In today’s Haaretz , Ari Shavit has an editorial clearly explaining why the demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is not unreasonable and preposterous, but rather the simple path to world peace and harmony. Beyond the extreme simplification of the entire issue, the entire region and, indeed, the entire world, Shavit – in each of his seven points – either fabricates information or misinterprets reality. Shavit, in other words, has reduced himself to a mere propagandist desperately trying to cling to to an argument lacking all justification.
There is a reason why Jordan and Egypt – and Palestine up until 2008 – were not required to recognize Israel’s Jewish character: it is a domestic issue that should not be dragged into international politics. By assuming that Israel’s self-definition is an international matter, Shavit is using a false assumption as the foundation for a poor argument. In his article, Shavit gives seven reasons why this demand is legitimate. He is wrong on every point. Specifically, point by point:
Shavit: First reason: That is why we came here. The supreme goal of Zionism is that in the Land of Israel the people of Israel will have a national home recognized by the law of nations.Those who don’t believe in the right of the Jewish people to a national home are racists. Those who don’t understand that the national home of the Jewish people should be internationally recognized are fools. Without recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, the Zionist enterprise hangs by a thread.
Does Shavit not realize that the people of Israel already have a national home that is recognized by the law of nations? Israel is a long-time member of the United Nations and while Egypt, Jordan and Palestine have formally recognized Israel, all other nations have given de facto recognition. Furthermore, the final two sentences imply an erroneous conflation Israeli and Jewish (there are gentile Israelis) as well as of Israeli and Zionist (there are non-Zionist Israeli citizens). Finally, Shavit essentially calls anyone who understands or has ever contemplated Palestinian rights as racist fools. Israel should be recognized as a state in which all citizens are equal – not one in which Jewish people reign supreme.
Shavit: Second reason: This is the heart of the conflict. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict stems from the fact that for a century, the Jewish national movement and the Palestinian national movement refused to recognize each other. In 1993, Israel recognized the Palestinian people and its rights. But to this day the Palestinians have not recognized the Jewish people and its rights. That is the great failure of the Oslo Accords, which disrupted the peace process from the outset. For true peace to prevail in this country, there must be peace between the Arab Palestinian nation-state and the Jewish Israeli nation-state.
This is nothing more than a blatant lie and an attempt to distort historical facts. In 1993, Israel recognized the Nation of Palestine and Palestinian rights – not Muslim or Christian or Jewish rights. In 1993 – at the exact same time – the Palestinians officially recognized Israel, the Israeli people and their rights. Furthermore, the Palestinian conflict is not about Jews, but about Israelis. Shavit claims that the Oslo Accords disrupted the peace process because Arafat recognized Israel and not Jewish people? Really?
Shavit: Third reason: The avalanche will be stopped. Over the past 20 years, a grave process has been underway. As Israel continues to recognize more and more of the Palestinians’ natural rights, its own citizen’s natural rights are being abrogated. Its ideological concessions do not work for it, but against it. When Ehud Olmert’s Israel turns out to be less legitimate than Yitzhak Shamir’s Israel, there is no true incentive to continue to give in. Only recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people will stop the avalanche and create mutual legitimacy – Israeli and Palestinian.
[tweetmeme] Is there one single fact in this entire diatribe? Is Shavit legitimately trying to argue that Israeli citizens have less rights than Palestinian citizens? The only citizens in Israel who are seeing their rights being abrogated are non-Jews. And what does Shavit actually mean behind the charged term ‘avalanche?’ It sounds threatening and bad, but it does not actually mean anything at all. The lack of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has nothing to do with right-wing Israeli hawks pushing to ‘purify’ the Israeli population by forcibly removing Israeli citizens or by severely curtailing their democratic rights.
Shavit: Fourth reason: The demand for the right of return will be put to an end. The Palestinians are still demanding the right to return to their homes, villages and cities within sovereign Israel – a demand which means the death of the state of the Jews. As the demand to return is the heart of the Palestinian national ethos, they cannot abandon it. Recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, however, can extricate both sides from the trap: it will allow the demand to return to be balanced and curbed, and neutralize the explosive nature of this demand.
