Friday, January 25, 2008

A Jewish State

Theodor Herzl's 1896 work The Jewish State (or the "State of the Jews")

Most Jewish Israelis and most Jews living in the diaspora take it for granted that Israel is "a Jewish state." This particular description does not elicit a great deal of controversy for them; it seems obvious and relatively unproblematic. For many Arabs, whether Christian, Muslim, or atheist, and for many Muslims living outside the Middle East, however, the phrase seems unacceptable, and usually provokes an exclamation of disbelief that such a thing should be possible. To them it seems prima facie racist. Likewise, while most Jews see Zionism as the political expression of a belief in Jewish self-determination, dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for many Arabs and Muslims it is a fascist, genocidal, and/or racist ideology with none of the legitimacy granted to other nationalist movements, including Pan-Arabism.

To me, this discord invites two different lines of inquiry.
  1. Of course, arguments must be made for and against. Indeed, I myself have been forced to engage in such arguments ad nauseam, a fact that at this point in my life tends to fill me with resentment as soon as I hear yet another person challenging me to resist their conversionary or enlightening zeal.

  2. However, a different line of inquiry would proceed more phenomenologically (I think). It would ask: what do all these different people mean when they talk about a "Jewish state"? Further, it would try to investigate why some people sees this self-description as unproblematic, while others vigorously oppose it; it would, moreover, ask the same thing about the desire of many Jews (in Israel and elsewhere) to have the Palestinians as well as others accept the definition of Israel as a Jewish state. This would be a study of fears, hopes, and their consequences.
To kick things off on the first line of inquiry, I will cite the remarks of John Mearsheimer, made at a lecture delivered at UC Berkeley in late October 2006, which succinctly characterize the realist position when it comes to this question. So as not to be accused of taking things out of context, I have included the entire paragraph of remarks:
We think that the fact that there’s a Jewish state is a good thing given the history of antisemitism and our understanding of how the world works. Here in the US, we have a melting pot society. This is not a Christian or Anglo-Saxon state. It’s a liberal state. There is no one ethnic or religious group that dominates; it’s a melting pot. I don’t like the idea of living in state dominated by one culture. But around world, there are lots of states where people identify themselves largely in terms of culture – take Japan: most people there consider themselves to be Japanese. Same is true with Israel – it’s a Jewish state; the same is true for Germany. It’s not the way I like to do business; but it’s perfectly legitimate way to do it in the international system today. I believe in national self-determination. Zionism is a form of nationalism and perfectly legitimate one. There is nothing wrong with having a Jewish state. We are arguing that Palestinians are also entitled to have a state of their own. If there’s national self-determination for the Jews, it should also exist for the Palestinians. The principal obstacle to establishing Palestinian state at this time is Israel. Israel is interested in colonizing the West Bank and giving the Palestinians nothing more than a few enclaves, keeping them disconnected, controlling borders, air and water. As long as that’s the case, the Palestinians won't have a viable state. The same logic that leads us to support a Jewish state leads us to support a Palestinian state.

61 comments:

Eamonn said...

Something would also need to be said about the difference between a Jewish state and a state for the Jews. The national self-determination argument works for the latter but not for the former.

Nobody said...

theoretically mearsheimer is correct ... in fact i was surprised that he has no problem with zionism as such ... creating palestinian state should be a good thing in principle...

practically we've been doing this for 15 something years and it's only getting worse ... in fact it seems that the palestinians and israeli arabs are retracing their steps all the way back .. what started as the two state solution for two peoples is now being presented as the two state solution for one ...

should we commit a national suicide by allowing the palestinians to have a state right now in the west bank ??? i mean, the idea of reciprocity and self determination is very nice ... but should we act as kamikadzes because we have this nice ideology that obliges us to behave like kamikadzes ???

a sunni insurgent in iraq loads a truck with one tone of explosives, drives it to a shia market and dies together with a few hundreds random people because, as they say, he loves death more than life ... should we start behaving as we love the idea of self determination for everybody more than we love our own self determination and even more than life ??

Emmanuel said...

You have a great blog. I added it to my blogroll.

nobody: The Palestinian state isn't going to be established right now. It will be created only after a process that makes it less likely to become a terrorist state. Staying in the territories will be a disaster for Israel.

Redel said...

Amos, I think you are exactly right when you say the term "jewish state" needs to be defined, since there is fairly broad precedent for what X-state means.

I often claim that a lot of disagreements in the world big and small come from a simple misunderstanding of definitions.

So what do you propose as a definition (either what definition describes the current state or what definition do you think israel should follow)?

Jeha said...

There is something to be said for the old arabic line of thought, wihtout going to the extremes of equating it with "a fascist, genocidal, and/or racist ideology". There are two reasons for that;

1- One can argue that nationalism, in the form it takes today, is a relatively recent phenomena. In its present form, it dates back to the French revolution and the 19th Century "primptemps des peuples". Nationalism is not an ineluctable development; the italian word for "country" usually designates the "region" where they were born. We Lebanese tend to have a similar conception, often referring to the "Caza" as a hyphenated identifier, before religion or sect. So a "nation", as a political construct, is not the "fundamental building block"; consider that the United Staters, and Canada as examples of many hyphenated people coming together under one political entity... Without the dogma of "nationalism" or ethnicity, the political structure can evolve and adapt to an ever changing world.

2- One has to be weary of religion, because it is a dogmatic set of beliefs that allows for no "sharing". It becomes especially potent when mixed with nationalism, as in a "Jewish State". For one, a state cannot have a religion, since it is a human construct that cannot be imbued with a soul. For another, by defining a "Jewish state", one politicizes religion, mixing the sacred and the profane. The mix does not work on the long run, because religious dogma, enshrined in state institutions, struggles to meet the needs and requirements of a changing society.

So, since nationalism and religion are each dogmatic in some way, a country that combines the two may end up with the worst of both worlds, in the long run.

