Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State is like saying the US is a White State

(By Juan Cole)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is adding a fifth demand to his negotiations with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas: That the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.”

For Netanyahu’s demand to make any sense, he first has to define “Jewish.” “Jewish” has a number of possible meanings. It can mean “those recognized by Talmudic law as members of the Jewish ‘race’ via maternal descent.” The latter is the legal definition of Jewishness in Israeli law itself, and for this reason we must presume that it is what Netanyahu has in mind. It can also mean “adherents of the Judaic religion,” and we can explore those implications, as well.

Of the some 6 million self-identified Jews in Israel, about 300,000 are not recognized as “Jewish” by the Chief Rabbi and there is no prospect of them being recognized as Jewish any time soon. They were allowed to immigrate to Israel because they had at least one Jewish grandparent, but if their mother was not Jewish neither are they.

So if Israel is a “Jewish” state, is it a state for these (largely Russian and Ukrainian) “non-Jewish” Jews? Many of them are Jewish by religion, but not all are. None of them are Jewish by the Talmud.

It is worse. Genetic testing of European Jews (Ashkenazim) shows that most women in that community are descended from European Christians who converted to Judaism when they married into the Jewish merchant community, which was likely established at Rome and then points east from about 800 CE (A.D.) If the Grand Rabbi took haplotypes seriously, most Ashkenazi Jews would have to be declared “not Jewish” by the Talmudic criterion, since their mothers do not have the distinctive patterns in their mitochondrial DNA showing descent from the inhabitants of the ancient Levant.

So is Israel as a “Jewish state” actually only for Eastern Jews or Mizrahim, with Ashkenazis second-class citizens?

Then, if instead “Jewish” means “observant adherent of Judaism” then that definition would exclude a lot of Israeli Jews. Only 66% or so of Israelis in polling assert that that “I know God exists and have no doubt about it.” While only 6% are outright atheists, another 28% appear to be agnostics. Since Palestinian-Israeli Muslims are mostly believers, it is likely that the percentage of Jewish agnostics and atheists is even higher than the nationwide estimate suggests. There is no legal requirement that Israeli Jews be observant believers. Would recognizing Israel as a “Jewish” state impose such a requirement?

So either way Netanyahu defines Jewishness, it disenfranchises substantial numbers of self-identifying Israeli Jews. If it is a matter of maternal descent, it leaves 300,000 or so out in the cold. If it is a matter of belief and observance, it leaves nearly 2 million Israeli Jews out of the club.

In addition, of course, 1.7 million Israelis, about a fifth of the population, are Palestinian-Israelis, mostly Muslim but some Christians. They are, in other words, a somewhat greater proportion of the Israeli citizen population than Latinos are of the US population (Latinos are about 17% of Americans). If current demographic trends continue, Palestinian-Israelis could be as much as 1/3 of the population by 2030.

Saying Israel is a “Jewish” state in the sense of race would be analogous to insisting that the US is a “white” state and defining Latinos as “brown.”

And saying Israel is a Jewish state in the sense of observant believers would be like asserting that the United States is a Christian state even though about 22% of the population does not identify as Christian (roughly the same proportion as non-Jews in Israel). The point of the US first amendment is to forbid the state to to “establish” a religion, i.e. to recognize it as a state religion with privileges (the colonists had had bad experiences with Anglicanism in this regard). While we can’t stop other countries from establishing state religions, we Americans don’t approve of it and won’t give our blessing to it, as Netanyahu seems to want. In fact our annual State Department human rights report downgrades countries that don’t separate religion and state.

While some countries have a state or official religion, that is different from what Netanyahu is demanding. Argentina’s constitution says Roman Catholicism is the state religion. But Argentina is not a “Catholic state” either in the sense of being mainly for people of Catholic religious faith (only 20% of Argentines are observant) or for being for persons descended from traditionally Catholic populations. Indeed, Argentina has about half a million Muslims, who are not discriminated against in Argentine law the way Palestinian-Israelis are discriminated against (their villages not ‘recognized’) in Israel. Anyway, as I said, in the U.S. we don’t approve of that part of the Argentine constitution. If all Netanyahu wanted was that Judaism be the ‘state religion’ of Israel, that could surely be achieved by a simple vote of the Knesset. He wants something much more, something that requires that outsiders assent to it.

