I’ve criticized Ami Isseroff for, in my opinion, having a too-optimistic estimation of the Palestinian desire for peace. However, in regard to the recent statements by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Prime Minister Salem Fayyad that they will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state, he is right on (“Don’t make us choose between Zionism and peace“).
First, he recognizes that the issue is about self-determination for the Jewish people, and not about religion:
Half a dozen “analysts” showed that they are as totally clueless about the meaning of Zionism as Erekat pretended to be. They took his argument, that there cannot be a state of a religion, at face value, and proceeded to point out carefully that the Muslims have religious states, Britain has an established church and so on.
But really, who cares what others do? What matters is what we do, and whether it is right or not. The Muslims can have as many Islamic states as they want, where wife beating is legal and you can get tips on how to do it, and where adulteresses are stoned to death and homosexuals are hanged. I do not want such a state and that was never the goal of Zionism. It was shocking to read these apologies for theocracy from otherwise enlightened people. Why would we want a Jewish Republic of Israel, run by Jewish Khomeinis?
And Isseroff, a ‘peacenik’, nevertheless understands (as others on the Left do not) exactly why this is the fundamental issue between Israel and the Palestinians:
The logic of [Meretz MK Yossi] Beilin and others is that if we bring up recognition of the Jewish State then we can’t have “peace.” Beilin forgot that the whole goal of the peace negotiations from our point of view, is the goal of Zionism – to have a recognized national home for the Jewish people. He forgot why we are here.
If Israel was not created to be the state of the Jewish people, then for what reason did we fight all those wars? …If we wanted an Arab state, we had only to sit on our hands in 1948 and 1967 and 1973. There would be “peace” without a state of the Jewish people. That is what it means.
If we give up on that issue, if Israel is not recognized as the state of the Jewish people, and our right to self-determination is not recognized, then we have given up on all the issues. The is not just a theoretical point of pride. It has the most profound implications. If we surrender the right of the Jews to self-determination, we have no basis for refusing the right of return to Palestinian Arab refugees. We have no reason to maintain the Law of Return either. The borders of the Arab Democratic Republic of Israel with the neighboring Palestinian state would not matter. PM Achmad Tibi of Israel could negotiate them with PM Hanniyeh or PM Fayyad. Or he could send Beilin to negotiate another Beilin Abu-Mazen agreement. [my emphasis]
Yes, I know it is hard to define ‘the Jewish People’. It’s not any easier to define “the Palestinian People” either, but as the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein pointed out, the lack of a simple, unambiguous criterion for the applicability of a concept does not make it meaningless. As Isseroff notes, both Saeb Erekat and Yossi Beilin would scream bloody murder if someone suggested that there was no ‘Palestinian People’ which has the right to a state.
As we come closer to the Annapolis conference — which may be a non-event, or which may encompass the imposition of the Saudi plan for the dismemberment of Israel — it’s critical to keep our eyes on that which is essential and distinguish it from the rest. It’s absolutely essential that there be no surrender of the fundamental principle of Zionism, which is that there is a Jewish People, and the State of Israel is the expression of its right to self-determination.