The “Jewish state” question

By Ted Belman

I have decided to broaden the confines of Israpundit’s debate/ Occasionally I post articles by the left so we know what drives them.

Now I want to introduce you to Bitterlemons. is a website that presents Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints on prominent issues of concern. It focuses on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and peace process. It is produced, edited and partially written by Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian, and Yossi Alpher, an Israeli. Its goal is to contribute to mutual understanding through the open exchange of ideas. aspires to impact the way Palestinians, Israelis and others worldwide think about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Not our usual fare. But let’s see what they have to say.

Bitterlemons recently posted four articles under the above title.

Two Palestinian views

Avoiding responsibility by Ghassan Khatib

The concept of Israel as a “Jewish state” is racist, discriminates against Israel’s large non-Jewish minority and negates the legal right of Palestinian refugees to return.

    At best, the Zionist claim that Jews around the world constitute one people, rather than constituting a religious community of different peoples, is controversial even among Jews. In addition, the concept of a “Jewish state” contradicts the principles of secularism. Secularists, including Jews, find it difficult to accept basing nationalism on religion. The modern concept of statehood is not compatible with a religious state, at least among seculars. In the same way, there has to be strong resistance to the idea of a state for the Muslim people or a state for the Christian people, especially when such states include non-Muslim or non-Christian minorities. It is interesting to note that the only American president who has accepted the concept of a “Jewish state” is the least secular president in the history of the United States.

The demographic argument is inherently racist an interview with Hanan Ashrawi

The implications of these words are enormous.

Two Israeli views

A reaction to Palestinian positions by Yossi Alpher

The Israeli mainstream has concluded that the Palestinian demand for the right of return is contradictory to a two-state solution.

    For most Israelis, Israel has always been a Jewish state, or, in a more secular formulation, the state of the Jewish people. After all, from an international legal standpoint this is the most legitimate definition of Israel. The Balfour declaration of 1917, later ratified by the League of Nations, declares that “Palestine will be reconstituted as the National Home of the Jewish People”. UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947 creates an Arab state and a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine. The definition of Israel as a “Jewish state” was incorporated into Israel’s declaration of independence of 1948 precisely in order to conform to international legality.

    For the vast majority of Jews, the only rationale for Zionism is the existence of a Jewish state. Nor do most Israeli Jews see a conflict between “Jewish” and “democratic” or a problem in ultimately rationalizing the status of the Arab citizens of Israel as a national minority in a Jewish state, even though these are very thorny issues today.

A Jewish state now? by Akiva Eldar

Once again Olmert has abruptly plunged the Jewish state and himself into a dire predicament that he has no idea how to get out of.

December 20, 2007 | 4 Comments »

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