SHOULD ISRAEL SHED ITS JEWISH IDENTITY?

There has been much talk over the past few days over a document signed by a number of prominent Israeli Arabs, a document which basically calls for the state of Israel to shed it’s Jewish identity. From the document itself, written by the most part by the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel… ‘They call on the state to recognize Israeli Arab citizens as an indigenous group with collective rights, saying Israel inherently discriminates against non-Jewish citizens in its symbols of state, some core laws, and budget and land allocations.’
This is quite different than the call of our resident Judeonazi, Herr Lieberman, which is to strip all of the Israeli Arabs of their citizenship and send them to the other side of the wall.
Looking at both sides, needless to say the Lieberman proposals are totally unrealistic and must be rejected by all people, Jews and non Jews alike. However, missing from the document is one basic argument…. that being the establishment of a Palestinian state. Needless to say, this state MUST have a Right of Return for all Palestinians living outside the area, without restrictions. It seems what they are calling for is a ‘one state solution’, which we can see cannot work. This is not to say that I disagree with the fact that Palestinians living in Israel proper should not have the full rights of a citizen, thus ending their second class status. This is not to say that certain areas must be under joint conrol to avoid conflicts, such as the one we are seeing today at the Temple Mount area. This is not to say that all Arab villages must be given the same services as Jewish ones, without any difference.
But, as I see it the key to peace in this region is to establish an independant state of Palestine. A state which would not be cut off from the state of Israel by a wall of apartheid, but a state that will exist side by side with Israel .
Getting back to the document itself, I must say that it is a good move to see it published and to see the beginnings of discussions and debates on the issues raised, issues that for way too long were ignored by the media and the majority of Israel’s Jewish citizens. Hopefully these discussions will lead to some changes which will bring the status of ‘second class’ to an end. But the establishment of a state of Palestine must remain the key struggle for all peoples seeking true justice. The occupation of the West Bank must end and the wall of apartheid must come down. Until that happens, Israeli Arabs will never truly be free either. The creation of a Palestinian state would also see the creation of a LOBBY for the full rights of Arabs living in Israel.
Below is a report from the New York Times dealing with the document in question….

February 8, 2007
Noted Arab Citizens Call on Israel to Shed Jewish Identity
By ISABEL KERSHNER

JERUSALEM, Feb. 7 — A group of prominent Israeli Arabs has called on Israel to stop defining itself as a Jewish state and become a “consensual democracy for both Arabs and Jews,” prompting consternation and debate across the country.

Their contention is part of “The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel,” a report published in December under the auspices of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel, which represents the country’s 1.3 million Arab citizens, about a fifth of the population. Some 40 well-known academics and activists took part.

The authors propose a form of government, “consensual democracy,” akin to the Belgian model for Flemish- and French-speakers, involving proportional representation and power-sharing in a central government and autonomy for the Arab community in areas like education, culture and religious affairs.

The document does not deal with the question of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where an additional three million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation without Israeli citizenship. The aim of the declaration is to reshape the future of Israel itself.

The reaction of Jewish Israelis has ranged from some understanding to a more widespread response, indignation. Even among the center-left, where concern for civil rights is common, some have condemned the document as disturbing and harmful. On the right, Israeli Arabs have been accused of constituting a “fifth column,” a demographic and strategic threat to the survival of the state.

Rassem Khamaisi, one of the Future Vision participants and an urban planner, said: “The document reflects the Arab public’s feelings of discrimination. We should be looking for ways of partnership.”

Many Israeli Arabs say they are second-class citizens who do not get the same services and considerations as Jews and face discrimination in employment, education and state institutions.

Last month, a Muslim Arab legislator from the Labor Party, Ghaleb Majadele, was named a government minister, the first in Israel’s history. That development has been criticized as unhelpful by other Israeli Arab politicians, who mostly boycott the mainstream Zionist parties, running for Parliament on separate Arab lists and sitting in opposition.

In an interview, Mr. Majadele distanced himself from the new document, saying that pragmatic political action would help the Arab sector more than any ideological program. “The fact is that Israel is a Jewish state, a state with a Jewish majority,” he said. “Can we change that reality with words?”

Yet Mr. Majadele said that he, too, felt uncomfortable with national symbols like the flag, with a Star of David, and the anthem, which speaks of the “Jewish soul” yearning for Zion.

“These were made and meant for the Jews, and did not take the Arab minority into account,” he said. “If Israel wants to integrate us fully, then we need an anthem and flag that can do that. We and the state must think deeply if we want to take a step in that direction. But it must be by agreement, with the involvement of both sides.”

Many of the Future Vision participants are affiliated with elite Israeli academic institutions. For example, Asad Ghanem, one of the document’s principal authors, is head of the Government and Political Theory Department at Haifa University’s School of Political Science.