Nobody said...

1- One can argue that nationalism, in the form it takes today, is a relatively recent phenomena. In its present form, it dates back to the French revolution and the 19th Century "primptemps des peuples". Nationalism is not an ineluctable development; the italian word for "country" usually designates the "region" where they were born. We Lebanese tend to have a similar conception, often referring to the "Caza" as a hyphenated identifier, before religion or sect. So a "nation", as a political construct, is not the "fundamental building block"; consider that the United Staters, and Canada as examples of many hyphenated people coming together under one political entity... Without the dogma of "nationalism" or ethnicity, the political structure can evolve and adapt to an ever changing world.


i think some of your generalizations are too sweeping while there are certain gaps in your line of reasoning.

nationalism may be a recent phenomena but this does not mean that it's artificial or invented. The world is changing and so people's sense of identity too. It's true that things are not clear cut but your example of the united states and canada proves just as much as the example of former yugoslavia or disintegrating by now belgium.

A state does not have to be built on nationalism though having a nation state is a plainly better option. But the thing about the US is that their second generation immigrants are frequently so totally assimilated that it looks rather that the US excells at stripping people's of their national identity and supplanting it with its own.

Where such a process does not seem to work so well as say in Europe, there you have rising everywhere nationalist parties, escalating tensions and riots in suburbs. Never mind terror attacks.

Though i should admit that Lebanon may have no other option. It will either transform itself into something along the lines you are talking about or it may fail to exist at all. But it seems too difficult and bloody a process for anybody to want to try its hand at it.

Jeha said...

Nobody,

I was very careful in my choice of words, so please do not read into them any meaning beyond what I had written.

To clarify; all human concepts, religion included, are "artificial or invented"; as long as you cannot measure it or objectively quantify it, you cannot assign it any special validity. Nationalism, and religion are just those concepts. The Jewish Kingdom of King David did not mean the same thing as the State of Israel today? The Lebanon of Fakhreddine has nothing to do with the (non) Lebanon of today...

Furthermore, you may be right about the United States, but you are wrong about Europe. Consider Switzerland; for all its faults, it is a decent example of what I am talking about And the frequency of riots and odd terror attacks in Europe are no different from the United States.

Finally, the fact that Lebanon has failed so far may have to do with internal weaknesses, but there are external factors at play as well. And Switzerland, before 1805, was no better.

Neither was Europe, for that matter.

Note that I am not advocating Utopia; I just know war and "isms", and their real costs far too well. I have no illusion that "peace and love" will ever break out, but I think that we can manage internal conflicts and find a way to contain conflicts in (say) the courts... Or in football stadiums, for those with a tight budget and a testosterone surplus...

If we do not do that, this time may be worse, because of the unique "pull" of our region. If we in the Middle East do not learn from Europe's mistakes, we will repeat them, and amplify their effect. And since we tend to mix our "isms" with subverted versions of our religion(s), which gives us the potential to drag the world in a third world war? ... If we're going down this road, keep in mind that, whatever weapons are used in the third one, the fourth will see the survivors fighting with clubs...

In the immediate, they're burning tires nearby as I write, and a few gunshots can be heard... So I guess Lebanon will have to put off being an example of peace and coexistence another day... And I have to moshe-koshe outta here.

...Ugh.

Nobody said...

To clarify; all human concepts, religion included, are "artificial or invented"; as long as you cannot measure it or objectively quantify it, you cannot assign it any special validity. Nationalism, and religion are just those concepts.

all human concepts are invented in a way but people make choices between them that plainly reflect their genuine needs and aspirations ... also from my personal experience people frequently show spontaneous expressions of nationalism and even religious piety that makes me think that at least part of it is somehow hardwired in the human brain ....

in fact the article i once read in barcelona in a leftist mouthpiece called la contra claimed just this regarding religion ... i have no idea how authentic or well researched it is but a person interviewed said that the intensity of emotional response, measured by polygraph during their tests, when subjects were shown religious symbols and objects had nothing to do with their ideological convictions ... it was predefined by the brain configuration... even more, this researcher claimed that who could know what person would be more responsive to this religious stuff by having at look at the general pattern of his brain activity ....

anyway a society without nationalities and religions is also a concept ... but it does not seem to catch people all the time as well as religion or nationalism ....

the thing is that in my view this is more a subject for psychologists than social sciences though it's social sciences that mostly deal with the operations and consequences of it ... in this sense we may not have real understanding as to why the same thing works in swiss but does not work somewhere else ... though as far as i know swiss is extremely federalist and decentralized, something that all lebanese i talked to reject outright ...

but once again, i think we simply dont understand these processes well enough to be sure that swiss is not an exception that confirms the rule ... a few articles i read recently make me think that it's actually quite a xenophobic place compared to many other european countries .. they have a massive anti immigration movement that raises all sorts of very interesting proposals up to banning construction of mosques (or minarets) ... for some reason they have succeeded in developing common national identity crossing linguistic and other barriers that usually divide nations ... but from what i read about them they have not been transformed by this into cosmopolitan citizens of the world ... far from this ...

In the immediate, they're burning tires nearby as I write, and a few gunshots can be heard... So I guess Lebanon will have to put off being an example of peace and coexistence another day... And I have to moshe-koshe outta here.

where is this ??? i see nothing in the news

Nobody said...

ok ... i see it now ... hope you are doing well there

Amos said...

First of all: Jeha, stay safe!

Redel - spoken like a true mathematician. The only problem is that these kinds of definitions, in the real world, tend to be highly contested, so that sometimes no definition can be arrived at.

Having said that, I'm perhaps more comfortable in interpreting the phrase in the second sense cited by Eamonn above.

In fact, in the history of Zionism, Herzl leaned much more toward something along the lines of a "state for the Jews" (this is often called "political Zionism" rather than a state that itself was somehow "Jewish" and furthered the development of Jewish culture and identity ("cultural Zionism").

