Friday, May 22, 2009

"The State of the Jewish People"


Today's Globe and Mail had an article about the new demand by the Israeli government to have Israel officially recognized as the "Jewish State" by the Palestinian Authority. That is the formula used by Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is as opposed to the usual position of the Israeli left that Israel be " a state for all its citizens."

Now, in an effort to make a "Jewishly sensitive" legal definition more palatable - something the PA might be able to sign - Gershon Baskin, of the Israel / Palestine Research Centre, suggests that Israel declare itself "the State of the Jewish People and all its Citizens." Aside from the tortured nature of the phrase - it hardly rolls off the tongue - this just shows that fixed and arbitrary legal definitions of the ethnic nature of a country are just plain dumb. In the end a country will be what it will be. Lebanon's former formal legal definition as a as a state for Maronite Christians exacerbated it's ethic conflicts, rather than solved them.

In the end, a call by Israeli leaders to formally and legally define Israel as the "Jewish State" or the "State of the Jewish People" is not only discriminatory against the 24% of Israel's citizens that are not Jewish, but insulting (and dangerous) to the 60% of the worlds Jews who choose to live outside of the State of Israel. What would the world think if Britain chose to legally define itself as the "State of the Anglo Saxon People" - thus excluding millions of its non Anglo Saxon citizens; and including people of Anglo decent living in Canada, the U.S., Australia and elsewhere. How would French Canadians feel if France claimed to speak on their behalf, and how would France's millions of immigrants - including nearly half a million Jews - feel if told that French State was not really focused on their interests or well being, but only on that of people of pure French ancestry.

Israel's Jewish leaders should be content to have Israel be a state with a lot of Jews and a strong Jewish culture, instead of trying to impose, through law, grandiose race based nationalist frameworks, more suitable to the 19th century than the globalized multicultural reality of the 21st century.

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