Skewering Palestinians with ‘Jewish state’ demand – an OCD
This posting has these items on some of the causes and consequences of Israel’s demand it be recognised as ‘the Jewish state':
1) Haaretz: The slippery slope of recognizing Israel as the Jewish state, Amira Hass on what follows from being ‘the Jewish state’.;
2) Haaretz: The life-threatening obsession with the Jewish state, Gideon Levy on Israel’s madness in locking itself in;
3) The National: Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state will legalise discrimination against Palestinians, Ben White writes that pushing this demand to the forefront will make the Palestinian voice impotent;
4) Daily Mail: Mass grave uncovered containing dozens of Palestinians killed in 1948 war that founded Israel, set of photos published by Daily Mail online in 2013;
Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on February 25, 2013. This camp in Jordan now holds thousands of Syrians as well. Photo by Muhammed Hamed/Reuters.
The slippery slope of recognizing Israel as the Jewish state
The demand to recognize Israel’s Jewish character has never before been included in peace talks, says a former Palestinian negotiator. So why is it now a major issue?
By Amira Hass, Haaretz
January 20, 2014
Benjamin Netanyahu sold John Kerry a bill of goods and the American swallowed it. Granted, this wasn’t the wording selected by Nabil Shaath, Fatah’s commissioner for external relations, who explained why he thinks the U.S. secretary of state believed he had no choice but to swallow.
Kerry, said Shaath (amid much praise for the secretary’s integrity and intelligence), as a representative of the world’s biggest superpower, isn’t just thinking about justice and viability. “He is thinking about feasibility – about what he can do with the tools he has to get the Israelis to move towards peace,” said Shaath.
Speaking with members of the foreign press last Thursday, Shaath said, “Mr. Netanyahu can really go with pride to his people and say – you see? I tricked those damn Palestinians and now instead of talking about refugees, and a capital in East Jerusalem, and full withdrawal to the borders of 1967, and rights in water and their security requirements as well as ours, I now convinced the world that the agenda is composed of two items and two items only: recognition of the Jewish character of the state and recognizing the security needs of Israel in the Jordan valley.”
According to Shaath, “These are the two issues that are occupying most of the time of Mr. Kerry and the press and international community.”
Shaath, a former negotiator with the Israelis, said the demand for recognition of Israel’s Jewish character was not included in past talks, official and otherwise, or in any of the signed documents and agreements between the two sides. This demand was also never raised with the Jordanians or Egyptians when those peace accords were forged, he stressed.
“The only solid statement about the agenda of the permanent-status negotiations is in the Oslo Declaration of Principles, which spells out exactly the agenda to be discussed, and this includes Jerusalem, borders, settlements, water, security and refugees,” said Shaath.
Also, during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, he never brought up this demand in his meetings with Shaath. It was first brought up in 2010, in Washington.
At the start of the Oslo negotiations, Shaath notes, the Palestinians were asked to and agreed to unilaterally recognize the State of Israel, while Israel only recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. Hence, Israel did not recognize the Palestinian people or its right to a state. But even then, Shaath notes, the Palestinians were not asked to recognize Israel’s Jewish character. So where did this demand suddenly come from?
Palestinian opponents of Oslo say the unilateral recognition was the slippery slope that Yasser Arafat and his supporters embarked on. The problem for Shaath and his colleagues is that everything that their opponents argued 20 years ago – that Israel only intended to squeeze more and more concessions from the Palestinians – is being proved correct. At least that’s how the exhausted Palestinian public perceives it.
“No country in Europe today has a totality of exclusive race or exclusive ethnic origin or religion or past,” said Shaath. “It would be very embarrassing for a Jewish American today to see us recognize the United States as a WASP state, or a white state, or an Anglo-Saxon, Christian state.”
Shaath said he acknowledges the Jewish people’s history of persecution and the ethnic cleansings that have been perpetrated against it. He is well aware, he said, of the horror of the Holocaust.
This is one reason, he implied, that he and Palestinians of his generation have gradually come to accept Israel’s existence. The solution of one state for two peoples, which he supported in the past – and of which he still dreams – is not realistic now, he says. And contrary to what people think – and here the old optimistic Shaath momentarily reappeared – Jews could live in the state of Palestine: First to visit, then to live there as residents, and later to buy land. Why not? But not as occupiers and settlers.