By a "state for the Jews," which I think is actually a more correct translation of Herzl's "Judenstaat" (the German title is not Der jüdische Staat) than the common English translation, "The Jewish State," I do not mean a state exclusively for Jews. Rather, I mean a state, which by its laws, serves as a potential homeland for all Jews living in the diaspora.

Of course, things are more complicated in real life. Being a majority in a state necessarily puts certain institutions (such as the education system, for example) largely at the disposal of one ethnic minority. It also concentrates enough members of that group in one region and market that its culture and identity are strengthened (at least in a quantitative sense). No one could deny the flowering of Jewish culture (secular and religious)that the state of Israel has made possible.

While we're on this topic, there was an article today in Ha'aretz about a 1941 document from the Lodz ghetto, in which the (still unconfirmed) author writes that

"A Jewish nation is something the world needs, and that is the reason it will be formed. If only one man thought so, one could call it an insane notion, but the idea of a Jewish state is certainly acceptable and feasible. It will become reality without special difficulty. In the Jewish state, the young generation will discover a future of light, freedom and dignity."

Jeha said...

Good point Amos.

But herein lies a paradox; that "a state for the Jews" was fast perceived (or became) "a Jewish state".

The source of the paradox is that Jewish is perceived to be as much about ethnicity as religion. However, one way out of the paradox is a "para-national" state, in which one's own identity can be affirmed without being "melted out" as in the United States, or "smothered out", as in the Soviet Union and it allies. Otherwise, the paradox will remain, and it may even inspire other similar paradoxes in the region; a "Druze Canton", a "Christian heartland", a "Hezvbollalan", a "Jabal Alawis"...

And it could even create incentives across the Southern border... In due time, many "Secular Jews" may decide they have do not have much in common with Shas & Co...

Nobody said...

frankly .. i find something, say, strange about our discussion of whether it should be a jewish state, state for jews or state for everybody else, while our southern border is stormed by refugees fleeing the arab genocide in darfur .. we for sure dont want to find ourselves one day in their place ... or do we ??? :D :D

Nobody said...

The source of the paradox is that Jewish is perceived to be as much about ethnicity as religion. However, one way out of the paradox is a "para-national" state, in which one's own identity can be affirmed without being "melted out" as in the United States, or "smothered out", as in the Soviet Union and it allies. Otherwise, the paradox will remain, and it may even inspire other similar paradoxes in the region; a "Druze Canton", a "Christian heartland", a "Hezvbollalan", a "Jabal Alawis"...

i think you are being prophetic now ... this is indeed the future of the region ... and it's not even our fault ... and even if it is, we are here to solve our own problems ... we are not here to solve the problems of the arab world ...

Nobody said...

The source of the paradox is that Jewish is perceived to be as much about ethnicity as religion. However, one way out of the paradox is a "para-national" state, in which one's own identity can be affirmed without being "melted out" as in the United States, or "smothered out", as in the Soviet Union and it allies. Otherwise, the paradox will remain, and it may even inspire other similar paradoxes in the region; a "Druze Canton", a "Christian heartland", a "Hezvbollalan", a "Jabal Alawis"...


i noticed that many arab bloggers seem to be preoccupied by the prospect of nationalism sweeping the region ... and they are right because it does look as if this shit is coming to get the arabs ... you are definitely not the first arab blogger making this point ... apart from the regular list of arab grievances against israel there's now another one: that by having a nation state here we serve a bad example to arab minorities :D :D

but the thing is that from our point of view the prospect of nationalism ripping countries around us to pieces is no problem at all .. it's not our problem ... to have christian and alawite states around us is better than to be surrounded from all sides by a monolithic sunni block ...

never mind that europe had to go through a lot of wars and ethnic cleansing that paved the way to nation states before it became what it's today .. and maybe europe is what it's today because of this ... maybe this is exactly what the region needs at this stage .... how do you know that it does not ???

do you really believe you can theorize this national stuff away on the grounds it's a man made concept ??? dont you think that you are being a little inconsistent when after twice using switzerland as an example of what you have in mind, you then proceed to saying that the worst thing that can happen to the region is getting a druze canton ???!!! :D :D

you are called switzerland of the middle east, arent you ??? seems to me just the right place to start with the process of cantonization of the region :D :D

Amos said...

Two notes provoked by Jeha's earlier comment.

1. People in Israel aren't nearly as perplexed by the question, "are Jews a religion or a nation" as people outside the country are.

2. Both the terms "religion" and "nation" are Western constructions which, since the Peace of Westphalia, have gradually developed into the most formidable forces shaping the international system of states and peoples.

ariel said...

Amos, great discussion topic. I have no idea idea what Arabs think when they hear the words "Jewish state," but when I hear them I often think of things that are largely unrelated to the Palestinians, such as the treatment of guest workers. It is clear to me, however, that if Israel is to remain a nation-state, that is a Jewish state, it's Arabs will always be second-class citizens. I don't really see how it could possibly be different. The closest analogue I can think of is Japan, where--and I know this from both experience and study--it is essentially impossible to be accepted as a true native unless you're ethnically Japanese, even if your ancestors have resided there for generations. For some non-Jewish Israelis this doesn't seem to be much of a problem. I'm thinking here of the Druze, who seem to be untroubled by questions of nationality so long as no one intrudes on their villages. But for Israel's Arabs I imagine the situation is close to intolerable.

I am not absolutely attached to the notion of a Jewish homeland, but I understand why others are, and I think the feeling is perfectly legitimate. As Nobody has said, human construct or not, a sense of nationhood exerts a very real force in our lives, and in many ways a good force. But I am definitely attached to living in a liberal democracy with a modern, open civil society, and as such I find it very difficult to remain indifferent to the prospect of maintaining a permanent ethnic underclass.

Amos said...

