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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Israel: Democracy or "State of all its citizens?"

Like almost every Israeli I have agonized over the question, "Is Israel a Jewish State or a democratic state of all its citizens?." Tom Segev relates how a group of Israeli Jews and Arabs tried to solve this problem in a democratic way, acceptable to all sides, by hammering out a constitution that would guarantee equal rights. I think that the premises of the group, and the statement of the problems on both sides were mistaken, and that the question of "Jewish State" or "State of all its citizens" is a non-question.

In every Arab-Israeli dialogue, I have seen a tremendous amount of self-serving and evasive hypocrisy about the real basic issues on both sides. Moreover, this duality of "Jewish State" versus "state of all its citizens" applies a standard of "democracy" that is applied nowhere else in the world. It assumes that the right of national self-determination of the Jewish people is somehow illegitimate, and must be submerged in an "Israeli" nationality which is something other than Jewish nationality. Since "Children of Israel" and "Jewish people" have been synonymous throughout most of Jewish history, this seems questionable. It is not clear what this nationality could be, and what characteristics it could have. Many of the Arabs who insist on equal rights with Jewish Israelis, who want Israel to be a state of all its citizens, do not want to be part of an Israeli "nationality" in the cultural sense apparently, but rather seem to insist that they are "Palestinians" and Arabs. So who will belong to this nationality, and what will characterize it? What language would the "Israelians" speak, if not Hebrew?

More at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome.

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