In this argument, Shavit seems to be arguing that the removal of the right of return would be a positive for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. He calls the right of return ‘explosive’ and ‘a trap,’ but fails to understand the role that Israel played in creating the refugee problem. It is generally understood that the Palestinian refugees left Israel in 1948 due to both Arab encouragement and Israeli force. For these two states to live in peace, Israel is going to need to come to some collective understanding of the true history of the refugee problem – not to simply ignore the past and continue to push around the Palestinians. The right of return is not an explosive trap – it is the result of over 60 years of consistent Israeli refusal to admit its role in 1948.
Shavit: Fifth reason: There will be a turning point in the consciousness of the Arab Muslim world. The reasonable relationship that today exists between Israel and the moderate Arab countries is on thin ice. These countries accept Israel as a given, but not as a legitimate entity. Recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people will make clear to the inhabitants of Marrakech, Alexandria and Baghdad that Israel is not a foreign implant, but an inseparable part of the Middle East. The Arabs will have to recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish sovereign state.
Again, Shavit is using Israeli and Jewish interchangeably – a mistake that is not only purposefully deceitful, but one that implies the alienation of non-Jewish Israeli citizens. The Arab world has accepted Israel as an inseparable part of the Middle East. It has offered Israel normalized relations and official recognition in exchange for Israel ending its illegal occupation of Palestine. Even Hamas realizes that Israel is not a foreign implant. Israel is in the Middle East to stay and the Arab powers know, understand and accept this. The way Israel describes itself has absolutely no relevance to this discussion.
Shavit: Sixth reason: Our relations with Christian Europe will be settled. To this day, Europe has not solved its Jewish complex. Recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people will also mean European recognition of its moral responsibility for the Jews it persecuted for years. The continent, which nearly decimated the Jewish people in the 20th century, will ensure that people’s right to life.
Here Shavit assumes the association of all Jewish people is primarily with Israel; that American-Jews, French-Jews and German-Jews are all, really, Israeli-Jews, who happen to live outside of Israel. There will still be Antisemitism around the world regardless of how Israel is defined. Furthermore, Shavit offers no evidence to back up his claim that Europe has not ‘solved its Jewish complex,’ that is has not recognized its ‘moral responsibility’ for atrocities in the past. Traditionally, France and Germany have been the two biggest supporters of Israel while Italy has openly spoken about allowing Israel to enter the European Union. Even if Europe still had a Jewish complex, calling Israel a Jewish state would do little to alleviate any type of antisemitism.
Shavit: Seventh reason: We will calm down. The basic desire of Jewish Israelis is the desire for a home. Explicit recognition that Israel is the Jewish people’s home will strengthen our willingness to take risks and leave the territories. Only recognition of the Jewish national home will make it possible to quickly and peacefully establish the Palestinian national home.
In this final argument, Shavit explicitly tells us that Arab-Israelis matter little. We, for Shavit, means Israeli and Israeli means Jewish. The implication, of course, is that Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Chinese… do not belong in Israel. He follows this up with two more unsubstantiated claims about the miracle effects of imposing Israel’s self-definition. It is highly unlikely that calling Israel a Jewish state would facilitate the end of the occupation. It could, however, give more ammunition to those Israelis who aim to annex the territories, as it would legitimize the Biblical narrative of Israel’s past. Secondly, Shavit equates a Jewish home with a Palestinian home – once again implying that Palestinians have no right to live in Israel. Moreover, he claims – again with no evidence – that recognition would expedite Palestinian independence, when it could quite possibly prohibit such an occurrence.
Haaretz is considered a liberal newspaper by most who read it. It espouses opinions that are usually not as extreme as the Jerusalem Post or many of the Hebrew language dailies. However, the publication of Shavit’s piece is a disgusting display of propaganda from a newspaper that typically avoids the abhorrent language that Shavit uses. By depending completely on fabrication and lies, Shavit is exposing himself. No longer can he be considered a journalist, but henceforth he should be seen for the propagandist that he is.
Photo from Israel National News