I'm trying to think about whether Israel could be a "state of the Jews" while still being a state of of others (which in fact it is). Could a state have Jewish symbols and see itself as a refuge for Jews, while also accepting its ethnic and religious diversity? Jews should be allowed to express their attachment to the land and country as the homeland of the Jewish people (if this is what they believe). This is why I don't like the kind of solution that Jeha seems to be advocating - a secularism that ends up trying to remove all elements of particularity from the public sphere.

The fact is of course that Israel is not a homogeneous nation-state and, God willing, will never be one. It has an Arab population of 1 million citizens (which encompasses several quite different sectors), and it is not as if the Jewish population could ever be construed as ethnically (or religiously!) homogeneous.

None of this answers your concern about the inevitability of Israeli Arabs feeling like second-class citizens. I guess I am wondering whether the only way to alleviate this concern is to erase all traces of Jewishness from the state's institutions.

This whole discussion was actually provoked by a Berkeley teach-in I attended several months ago, at which a speaker, a professor in UC Berkeley's department of Rhetoric, who is an Israeli Arab / Palestinian (from Haifa) argued that it would be "suicidal" for Palestinians to accept that Israel is a Jewish state.

Roman Kalik said...

Stay safe, Jeha.

Regarding Herzl, I have no doubt whatsoever that he intended a "State for the Jews" rather than a "Jewish State". Herzl's vision for a state where Jews could live freely was basically a multinational state that worked, and had a lot of Jews.

Herzl was a man who didn't define himself as Jewish, as such. It would be more accurate to say that he saw himself as just a man of his nation, who had the (mis)fortune of being defined as a Jew by those around him, be it his family or just the average person. For a long time, he had acted to suppress Jewish identity as a separate entity, instead considering ways to better integrate Jews into European society. His most ambitious idea, and arguably the stupidest, was to encourage all Jews to convert to Christianity (he wrote in his diaries that only his respect for his father prevented him from giving his son an entirely Christian education).

The Dreifus trial and fiasco left Herzl's initial dream shattered, though. If until then he had hope for somehow integrating Jews in Europe, the hate-filled French crowds shouting at Dreifus, a man *very* similar to Herzl and who himself saw his French patriotism broken with his officer's sword, killed that hope in a very final manner.

But Herzl's European ideal never died, even if he saw no hope for it in Europe itself. The closest thing Herzl had to Jewish identity was wanting to prove to Europe that Jews were worth integrating. Other Zionist leaders and thinkers, like E'had Ha'am, never shared Herzl's ideal. They wanted to restore Jewish national identity, culture, and self-determination, and saw an independent Jewish state as a true rebirth of the Jewish people rather than a European state with some Jewish trinkets. This was why Herzl supported the Uganda option when it was presented by the British, and why the other attendees of the Zionist Congress saw him as a fool for that. Herzl wanted to replicate a European nation that accepted Jews, while the rest wanted a state where they could feel at home, rather than have mere physical comfort.

ariel said...

Amos,
Just to clarify, I think that Israeli Arabs would BE second class citizens, not just "feel" like they were. Theoretically, it would be possible to eliminate disparities in resource allocation and treatment, but nothing could eliminate the fundamental fact that, as a Jewish state (or state for Jews, however you want to put it), the preferences and interests of Jews would guide government policy and social development.

Jeha said...

Thanks y'all,

This time, it feels like we ducked a whopper in Lebanon.

That mess further reinforces me in my thinking, though I may compromise on my strict stance of separation between "church and state". Interestingly, this sort of debate is being revived South of the border by beady-eyed peacenicks.

They may be meshugenum today, but the fools often see avenues others miss. As long as the colonies persist, there will be no two-state solution, and the integration of the two societies will continue. Yes, as more time is wasted, more blood will be spilled and more hatred sow, but the question will be raised again and again in the future... Until it becomes the only option that foreign powers will hastily impose on us.

Roman Kalik said...

Jeha, we'll probably have the civil war before we'll even form this mythical bi-national state.

The simple truth is that Jews aren't going to risk being a minority - we have two thousand years of history that proves, in agonizing and bloody detail, just what being a minority means. And several countries around us in this fine Middle-East that tend to show that multi-nationalism isn't exactly the strong point of the region.

Nobody said...

to expand on RK's last comment ... we don't have to define it only in negative terms ... security concerns are important ... but the majority of israelis also want nation state in positive terms .. they simply want to live in a state of their own ... we are talking here as if israel is laying claims to the whole region, while what we get here is a tiny piece of barren land ....

Nobody said...

amos said...

None of this answers your concern about the inevitability of Israeli Arabs feeling like second-class citizens. I guess I am wondering whether the only way to alleviate this concern is to erase all traces of Jewishness from the state's institutions.


i agree .. i would like to add that it's good to be a reasonable person and avoid seeking for troubles without need ... if you are a drag queen, your chances to get bombed while dancing on a bar are reduced dramatically if you dont insist on holding international pride parades in the center of jerusalem ...

in the same way if you take measures to preserve the jewish majority in a country that's supposed to serve a safe haven for jewish refugees, then your chances to not end one day in a refugee camp hundreds miles away from your home country are quite good ...

on the other hand if you spend your days in searching for reasons to undermine the jewish nature of israel then you should not be really surprised to find yourself one day on the same side with the kurds, polisario, darfurians and other victims of the arab imperialism ....

i would call it common sense

Noah S. said...

Amos, you dropped the mama of all topics with this one!

Ariel, I'm not sure if I understand your distinction between "feeling like" and "being" a second-class citizen, if that distinction isn't based on equality before the law (including the proper distribution of resources). Perhaps you object to the word’s subjective character and therefore its potentially dismissive connotation. But it seems to me that what you're talking about in your last comment is a problem of the tyranny of the majority, plain and simple. In that case, ethnically Turkish German citizens and ethnically French Japanese citizens (to use Mearsheimer's examples) should also "be" and not just feel like second-class citizens, even though they enjoy the same rights as ethnic Germans and ethnic Japanese—the absurdity of these categories notwithstanding—simply because they cannot control the symbols and define the interests of the state.

