Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The myth of Jewish colonialism

In much discourse about the Middle East, there is a widespread myth that Jews are interlopers from Europe and the US - white westerners who came to ‘colonise’ and ’steal land’ from the ‘native’ Palestinian people to whom it rightfully belongs. This myth, drawing on Marxist terminology, gained increasing legitimacy after 1967 when Israel annexed East Jerusalem and ‘conquered’ the West Bank. The notion of 'occupation' and the use of the word ‘settlers’ reinforce the concept of Israeli ‘colonisation’ of ‘Arab’ land.

Aside from assuming that the Palestinians must be the true natives because they look authentically ‘brown’, the colonialism myth supports another myth: Jews are not a people, deserving of the right to self-determination, but a religion. Thus anti-Zionists habitually talk about of US citizens of the Jewish faith, Germans of the Jewish faith and even Arabs of the Jewish faith. At the time of the French Revolution, Clermont-Tonnerre said of the emancipation of Jews: “We must refuse everything to the Jews as a nation and accord everything to Jews as individuals.” The Jewish community would somehow disappear, leaving only French citizens of Jewish religion or ancestry.

Lately, the notion that Jews are not one people but a motley collection of converts has been given a boost by Tel Aviv Professor Shlomo Sand, whose bestselling book, The Invention of the Jewish People, is now out in English. Sand’s theories build on the work of Arthur Koestler, who popularised the idea that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from the Turkic tribe, the Khazars. Both men undermine the legitimacy of Israel by inferring that Jews have no link to Palestine. Genetic studies, however, discredit Koestler’s theory: they find that Jews from East and West have more in common with each other, and are genetically closer to non-Jews of Middle eastern origin – the Kurds in particular – than they are to the non-Jewish populations they lived amongst.

Last June President Obama articulated another myth: Israel was created as a penance for the Holocaust in Europe. This myth obscures the truth that every Arab state is equally a creation of western colonialism. It also ignores the fact that the institutions of a Jewish state-in-waiting were established decades before Ben Gurion read out Israel’s declaration of independence.

We often hear or read about Israel being populated by pork-munching non-Jewish Russians and settlers from Brooklyn. But these groups are marginal. We almost never hear that 40 percent of Israel’s Jews trace their ancestry from Muslim and Arab lands. The vast majority of these Jews merely moved from one corner of the ‘Arab’ world to that Middle Eastern coastal sliver known as Israel.

Until their expulsion 50 years ago, Jews had been settled in Iraq, for example, since the Babylonians exiled Jews from Jerusalem almost 3,000 years ago. In the early 20th century, Baghdad was the most Jewish city in the world, after Salonica and Jerusalem. The Jews can be said to have as legitimate a claim on Baghdad as Palestinians on Jerusalem.

The Arabs are relative newcomers to the region; the ‘Arab’ world is a misnomer. By the time the Arabs had conquered land largely inhabited by Jews and Christians in the 7th century, the Jews had been settled there for 1,000 years. People in the West tend to apply a common misconception to all Jews, borrowing the Christian notion that Jews have been punished to wander from land to land with no country to call their own. But not only have Jews always lived in Palestine, there was continuity of Jewish settlement in the Middle East and North Africa for 2,000 years. If only native inhabitants are titled to political rights, the Jews are as indigenous as any people living in the Middle East can be.

That Jewish presence came to an end in the last 50 years. The Arab League determined to wreak revenge on defenceless Jewish citizens in Arab lands if the partition of Palestine went ahead. On the day when five Arab armies invaded the new Jewish state, the Arab League secretary, Azzam Pasha announced :"This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".

The Arab governments actually declared two wars in 1948. The military war against the fledgling Jewish state of Israel they lost, but they declared a second war, against a million Jewish citizens. This war they won easily, through a policy of intimidation, repression, persecution and sporadic outbreaks of violence. The result is that only 4,500 Jews are left in Arab countries.

Jews ‘stealing Arab land’ is an offensive inversion of reality. Jews in 10 Arab countries were stripped of their rights and in most cases dispossessed of their property. The World Organisation of Jews from Arab Countries estimates that Jews in Arab countries lost many more billions of assets than the Palestinians, and four times as much land as the size of Israel itself.

