Sunday, April 19, 2009

State Department Says Palestinian Recognition of Israel as Jewish State is not Precondition to Renewed Peace Talks

Ha'Aretz reports that the the U.S. State Department has rejected the position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the Palestinian Arabs recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people as a condition for renewing peace talks. The question therefore arises: Is the U.S. position merely that recognition of Israel as the Jewish State is not a precondition of renewal of peace talks, or does the United States consider the Jewish identity of Israel to be an issue subject to negotiation? According the Ha'Aretz article, when then foreign minister Tzipi Livni first raised the issue of recognition of Israel as a Jewish State come 18 months ago, the Bush Administration accepted the Palestinian objection that the issue should be subject to negotiation.

This would be less troubling if it were not for the fact that the United States and the Palestinians seem to be ignoring the United Nations Resolution that brought Israel into existence. U.N. General Resolution 181, passed on November 29, 1947, called for the termination of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and the division of the territory covered by the Mandate into "Arab and Jewish States." The Jewish Agency for Palestine, which was the governing authority for the Jews of Palestine during the Mandate, accepted the partition of Palestine under Resolution 181.

The Palestinian Arabs and the Arab nations of the world rejected it. Sixty-two years later, it appears that they still reject it. More troubling still, it seems that the United States--which voted for Resolution 181, and recognized the State of Israel upon its Declaration of Independence in May 1948, a declaration that proclaimed "the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine, to be called ISRAEL"--now considers the Jewish character of the State of Israel to be an issue subject to negotiation.

The Government of Israel should demand that the U.S. State Department clarify its position regarding U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 and American recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Israel may not like the response, but it would at least clarify where the United States stands regarding the recognition of Israel as the only nation state of the Jewish people.

[For those readers who question whether the concept of a Jewish state is appropriate in the modern world, please take note of the following facts:

1. Some 13 nation states recognize Roman Catholicism as their official religion;
2. Four more nations recognize one of the Eastern Orthodox Churches as their official religion.
3. Three nations, including the progressive states of Norway, Denmark and Iceland, recognize the Lutheran Church as their official religion.
4. Armenia recognizes the Armenian Apostolic Church as its national religion.
5. England not only recognizes the Church of England as its state religion; the English monarch is the head of the Church.
6. Scotland's official religion is the Reformed Church.
7. Some 24 nations recognize Islam as their official religion, including nearly every Arab opponent of the recognition of Israel as the only Jewish state.
8. Five nations recognize Buddhism as their official religion.

One must therefore ask why Israel is being singled out?

Moreover, unlike nearly every one of the above countries, Israel, while considering itself to be a Jewish State, in fact has no offiicial state religion or single established religion. This reflects the fact that Judaism has always been a national identity as well as a religious identity. Indeed, most persons who consider themselves Jewish, including the majority of Israelis, do not actively practice the Jewish religion and consider their Jewishness to be a matter of peoplehood, not religious belief or practice. One can (and many do) proclaim oneself to be a Jewish atheist or agnostic, without any recognized logical inconsistency.

Therefore, even if all of the above-listed countries disestablished their official religions, and declared themselves to be secular states, that would not call into question the legitimacy of Israel as the Jewish national state, any more than it would call into question the national identities of France, England or Germany.]


Anonymous pabelmont said...

As I understand it, Israel does not desire to declare an official state religion. If it did, would that be orthodox or reform or some other Judaism, or might this "detail" be left undefined?

No, what Israel appears to desire is to be regarded by all and sundry as "the state of the Jewish people", thereby stating that it is NOT the state of its own non-Jewish citizens AND ALSO that its "Jewish" citizens (including some recent immigrants from Russia who are not Jewish) are not the ONLY Jewish people which it is the state "for."

This is VERY unusual. Perhaps the Vatican is "the" state of "the catholic people" and perhaps not, but the Vatican is not discriminating against any of its own citizens.

UNGA 181 offered a territory for a Jewish state, true, but that area had many non-Jewish inhabitants. Israel expelled them (and other non-Jews from territories which UNGA 181 had not suggested for a "Jewish State", but the UN never OK'd expulsion (ethnic cleansing) and promptly resolved (with the same "force" as UNGA 181) that the expelled Palestinians be readmitted to their homeland.

Israel may desire to be a more or less exclusively Jewish state, but that desire does not create a right for Israel to continue to deny re-admission to the expellees (refugees) of 1948 and 1967.

This at least is my view. These are the circumstances which differentiate Israel from other states with "established religions."