Netanyahu’s demand is either racist or fundamentalist and is objectionable from an American point of view on human rights grounds either way (and I’m not just talking about the human rights of Palestinian-Israelis).

More ominously, the demand has to be seen in the context of his partnership with extreme nationalist Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman wants to strip Palestinian-Israelis of their citizenship and make them stateless. Making people stateless was a policy of the vicious states of Europe in the 1930s, a policy from which Jews suffered mightily along with some other populations, and it is shameful for Jews to make or keep human beings stateless. You have a sinking feeling that the real reason Netanyahu wants Palestinians to assent to the Jewishness of the Israeli state (whatever that might mean) is that he has malicious plans for the 20% of the population that is not Jewish.

In any case, Sec. Kerry should simply slap Netanyahu down over this new demand, which is illogical and unreasonable and above all sinister. if Netanyahu won’t accept a two-state solution, then he or his children or grandchildren will likely have to accept a one-state solution. Kerry is trying to do him a favor, and if someone doesn’t want your favor, you don’t humiliate yourself to deliver it.


Related video:

CNN reports

79 Responses

  1. Honest question- what about the surrounding countries like the Islmaic Republic of Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.. They have minorities (treated poorly). What’s the difference?

    • The State Department doesn’t issue a certificate of approval for those situations, which is what Netanyahu is demanding for his own Talibanism.

  2. Suha

    though it’s not a matter if just recognizing it as one, it’s the jaws and policies which distinguish between Jews and none.

  3. Of course, there’s the implicit idea of how disingenuous this latest need is, couched in terms just near enough to that of Palestinians need to “recognize Israel,” and Israel’s “right to exist.” It’s as tho he’s simply defining those needs a bit more clearly.

    No, this is really just another tactic in the ongoing strategy of delay, deflect, deceive and obfuscate, while the colonization proceeds. In fact, for a moment blow away all the public-relations and diplomatic smokescreens that have been generated over the last X number of years and Israeli behavior and objectives have shown themselves to be very, very clear.

    Laughably so, when you think of the people and countries which seem to take them seriously or upon which they are effective.

  4. Marianne آرزو

    . Isn’t that more like saying US is a Christian state? Netanyahu is claiming Israel is a theocracy. No freedom of religion in that.

    • Nope. Netanyahu’s government includes the anti-religious Yisrael Beitenu and by allying with Lapid he was able to exclude the Orthodox parties from power. It is the most secular Israeli government for a long time. Netanyahu is very unlikely to be demanding recognition of a theocracy. But then it means it is racial for him.

  5. Juan Cole is absolutely right. You have got to wonder exactly why Israel is so obsessed by demanding to be recognized as a “Jewish” state. It is as ridiculous as the US demanding to be recognized as a Christian state. The entire world knows Israel is predominantly a Jewish nation, so why the desperation? Israel still has not acknowledged the rights of the Palestinian people, nor the fact that they have been systematically marginalized, losing land and water, yet Israel keeps insisting the occupied must recognize the occupier by it’s religion. I guess it will be easier to use the “anti semitic” accusations, if Israel is “recognized” as a Jewish state, because everyone who criticizes Israel’s transgressions, can then be accused of anti semitism.

    • I think the first amendment of our constitution would forestall any such formal recognition. We don’t approve of the establishment of religions.

      • Are you opposed to the US formally referring to the mollah-led regime as the “Islamic Republic of Iran”?

        • Obama is the first president to use that diction. But, that’s their name as per their constitution. If the Knesset changes the name to “The Jewish Republic of Israel,” we’ll refer to them that way. But calling them that and formally recognizing that they are a religious Republic in the sense of saying that is a good thing and it *should* be so are two different things. The latter would be prohibited by the first amendment of the constitution. Netanyahu isn’t asking for a statement of fact but a normative commitment. We can’t even be sure Israel will always have a Jewish majority, and even a non-Jewish plurality would rather tell against the language he wants.

        • The US formally referred to East Germany as the German Democratic Republic, and North Korea as the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea.

          But this isn’t really about names. Netanyahu isn’t demanding that the Palestinians call Israel “The Jewish State of Israel.”