Seen in these terms, Arab antisemitism created Israel no less than the Holocaust. The Arabs owe the Jews big-time. It’s time the world stopped viewing the conflict through a distorted, Eurocentric lens.

Cross-posted at Jewcy, The San Francisco Sentinel
Harry's Place and Solomonia

26 comments:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

There is a lot wrong with the "Zionist colonialism" thesis. First of all, if the Jews were returning, as they believed, then it should not be called "colonialism." Next, what about the status of the Palestinian Arab Muslims [actually, not defining themselves as "Palestinian Arabs" before the League of Nations decision to recognize the Jewish National Home in 1922]? Under the Ottoman Empire, which was a Sunni Muslim state, the Palestinian Arab Muslims enjoyed a status superior to all dhimmis. Further, members of the leading Arab families in the country [not called "palestine" by them before 1920, to be sure] held high posts in the Empire, ruling over Jews in lands from Iraq to Romania. These included Ashkenazim, especially in Romania. For instance, Aaron Aaronsohn, one of the outstanding Jews of the so-called First Aliyah, was born in Romania as an Ottoman subject. Now, since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right to move from one part of one's country to another [Article 13b??], then why did not his family have that right?? Indeed, the Ottoman Empire brought Muslims from Bosnia and other lost territories in Europe to the Land of Israel ["Palestine"] at about the same time that Aaronsohn's family came. Why shouldn't the Aaronsohns have had the same right to move to and dwell in the Land of Israel as the Slavic Bosnian Muslims??

This argument is fashionable and it has won many adherents who are charmed to find a secular-progressive reason for hating Jews, instead of the old religious Christkiller claim.

In this vein, do you know about Nick Hornby's movie, The Education [or some such title], which employs many old Judeophobic themes?? It seems that he has taken some old themes and dressed them up for the 21st century, while other Judeophobic themes are left intact ["they killed our Lord," etc].

Anonymous said...

sorry off topic, but here is another 'hidden' synagogue in egypt repurposed:

http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/news/curious-case-cairo-synagogue

bataween said...

Eliyahu
There is a good case for defining Islam as a kind of colonialism - with non-Muslims as the exploited dhimmi class. You make a good point that Rumanian Jews coming to Palestine were actually moving from one corner of the Ottoman empire to another. People who espourse simplistic jewish colonualism analogies don't appreciate how the Jews are unique in returning to their ancestral homeland after 2,000 years.
No I haven't seen 'The Education' though it is showing at my local cinema. Some people are raving about it!

Magdeburger Joe said...

The Jews from Arab countries in Israel are living testimony to the lie that Arabs are being made to pay for the sins of European Jew haters. Celebrating the cultural heritage of Jews from the East as well as promoting a united political structure and education is critical to advancing our claim to the Holy Land. The Arabs themselves effectively expelled their Jewish populations, in many cases forcing Jews whose families had been in Arab countries for centuries to move to Israel. I almost never mention the holocaust to Arab opponents of Israel. I do mention the farhud and other actions taken against Jews before 1948.

Richard said...

Thank you for this important test.

It is also important t stress that Israel of course was not re-established because of the Holocaust, but because Israel is the cradle and home of the Jewish people.

The binding mandate to re-establish the Jewish national home was enacted in 1923, almost two decades before the Holocaust.

Richard said...

correction: important text.

Anonymous said...

I can't see what "the education" has to do with "old Judeophobic themes", but the trailer and a bit of info are here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/starsandstories/6338031/Nick-Hornby-interview-for-An-Education.html

bh

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

in answer to bh [anonymous]:
I think that the movie review at the link below answers the objections to my remarks about "The Education":

http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/print/british_film_gives_an_education_in_anti-semitism_20091201

Jacob said...

Just a few thoughts triggered by this article:

(1) It seems to me that, notwithstanding prior declarations under international law, what in fact allowed the founders of the State of Israel to seize land was the relative non-interference of the Western Powers triggered by some combination of their feeling they did need to atone for their relative indifference to the holocaust and for them to have some place to which to shunt away from their shores the waves of brutalized jewish emigres looking for a safe home.

