with a deliberately different language, habits, systems, rituals, customs and culture, intent on creating a “new Jew”, despising the “diaspora” Jewishness rather than rescuing and nurturing it. The Jewish languages of Yiddish and Ladino were relegated in favour of a revival of ancient Hebrew. Reception centres for immigrants (Ulpans), offering a crash course in all things Hebrew, deliberately washed away other identities as in a baptism, an “aliyah” or raising-up from their previous degraded condition. The Jews of Israel may or may not adhere to the Jewish religion. But nationally they are not so much Jews, as Israelis or Hebrews.
Israel’s “Right to exist”?
♦ “Existential threat”, another of Israel’s weapons of mass deception, is what it claims will happen if it doesn’t get its “Jewish state” definition: this phrase associates any loss of ethnic dominance with an apocalyptic vision of death and destruction.
♦ Unlike classic colonial settlers, the majority of Israel’s Hebrew population has no original “mother country” to return to. If the “Jewish nation” actually exists, these people are only a minority offshoot of it: either its heroic forerunner or a wrong turn down a blind alley, depending on one’s standpoint. Their claim to the “self determination” of the Jewish nation in the territory they have colonised can have no validity; they haven’t even offered this “Jewish Nation” as a whole a vote in their affairs. Do they even recognise kinship with all Jews, or only with those who give them uncritical support? They set out to be “new Jews”. They cannot now claim to represent all Jews.
♦ The society they created should neither be denied, nor magnified into something it is not. Palestine is indeed their home because they were born there and have made a life there and have no other home. But it cannot be their exclusive Homeland on the basis of lies about its history and a false claim to represent Jews worldwide.
♦ The loaded definition they are demanding re-writes history, stands truth on its head and commits a gross injustice to Palestinians and an insult to Jews. Instead, we need a simple, inclusive definition that offers security to all within the land of Palestine, whether in a single state or some bi-national configuration.
Palestinians in Israel are demanding “a state for all its citizens”. That’s fine. And if we need to spell out who these citizens are, One Democracy proposes the following definition, which we think is fully inclusive: “Equal citizenship for all individuals exiled from Palestine since 1947 and their descendants; for all those born in that land since; and for all residing in any part of that land today”.
If the Quartet were to adopt a definition like this, and proceed on the basis of principles of universal human rights, equality and democracy, they could indeed lay the foundation for an agreement. As international law expert Dr. Richard Falk says, “the authority of law depends on its linkage to justice, not power”.
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