        • “Netanyahu isn’t demanding that the Palestinians call Israel “The Jewish State of Israel.” Actually that is exactly what Netanyahu is demanding. Even Palestinian citizens of Israel. Imagine if you were Jewish and Obama demanded you recognize the US as a Christian state

  6. One of our main objections to states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia is that they give a special status to Islam and discriminate against other religious minorities. If India were to call itself a Hindu state, Japan a Buddhist state, Egypt an Islamic state, the United States a Christian state, and Israel a Jewish state where will all that lead to? What will be the status of 150 million Muslims in India, or some 10 million Copts in Egypt, or 1.7 million Palestinians in Israel? Surely instead of going back to the Middle Ages and define countries by their religions, the time has come to move forward and establish states in which there is a separation of religion and politics and people are citizens by right rather than due to their religious affiliation.

  7. Just saw Max Blumenthal on C-Span giving a speech on his book “Goliath”

    I heard from people whose houses were wiped out by bulldozers after 1948 and land taken over and people kicked off the land. I know that it is going on with the Palesteins on an ongoing basis.

    But to hear about an effort to remove Bedowins from their area, 40-70,000 of them and relocate the state less people to reservations like the American Indian reservations – this is going on right now.

    I didn’t realize how Israel is using the “Iron Wall” approach to indigenous people. The only way is to remove them. They have no rights.

    Israel has no constitution and no borders. With no borders they can move people off the land. It is clear racist policy.

    Much more in this C-Span video. There is some talk at the first about several books, then the talk begins.

    link to

  8. Bravo, Professor. As a non-observant jew-by maternal descent who has lived almost all his life overseas, I apparently have more right to live in Israel than the multitudes chased out of it in living memory: such is the nakedly racist idea that the USA is being asked to champion here.

    I also agree that it will deform the character of Israel itself to embrace it (to say nothing of what it will do to Palestinians). Israel needs to preserve its liberal and cosmopolitan character as best it can to maintain its links to the outside world, keep young people in the country and drive innovation in all fields.

  9. “If the Grand Rabbi took haplotypes seriously” The Grand Rabbi is not required to take haplotypes seriously. The orthodox definition of “who is Jewish?” is clear – having a Jewish mother, or having an acceptable conversion makes one 100% Jewish. I’m not sure what Netanyahu means, but perhaps you should have limited your inquiry to that. Your intellectual gymnastics about the question itself displays uncommon ignorance on your part.

    • I thought Cole was clear: If a christian woman centuries ago (who may never have converted) married a Jewish man, then her children – by your ‘orthodox’ definition – would not be Jews. This would compromise the Jewishness of a large percentage of Ashkenazim…

  10. It’s important to note that, according to the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinians were not required to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. However, beginning in 2011, Israeli leaders — for various reasons, some mentioned in Juan’s excellent piece — have insisted that Israel be recognized as a Jewish State.
    Sari Nusseibeh convincingly argues that rather “than demand that Palestinians recognise Israel as a ‘Jewish State’…Israeli leaders [should] ask instead that Palestinians recognise Israel…as a civil, democratic, and pluralistic state whose official religion is Judaism, and whose majority is Jewish. Many states (including Israel’s neighbours Jordan and Egypt, and countries such as Greece) have their official religion as Christianity or Islam (but grant equal civil rights to all citizens) and there is no reason why Israeli Jews should not want the religion of their state to be officially Jewish. This is a reasonable demand, and it may allay the fears of Jewish Israelis about becoming a minority in Israel, and at the same time not arouse fears among Palestinians and Arabs about being ethnically cleansed in Palestine.”
    Gershom Gorenberg pushes Nusseibeh’s arguments further by stating that rather than promoting a Jewish State, Israel should be working to end all forms of discrimination against Arab Israelis. “In some realms, affirmative action is needed to make up for past injustices…[For example,] Universities should actively seek to recruit Arab students; [and] the civil service must enlist Arab staff and actively seek to advance them in the hierarchy. [Also,] state land must be equally available to all citizens. Admissions committees and other techniques of housing discrimination against Arabs should be assigned to history books.”
    link to

    • Rudolph, recognizing Israel as a state with a Jewish majority presumes that it will remain so. That is, once the Palestinians achieve demographic parity with Jews, then Israel is justified in sterilizing or expelling them to maintain a Jewish majority.