(2) Is treating "Jews as individuals" a bad thing ?

(3) If we're to rely on DNA linkage for our identity as a people, what's the minimal threshold of required DNA commonality for that identity (and at what point should we just shut down this whole inter-marriage thing that's been out of control for a few millennia) ?

(4) Are we all agreed that we as a people (as defined by religion and/or DNA) have a perpetual right to the land that comprises the core of the State of Israel ?

bataween said...

Jacob
I disagree with (1). The British wanted to cut and run (they did in India) and Palestine was next.
(2) The point is that the Jews did not merit any communal or national rights.
(3)Of course our peoplehood has more to do with a sense of shared culture, history and religion than DNA, but our DNA does place us within the Middle East.
(4) I agree

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Jacob,
your claim that Israel's founders "seize[d] land" is false. Jews have always lived in the country of Israel and have been a majority in Jerusalem since at least 1853. The international community recognized the Jewish National Home principle in 1920 at San Remo. It was endorsed by the League of Nations [1922] and agreed to by other international instruments since then, including the 1945 UN Charter. The UN general assembly partition proposal of 29 November 1947 was a recommendation and perforce did not change the int'l law status of the whole country. Hence, Israel did not seize land that did not belong to it, to the Jewish National Home.

Then you raise the issue of how much DNA of the original Jews must remain for legitimate Jewish ownership to hold up. The Western anti-Zionists of today are inclined to deny any ancient Jewish ancestry among today's Jews, while some Arabs do that too while many Arab-Muslims view today's Jews as descendants of those Jews who, they allege, betrayed Muhammad, while some Arab Christians and other Christians view today's Jews as guilty of the Crucifixion.

In essence, your several statements about ancestry try to minimize the importance of ancestry. But the Arab claim to the country --made on behalf of Palestinian Arabs who never considered themselves a separate people before 1948 and still consider themselves Arabs ethnically [according to Article One of the PLO charter]-- is also based on ancestry. If ancestry or past ownership is not important, then why should it be important for the Arabs?? Why should Arab ancestral claims be respected, if ancestry is not important here? Why should the Arabs not be told to accept what has happened up to now in the conflict with Israel, for the sake of peace or justice or whatever you like, just as the Greeks accepted the expulsion of a couple million Greeks from Anatolia in 1922??

On the other hand, the fact of a common, shared ancestry with Arabs in the Fertile Crescent, as proved by DNA, could be a means of rapprochement, of reconciliation, if the Arabs wanted it. Maybe in the future, if and when the Islamic principles of jihad and dhimma were to weaken. If and when Christian belief in everlasting Jewish guilt for the crucifixion were to weaken.
If the Western policy of encouraging Arab belligerance against Israel were to change to one of promoting reconciliation and rapprochement, not pretending to promote peace while in fact inciting Arab [and palestinian Arab] war against Israel.

As to your mention of Western Holocaust guilt, the Arabs in general and palestinian Arabs in particular collaborated in the Holocaust, while the chief palestinian Arab leader, Haj Amin el-Husseini, collaborated directly in the Holocaust and asked Hitler to spread it to Arab lands. Hence, it would be helpful and honest if the Arabs would admit their Holocaust guilt, as well as their age-old oppression, humiliation, and exploitation of Jews in Arab lands in the dhimmi status.

Actually, many influential Westerners have tried to divest the West of Holocaust guilt by imagining or claiming that Israel treats the Arabs as Nazi Germany treated the Jews. This is base, self-serving cynicism, especially widespread, I daresay, in Britain where it has become a fanatical movement.

Lastly, I seem to detect a version of Reform Jewish teachings in what you write. These teachings were never accepted by most Jews. Further, I agree that Jews should have individual rights but rights as a people too.

bataween said...

Excellently put, Eliyahu

Jacob said...

"DNA does place us within the Middle East"

Agreed, but as you know, the more sophisticated DNA research gets, the more it seems to weaken racialist particularist theories, including this justifiably tentative one on the genetic uniqueness of jews.

