Monday, 19 November 2007

"Jewish State ?"

Some readers may notice that I copy a lot from other blogs. That's because the situation is more than a little complex, and I can't get my own mind around certain plots and sub-plots.

Here's Lawrence of Cyberia on the latest demand from the Israelis that the Palestinians recognise the "Jewish State" - excerpts:

"At one time, everyone knew that peace would break out all over the Middle East if the Palestinians would just recognize Israel. But then the PLO went and spoiled things [nearkly 20 years ago, in 1979] by recognizing Israel, so there had to be a new excuse for not ending the Occupation.

The new demand was that the Palestinians had to recognize Israel's "right to exist". And now, to ward off any danger that peace might raise its ugly head at Annapolis, here's a timely new one: the Palestinians have to recognize that Israel exists; that it has a right to exist; and that it has the right to exist as a "Jewish state".

...Israelis don't seem to have a common understanding of what they mean by a "Jewish state"; yet they insist the Palestinians must recognize nonetheless that Israel is one.

After all, how can Palestinians have a right to return to their homes in a "Jewish state" when they're not even Jewish, and non-Jews shouldn't expect to be allowed to live in a "Jewish state" in the first place...

The PLO says that Palestinians, like everyone else, give diplomatic recognition to countries, not to demographic balances, religious leanings or political affiliations. In recognizing Iran, for example, they give formal acceptance to Iran's sovereignty, its people and its borders, but not to its religious orientation. If Iran wants to call itself "The Islamic Republic of...", that is purely an internal Iranian affair. It's "Iran" that international diplomacy recognizes, not the Islamic-ness or Republic-ness of its political system. Similarly, if Israel wishes to call itself "The Jewish State of...", that is an internal Israeli affair, which does not need and cannot demand recognition from the PLO or anyone else in the world community.

The one thing they won't say is that Israel is formally a "Jewish state", i.e. a state for Jews. Just as a Jewish American might recognize that the USA is a Christian country in terms of its dominant population and cultural traditions, but would never accept that it should be formally designated a "Christian state", because that immediately defines Jews and other non-Christians as lesser citizens. For some outrageous no-doubt Islamofascist Jew-hating reason, the Palestinians similarly refuse to declare that Israel is constitutionally a state where Israelis of Palestinian descent are inferior citizens.

Israelis need to decide what it is they mean by a "Jewish state", before they accuse the Palestinians of being unreasonable in rejecting it. Right now, I suspect that some of them are happy to conflate the two different understandings of what a "Jewish state" is; perhaps so that when the PLO rejects Olmert's demand for a "state for Jews", they can pretend the PLO is rejecting too the idea of Israel as a "state of Jews".

I suppose if you understand that the price of a universally-recognized Jewish-majority state in the 1967 borders is finally getting out of the Occupied Territories, and you really don't want to do that, it's a lot easier to derail peace talks by whipping up fears of being driven into the sea than to simply acknowledge you're not willing to pay the price.

It's a bit like having the President of Iran say that the Occupation regime over Jerusalem will disappear from the pages of time, and then pretending that he really said he would "wipe Israel off the map"; because it's always easier to invoke the Hitler bogeyman than to answer Ahmadinejad's questions about why exactly Muslim-majority Palestine should be dismantled to make way for a sectarian Zionist state....

Maybe Israelis could take a short break from insisting on what the Palestinians must give them, and make up their minds what exactly it is they want. Then perhaps if they could actually listen to what they're being offered, they might even be pleasantly surprised to find it's something they could live with after all.
Couldn't put it better.

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