  11. There are plenty of Americans who would like to brand this country as a Christian state, and the strongest opponents of this have always been US Jews.

    • Well then we have to point to the astounding hypocriscy of US Jews……in wanting to have a democracy here and a religious and ethnic ruled Jewish state.
      Couldnt be clearer that they think they are ‘exceptions’ to the rest of the world. They arent, they better get over it sooner rather than later..

      • Think this goes to basic human nature: when one is in the minority they argue for parity in sharing (in your case, democratic power and influence); when strong one they would naturally argue to keep that which they feel themselves to have rightly earned (sic). Kinda like how our attitudes toward taxation vary depending on whether or not we have something to lose.

  12. There are dozens of Islamic States, but to have one Jewish State, one that respects the rights of its minorities more than any Islamic State? Why, that’s just unacceptable!

    • We Americans don’t approve of states calling themselves “Islamic,” either and if they came to us and said “you must recognize that we are an Islamic state,” our constitution would forestall it.

      Nor is it clear that Netanyahu’s demand is framed with regard to religion.

      • Professor Cole, how would our constitution “forestall it”? The first amendment says that THIS country won’t have an established religion, but says nothing about other countries. The US maintains diplomatic relations with Vatican City, after all.

        • The US government has no position on metaphysics. The Vatican is recognized as a mini-state, not the Vicar of Christ

    • The difference is that Israel engages in ethnic cleansing. By demanding that the Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state they are demanding permission from the victims for their own cleansing.

    • I doubt any of those “Islamic states” demanded they be recognized in negations, especially with the people they have blockaded, had their territories occupied, and oppressed.

  13. That is Israel’s dilemma. Once you define yourself as a racist state then you must draw lines: who are the favored and who are not. Saying that Jews are favored in Israel is easy, but not so easy to implement once you get to the details of individual cases.

    Apartheid South Africa had the same problem. The whites were the favored and the Africans were not. But what about the people who were neither? They created four categories by law: white, black, coloured, and Indian. But what about people who did not fit neatly in one of those categories? Obviously, you create more sub-categories! The only thing that really mattered was that whites were on top. Everyone knew that.

    Israel is going through the same process, deciding who is on top and who is not. Deciding who is “Jewish” and who is not quite Jewish is just as horrible a spectacle to watch in Israel as it was in South Africa. In Israel the only thing that really matters is who is on the bottom: the Palestinians. Everyone knows that.

    By getting the Palestinians to accept that Israel is the Jewish state they will have gotten the Palestinians to accept their position on the bottom. They will have accepted their position as the excluded minority. That then opens the door to the next phase: “transfer” as the Israelis call it. Some call this the “Two State Solution”; others don’t care where the undesirables are transferred to, just not here.

    Why do we Americans accept the Israeli framing of this issue? Did we not fight the same battle ourselves?

  14. “Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is adding a fifth demand to his negotiations with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas: That the Palestinians recognize…”

    Any bets on what Netanyahu’s six, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth demands will be?

  15. “Netanyahu’s demand is either racist or fundamentalist and is objectionable from an American point of view on human rights grounds either way …”

    No doubt Netanyahu is well aware that the American point of view on human rights is fungible so it will be of little concern to him – just like many other American points of view.

    • able to replace or be replaced by another identical item; mutually interchangeable.

      Your sentence means exactly the opposite of what you intended.

  16. i’m pretty sure the analogy is inaccurate. whatever you think about it, all of the classical Zionist theories and Jewish identity in Israel today categorized not as race or as religion, but in terms of nation and peoplehood. while the term race was thrown around quite commonly by non-Jews and Jews at the turn of the 20th century, the idea of a “Jewish race” is pretty shopworn within the Jewish world. The claim that Zionism “is” racism is a red herring. At issue are the forms of Jewish national identity and a Palestinian national one vis-a-vis each other and in contest over the same strip of territory.

    • The “remedy” being discussed is to allow a single binational state in Israel and the West Bank that will allow each to maintain its primary ethnic identity within its own defined borders – but for the two separate national entities to be inter-related via a unified economic, financial, and civil infra-structure – much like the European Union unites much of that continent.