"you raise the issue of how much DNA of the original Jews must remain for legitimate Jewish ownership to hold ups"

Yes, that was the question.

You began to answer it, I think, but perhaps unintentionally digressed into tangents on western anti-zionists, arabs, and greeks.

If you have any specific view on this developing indicia of ancestry, I'd be interested in reading it. If you haven't considered it, I certainly understand.

"many influential Westerners have tried to divest the West of Holocaust guilt by imagining or claiming that Israel treats the Arabs as Nazi Germany treated the Jews"

Agreed.

Holocaust guilt (like the gift of our ancestors, relentless Jewish personal guilt) may take a myriad of shapes.

But the issue raised was whether Western holocaust guilt had anything to do the West's tolerance/support of the State of Israel. I think yes, Bataween thinks not. What is your view?

" If and when Christian belief in everlasting Jewish guilt for the crucifixion were to weaken"

Perhaps you are unaware that at the Vatican II conference in the '60's the Pope specifically repudiated that assignment of guilt to the jews (I know it was millennia or two late, but so was the establishment of State of Israel).

Plus, at this point, in the US more effective political support for Israel comes from evangelical Christians than Jews.

So, I think tossing off a line about christians-blaming-the-jews-for- Jesus's-death isn't particularly helpful.

"I seem to detect a version of Reform Jewish teachings in what you write. These teachings were never accepted by most Jews."

You are 100% correct about my reform background but I'm not sure which of my "views" have "never been accepted by most jews". Please advise !

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Jacpb. I think you ought to pay more attention to exactly what I said. For better or worse, DNA studies show that Jews are not so unique genetically but are close to Arabs, Armenians, Kurds, and --to a lesser extent-- to modern Greeks and Turks and Italians. In light of this, the major, indeed glaring, differences between these various peoples --genetically related-- have to do with culture and religion, or we might say, with culture of which religion is a major part.

Now, since there is so much politically motivated faking of history going around, it is important to stress this DNA aspect. The DNA studies, which would be loudly and widely hailed as convincing science if they showed that Ashkenazim were descended from Khazars and North African Jews from Berbers, are largely overlooked and/or minimized by such as Shlomo Sand, who has a political ax to grind, an anti-Zionist ax. Sand is a Communist and wants to uphold Stalin's dictum of 1915 that the Jews of that time were not a nation or people. Sand is also joining in with today's fashionable anti-Zionism by making the claims that he does.

Now, half a dozen or more DNA studies have reached the conclusion that I stated above. So "tentative" is not a correct description. This is not a tentative theory, as you claim. Nor do the studies support much of an absolute genetic uniqueness of Jews, as said above.

As to Western guilt leading to support for Israel, you ought to study actual Western policy and you will see that the EU as an institution is very hostile to Israel, and the US State Department is not much less hostile than the EU's foreign policy division. I believe that many Westerners use alleged Arab grievances and alleged Israelis crimes against Arabs as a way of divesing themselves of Holocaust guilt while justifying continued Western Judeophobia. They may even admit Western Judeophobia in the past, but claim that any moral credit that the Jews may have is erased by alleged crimes against Arabs. This view depends on not seeing any wrongdoing on the Arabs' part. In other words, many Westerners, especially dyed in the wook Judeophobes, must see the Arabs as innocent in general and concerning Jews in particular.

As to Vatican II, many Christians, Catholics and non-Catholics, held on to their belief that Jews were "Christkillers" despite Vatican II.

Reform Judaism's Pittsburgh Platform of 1888 approx. included a rejection of Zionism, inter alia. Of course, some Reformed Jews were Zionist leaders, such as Abba Hillel Silver and others.

On DNA studies of Jews, you can google Hammer + Bonne-Tamir + DNA. These are two of the researchers in this area.

Independent Observer said...

Eliyahu is correct. An additional, famous DNA study by Hammer (online at the PNAS - Proceedings of the (US) National Academy of Sciences) confirms other studies. The studies show
- genetically, Asheknazi and Sephardic Jews are closest to each other
- next closest to Jews are Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, and Kurds
- the Ashkenazim may have up to 20% DNA from European-Mediterranean origins but still remain closest overall to Sephardim
- the Ashkenazim have less than 2% Khazar genes.

