The demand for recognition is essential

Uriel Heilman said,

There is something of the absurd in the recent flurry of activity in Israel to ensure that it is recognized as a Jewish state…

Is Israel so insecure about its identity that it needs others, particularly its adversaries, the Palestinians, to tell it what kind of a country it is? If Israel wants to be a Jewish state, let it be so. It shouldn’t need anyone else to affirm it. Israel should worry more about its own citizens, Arab and haredi, who have a problem with its self-declared identity.

On the contrary, it is not only not absurd, it is absolutely essential.

The Arabs and others who refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — or, in another formulation, as the state of the Jewish People — do so because they refuse to admit that there is a Jewish people.

Here are some Palestinian comments made last month in response to PM Netanyahu’s  statement that there would be no progress in talks with Palestinians until they recognized Israel as a Jewish state:

Omar al-Ghul, an adviser to PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, said that Netanyahu’s demand was aimed at transferring the Palestinians to another country.

“No Palestinian leader can ever accept this demand even if the whole world recognizes Israel as a Jewish state,” he stressed. “The state of Israel belongs to all its citizens, the Palestinians [sic] owners of the land and the Jews living there.”

Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA’s daily mouthpiece, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, said that Netanyahu’s demand was aimed at expelling the Arab citizens of Israel and turning Jerusalem into a Jewish city.

“Netanyahu wants to replace the Palestinian kaffiyeh with a Jewish kippa,” Barghouti said. “This is an irrational and absurd request. No country in the world has ever demanded that it be recognized on the basis of its religion and not political entity.” (my emphasis)

Palestinians have been consistent in their insistence that ‘Jews’ means ‘practitioners of the Jewish religion’ and nothing else. If there were no Jewish People, this would be very convenient for the Palestinians, because it would indeed make no sense for a ‘religion’ to ask for a state. Zionism, which demands self-determination for the Jewish People, would be meaningless. By denying that there is a Jewish people, the Arabs are denying Jewish self-determination.

Unfortunately for the Palestinian Arabs — whose own claim to peoplehood is far more tenuous — there is a history and tradition of the Jewish People over thousands of years.  19th-century Zionists, many of whom (including Herzl) were entirely secular, called for a Jewish state to solve the historical problems facing Jews — religious and secular — living among other peoples. The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate, the UN Partition Resolution and Israel’s Declaration of Independence — not to mention the practical self-defense of Israel since then — all declare that there must be a homeland for the Jewish People.

We need to understand the Palestinian position in the context of all of their demands, including ‘right of return’. Practically speaking, what it means when Palestinians deny a Jewish People is that they see Israel as just another Middle Eastern state, which happens to be under the control of Jewish colonialists. But of course the real ‘owners’ will ultimately repossess it.

As long as they do not accept Israel as a Jewish state — a state of the Jewish People — they continue to claim it, and to assert the right to ‘resist’ its ‘unjust’ occupation.

This is actually the first thing needed for peace: an unambiguous admission that we have a right to be here. The rest would be a matter of details.

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3 Responses to “The demand for recognition is essential”

  1. pavelaw says:

    I believe that being recognized as a Jewish State, also plays into our policy of no right of return for the Arabs.


  2. SarahSue says:

    ‘No country in the world has ever demanded that it be recognized on the basis of its religion and not political entity’

    In Muslim countries where Islam is the official religion listed in the constitution, sharia is declared to be a source, or the source, of the laws. Examples include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates, where the governments derive their legitimacy from Islam. In Pakistan, Egypt, Iran, and Iraq, among others, it is also forbidden to enact legislation that is antithetical to Islam. Saudi Arabia employs one of the strictest interpretations of sharia.

    If these islamic countries can decide that sharia law is the law of the land, then Israel can decide that Judaism is the law of the land.

    If these countries can call themselves islamic countries, then Israel can call itself a Jewish country.

    To say that ‘No country in the world has ever demanded that it be recognized on the basis of its religion and not political entity’ is an absurd and specious argument and should be challenged whenever it is trotted out.

    I encourage this blog to research this more fully and reveal how much of a lie is being spread with these arguments that do not hold water when examined and confronted.

  3. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Keep in mind, though, that Israel does not purport to be governed by Jewish law or to have an official or established religion. The concept of Jewish state means ‘state of the Jewish people’ — a sovereign state which provides self-determination for the Jewish people, both religious and secular.

    Some functions — like marriage and divorce — have been delegated to religious authorities. But this is not only for Jews: Israeli Arabs are married by Muslim authorities, Christians similarly.

    But you are quite right that numerous countries define themselves as Muslim nations, and some — like Saudi Arabia — are actually governed according to Shaaria law.