Coming up with an ontology for extra-legal second-class citizenship is difficult for the same reason it’s difficult to define first-class citizenship; that's why, as I said in the discussion on gays in J'lem, who feel distinctly second- or third-class, it’s often better to allow the group in question to speak for itself. Thus if Arab-Israelis, Turkish-Germans, French-Japanese, African-Americans, or any other minority experience social and institutional discrimination and feel second-class, in a democracy they must speak out and demand that their grievances be heard. In theory, this should not be any different in a state with (currently) Jewish symbols. Many Turkish-Germans (for instance, in the neighborhood where I live in Berlin) would prefer the state they live in to have different symbols and values than it (currently) has. Unfortunately for them, they have the will but not the numbers.

I think there is a case to be made, however, on the legal front in Israel regarding the law of return. Arguably, this law, by giving population preference to "Jews," legally maintains not the tyranny of the majority (which all universal suffrage democracy does), but the tyranny of one specific majority.

Having said that, to my mind, the most important goal of the modern nation-state should be to provide entry-points of belonging to all its legal citizens. What I mean by this is the establishment of official myths—everything being myth, as we’ve already established in this thread—that allow the greatest number of citizens to believe in them. The French have their Revolution. What makes one French in theory is that he or she speaks French. The Americans have their constitution. What makes one American is that he or she follows the laws. The Germans had History, the theory of the Christian state and then the racial state; the Japanese their idea of a xenophobic island state; but now they've both adopted (thanks to some nudging from the U.S. in the wake of WWII) a more American model. It remains to be seen if that model is going to work out for them in the long run. (And you thought it was a coincidence that Mearsheimer chose the examples of Japan and Germany to illuminate the situation in Israel?!)

The French and American models work, at least better than others, because they allow all citizens—again, in theory—the possibility of FEELING like they belong to the nation (not just the state) and can contribute to creating common civic symbols. If Israel wants to create the conditions of this possibility for Arab-Israelis, new myths - new definitions of being Israeli, shorn of their exclusively Jewish connotations (e.g. the image on the Israeli flag) must be formed. Because Arab-Israelis may one day feel truly Israeli, but they will never feel Jewish. Unless we change the definition of Jewish, which I don’t see happening anytime soon.

If Jewish-Israelis want Israel to remain a refuge for Jews and therefore retain preferential immigration status, a compromise must be brokered; the one million and growing Arab-Israelis must be sold on the idea and be pleased with their status as a minority living in a majority Jewish state. I think this is very possible, if inevitably painful. But one prerequisite of such a negotiation is, as the philosopher Axel Honneth maintains, “recognition.” This is why the recognition of the Nakbah in official Israeli public discourse, among other types of recognition, is so important a task.

Okay, that was way longer than I wanted it to be. But it’s your fault, Amos, for dropping this topic and tempting me away from my work. Luckily, I can bill these hours to Berkeley.

Nobody said...

If Jewish-Israelis want Israel to remain a refuge for Jews and therefore retain preferential immigration status, a compromise must be brokered; the one million and growing Arab-Israelis must be sold on the idea and be pleased with their status as a minority living in a majority Jewish state. I think this is very possible, if inevitably painful. But one prerequisite of such a negotiation is, as the philosopher Axel Honneth maintains, “recognition.” This is why the recognition of the Nakbah in official Israeli public discourse, among other types of recognition, is so important a task.


i disagree ... israeli arabs will push as far as they can up to extending the right of return to the whole of israel ... in this sense any concession on teaching nakba or state symbols will be interpreted by them as another step on the way to wreslting the country from the hands of the jews ... israeli arabs can only be made to reconcile themselves to the existence of israel as a jewish state if they see that we stand firm on this ...

it's impossible to broker any compromise on this with them ... we can only engineer a de facto compromise ... but it's a compromise that's largely imposed on the other side .... to impose such a compromise on them will depend on one hand on the demographic situation because the arabs are still betting on the arab womb to bring them israel on a silver plate ... on the other hand it will largely depend on the socio economic situation of the arab sector .... when it comes to the last one it's clear that israeli arabs understand that their situation is incomparably better in israel than in any other arab country around ... but we can do more by, for example, creating a special fund for improving the situation of our minorities .... such a fund assigned a few billions of shekels should be spent exclusively on development projects in israeli arab areas ....


but i would caution against developing excessive expectations from such measures because there is a limit to how much you can buy people's national affiliations and loyalties for money ... and in particular in this part of the world ....

Nobody said...

on the other hand if you spend your days in searching for reasons to undermine the jewish nature of israel then you should not be really surprised to find yourself one day on the same side with the kurds, polisario, darfurians and other victims of the arab imperialism ....

i want to elaborate on this point about us and other middle eastern minorities (or call it non arab groups) vs the general arab imperialism ...

the arabs are plainly aware of the growing national question ... the iraqi kurdistan has become de facto independent and the rebels in south sudan have won the right to hold an independence referendum in 2011, though it remains to be seen if bashir is going to keep his word and not just buying time (and weapons) ... while i dont have jeha in mind, because he is lebanese and their situation is different, the rest of arab bloggers are making a similar point for very different reasons ... this para national discourse is just a smoke screen for the regular arab imperialism .. from western sahara through darfur to the kurdistan the arabs are in no mood to grant self determination to anybody .... some concessions can be made but when it comes to self determination, middle eastern minorities should bear in mind darfur and anfal operations as a blueprint for how the arab world is preparing to deal with the national question ...