He says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has stated several times he would not oppose the presence of an international force on the Palestinian border composed exclusively of Jewish-American soldiers, Jewish-French soldiers and so on. But he is opposed to the presence of Israeli army units, even if they would comprise only Druze and Arabs. In other words, the problem is not with the Jews but with the occupier, he emphasized.
The slippery slope is important in understanding the reasons Shaath gave for the Palestinians’ refusal to sign a statement of recognition that would give legal and constitutional validity to Israel’s Jewish exclusivity.
At the least, such a demand implies the marginalization as a second-class citizen of anyone who is not a Jew. It could pave the way for legally sanctioned discrimination against any citizen who is not a Jew, and it essentially asks the PLO to abandon the Palestinian citizens of Israel to an unknown fate of abuse and discrimination. Recognizing Israel’s Jewishness would require the Palestinians to erase their narrative – their history and that of the country as experienced by them.
As has been explained in the media, the demand for the recognition of Israel’s Jewishness entails the demand that the Palestinians cede the right of return.
About 2.6m Palestinian Refugees live in Jordan. They form 60% of the original residents and according to UNRAWA statics, they are 1.639.718. Some live in ramshackle housing, others in tents, as here. Photo of Jordanian camp from Alray.
But at the January 2001 Taba talks, said Shaath, the Israeli side recognized the right of return as part of the principles of a future accord (based on UN Resolution 194). Given past experience and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s current demands, it amounts to the weaker side being called on to agree from the outset to be subject to further expulsions.
“Do you think that any Palestinian leader in his right mind can ever accept this? Shaath asked rhetorically. “Or is this simply intended to make it impossible to sign a peace agreement with Israel?”
Israel is exhibiting classic signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior with its incessant demands to be recognized as the ‘Jewish state’ by Palestinians.
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz
January 19, 2014
She was our neighbor, her apartment next to my childhood home. I would look at her from the peephole in our door, standing for a long time and checking to see whether she had locked her door. She would bang the door, shaking the stairwell until her door was battered from the blows. After that, she would go down the stairs – and immediately return to check once again.
This strange ceremony was conducted every day. Mrs. Plenner was all alone. We knew she was a “Holocaust survivor” and they explained to us children that her behavior was “obsessive.” A word we didn’t understand then.
I think about Mrs. Plenner when I think about a different obsession: that of Israel to be a “Jewish state.” The pattern of behavior is the same, according to explanations from the mental-health field. The disease is defined as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is categorized as an anxiety disorder characterized by unwanted and repetitive thoughts and the carrying out of ritual behaviors. It has few cures.
The source of the term “obsession” derives from the Latin word obsessio – for an unceasing attack and being held captive. Obsession is an irrational idea that causes the person to take actions out of a sense of coercion. Those who ask for treatment report that they are exhausted and get no rest. Usually, the obsession is accompanied by feelings of anxiety and guilt. The mental anguish damages their functioning and starts with an event of fixation. Among types of obsession there is also, of course, obsessive love – destructive, like all obsessions.
It’s hard to know how much love there is in the yearning of the state to be Jewish at any price. Certainly there is obsession, in sick amounts. A strong and prosperous country, most of whose citizens are Jewish, checks time after time if its door is locked, just like Mrs. Plenner from my childhood. No one knows how to define exactly what a “Jewish state” is, what its “Jewish character” is, how it will look and how it must act. But everything is directed to achieve the goal that was reached long ago. The door is locked, Mrs. Plenner.
The prime minister invents demands that the Palestinians recognize a locked door (the Jewish state). The foreign minister proposes population exchanges, for the same purpose. The justice minister and the peace negotiations testify that what motivates them is preserving the “Jewish character.” The “Judaization” of both the Negev and Galilee remains a legitimate value, as racist as it is. And the war against tens of thousands of African asylum seekers is also fed by the same obsessive motive.
There is no other country that’s so motivated by an obsession. Norway does not say it wants to be the “Norwegian state”; nor, likewise, does the United States. These countries have clear immigration policies, and their character is set by their citizens and governments. The aspiration for a Jewish majority is legitimate, but not when it turns into an obsession.
Once, also during my childhood, we would ask in the youth movement, “Who do you feel closer to, a Druze soldier from Isfiya or a yeshiva student from Brooklyn?” The majority said the Druze soldier. It is possible to assume today, after all the waves of brainwashing, that the answer is different.
A country that does not know exactly whether Judaism is a religious nationality, and how exactly a “Jewish state” looks, cannot answer the question. A country that checks the origin of the blood of its potential residents – not long ago they conducted a DNA test on a girl who wanted to participate in the propaganda initiative called Taglit-Birthright – is an obsessive country.