I also point out that it is irrelevant whether Jews are a religion, a race, and ethnicity, or a people; they are a distinct and identifiable human sub-group and as such may claim the right to self-determination.

Finally, the Jews are far more distinct than (say) Palestinians or many other peoples; Jews can claim distinct language, history, religion, culture, values, traditions, and genetics. It's not at all clear Palestinians can claim all these distinctions from neighbouring Jordanians (Palestinian or Hashemite) or from other Arabs.

Jacob said...

Thanks for your thoughtful responses, but now I'm really confused.

There seems to be agreement among the commentators here that Jews should not be defined simplistically (or mythically) as people of Jewish faith (which Elihayu quite reasonably points out is merely a component of a broader culture).

And, as Elihayu forcefully points out, while DNA studies may suggest some subtle genetic differences in Jews of different tribes, so far there doesn't seems to be a body of genetic research available to suggest the Jews are a genetically distinct people.

So, to those of you that have pondered much about, and researched and published on, this topic please, let me know

(i) how you do define this "people" that have a perpetual right to the land under the dominion of the State of Israel (as its borders are from time to time drawn),

(ii) whether the degree of conversion, patrilineality, and/or secular vs reform vs conservative "Jewishness" matters in that definition, and

(iii) whether the justification for the right to this land until the end times is that it was promised and granted by God or that it is deserved as the economic and sovereign right of recompense for land stolen so many years ago (and for centuries upon centuries of genocidal suffering throughout the world).

These issues often seem to be mushed up by many of us less learned on this topic and any clarification on any of these discrete issues would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

"This myth, drawing on Marxist terminology"

Some other Marxist terminology on the subject.....

" What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money.…. Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist. Money degrades all the gods of man – and turns them into commodities…. The bill of exchange is the real god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange…. The chimerical nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the merchant, of the man of money in general." ~ On the Jewish Question Marx, 1844.


Thus we see the seminal anti-Semitism of the left.

bataween said...

Jacob
I'll leave Eliyahu to answer your queries, but it does seem worth emphasising that genetic studies, although only one component of peoplehood are an important factor. They confirm that the Jews are a people returninge to their ancestral homeland in Palestine, and not colonial aliens - despite much propaganda to the contrary.
As Independent Obs observes, genetic studies show that eastern and western Jews are genetically one people, related to other Middle Eastern peoples but DISTINCT FROM them. As such Jews have a perfectly legitimate claim to a nation state in Israel.

Israel was created from the ruins of the Ottoman empire. There is no suggestion of stealing land, Ottoman land was simply reallocated to new states - Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, etc.

I think how you define a Jew is another question - it's always been a mixture of descent and religious criteria. This question only really concerns the US where intermarriage rates are very high and the Reform movement is very influential. As a result there is a persistent tendency to see Judaism as just another faith, and that's why you are confused.

bataween said...

Sorry, I meant 'genes', not genetic studies, are an important factor

Jacob said...

"I think how you define a Jew is another question - it's always been a mixture of descent and religious criteria. This question only really concerns the US where intermarriage rates are very high and the Reform movement is very influential."

That makes sense.

In the US, reform jews seem to be much more assimilated and share a contingent and vague sense of de minimis theology not particularly distinct from fashionable post-modern mainstream protestantism.

Orthodox Jews here, typically viewed both with respect and as historical anachronisms, are rarely spotted outside of the largest urban centers.

With such a divergence in beliefs and cultural expression between the two groups, it's no wonder that most americans are confused about what constitutes Jewishness.

So to decide who a Jew is, do we rely on the definitions of the hesder yeshivas, the secular opportunists that think a stint in the IDF does the trick, or the State of Israel ?

I've learned from this blog what being a Jew is NOT - a matter of religion.

So, I ask again a most basic question that has inexplicably gone unanswered here: what specific requirements do the learned commentators on this blog believe one must meet to be considered one of the Jewish people that have a perpetual right to the land that comprises the core of the State of Israel from any other group of people ?