      The key sticking point will be how to design and implement a national defense arrangement.

  17. The really creepy part is that this ethnicity-based state was established in the immediate aftermath of World War Two, by Europeans.

    “You have a sinking feeling that the real reason Netanyahu wants Palestinians to assent to the Jewishness of the Israeli state (whatever that might mean) is that he has malicious plans for the 20% of the population that is not Jewish.”

    I think it’s more like a poison pill – a condition one side adds to a deal because they want the negotiations to fail, so they pick something because it’s totally unacceptable to the other side.

    Next week, the Palestinians will have to announce their support for Israel as a Jewish state, eat a pork sausage, down a shot of whiskey, and host a wet t-shirt contest.

    • “Juan” has lots of problems with them. In fact “Juan” lobbied Egypt after the revolution to separate religion and state. But anyway the question is whether the US State Department and the Foreign Ministry of Palestine are obligated to recognize such religious republics as such, and to make a normative statement that they should be Jewish or Islamic Republics. Not only do they not, but the secular principles of both forbid them to.

      Moreover, since the Netanyahu government is anti-Orthodox, it is a little unlikely that he is asking for recognition of Israel as a Judaic State, i.e. a religious one analogous to Iran. If what he is asking is for a recognition of an ethnic state, that is racist and abhorrent.

      • Dear Professor Cole, have you ever described the mollah-led Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading executioner (relative to Iran’s population), as “racist and abhorrent”?

    • Walt Kovacs – For you to say that Professor Cole ‘has no problem at all with the many Islamic states that surround Israel’ suggests to me that you haven’t been reading him for very long. You won’t have to go back very far on this site to see that your statement is incorrect.

    • Why deflect criticism of Israel onto “Islamic States”? This is a discussion of ethnic supremacism in state identity. And I don’t see even the Muslim majority states with the worst human rights records (Egypt, Saudi Arabia) expelling minorities on the basis of race or religion, i.e., being non-Arab or non-Muslim. Quit apologizing for Jewish Chauvinism.

      • You don’t see them doing that because they already did it very thoroughly decades ago. Maybe you didn’t hear? In 1948, as soon as there was an existing Israel that promised to accept all Jews… all the Arab nations expelled all their Jews, most of whose families had been there for more than a thousand years.

        It’s only since the 1970’s, and the wave of Russian and American immigrants, that Israeli Jews are majority Ashkenazi — before that they were mostly Mizrahi.

  18. Is Jewish a religion or a race? Is there a gene specific to Jews and where did it originate? Do Ethiopian Jews have the gene? Palestinians? Are claims of a Jewish gene independently verifiable?
    This concern about racial purity is quite interesting. Even more interesting is how it plays out. Perhaps other markers can determine who is “more” Jewish.

    • Yes and yes. There are identifiable “Jewish” genes (found in at least one African tribe, the Lemba). But one who converts to Judaism is just as Jewish as one born a Jew (if your conversion is “acceptable”). Israel has a broader definition of who can claim citizenship – if you have a grandparent who was Jewish.

  19. Every Arab Muslim and Christian with roots in the region would be a “Jew” by matrilineal descent.

  20. We can’t miss the purely concocted politics of this matter.

    The impression which modern Zionist propaganda from the late 19th Century forward would have us accept AS FACT is that the European Ashkenazi, the vast bulk of today’s Israelis, are the literal *biological* descendants of Hebrews living in ancient Israel, i.e., Roman Palestine, at the time of Christ. They also want us to believe that these alleged ancestors were a population “isolate” exiled en masse by the Romans, that they didn’t intermarry significantly and ended up in Eastern Europe specifically by way of Italy and Germany. That is their “Rhineland hypothesis” which they still cling to today for political purposes as religion alone gives no one credible rights to real estate 2,000 years later. For everyone that is counter-intuitive. Politically they must be the same people to make the argument for a right of return based on descent. As a matter of common sense a totally different people can not return.

