Wednesday, July 4, 2007

More on the poll reported in YNET yesterday

The poll found that Israelis hold contradictory views. For example, while 64% of the Israelis supported a law prohibiting non-Jews from being prime minister (the percentage includes Palestinian Israelis, so actually, the percentage of support is greater among Israeli Jews), 61% of the Israeli public calls for an equal (per capita) distribution of resources between Israeli Jews and Arabs.

The representative of the Fund that commisioned the poll attempted to resolve the contradiction by saying that while Israelis fundamentally hold liberal values, many are afraid to put them into practice because of the security situation. This is a very unsatisfactory explanation. The question was not, "Should an Arab be the Prime Minister?" but "Are you in favor of requiring by law that the Prime Minister be Jewish." No doubt that had the poll been taken at the beginning of the Oslo Process, the numbers would have been slightly different, but not by a whole lot. When the fundamental understanding is that only a Jew should be Prime Minister -- because it is a Jewish state -- then there are no need for laws.

No, the views of Israelis are contradictory because that contradiction is at the heart of the State of Israel, and is found in its most foundational document, the 1948 Declaration of Independence. Many Israeli Jews (though not all -- I know many of orthodox Jews and Russian Jews who disagree) simply want a state that is Jewish and democratic. So when they are asked, "Should there be equal allocation of resources for all?" most, but not all, will answer, "Yes." But if you ask, "Should Arab political parties be members of the government coalition," I daresay that most will say, "No, this is a Jewish state." But until Israeli Palestinian political parties are accepted into the coalition, there will never be equal allocation of resources -- because it is the government coalition that divides up the money pot.

Israel is really a quasi-democracy. It has some of the trappings of the democracy -- it allows Palestinian citizens of Israel the right to vote, for example -- but it rigs the game so that the Palestinians might as well place their ballot in a toilet rather than in a ballot box -- because of the understanding that Palestinian parties will never access to power. I call this "democracy-lite" or "racism-lite". By indoctrinating the populace to accept Israel as a Jewish state, there is no need to legislate against non-Jews being prime minister. It is understood that in a Jewish state, non-Jews will not rise to high office. That's racist.

I want to make clear (in response to one of the comments). It is not that I conclude that Israel is racist because of this poll. All I need for that is the Declaration of Independence, current Israeli legislation, and its interpretation in the Israeli courts. What this poll shows most dramatically is that you can simultaneously be in favor of democratic values, but those values will often be compromised in light of the ethnocentric values embodied in the state.

America is different. Although America was founded as a Christian state, the fact of its being Christian nowhere appears in the foundational documents. If it did, then it would be religio-racist in the sense I defined yesterday.

My wife just heckled, "What about Tony Blair's decision to be Catholic after he formally resigned? Doesn't that show that the Prime Minister of Great Britain must be Anglican?" Apparently, not. Although there have never been non-Anglican prime ministers, there haven't been legal restrictions against Catholics (and only Catholics) serving as prime ministers since the early nineteenth century.

Why was the state founded in such a way? I think that the Zionists wanted to reproduce for the native Palestinians their own alienation from their countries of origin. They were citizens of Russia, Germany, England, Austria, etc. -- but as Zionists their nationality consciousness and identity were Jewish. They criticized Jews who felt themselves to be full citizens and part of the native states as "assimilationists". So when they created a Jewish state, they made certain to include non-Jews as citizens but to exclude them from the nation represented by the state -- i.e., to exclude the nation-state from them, just as they had felt excluded in Germany, Russia, etc.

That is racist. And it is at the heart -- the very heart -- of political Zionism and the state of Israel.

Until Israel recognizes Israeli nationality -- until the nation represented by the state of Israel is constituted by its citizens, Israel will remain a racist remnant of late nineteenth-century Eastern European nationalism.

Or it can remain the state of the Jewish people -- provided that anybody who becomes an Israeli citizenship is ipso facto a member of the Jewish people. So you can Muslim Jews, Christian Jews, and Jewish Jews.

Don't laugh. In the late eighteenth century, the German Jew David Friedlaender argued (ironically) that if the price for German citizenship was conversion to Christianity, then the Germans should allow for a conversion to an enlightened form of Christianity, to which the Jews could submit en masse.

Judah Magnes, my kind of Zionist, had another solution. But that is for another day.

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