That the definition of Jewishness matters in the US (and, with charges of apostasy and and counter-charges of treason flying about in Israel between groups on either side of the settlement issue, it seems to be a highly charged issue there, too), Israel's military guarantor and largest economic supporter, is probably a sufficient reason for Jewish thought leaders to address it.

bataween said...

There are many better versed in this subject than me, but here’s my threepence worth.
As you say, there seems to be a gaping hole in the US between Orthodox Haredi on the one hand and the Reform on the other – a hole normally filled in Europe by modern orthodox or traditionalist Judaism. This sectarianism is an Ashkenazi peculiarity: In Arab countries among the Jews there was no such thing as Haredi Orthodox, nor did the Reform movement exist – everyone was more or less Orthodox (although with varying degrees of observance), despite some being avowed secular communists.

This whole question of who is a Jew is a tricky one. It’s particular apposite in Britain at the moment where a secular British court has just decided it knows better than the Jews themselves. See
http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/5641976/an-illiberal-and-ignorant-judgment.thtml


Where Israel is concerned the criteria for admittance under the Law of Return are more racial than religious – one Jewsh grandparent. However, Israel still insists on a religious component. The Brother Daniel test case comes to mind – the Israeli courts determined that a ‘halachic’ Jew who had converted to Christianity did not qualify fir Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.
More here
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/whojew1.html

Jacob said...

Bataween, thanks for that thoughtful perspective and the cite to that excellent and concise article in the virtual Jewish library.

The history of the development of the Israeli judiciary's rulings summarized in that article on who is a Jew for purposes of the state (and particularly the shameful treatment of Brother Daniel) is dispiriting at best.

Thank goodness most american Jews simply have no idea of what a politicized and seemingly chaotic approach Israel has taken to the question of to whom it will grant the highly privileged status of being a Jew.

I think I now understand why few people want to tackle, other than obliquely, this issue of Jewishness (and rather leave it to some evidently compromised politic-jurists beholden to the ever-changing composition of their backers).

It seems to me that, if we are to assert that Jews are to be accorded a juridically privileged status in a defined territory claimed to be theirs until the end of time while at the same time not being able (or merely unwilling) to define, even among ourselves, who comprise that special category of people deserving of such sweeping rights, then perhaps we should be more understanding of the increasingly waning support of Israel by many of it's traditionally strong supporters in the west (thank goodness some of that decline seems to being offset by the current robust support of US pentecostals that are eager for Jews to re-establish the Temple, although regrettably primarily as a spripturally prophesised catalyst to the rapture and the second-coming of Jesus to expunge Israel of non-believers - but maybe that's a topic for another day).

If you know anybody willing to state their opinion, and the basis for it, as to who least should be considered a Jew, rather than who shouldn't be (merely people of the Jewish faith or religion identified in this blog article as not necessarily Jewish), I'd appreciate being directed to them.

bataween said...

Jacob
I don't actually think waning support for Israel in the West has anything to do with the 'Who is a Jew'issue - it is more to to with monumental misunderstandings, distortions and misrepresentations of Israel's cause.
The Law of Return sets a pretty broad definition of Who is a Jew, and Israel is not the only state to have such a Law eg Greece, Norway, Japan, Austria, etc. None of these states are in any way troubled by the idea of their citizens living abroad staking a claim to the land of their ancestors in perpetuity, so why should Jews not feel the same way about Israel?


Israel has had to deal with the exceptions to the rule as they have come up. I can understand why granting automatic citizenship to Brother Daniel, a crucifix swinging from his neck, must have felt like a bridge too far to the Israel courts. In the end it didn't matter too much since Brother Daniel acquired Israeli citizenship anyway by virtue of his long-term residency (something which, by way of contrast, Palestinians born in Lebanon but denied Lebanese citizenship can only dream about).

Likewise, converts can be welcomed. I have an Egyptian friend of Muslim background who underwent an Orthodox conversion to Judaism and acquired Israeli nationality - one of those rare individuals to have both Egyptian and Israeli nationality. I think it was right that his conversion was a prerequisite, since my friend has now demonstrated the necessary knowledge of Judaism and commitment to the Jewish people that will stand him in good stead as a member of the 'club'.

Jacob said...