in the same way the humanistic underpinnings of the idea of bi-national state are no more than another smokescreen .. i have no doubt that the only reason it's on the table is because the arabs are sure of their demographic superiority and superiority in numbers .. after all the idea is about israel voluntarily surrendering itself to the arab world and submitting itself to the arab majority the arabs will manufacture out of a combined population of the west bank/gaza, israeli arabs and palestinian refugees ... and it's also very clear to me that had the demographic situation been different, the arabs would have never even mentioned bi-national state but instead would have sent another grand mufti to berlin, or better tehran, to lobby for another final solution ...

in this sense israel is unique in the region in that it actually tried to implement the two state solution and a velvet divorce the former checkoslovakia style ... it confirms the general situation of israel as the most advanced country in the region that decades ahead of the rest of the region on everything from technology and living standards to dealing with national issues ... behind all this pseudo humanistic post nationalist blah blah coming from the arab side is actually hiding a total lack of readiness to deal with the national question in any reasonable and pragmatic way ... it only serves and will continue to serve the other side as another justification for rejecting demands for self determination whereever they are raised ...

so the point to keep in mind is that it's not us who are out of step with the rest of the region on this ... it's just the other way round ....

Amos said...

I think we MUST develop criteria that allow us to distinguish between people FEELING like and actually BEING second-class citizens. Of course, every individual and every organized collective can and should, as Noah says, articulate its concerns about being in a position of second-class citizenship. However, it should also be understood that when we define this "second-class citizenship" in terms of some exclusion from the symbolic sphere (flags, national anthems), we are not talking about the same thing as matters such as equality before the law. I realize that Noah took care to avoid blurring such differences, by distinguishing "extra-legal" from "legal" second-class citizenship.

Still, I want to add that I really don't understand how one could argue that because members of a minority do not control the symbols of a state they ARE second-class citizens. That would mean that a (hypothetical group of) Christian fundamentalists in the U.S., who believe that there should be a huge crucifix placed on the American flag, are second-class citizens, simply because they would be prevented from doing this by the "tyrannical majority."

What worries me are the tendencies, especially in the case of Israel, by various enlightened despots in the American academy to hope for the imposition of some kind of utopian ultra-liberal solution on the country. It is not a human right to have one's collective identity represented in a state's institutions.

Amos said...

I have to say that Nobody and Roman Kalik articulate the fears felt by many Jews in Israel and the diaspora with respect to this talk of a "binational state." In this way, they are also addressing the second line of inquiry that I proposed in my original post. We need to take these fears seriously. They explain, among other things, why it is so important for many Jewish Israelis that the Palestinians recognize the "Jewish state." For them, indeed, contra the UC Berkeley rhetorician whom I mentioned above, it would be suicide to embark on negotiations without such a recognition.

ariel said...

Amos and Noah,
My point is that while it is theoretically possible to remove disparities in resource allocation and treatment, in practical fact it is not likely that this ideal can be fully realized for any length of time. Without an integration of Israeli Arabs and Jews, which I think the concept of a Jewish state precludes to a great degree, Arabs will remain a self-contained minority that will find it difficult to represent itself politically. The best one could hope for is something along the lines of "separate but equal," which I think the three of us agree is a delusion. Furthermore, how can Israeli Arabs ever achieve any degree of even proportional representation so long as they do not serve in the army? Do you foresee the army, shin bet, mossad, etc. losing their very important decision-making roles any time in the near future? Do you foresee Israeli Arabs, even under the best of circumstances, serving in the IDF, and if so, attaining high ranks? Will Israeli Arabs be asked, and accept, the duty of dying for a country pledged to another ethnicity and religion? How can you suppose that equality before the law is enough to make the matter of second class citizenship purely an emotional one when critical sectors of the governing apparatus are closed to a particular ethnic group? Is it not, to a large degree, the perception of just this kind of problem by European Jews that sustained the Zionist movement?

This is not simply a question of symbols. In a Jewish state the choice for Arabs will be this: (1) attempt to integrate, with uncertain prospects as to ultimate acceptance; (2) remain enclosed in Arab villages and neighborhoods, i.e. ethnic enclaves, and negotiate with the outside society and government for resources and some degree of autonomy. In general, one should assume that, in any state pledged to a particular group, outgroups will experience myriad day-to-day interactions in which their outgroup status will count against them, even if only slightly. This, again, is not mere symbolism. I don't deny that formal equality before the law is a very important protection, but it is not the only matter of substance when it comes to citizenship.

Nobody said...

ariel

you are absolutely right that it's more than symbols ... the ultimate manifestation of israel being a jewish state is our control over immigration policies ... you want to satisfy israeli arabs ??? you can either block access to israel for our diaspora or grant it to millions of people claiming descent from palestinian refugees ... choose one you like most :D :D

but it should be also noted that arabs have a concept of general historical injustice ... that jews came and took this country for themselves ... as long as israel exists and has a clear jewish majority this historical injustice is present and did not go anywhere as far as many israeli arabs are concerned ...

finally there is a fundamental problem of the arabs struggling to come to terms with the existence of this state ... if even jeha can't stomach its presence here what do you expect from regular israeli arabs and palestinians ???

finally playing with state symbols and similar stuff is a very serious business ... it can have very negative consequences and devastating impact on the society ... many israelis are already in doubt about the sanity of their intellectual and political elites who often seem to be given to chasing pipe dreams and playing into mahatma gandhis instead of thinking pragmatically and taking into consideration risks and dangers involved in the mere living in the middle east ....

playing with state symbols may signal to many israelis and jews in the diaspora that the insanity is finally reaching its climax, that the state is self destructing itself by voluntarily dismantling its foundations .. it may have a very negative impact on migration flows from and into the country on which the existence of this country depends ...


you can make cartwheels in the air but you will never manage to meet all arab demands ... territorial swaps between us and PA including areas populated by israeli arabs should have been a good, even though partial solution, to allow jews and arabs find a way out of this mess ... unfortunately this was rejected too ... and for no other reason that the other side is not interested so much in finding a solution to this situation .. so there is no reason why we should go out of our way to help

Roman Kalik said...

