Israel: Neither Jewish nor a nation-state

Either he doesn’t know what nationhood and religion are, or Benjamin Netahyahu is trying to redefine history for Israel.

My guess is that Bibi is up to something, something really bloody this time. No wonder he characterized it as “a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel,” after the parliament on Thursday adopted the law (with 62 to 55 votes) declaring the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Israel cannot be serious to call itself “the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it” because a parliament, that is, a political body, cannot rule on the historicity of an event, let alone on the homeland of Jewish people.

Many Jews call Spain home. Despite all that happened in the 1930s and 1940s, Germany, Poland and many other European countries are still homelands for their Jews. So is Turkey. Turkey is a proud home for many Jews. Many historians think that the Palestine valley was the Biblical (and Talmudic) land of Jews after their (again Biblical andTalmudic) exodus from Egypt. The historical truth of these stories is a matter of belief. There are other interpretations of historical excavations and Biblical texts that claim Palestine as the homeland of other peoples. A political body cannot determine which interpretation of archaeological findings or which exegesis of a religious text is correct. When the world accepted such a right of a political regime last time, it regretted it dearly after 60 million people died. If Hitler shouldn’t have an authority on the nature of Germany, the character of its citizens and religious beliefs they can hold, Netanyahu shouldn’t either.

This political resolution of the very tiny majority (only seven votes) in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, cannot redefine what religion and nation are. There are many nations in the world named after the land they are living on (i.e., Americans); and many others giving ethnic names to the land they are living on (i.e., France). Israel, no matter what the origin of the name and legal status of its creation, is now a country with internationally recognized borders and a legitimate membership in the United Nations, is home to many ethnic peoples, people with different religions and communities. Twenty percent of the people living in Israel are Arabs, most of them are Muslims; and a sizable portion are Christian.

You may welcome all the Jews in the world to migrate to Israel if they wish to do so. They may not find enough space to put a bed there, but that would be their problem! Even then, Israel wouldn’t be natural homeland of the Jewish people and a nation-state.

That notorious term of “nation-state” belongs to the post-imperial periods and the root cause of many modern ethnic cleansing campaigns. We just remembered the 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks, mainly men and boys, in and around the town of Srebrenica killed by those who wanted Serbia to be a nation-state, and cleansed of Muslims.

The land of Palestine held a multiethnic people and many religious and cultural communities before the British offered this land to the homeless Jewish people at the end of World War II. The British government, seeking creative ways to appease the U.S. administration which was angry with the British move to pouch off Iraqi oil at that time, offered Palestine as a “national home” for Jews. But despite this meaningless term the Balfour Declaration called for safeguarding the civil and religious rights for the Palestinian Arabs; and the United Nations recognized the rights of the local population.

In short this law of Israel is wrong: all Jews of other countries belong to their own nations, and the Arabs, the Arabic language, the religions of Islam and Christianity belong to Israel.

But the State of Israel never has never done anything meaningless before. Netanyahu is up to something big that would justify this wrongdoing. Those who have taken similar wrong routes before him have never arrived at the right destination.

Source: Daily Sabah

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About the author

Hakki Ocal

Hakki Ocal

Hakkı Öcal is a columnist at both Daily Sabah and Milliyet newspapers, which are based in Istanbul. He is also an advisor to the President of Ibn Haldun University.

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