    The Zionist Rhineland hypothesis has been known to be implausible for many decades and now it has been definitively proved false by a young Israeli geneticist on the faculty of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Eran Elhaik, a gentleman who might well be willing to speak to the issue in this forum.

    link to

    The technical aspects of his article in a prestigious Oxford University journal are not easily accessible to laymen. But both the abstract and summary material near the end certainly are. And the whole thing has been rendered in English by a woman whose work is to make science explicable to non-scientists. I will post her Johns Hopkins article here also.

    The Ashkenazi did not come from the Middle East, but from roughly what today is Ukraine and the region between the Caspian and the Black Seas. They were originally Turkic tribes, horsemen of the Steppe with a large empire, who in the medieval era were converted by Jewish missionaries. They were religiously Jewish but were not the descendants of the people of Palestine.

  21. It’s all the same, when do we learn from our past mistakes? History repeats itself in all it’s shapes and forms. All the genocidal governments from past and present needed to learn from great leaders who fought for justice, equality and the pursuit of human progress. May you rest in peace Nelson Mandela.

  22. Even 2000 years ago, the Jews included a variety of different etninc groups of non Hebrew origin. One of the Hasmonean kings in the first century BCE forcibly converted to Judaism mosttof the Idumaean population (this must have been painful for the men), and other neighbouring groups were incorporated into the Jewish ethnos. Meantime, many of the Jews in the diaspora, scattered round the Roman and Parthian empires, had intermarried with non Jews, and some Jewish sects were actvely converting gentiles to Judaism.

    Supposedly, the Jews were expelled from Eretz Israel (Palestine) after the great Jewish War around 70 AD, and after the subsequent war in Hadrian’s rule at the time of Bar Kochba. In fact, a high % of the population remained in Palestine, either deepening their faith as rabbinical Jews, or gradually falling away from the faith and drifting into paganism, then Christianity, and then finally into Islam in the seventh century on. Ironically, it is probably the modern Palestinians who have the greatest concentration of genes derived from the first century Jews, while the modern Israeli Ashekenazi, Sephardi, and Oriental Jews are descendants of peoples who were not originally the Old TestamentHebrews oror the jews of Classical Antiquity (Greek/Roman times)

  23. If I recall correctly, it was Voltaire who suggested we define our terms. It appears that many in the rightmost spectrum of Israeli politics and their supporters have elected to redefine their terms when it is politically expedient.

  24. Recognizing it as a [presently] “Jewish” state necessarily brings the recognition that it is a religious-based apartheidist state and the moral equivalent of Saudi Arabia or other religious based apartheidist states. In a sense it would be the fact and would remove any Zionist Israeli objection to other states discriminating against [those who happen to be] Jewish by other religion based states. It is an admission that it is a ‘pre-modern’ state which is what it has, in fact it seems, become since the intoxication of conquest and occupation.

  25. I wonder what Mr. Cole has to say about the numerous references to the “Jewish national home” found in the Mandate for Palestine, that was passed by the League of Nations, which later became the United Nations – and has never been rescinded and reference to a national home for the Jewish People in the resolution of the San Remo Conference, which also remains binding international law. The point that Mr, Cole can’t seem to fathom is that Arab recognition of the Jewish rights in the Jewish ancestral homeland is -and always has been– central to solution of the Arab Israeli conflict. The Arabs have long professed their desire to remove the Jews from the region and the Palestinian Arabs still demand that all Jews leave Judea and Samaria. When the Arabs admit that their mosques (their third holiest shrine) were built quite intentionally atop the ruins of the Jewish Temples (the holiest place to the Jews) and that Jews have every right to pray on the Temple Mount, then we might see progress. Think of Jews as a family with strong, deep history. Others can be – and often have been adopted in , so the family is not racially exclusive. The family also has a religion and robust culture – that has withstood exile from its family property and persecution over thousands of years – but now it has reclaimed the land that was stolen from it- and which was largely neglected and desolate during the Jews’ exile. The Jews; founding literature is nothing less than the ideational basis for much of Western morality Mr. Cole loves so much. Indeed It is the height of chutzpa for him -or Mr. Kerry – to preach morality after how the U.S. has treated its own native American population, not so long ago. Massachusetts is an native American name – Whatever happened to the proud People that lived on the land were Kerry’s house sits? The discussion of individual rights is a somewhat separate issue that should also be addressed – but Mr. Cole has focused on the national one.

