Asking the Right Question
The neverending Mideast Crisis is like a sick patient who refuses to get better. Eventually a hundred doctors are called in to give their opinion. While they all agree on the symptoms, none can agree on the cure. The problem is that no one asks the right question: Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish nation?
This is the root of the problem. All other issues are secondary. The amount of time wasted in discussing ancillary issues is amazing; but until that core issue is addressed, there will be no answer.
Many Zionists like to call the Palestinians Fakestinians. The assert that no nation named Palestine ever existed. No Palestinian currency ever existed. There was never a people called Palestinians. There was no unique Palestinian language or religion. The Arabs were recent arrivals. The local Arabs didn't even want independence; but rather to be part of Syria.
All excellent points. Unfortunately, one runs into the problem of Texas.
In 1836, when Texas struck for independence, there had never been a people called Texans, no Texan currency ever existed. The Texans had no language or religion unique to Texas. The local Anglos were recent arrivals. They called themselves Americans and wanted annexation to the USA.
Yet, no one doubts Texas' right to identity; and Sam Houston is a hero.
The issue is not whether Palestinian identity is real, but whether Israel has a right to exist. Calling the Arabs Fakestinians is intellectually pointless. The core issue is Israel, not Palestine.
When it comes to Israeli abuses of Arab civil rights and/or housing demolition, the Arabs like to run civil rights issues up the flagpole as an excuse to destroy Israel.
But no nation is without civil rights abuses. America had Jim Crow laws before 1965. America's right to exist was not questioned. Japan's right to exist was not questioned after World War II. The English warred against Inquisitionary Spain, but never denied Spain's right to exist.
Civil rights are all but non-existent in Muslim countries. The Copts are fleeing genocidal religious persecution in Egypt. Yet, no one doubts the right of Egypt to exist. India's governments have persecuted all non-Hindus for some time, yet India's existence is not a point of debate.
It can be appropriate to discuss civil rights in Israel; but only if one concedes Israel's right to exist. However, those who are anti-Israel bring us Israel civil rights issues as a cudgel to demolish Israel.
The issue is then brought up that Israel started as a colonial European outpost. The British did consider the Jews as a potential garrison to maintain British control in the area.
So what? America started out as British colonies. So did Canada, Australia,and New Zealand. Every country in Latin America stared out as a Spanish or Portuguese colony. Are any of these nations denied the right to exist? Is Santiago, Chile referred to as occupied territory? Is there a call to restore Argentina to the Mapuche, Guarani, and Quechua Indians? British Columbia to the Salish? Brooklyn to the Canarsie tribe?
In the end, even the British knew the Jews would be landing as Jews, not Britons. Britain did not plant Englishmen in Palestine; but merely agreed to protect Jews -- who were mostly East European, and not British colonials. While it may have had the outer appearance of a colonial enterprise, clearly it was not. The idea was to restore the Jews, not impose the Jews.
Once Israel's existence is conceded, the next issue arises. Will Israel be a Jewish state or a secular state?
This distinction is a red herring. San Remo and the Balfour Declaration defined Israel as a homeland of the Jewish people. This can be understood in a secular sense or a religious sense. Right now, Israel has established Orthodox Judaism as the state creed -- albeit with civil rights for non-Jews.
The Orthodox establishment has wreaked some degree of havoc on the lives of Israelis. Jews with suspect lineage can be denied the right to marry in Israel, even if they are raised Jewish. There are calls to break the power of some of the rabbis. There has been legislation to reign in rabbinical abuses.
The Tzohar Law essentially gives these existing practices the gloss of Knesset approval. The rabbinate continues to control marriage and divorce for the Jewish majority in Israel, which has no civil marriage and does not recognize non-Orthodox marriages conducted in the country -- Ha'aretz
However, a Jewish state could be defined on an ethnic basis -- as it was in San Remo. All it would take is for Israel to define a Jewish state as a Jewish homeland; and the issue of theocracy disappears.
Red herring issues are not critical.
Once Israel's right to exist is conceded, and once it is defined as Jewish (whether in a religious or an ethnic sense is immaterial), a lot of secondary issues disappear or are reduced in severity.
The idea of dividing the land; and endangering Israel would consequently evaporate. The claim to Jerusalem would then be reduced solely to whether or not Arabs in Jerusalem have a right to get building permits and vote in national elections; not whether the city should be divided. Construction in Judea and Samaria would be viewed in the proper historical context of the Jewish people in the land. The issue of Arab property claims would be still be a sore legitimate issue; but would be reduced to a civil rights issue, and not an excuse for a two state solution.
The only remaining issue would be the right of return of Palestinians.
There could be a real debate about whether the Arabs were ethnically cleansed in 1948. From my own studies, I do not trust either the official Arab, nor the official Israeli version of events.
However, if one concedes that Israel has a right to exist, as a Jewish homeland (secular) or state (theocratic), then the right of return of Palestinians is clearly seen to be voided. This is no minor point. It is why the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel, but not as a Jewish state.
This does not deny the tragedy of the Palestinian predicament, nor that injustice was done; but merely recognizes that Israel should not be destroyed to correct the matter, which is the core issue.
It is the reason why I can strongly criticize Israel, yet defend her claim to Judea and Samaria. I recognize Israel's claim to the land as paramount, and see all the issues as reduced to civil rights concerns; rejecting any Palestinian national claims, even though I recognize there are civil rights issues.
In layman's terms, I feel the Palestinians are right to ask for more permits, but not to ask for a national state -- not at the expense of the only Jewish state on the planet.
Once that core issue is settled, then one can judge whether the present criticism of Israel is legitimate or anti-Semitic. Clearly not all criticism is anti-Semitic; but, just as clearly, most of the criticism, especially from European sources, is.
All Arab spokesman -- and journalists, even Western -- should be asked this vital question. Does Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish nation? They should not be allowed to dodge the issue. It would expose their opinions and criticism as legitimate or anti-Semitic.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, or Arab. He runs a website, http://latinarabia.com, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.