At first Israel wanted to be a “Jewish state in the Land of Israel,” as is stated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. This aspiration reached the law books only 44 years after the founding of the state (Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom (1992)). Since then, obsession.
It’s not important if it is right; it’s less important if it is democratic – the main thing is that it will be Jewish. In the reality in which there are no other countries of pure origin, Israel wants to be such a state. It is undermining its Jewish majority through the act of occupation, and it is actually those screaming for a Jewish state who are also screaming for the occupation’s continuation.
Is there any way to explain this behavior other than the reason we received for the strange behavior of the unfortunate Mrs. Plenner, who passed on a long time ago?
By Ben White, The National
January 18, 2014
As the US-led Israeli-Palestinians peace process heads towards the buffers, one of the core aims and assumptions of the two decade-long negotiations – preserving a Jewish state in the majority of Mandate Palestine – has been forced into the spotlight.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas recognises Israel as a “Jewish state”, a call taken up by other Israeli politicians and lobby groups internationally, has garnered a lot of attention. But ultimately, it is the explicit expression of what has been the implicit assumption of talks since the Oslo process began.
Meanwhile, Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has been pushing his proposal of a land and population swap, stripping thousands of Palestinians of their current Israeli citizenship, while incorporating the majority of Jewish settlers currently in West Bank colonies into Israel “proper”.
Both Mr Netanyahu and even more so Mr Lieberman’s stances have been seen as obstacles to, or even intentionally-crafted spoilers of, the peace talks. Yet what has been missed is the extent that the recognition demand and population swap proposals are actually consistent with the principles of the negotiations’ “two state solution” model.
What they all have in common is the goal of preserving institutionalised Jewish privilege in the majority of historic Palestine through ethnic separation and exclusion.
Someone like Mr Lieberman may be advancing an idea outside of the peace process orthodoxy, but the assumptions are the same as one hears from the likes of former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, Labor leaders, and assorted liberal Zionists: how to neutralise the “demographic threat” posed by Palestinians and secure Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state by separating the two peoples as much as possible.
Tzipi Livni and western-based advocacy groups wince when the Israeli foreign minister talks of a population swap – but it is part of a continuum that goes back to the Nakba. Mr Netanyahu and Mr Lieberman’s rhetoric and proposals reflect a consensus shared by Zionist “centrists” and liberals, as well as the US-led peace process. The differences are stylistic and tactical.
This is a mass grave used to bury 104 victims of the Deir Yassin massacre, April 1948. Over 100 Palestiniains living in this villages were killed by the Irgun. The round stone ring is a mass grave filled with female victims, and the square is a common grave for the men. Photo from Anorak website
See, for example, Ms Livni’s repeated warnings that two states for two peoples is “an imperative” to avoid the “demographic issue” and “preserve [Israel’s] Jewishness”; that to “safeguard Israel as a Jewish state”, the land must be divided.
Ms Livni herself even hinted at a Lieberman-style approach in 2008 when she said that in the event of a Palestinian state being established, she would tell Palestinian citizens of Israel that “the national solution for you is elsewhere”.
To put it another way, consider a recent Labor-proposed bill to prevent the annexation of the West Bank (defeated in the Knesset) whose text was co-drafted by the so-called peace group One Voice. The bill – written, remember, by those presented as Israel’s peace camp – clearly stated that the aim was to “guarantee Israel’s future” as a “Zionist” state.
Compare that to remarks by Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, who stated plainly in August 2013: “I’m a Jewish racist, and I’m not embarrassed to say I want a Jewish state with a Jewish majority”, and it is clear that when it comes to the Palestinian question, the Israeli “moderates” and “extremists” have more that unites them than divides them.
Not only has mainstream coverage of this issue missed the shared assumptions behind Mr Netanyahu’s demand, Mr Lieberman’s proposal, and the official peace process, but there has also been a whitewashing of what Israel “as a Jewish state” really means, and why it is so objectionable.
For Israel to be a Jewish state, Palestinian refugees must be denied their right to return and Palestinian citizens must be discriminated against.
Israel as a Jewish state means systematic discrimination in land, housing, citizenship rights, education and freedom of speech, all of which are well documented and occur right now.
Here is how it was expressed in a 2007 report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel: “Israel carries some unique characteristics which distinguish it from other western countries, primarily that of systematic discrimination which is based on national and ethnic background, dealing with the allocation of state resources and the creation of public space. This inequality gives control to the Jewish majority over the Arab-Palestinian minority living in Israel.”