Funny thing... the Druze have no problem with serving in the Israeli army, and attaining very high ranks (generals, Ariel, generals). Same with the Bedoin. Maybe it's because neither group has large-scale national aspirations based on the notion of pan-Arabic ownership of the region?

Amos said...

but it should be also noted that arabs have a concept of general historical injustice ... that jews came and took this country for themselves ... as long as israel exists and has a clear jewish majority this historical injustice is present and did not go anywhere as far as many israeli arabs are concerned

Yes, there is some truth to that, although of course not only "Arabs" have such a concept.

Last year, we had several posts on a report called the "Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel," which to me confirms many of the fears expressed by Nobody and RK.

See the following posts:

Sorry guys, you're not colonialists after all,

and

The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.

They're still worth checking out.

Amos said...

Ariel,

I agree with many of the points you make. But at the end of the day, I think it comes down to the following. If Jewish Israelis knew for certain that the ultimate end of various symbolic changes is the uninhibited participation of Israeli Arabs in the Israeli state and society within the pre-1967 borders, they might be persuaded to adopt even seemingly radical changes. However,as long as Jewish Israelis fear that the calls for extra-legal equality are mere subterfuge serving an irredentist project with the ultimate aim of marginalizing Jewish political representation, they will not agree to a single concession and may even harden their stance.

ariel said...

Roman Kalik,
I was actually thinking about the Druze as I was writing, and wondering what effect a Lebanese Druze canton or something like it would have on Israeli Druze--could it awaken some kind of national aspirations in them? In the present situation, because the Druze seem not to have any particular national ambitions but are essentially content to exercise effective sovereignty within their own villages, they have cut a stable deal with the Jewish majority to serve the state loyally. I wonder to what degree this is conditioned by their secretive religious beliefs and consequently insular outlook. The Bedoin strike me as another story.

Amos,
I agree with your assessment. Nobody's posts serve as primary evidence, and I think accurately reflect the prevalent view.

Roman Kalik said...

I was actually thinking about the Druze as I was writing, and wondering what effect a Lebanese Druze canton or something like it would have on Israeli Druze--could it awaken some kind of national aspirations in them?

That's an interesting question, actually. Largely, I don't see Druze as having national political aspirations. They put a strong emphasis on patriotism and loyalty to their host country, as long as it doesn't conflict with their land rights and family loyalty, and from what I know from speaking to the lay Druze (who don't know that much about the faith, admittedly) the religion seems to discourage a Druze nation altogether.

The question is, what would happen should one be formed by circumstances beyond their control? Druze communities seem different in each country, almost radically so. They'd prefer not to fight each other, but will they truly want to live in the same country?

Only time will tell, I guess.

Roman Kalik said...

I wonder to what degree this is conditioned by their secretive religious beliefs and consequently insular outlook.

Actually, that's not due to the religion as much as the cultural changes they had to make in order to survive. The Druze have been hiding their faith and customs for centuries due to Muslim persecution, often masquerading themselves as Sunni Muslims. Shi'a used to do the same for similar reasons, but the Druze suffered a lot more from it.

Combine this factor with a group that started out as warrior clans that had a very dim view of anyone messing with them, and the end result is an insular group that doesn't want to reveal its internal affairs to outsiders, for fear that the outsiders will attempt to erase their identity (as was often the case).

This was one of the reasons why Israeli Druze didn't much like the idea of pan-Arabism, and neither did the Syrian Druze conscripts that ended up living here after the Independence War.

The Bedoin strike me as another story.

Well, yes. They often see Arab nationalism as a bad land-worker joke.

Nobody said...

Amos said...

Ariel,

I agree with many of the points you make. But at the end of the day, I think it comes down to the following. If Jewish Israelis knew for certain that the ultimate end of various symbolic changes is the uninhibited participation of Israeli Arabs in the Israeli state and society within the pre-1967 borders, they might be persuaded to adopt even seemingly radical changes.


i dont think so ... i think that for many people the idea is that the palestinians will have their state and jews will have theirs where they will be left alone ... now some people are reaching the conclusion that in the same way as it's impossible to satisfy arabs, it's lardgely impossible to satisfy our leftists and liberals too who appear to have an extensive agenda that goes beyond the two state solution ... lets say to be left alone we can only wish because it seems that the liberals have much more in stock for us ... to get out of the west bank would be only the beginning as after this we will vigorously engage in removing any reference to anything jewish from our state symbols, learning arabic and polishing our co-existence skills in other ways under the watchful eye of our mahatma-gandhis ...

never mind that a large section of the two state solution public is not very ideological but rather pragmatic and down-to-earth .... the sheer depth of the absurdity which this political correctness can lead us to is beyond many of these people's comprehension ... just imagine a jewish state on one side of the border removing any reference to its jewishness from its state symbols and immigration policies, while on the side a palestinian state working hard to conceal that it has anything to do with palestinian arabs ... this is too absurd and bizarre a situation for many people to be able to make any sense of it ...

Nobody said...

regarding the druze and bedouins ... i remember reading in the haaretz that the number of christian arabs volunteering to serve in the IDF is steadily growing in the last years .... though i dont think that we should be surprised by this ... we should be probably surprised that it have not started earlier and on a bigger scale .... middle eastern christianity is in collapse or declining almost everywhere ... we are one of the few countries around with a growing christian arab population ... even egypt's coptic population is reported to be shrinking through immigration ...

