In his NYTimes op-ed, “Bibi’s Big PR Stunt“, Colin Shindler writes as if he’s become unmoored from comprehending what Benyamin Netanyahu actually said.
a. It seems that Mr. Netanyahu wishes to define the country as the nation-state solely of the Jews.
b. Israel’s first right-wing prime minister, Menachem Begin, did not make the 1979 Camp David agreement with Egypt conditional on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
c. The suggestion that Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state emerged clearly after the Israeli army’s offensive in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead.
d. It seems that the idea only became a matter of apparent Zionist conviction with the formation of Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition with far-right parties in 2009.
e. For many of the early Zionists, a “Jewish state” meant a state with a Jewish majority in which the Jews could exercise national self-determination. It did not mean an exclusive state of only Jews. Nor did it suggest an implicit “transfer” of its Arab inhabitants. Even Vladimir Jabotinsky, the revered forefather of the Israeli right and a close associate of Mr. Netanyahu’s father, remarked in January 1938 that “it must be hateful for any Jew to think that the rebirth of a Jewish state should ever be linked with such an odious suggestion as the removal of its non-Jewish citizens.”
f. In the context of the unresolved situation on the West Bank, it purports to elevate Jewishness over democratic norms.
Now, let’s do the simple thing first. Review what Mr. Netanyahu said on May 4, 2014.
“The State of Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. Our basic laws give full expression to the democratic side of the state. We do this by providing full equal rights to every citizen in Israel…
…On the other hand, that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People is not sufficiently expressed in our basic laws, and this is what the draft basic law is meant to provide. It will define the national right of the Jewish People over the State of Israel, without infringing on the individual rights of any Israeli citizen in the State of Israel…It will anchor in a basic law the status of the national symbols – flag, anthem, language and other aspects of our national experience. These aspects are under a constant and increasing assault from abroad and at home.
But the foundation of the existence of the State of Israel stems from its being the national home of the Jewish People and from the Jewish People’s deep links to the Land of Israel. Of course, there are those who do not want the State of Israel to be defined [so]…They want a Palestinian nation-state to be established alongside us and that Israel should gradually become a binational, Arab-Jewish state inside shrunken borders…
The State of Israel provides full equal rights, individual rights, to all its citizens, but it is the nation-state of one people only – the Jewish People – and of no other people. And therefore, in order to bolster the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People, I intend to submit a basic law that will anchor this status [and that]…the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state are preserved.
…during the previous government’s term, proposed a draft law on this issue, I announced immediately that I would support it…
If anyone can claim, even in the pages of the New York Times which gets its “facts” about Israel wrong on too many occasions, that what Prof. Shindler (whom I know personally) asserted and what Netanyahu said are similar, I guess there is something wrong with their reading glasses.
Did Netanyahu imply “transfer”?
It is the Arabs who claim Israel cannot be the nation-state of the Jews and moreover, can Jews live in Jordan, a part of the territory originally to become part of the Jewish national home?
And that phrase, “Jewish national homeland.” It’s international legal basis is in the 1922 decision of the League of Nations (which, by the way, is a document that never mentions “Arabs” but only “non-Jews”). Here:
the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country…The Mandatory shall be responsible for…the establishment of the Jewish national home
And if we are discussing Jabotinsky, let’s consider this:
…Arabs who do not want the Jews ever to become the masters of Palestine; for they obviously think that the main “national” fact about any country is not a question of rights but a question of numbers: who is the majority, and how big is the majority?
So, Jabotinsky not only considered “majority” as a deciding factor but the “right of possessing a national home.” Who is correct about Jabotinsky?
More from that 1930 article:
If, on the contrary, we Jews become the majority in Palestine (in which case, no doubt, it will be a matter of pride for us to endow our country with the most perfect of all bi-national constitutions), the tendency will be in the opposite direction, towards a Jewish national State ever more pronounced and complete; and with every oncoming year that tendency will grow stronger…
I confess that there are moments when I, too, dream dreams of an Arab-Jewish agreement on Palestine. True, these are only moments of exceptional tiredness, or, perhaps, of exceptional sublimation which, they say, are an experience reserved only for souls or minds which are utterly tired. Then I dream of a great pan-Arab gathering containing representatives of a long belt of lands stretching from Agadir to Bassora; and the Jewish delegate, facing that gathering, openly and honestly claims the whole of Palestine on both sides of the Jordan for his own people’s home and state, to settle and govern. In my dream, this is what he says,” This land is less than one hundredth of the immensity of space which God has given you, and my people are homeless; and in my heart I have always called this land mine. I must have it or die; I am ready to fight for it: but perhaps fighting is not necessary; perhaps, O Sons of Father Ibrahim, Ishmael will uphold the claim of Israel, not because compelled to nor because deceived, but simply because it is right that God’s earth should be re-distributed so that a homeless nation may re-occupy its ancient kingdom.” And the great gathering’s answer in my dream is in the affirmative.
The world has no right to assume that Jewish statesmanship is unable to create as decent a régime as that created by English, Canadian or Swiss statesmanship. After all, it is from Jewish sources that the world has learned how the “stranger within thy gates “should be treated. …it may be that some people are genuinely worried as to what would happen to the rights of the Palestinian Arabs if the country became a Jewish State. The author can at least give them some idea of what Jews themselves intend to do in this respect when they are in the majority and when Palestine is a self-governing State. It may reassure such persons to learn how not the moderate but precisely the so-called “extremist” wing of Zionism visualizes the constitution of the Palestine of the future…the Jews are ready to guarantee to the Arab minority in a Jewish Palestine the maximum of the rights which they claimed but never obtained for themselves in other countries…
Jabotinsky was a political realist and was not shy:
…Whether the Arabs would find all this a sufficient inducement to remain in a Jewish country is another question. Even if they did not, the author would refuse to see a tragedy or a disaster in their willingness to emigrate…Palestine, astride the Jordan, has room enough for the million of Arabs, room for another million of their eventual progeny, for several million Jews, and for peace; for so much peace that there would then be peace also in Europe.
Visit My Right Word . / Yisrael Medad
About the Author: Yisrael Medad resides in Shiloh and is a foreign media spokesperson for the Yesha Council of Jewish Communities.
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