It is worth noting here that while many place great emphasis on population numbers and majority-minority dynamics, that is not what makes an ethnocracy or apartheid state – it is about policies and legislation.
Thus the logic of Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev, for example, who wrote earlier this month that “as long as there is a Jewish majority in Israel, I have no problem with its Jewish character”, is seriously flawed.
While the arguments of the current Israeli government are helping people to see the institutionalised racism that has always existed, there is one significant lacuna that remains: the denial and disappearance of the Nakba in a discussion on Israel as a Jewish state, and how it was only through ethnic cleansing that the Jewish majority was established.
See, for example, a Bloomberg news agency editorial from January 5 on “The Jewish State Question” that does not mention the Nakba once. Likewise a piece filed by Jodi Rudoren for The New York Times on January 1, titled “Sticking Point in Peace Talks: Recognition of a Jewish State”, which fails to inform readers of the ethnic cleansing that enabled a Jewish state to be created in the first place.
Writing in a collection of essays on anti-Semitism published in 2004 (Those Who Forget The Past), British journalist and commentator Jonathan Freedland, who writes regularly for The Guardian and The Jewish Chronicle, elaborated refreshingly frankly on the relationship between the Nakba and Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.
Freedland wrote: “I have long believed Israel should admit the reality of 1948 – and to defend it all the same. We needed a home and we had every right to demand it – even if that meant forcing another people to share [sic] their land with us.”
Freedland acknowledges “four hundred villages…were emptied” – but says that creating a Jewish state justified this ethnic cleansing: a “moral necessity … bought at a horribly high moral price”. A price, of course, paid by Palestinians.
However, Freedland is a little off when he claims Palestinians were forced “to share” the land; in fact, most were violently expelled and excluded, with half the world’s Palestinian population today outside their homeland.
It is the kind of “sharing” envisioned by the US-led talks, whereby the colonisation of the majority of Palestine is accepted and protected, and a “Jewish state” stands forever on the ruins of destroyed communities and ethnically cleansed cities.
As efforts to partition and fragment, expel and segregate, under the rubric of a “peace process”, stutter and stall, we must not shy away from the difficult questions, and, in so doing, enable a more profound and ultimately more just and sustainable understanding of “sharing” to emerge.
Ben White is a journalist and author. A new edition of his book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide is out in February
Human skeletons are clearly visible in a mass grave found at a cemetery in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv, Israel
Mass grave uncovered containing dozens of Palestinians killed in 1948 war that founded Israel
By Paul Milligan, Daily Mail
May 31, 2013
Six mass graves features the remains of dozens of Palestinians killed during the Israeli-Arab war of 1948, when the Jewish state was founded have been uncovered in the Jaffa district of Tel Aviv.
An official at the Muslim cemetery there told AFP that the grisly find happened on Wednesday when ground subsided as builders carried out renovation work.
In 1948 Jaffa was a Palestinian town but there was an exodus of most of its Arab population when it fell to the fledgling Israeli army and right-wing Jewish militias.
Another of the mass graves discovered last May.Estimates are that the six mass graves could contain the bodies of around 600 people.
Researcher and historian Mahmoud Obeid, a Jaffa resident, told As-Safri newspaper: ‘We discovered six mass graves, two of which we dug up. Our estimate is that they contain around 200 bodies, with an unknown additional number in the other graves.
‘The remains belong to people of different ages, including women, children and the elderly, some of which bear signs of violence.’
A local fisherman Atar Zeinab, 80, said that as a teenager during the final months of fighting in 1948 he helped to collect the Arab dead in the area south of Jaffa.
They were then brought for a quick burial in the cemetery, the area’s main graveyard.
Estimates are that the six mass graves could contain the bodies of around 600 people
‘I carried to the cemetery 60 bodies during a period of three or four months,’ he told AFP. ‘We used to find the people in the street and most of the time we didn’t know who they were.’
He said that the danger of being hit by flying bullets or grenade fragments was such that bodies were dumped one on top of the other in existing family crypts in the cemetery, contrary to Muslim custom.
‘We carried them early in the morning or in the night. We put women, children and men in the same place… nobody prayed for these people.
In 1950 Jaffa was incorporated into Tel Aviv, and was renamed Tel Aviv-Jaffa. It now a mixed Arab and Jewish population.
Around 760,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in the Israeli-Arab war of 1948.