As such, both Jewish conservatives and liberals have been taken aback by some propositions in the document. Many are angered by its description of Israel as the outcome of a “settlement process initiated by the Zionist Jewish elite” in the West and realized by “colonial countries” in the wake of the Holocaust.

Jewish critics argue that the Future Vision report negates Israel’s legitimacy and raison d’être as the realization of Jewish self-determination; further, they say it undermines the idea of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, since that implies the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish one.

In January, the senior fellows and board of the Israel Democracy Institute, a generally liberal independent research group that has worked on projects with some of the same Arab intellectuals, wrote a response expressing “severe anguish” over the document’s contents.

Prof. Shimon Shamir, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and Egypt, published a letter in Al Sinara, an Arabic weekly in Israel, stating that even among Jews who are generally sympathetic to Arab concerns, the Future Vision document “evokes a sense of threat.”

The document has exposed some raw nerves. Israel’s Declaration of Independence promises full equality in social and political rights to all inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex, and Israel’s Arab citizens participate in the country’s democratic process.

Over the decades, however, Jewish-Arab relations in Israel have been marked by mutual suspicion and resentment. From 1948 until 1966 Arabs here lived under military rule. A 2003 government report acknowledged discrimination by state institutions, and a recent report on poverty published last year by Israel’s National Insurance Institute indicated that 53 percent of the impoverished families in Israel are Arabs.

And it is clear that the vast majority of Israel’s Jews consider the very essence of their state to be its Jewish identity.

Traditionally, Arab parties in the Parliament have focused on peace and equality, but the Arab public has become frustrated with the lack of results, leading to a lower voter turnout. Most Arab Israeli politicians have rejected the Future Vision document as unrealistic, exposing divisions within the Arab community.

Arab parties hold 10 seats in the 120-seat Parliament and are sometimes accused by the Jewish establishment of provocations. During last summer’s Lebanon war, some Arab legislators were perceived as sympathizing with Hezbollah.

Now there are signs of growing assertiveness and extremism on both sides. Avigdor Lieberman, head of the hard-line Yisrael Beiteinu Party, which has 11 seats in the Parliament, wants to reduce the number of Arab Muslim citizens in Israel by eventually transferring some populous Arab towns and their inhabitants to a future Palestinian state.

A few Jewish Israeli liberals have welcomed the Future Vision document. Shalom (Shuli) Dichter, co-director of Sikkuy, a Jewish-Arab organization that monitors civic equality in Israel, has hailed the effort as opening a serious dialogue about the terms for genuine Jewish-Arab co-existence though he, too, took issue with the historical narrative adopted by the authors.

In January, 30,000 copies of the document were distributed to Arab homes with weekend newspapers.

According to a poll of Arab Israelis by the Yafa Institute, commissioned by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, only 14 percent of respondents said they thought Israel should remain a Jewish and democratic state in its current format; 25 percent wanted a Jewish and democratic state that guarantees full equality to its Arab citizens. But some 57 percent said they wanted a change in the character and definition of the state, whether to become a “state for all its citizens,” a binational state, or a consensual democracy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/08/world/middleeast/08israel.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&ref=middleeast&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

6 Comments

  1. latour said,

    February 9, 2007 at 18:36

    To me, it seems as though the whole concept of a (insert religion here) state is a racist one. I would feel pretty uncomfortable if Harper were to declare Canada a “Christian State” (actually, considering some of his policies it seems as though that is his goal).

    As far as one state or two goes, there is little that is sacred about borders to begin with, especially in regions that have suffered from colonialism. If the Palestinians want their own state (which seems to be the general consensus), they should get it.

  2. DesertPeace said,

    February 9, 2007 at 20:52

    You might feel that borders are not sactred…. but they are when they have been denied to you for so many years…

  3. Behemoth101 said,

    February 9, 2007 at 22:01

    People like Lieberman who try to “echo the glorious history of the Kingdom of Israel” should know that the Hasmonean Dynasty failed miserably BECAUSE it was a theocracy… it destroyed itself from the inside because of the favoritism given to the priesthood elites… any modern day “Zealot” would know that a secular government is the best way to go.

  4. DesertPeace said,

    February 9, 2007 at 22:04

    Good to see you back Behemoth…
    Secular is key, buy so is democratic.
    The liebermans will do everything in their power to not allow that.

  5. Anonymous said,

    February 11, 2007 at 01:17

    The time has certainly come for one democratic secular state for al its people throughout the de facto one state that has existed since 1967. The idea of the ethnocentric (racist) state may work in countries where there are no minorities or the minorities are very small, but the idea of a “Jewish State” flatly rejects the rights of slightly more than half the people living in the land controlled by Israel for going on forty years.

    One State Online Bibliography Project: http://www.onestate.org or http://oss.internetactivist.org

  6. DesertPeace said,

    February 11, 2007 at 06:33

    Anon, although I disagree with the position of a one state solution, your views are welcome here to encourage discussion.


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