    • Lord Curzon and others involved in the League of Nations negotiations on the Palestine Mandate repeatedly say in their letters that they understand that a “Jewish National Home” did not imply a Jewish state nor did it imply that the rights of the indigenous Palestinians would be injured. The French and the Italians were extremely uncomfortable with the British position. To cite the British imperial mandate in favor of Mr. Netanyahu’s current push is to do violence to history.

      The Arab League offered to recognize Israel within 1967 borders in 2002 and has since renewed the offer.

    • Is it your contention that the UN, and the League before it, are in the business of handing out national homelands? If so then there is quite a long waiting line of peoples without an independent homeland.

      But if that is your contention, then you will have to admit that things did not work out so well and that the UN should change the enabling resolutions. They made a mistake and they should fix it. OK by you?

    • “The creation of a siege mentality in Israeli society was necessary to complement the pre-fabricated myth of the Arab threat. The two elements were intended to feed each other. Although Israeli society faced a serious risk of social and cultural disintegration under the impact of a mass immigration of Asian and North African Jews into the pre-State’s ideologically homogenous community, the purpose of the siege mentality was not so much that of attaining a defensive cohesiveness in Israel’s Jewish society. It was principally calculated to ‘eliminate the moral brakes’ required for a society to fully support a policy which constituted a complete reversal of the ethical code on which its formal education was based and from which it was supposed to derive its vital strength……”
      p.7, “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism” by Livia Rokach

      Ms. Rokach was the daughter of the former mayor of Tel Aviv.

    • You can argue Jewish desire for a homeland and British imperial decrees all you want. The fact is that the Palestinians owned 93% of the land and were 85% of the population before Jewish settlers expelled them in 1948. The zionists stole the Palestinians’ land and are now trying to make them recognize that.

      Furthermore, it is an outright falsehood when you say that “the Arabs have long professed their desire to remove the Jews from the region. Until the 20th century, Jews found refuge from persecution in Arab lands and reached high positions in Muslim governments. It was only when predominantly European Jews took Palestine that Arab hostility toward Jews developed. That is totally logical, as no one wants their country and livelihood taken from them.

      If your theory of Arab hostility toward Jews were correct, we Arabs of Chicago would be murdering Jews wholesale in the streets. Last I checked, there haven’t been any Arab murders of Jews in Chicago or anywhere in the USA. Though there have been radical zionist assassination of Arab civic leaders in places like California and New York.

  26. Dr. Uri Davis, an Israeli anthropologist, cites his 1943 Palestine birth certificate as proof he is Palestinian. He was the first to equate Zionism with South African-style aparthied.

    He sits as an elected member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, the chief legislative body of that political party and has an observer seat membership in the Palestine National Council.

  27. Netanyahu’s insistence on ‘the Jewish State’ is a fairly new wrinkle — like the Jordan Valley security
    issue for Israel, who ever heard of that before late last year? I’ve read some political analysis claiming that ‘the Jewish State’ is a device to pre-empt ‘the right of return’ Palestinian negotiation. It’s all politics, if you can get away with it, and so far he’s getting away with it.

    here’s something for you, Juan. Coming from a place where they’ve had some experience with ethnic cleansing and have the radar out for racial discrimination. “German Op-Ed: Israel Cannot be a Jewish State”

    link to

    • Really- this is new? “Who ever hear of that before last year”? Let’s see. More than 30 years ago, foreign minister Yigal Allon – who had been Yitzchak Rabin’s commander and mentor in the Palmach during 1948 – wrote up his plan for “defensible borders” for Israel in Foreign Affairs and discussed it. Shimon Peres told Ma’ariv in June 1976: “One must ensure that Israel will not only have length but width. We must not be tempted by all kinds of advisers and journalists to return to a country whose waist is 14 kilometers wide.”

      The late Mordechai Gur, as Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, told Newsweek in May 1978 that as a military man he had no doubt that to defend Israel it was necessary to remain in the high ground of the mountains of Judea and Samaria – from Hebron to Nablus. He also explained that Israel needed to remain in the Jordan Valley. And the late Moshe Dayan, Israel’s former Chief of Staff, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, was unequivocal in this regard: “Whatever settlement is reached with the Palestinians and the Jordanians, the key positions that guarantee Israel’s defense must be left to the free and exclusive use of the Israel Defense Forces. Those positions are the Jordan Valley and the mountain spine.”

