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Israel as a Jewish state

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Israeli Arabsby Khalid Amayreh

One of the obsessive demands Israel keeps invoking these days is that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state as a precondition for a possible peace settlement of the conflict in the Middle East.

Israel doesn't spell out the real motives behind this increasingly incessant demand. However, it is widely believed that Israel is seeking Palestinian consent, however tacit it may be, for the adoption of institutionalized racism against its non-Jewish citizens, including the 1.7 -million strong Palestinian minority, which constitutes more than one fourth of Israel's total population.

This institutionalized racism, many of whose virulent aspects are already rampant in Israel, ranges from systematic discrimination against non-Jews (presumably to encourage them to emigrate) to reserving the "right" to expel  as many Palestinians as it takes to maintain Israel's Jewish identity.

Israeli leaders and apologists keep invoking the largely discredited mantra that Israel is both a Jewish and democratic state. However, in light of reality today, including the recent approval by the Knesset of manifestly racist laws against non-Jewish citizens, it is amply clear that Israel cannot be both Talmudic and democratic at the same time.

The two are simply an eternal oxymoron that can never be reconciled. According to both the Old Testament and the Talmud, non-Jews living under Halacha or Jewish religious law ought to be enslaved as water carriers and wood hewers in the service of the master race, the Chosen People. Racism toward non-Jews could reach the point of having them exterminated in genocidal wars if the rabbinic authority deemed them hostile.

A recent book entitled King's Torah, which was endorsed by several prominent rabbis in Israel, explicitly permitted the killing of innocent non-Jews, including children, if the non-Jewish population was deemed hostile or posing a potential or future threat to Jews.

Rabbis who opposed the book readily admitted that while the content of the book was perfectly compatible with Jewish law, the book was politically incorrect since it could encourage Gentiles to hate Jews.

Readers shouldn't think this writer is evoking ancient canards that are both anachronistic and irrelevant. Only a few months ago, Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Shas, the fundamentalist haredi Jewish party, was quoted as saying that all non-Jews have the status of donkeys and that the Almighty created them solely so that they will serve the master race, the Jewish people.

Yosef is not a marginal figure in Israel as he enjoys the allegiance and loyalty of hundreds of thousands of followers.

Shas is also a chief coalition partner in the current Israeli government headed by Benyamin Netanyahu. The Israeli Minister of Interior, Eli Yeshai is affiliated with Shas and is widely thought to be at Yosef's beck and call.

In an effort to blur or hide the real goals behind its rather sinister designs against its large Palestinian minority, Israeli leaders often use seemingly innocuous phraseology and  euphemisms to  connote what they have "in store" for the Palestinians.

For example, they speak of "two states for two people." Some honest people might be prompted to view this refrain as logical and harmless. However, they would change their minds once they discover that what Israel has in mind is one state, namely Israel, that would devour at least 80% of historical  Palestine while the remainder would presumably go for the Palestinian state-let, an infinitely deformed entity, lacking real sovereignty as well as both territorial contiguity and economic viability.

Obviously, such a scandalous "peace deal" would be a real liquidation of the Palestinian cause which is why most if not all Palestinians would reject it outright.

In addition to the existential risks and dangers facing the very survival of Israel's Palestinian community, there are many other fatal implications of a possible Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

A key implication is that millions of Palestinian refugees, who had been uprooted from their homes and villages in what is now Israel in 1948, would have to kiss their right of return good-by.

Needless to say, the right of return is the crux of the Palestinian tragedy and is firmly sanctioned by international law through UN resolution 194.

The liquidation of the right of return, besides being a scandalous breach of justice, would leave the embers of the conflict alight for many, many years to come, pending  a more a humane solution of the conflict.

More to the point, it is highly doubtful if the Palestinian leadership, e.g. the PLO, would be able to convince a large number of refugees to give up their right to repatriation to their former towns and villages in Israel.

In addition, recognizing Israel, let alone recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, implies a Palestinian consent to ceding land, real estate and other property belonging to Palestinians in Israel. According to various estimates, 85% of land in pre-1967 Israel belonged to Palestinian landowners and proprietors many of whom still have pertinent land deeds and ownership registration documents, some dating back to the Ottoman era.

Finally, there is no doubt that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state could lead to a serious deterioration in the status of Islam and Christianity in Israel where religious places of immense importance belonging to the two faiths are located.

This prospect is especially worrying in light of the continued drift amongst Israeli Jews to right-wing Jewish nationalism, with conspicuous fascist overtones. (One Israeli cabinet minister was quoted a few months ago as saying that "we already live in a fascist state.")

It is abundantly clear that Israeli demands for a Palestinian recognition of Israel as an exclusive Jewish state is a red-herring tactic aimed at escaping peace and avoiding meeting its requirements, including giving up the spoils of the 1967-war.

Moreover, it is equally clear that the Palestinians are under no legal or moral obligation to recognize Israel's purported right to remain Jewish than the international community was to keep apartheid in South Africa.

For all the above reasons, the Palestinians must never even contemplate recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. After all, Israel, according to international law, is the nation-state for at least two-million non-Jews of whom Palestinians make up the vast majority.

The PLO doesn't represent these Palestinians and has no right to speak on their behalf, let alone reach agreements affecting their very existence and survival.

Khalid Amayreh is an American-educated Palestinian Journalist based in the West Bank town of Hebron.


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