"Where Israel is concerned the criteria for admittance under the Law of Return are more racial than religious – one Jewsh grandparent."

It may seem incredible to those living outside of the United States (or ensconsced in orthodox enclaves) that many of the 1.8 million reform Jews in the United States and almost all of their Christian allies here think the right of return (and its passport to first-class civil privileges) is based primarily on fidelity to the Jewish faith and not on some variable mix of primarily racial ancestry combined merely secondarily with a requisite degree of practice of historical purity of Judaism (that level of detail is rarely a major topic of discussion here), but I'll do what I can to spread the word about that extraordinarily disappointing conclusion.

I suspect those criteria will continue to loosen up to inevitably include all the faithful as the population of the Palestinian Arabs continues to explode and the pressure from the West (and from the more secular inhabitants of Israel) for acceptance of a two-state solution (irrespective of its intrinsic merits), but who can predict the volatile flow of Jewish politics !

Thanks for the clarification, however disappointing, for those of us that have naively assumed that devotion to Yahweh and respect for His word would be the primary, not secondary, criteria for welcome to Israel.

I guess merely caring a lot about Judaism, lobbying our representatives in Washington to be diligent in its defense of Israel, and actively giving to groups funding the refuge of Israel matters only barely to those quasi-tribal elements in Israel so myopically protective of their lineage.

I would think you and Eliyahu are at least somewhat appalled by this situation, but it would be reassuring to hear that you actually are appalled by it (or at least could explain why the current exclusionary criteria make either religious sense to you or are at least make brutally pragmatic sense to those in an increasingly endangered and politically isolated state in the center of a very hostile neighborhood).

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Jacob, maybe I don't fully understand your position or what you object to. On one hand, you seem to be objecting to Israel as a nation-state, that is, based on an ethnic group. On the other hand, you seem to say that Israel lacks legitimacy since it does not represent an ethnic group or nationality. Is it my misunderstanding or your trying to have it both ways??

Now, on the first issue, most states do base themselves on an ethnic group even if there are ethnic and religious minorities in the state. All Arabs states are ethnic by definition since they define themselves as such and by their membership in the Arab League.

The PLO is a member of the Arab League and defines itself as Arab. Look at Article I of the PLO charter. Look at Article 4 of the PLO charter which bases "palestinian" identity on descent, or on race, if you will. "The Palestinian identity is a genuine, essential and inherent characteristic. It is transmitted from parents to children. ... the dispersal of the palestinian Arab people... do[es] not make them lose their Palestinian identity..."

Jacob, if you don't like basing policy on descent, then let's hear your objection to the PLO charter.

We also hear that Israel discriminates in immigration policy in favor of Jews. Well, Jordan and Saudi Arabia totally forbid Jews to live in those countries, although some Israeli diplomats do live in Jordan.

Germany, for instance, among other European states, favored ethnic Germans as immigrants, while foreign workers, gastarbeiter, have had difficulty getting German citizenship, although this may have changed in recent years. Cyprus is a member of the EU although it has very ethnic conscious policies.

At one time, many supporters of the Arab side tried to discredit and even delegitimize Israel by arguing that it was a state based on religion. This was often put forth as an argument by people close to the State Dept in the USA. However, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were always held up as great friends of the United States and nobody seemed to care that their laws were based on Islam and very much favored Muslims, to the point that Saudi Arabia forbid Jews to even enter the country, as said above.

Of course, I could go about the hypocrisy of Israel's critics but that would be tedious. Just bear in mind that when Jews did not have a Jewish state, that is, before 1948 and before 1939, nearly all states prevented or forbid Jewish immigration and those that did not took in relatively few Jews [i.e., the UK] compared with the number of Jews that needed refuge. The UK even restricted Jewish immigration to the internationally designated Jewish National Home [the Land of Israel]. Thus, the UK doomed hundreds of thousands if not millions of Jews to their death at Nazi hands. But Britain prevented rescue, shut off the Jewish National Home, and refused to bomb Auschwitz, which was requested by Weizmann. Think about it.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

correction to my last paragraph:

Of course I could go ON about the hypocrisy of Israel's critics, but that would be tedious.