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Why is Israel a Jewish State?

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Why is Israel a Jewish State?

The State of Israel is a Jewish state, first and foremost, in view of the right of the Jewish people to a single independent state of their own, and by reason of the historic and biblical connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel (Eretz Israel). There is no other land in which the Jewish people can lay claim to their own independent sovereign state. There is no other state in which the Jewish people can fully carry out their lives in accordance to their own customs and beliefs, language and culture, goals and plans for their future.

Although for 2000 years, the Jewish people yearned and prayed for the day when they could reestablish their own national home, this right could be fulfilled only following the modern national reawakening of the Jewish people towards the end of the nineteenth century. This revival of Jewish nationalism led to the establishment of the Zionist movement. It received important initial recognition in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which stated that the British Government viewed "with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." That recognition was officially endorsed by the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations, in 1922.

On 29 November 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181 calling for the termination of the British Mandate in Palestine, and the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in that territory. The idea - still valid today - is that there should be two nation states for two peoples. While the Jewish population celebrated this landmark resolution, the Arab countries rejected the UN decision and started a war to destroy the Jewish state-to-be. On 14 May 1948, David Ben Gurion declared the "establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz Israel, to be known as the State of Israel." In this way, the Jewish people finally could exercise their right to self-determination in their own land.

Israel was founded to provide a much-needed homeland for the Jewish people, who had been persecuted in other lands over the ages. The Declaration of Independence states explicitly that "The State of Israel will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles."

In accordance with its Declaration of Independence, the State of Israel was founded as a democratic state based upon the principles of the separation of powers, freedom, and complete equality before the law for all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, gender or nationality. These principles apply today.

As Israel is self-defined as both a Jewish and a democratic state, it guarantees the rights of its non-Jewish citizens. There is a large Arab minority in the State of Israel, constituting nearly 20 percent of its population. The Arab population of Israel enjoys full civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, religion and worship. They vote in Israel's elections and Arab representatives are elected to Israel's parliament. Israeli Arabs serve as judges, mayors, and civil servants. Currently an Arab-Israeli citizens serves as a government minister, a second is Deputy Foreign Minister. In addition to Hebrew, Arabic is an official language of the state. Although problems still exist with regards to the full integration of the Arab minority, particularly in the economic sphere, these problems are equivalent to those faced in many Western democracies with large minority populations.

These texts are taken from material published by the Israel Ministry of Foreign affairs. with additional comments and hyperlinked materials. They were apparently published in connection with the Annapolis peace conference of 2007, but they have extensive applicability beyond it. They explain fundamentals of Israeli policy as well as the meaning of Zionism and history of the conflict.

Table of Contents: Israel Policy FAQ


Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs text is at Israel, the Conflict and Peace. Original text  is copyright by Ami Isseroff and Zionism-Israel Center.

 Israeli personality Mehereta Baruch and American-Israeli basketball star LaVon Mercer tell us Zionism is not racism.

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