      And finally, the words of the late Yitzhak Rabin in his last appearance in the Knesset, one month before his abominable murder: “We will not return to the lines of June 4, 1967 – the security border for defending the State of Israel will be in the Jordan Valley, in the widest sense of that concept.” It was no surprise that this was Rabin’s security legacy, for already in 1980 he determined: “Our evacuation of the West Bank would create the greatest threat we can possibly face.”

      See:link to

  28. Formally recognizing the existence of a Jewish state cannot be squared with Enlightenment liberalisms as articulated by John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, John Madison and those who created the ideas that formed the basis of our country as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by the United Nations.

  29. A little over a year ago, Mahmoud Abbas stated during a speech at the UN that Israel was the land of Jesus’ birth, Mohammed’s ascension, and Abraham’s burial. Here’s a little thought experiment. What if he had mentioned, say, Rabbi Akiva also?

  30. Netanyahu has never deviated from his often stated position that he would never permit a real Palestinian state. The whole purpose of the ” peace process” is to mollify the rest of the world while Israeli life and policies go on. It is an exercise in trying to find a formula to create a legal cover for an apartheid state and eliminating all Palestinians from any power or rights in Israel.

    • People seem to have forgotten this statement by outgoing Prime Minister Ytzhak Shamir, Israel’s second longest serving Prime Minister upon his electoral loss in 1992:

      ‘I would have carried on autonomy talks for ten years, and meanwhile, we would have reached half a million people in Judea and Samaria.”
      When reminded that the recent election indicated that there did not exist majority support for a Greater Land of Israel, Shamir said, “I didn’t believe there was a majority in favor of a Greater Land of Israel. But it can be attained over time. There must be a historic direction. If we drop this basis, there would be nothing to prevent the development of a Palestinian state.”

  31. “If the Grand Rabbi took haplotypes seriously, most Ashkenazi Jews would have to be declared “not Jewish” by the Talmudic criterion, since their mothers do not have the distinctive patterns in their mitochondrial DNA showing descent from the inhabitants of the ancient Levant.”

    This is 100% false, professor. The women only needed to be converted by a local rabbi and they would be considered Jews. Not sure how you could make such an obvious mistake. The Jews are a people, not a race, although most of us do have genetic ties to the Levant. Anyway, moving on…

    My Jewish family is from Iraq and Syria, now most live in Israel because they were chased out. You do not seem to understand the perceptions of Middle Eastern minorities very well. The history of the Middle East is one of local and foreign conquest. In terms of local conquest, 3 majority ethnic groups of ruled the MENA region for over a thousand years: Arabs, Turks, and Persians. They have traded sovereignty between them while disenfranchising the millions of indigenous minorities throughout. Jews, Kabylians, Kurds, and many others reject the concept of “Arab land,” — a term which you have never seemed to decry as racist (gee, why is that?).

    Israel is no different than a Native American reservation or historic black college in the USA. They are all places where minorities-under-threat have carved out a space for themselves to be allowed to thrive under their own terms, and their own culture, without worry from the imperialist machinations of dominant, majority, regional ethnic groups. Israel wants to be referred to as a Jewish state as a safety and respect issue. It is the Jews’ way of getting representatives of a majority ethnic group that has historically denied self-determination to all regional minorities, to acknowledge that Jews DO have land rights, DO have the right to self-determination, DO belong on their ancestral lands, and ARE recognized as sovereign over the lands they control. This is the same desire Native Americans ask for as sovereign nations that allow only tribal members to live upon while surrounded by white communities. It is the same desire born out of the name, Kurdistan. It is the same desire found among Amazighen advocating for Kabilie. It is the same desire found among peoples throughout the world who are denied the right to practice their culture by repressive majorities. There is nothing racist about that.

    Declaring Israel as a Jewish state denies nobody rights anymore than living in Denmark, Norway, or Sweden, all of which are named for ethnic groups and have a cross on their flags, even thought other ethnic groups have lived among them for centuries.

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