Monday, April 20, 2009 5:15:00 PM  
Blogger The Kosher Hedgehog said...

Dear pabelmont:
Thank you for reading the Hedgehog Blog and taking the time to post a comment. Allow me to address a few points in your post:
1. While the whole purpose of Israel's existence and of Zionism was to have a national home for the Jewish people, it has never intended to be "NOT the state of its own non-Jewish citizens." Non-Jewish citizens of Israel have full civil rights, including its Arab citizens, which is extraordinary given the fact that the Arab nations have sought Israel's extermination since her creation. Israeli Arabs are excused from the draft, so as not to be compelled to fight their ethnic brethren, but many in fact serve with distinction in the Israeli Defense Forces, especially from the Druse and Bedouin communities. Arabs hold public office. The present Israeli Consul in San Francisco is an Israeli Arab. He has written how popular misconceptions regarding Israel's Arab citizens are rife in the United States, especially on the Bay-Area college campuses, where radical pro-Palestinian groups try to portray him as a traitor to the Palestinian cause when he speaks. This is not to say that Arab citizens of Israel do not experience discrimination, any more than the U.S. is free of discrimination against people of color, or France is free of discrimination against its North African immigrants. However, like in the U.S. and in France, positive change in that regard is possible to achieve in Israel's democratic society.

2. You state that the area that is now Israel "had many non-Jewish inhabitants. Israel expelled them." Respectfully, that is simply untrue. The 1948 War of Independence created hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, and some of them were forcibly driven out of Isreali territory, but there was never any policy of driving out all non-Jews or all Arabs. Indeed, from its independence on, about 20% of Israel's population has been Arab. Today, Israel's population of some 7.3 million includes about 1.4 million Arabs. That figure does not include Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank or Gaza.

In contrast, the percentage Jewish population of areas under Palestinian control is near zero.

I am always amused by the frequent allegations that Israel is committing genocide or ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. If so, Israel is incredibly incompetent, since the Palestinian Arab population has boomed during Israel's existence, both within Israel and in the areas under Palestinian Authority control.
For more on this topic, please see my previous post: "India and Israel, Twin Targets of Islamic War and Terror.
3. Israel does not desire to be, to use your language,a more or less exclusively Jewish state." It does desire to be both a democratic state and one with a Jewish majority population, since in a democracy only the latter will guarantee the preservation of the character of Israel as the Jewish national home. That is why Israel opposes a right of return for Palestinian Arabs refugees and their descendents. That motivation is no more rascist than the desire of France to remain French in its culture and character, or the desire of Arab nations to maintain their Arab culture and character.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 9:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a question. There is a demand that the Palestinians "recognize Israel as the Jewish state". Until this week, I have thought this "recognition" would simply mean that the Palestinians would be saying, "OK, Israel is here to stay and we know that." That seems to be something the Palestinians should do, but then I heard that if the Palestinians "recognize Israel as the Jewish state", then all the Israeli Palestinians could lose their Israeli citizenship or be denied voting privileges and land ownership -- kicked out of the "Jewish state". Is this true?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger The Kosher Hedgehog said...

Dear Anonymous: Thank you for your question. No, recognition of Israel as a Jewish State would not result in Palestinian Arabs losing their citizenship or being expelled from Israel. Israel already recognizes itself as the Jewish state, and yet Israel has 1.4 million Palestinian Arab citizens, who have full rights under its Basic Laws (the Israeli equivalent of a constitution). In contrast, no Jews are permitted to live by the Palestinians in the territories under their control. Jews are also not permitted to live in the Kingdom of Jordan or in Saudi Arabia. Under the law of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, it is a crime punishable by death to sell land to a Jew. In contrast, Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel have the right to buy and own land in Israel. It is ironic in light of all of the charges of apartheid leveled against Israel by persons such as former President Jimmy Carter; that it is actually the Palestinians who want and actually practice ethnic cleansing, against Jews.

Recognition of Israel as the Jewish State is simply recognition by the Palestinians, after 61 years, of United Nations General Assembly Resolution No. 181, which partitioned the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, an Arab state and a Jewish state. No more, or no less. The entire Israeli-Arab conflict stems from the rejection by the Arab nations of the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. When they say they will recognize Israel's existence, but not as a Jewish State, and only if Israel allows all Palestinian refugees from 1948 and their descendents to return to live within the boundaries of Israel, the Arabs are saying that Israel must cease to be a Jewish State. That is the 1947-48 rejection of the existence of a Jewish State, disguised in more clever terms.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 12:59:00 PM  

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