Nobody said...

immigration=emigration

Nobody said...

by the way ... i dont know if you read about this poll that claimed that 75% of israeli arabs would support a constitution that defines israel as a jewish state .. the same poll said that the support for a multi cultural constituion has declined between 2004 to 2007 from 55% to 34% ... i dont know how reliable these polls are but if it's true then there is a wide gap between israeli arab leaders and their constituencies ... israeli arab leaders have been steadily escalating their rethoric over the last years but the majority of israeli arabs may be much more moderate than this ..

i remember also reading an interview with madjadle, who is probably one of the few normal and sane arab leaders ... and he was asked about the hymn thing .. madjadle said that he does not sing the hymn, but he respects the hymn by standing ... he then proceeded to saying that israeli arabs have more urgent problems than if and what to sing ...

finally on another thread on a blog now reserved only for invited users, me and RK took part in a very similar discussion about the state symbols .. one of the commenters there came with a bundle of quotes from different hymns that basically showed that there is nothing out of ordinary with our hymn ... even more, the author of the blog, a dutch israeli, who was arguing for changing state symbols, later admitted that even in the dutch hymn, and this is one of the most liberal and tolerant states in europe, there is something in a sense: i am dutch, german blood flows in my veins... i dont remember exactly what it was but something like this ... yet nobody in holland makes so much fuss of it ....

i think we should make an effort to preserve some semblance of common sense ... for some reason jews seem to be prone to extreme maximalism and blowing things out of proportion ... and it does not help anybody ...

Amos said...

I came across that discussion on Tsedek's blog a few days ago (I think through a link you had put up) and was thinking about linking to it as well, since it covered some similar territory. What do you mean it's for invited users only now? It's invisible for everyone else?

Amos said...

i think we should make an effort to preserve some semblance of common sense ... for some reason jews seem to be prone to extreme maximalism and blowing things out of proportion

There is some truth to this. This blowing things out of proportion (by Jews) - it might be a a secularized reworking of the traditional belief that the Jews are the chosen people - this notion that there is something unique (in this case, uniquely evil) about Israeli policies, for example. Accompanying this is the belief that if the policies of Israel or the behavior of Jews are changed according to a higher standard of morality, the whole world will be redeemed as as result.

Nobody said...

tsedel locked her blog taking some of my best threads away :D :D ... when you try to access her blog you are politely informed that it's only for invited readers and you are not one of them ...

regarding israeli arabs i know a very good and wise book called how to stop worry and start living by mr. carnegie .. there is chapter here about one guy that wrecked his finances and nervous system while trying to sell insurance .. one day this guy made a startling discovery that he does not have to chase people with his insurance deals indefinitely ... in 99% of the cases people who don't buy at the first or second time, never do it later anyway... he stopped chasing these customers and concentrated on the old ones or getting new customers ... this approach worked wonders for his moneys and health ...

in the same way there are reasonable people among israeli arabs who understand that our peaceful co-existance is largely about damage control .. they understand that compromises should be reasonable and probably their order of priorities does not feature our hymn and flag at the top ... and this is our target public ...

as to ahmad tibi, sheikh salah and their likes, it's impossible to placate these people .. trying to do so will only create more mess by emboldening them and inflating their expectations and by demoralizing large chunks of israeli public .... we are looking for troubles too much and without a good reason ...

as carnegie said: if you have lemons, make lemonade .. actually i think he said it in another chapter ... it has nothing to do with the guy who was selling insurance ... and it's hardly relevant to the topic we are discussing here ... anyway it should be a nice way to end this comment ...

Nobody said...

tsedel=tsedek

Roman Kalik said...

Tsedek made her blog invite only? Any idea why?

The Historian said...

Regarding the Druze, I think it's worth taking note of the fact that they represent a small proportion of the population in the countries in which they have a presence. This could also explain the absence of a national movement in their case.

In any case, I do not think that the experience and behaviours of the Druze community in Israel proper has much to do with their faith. We need to look at the historical context in 1948 and a few decisions by key community leaders (specifically one of their spiritual leaders at the time, from the Tarif family I believe). It was a set of specific circumstances and decisions by this Druze leader, as well as the nascent Israeli state's policies, that laid the basis for the relatively positive relationship between the Druze and the Israeli state today.

I think Hillel Cohen's book "Good Arabs" ('Aravim tovim) does a good job of explaining these dynamics. Nothing in this whole story was inevitable, by the way. There were also opponents of army service and the Jewish state in the Druze camp.

Amos said...

Just to add onto Historian's comments: as you all know, there's also a large population of Druze quite hostile to the state of Israel living in the Golan.

Nobody said...

Amos said...

Just to add onto Historian's comments: as you all know, there's also a large population of Druze quite hostile to the state of Israel living in the Golan.


israeli druze, at least those i talked to, usually explain it by the same concept of loyalty which is part of their religion ... regarding israeli druze i think the palestinians were being mean to them ... i think the palis have simply pushed them into our hands ...

of course the hagana also did its part of the job by refraining from attacking their places, but overall i think it's more like the arabs did not want them ... a big mistake by the way ... because they seem to be a martial race or something ... good soldiers ...

Danny said...

Ariel,

Yet again your sheer ignorance astounds. There are a significant number of senior members of the army who are arab and druze with most serving in key units. Whilst you have to be Jewish - to two jewish parents - to be a katsa in the Mossad, I don't believe this is the case in the Shabak(also don't believe it is the case for other parts of the Mossad either but NB I cannot say this for a fact). Arab Israelis can also flex their muscles in the Labour party - they got Barak recently elected and were key to his loss in 2001.

Why would they have a problem living in a Jewish state? You live in Christian state. You have a religious Christian president - Israel has yet to get a religious pm - and a large portion of your congress and senate elected by religious people of one stripe or another. Does this mean your status as a Jew is somehow threatened? Does the fact Christmas is a formal holiday and not Passover make you to be "pledged" to the US?

As for "integration", my guess is that the average Israeli arab would rather integrate but their is a social pressure from their "leaders" not to and a beauracratic indifference on the Israeli side and PC "we can't force our culture on them" BS we see so much of in our crazy left-wing in Israel.

Roman Kalik said...

I agree with Nobody, loyalty to the host state is very important to Druze, and most of the Golan Druze simply see themselves as part of the Syrian community - and thus loyal to Syria.

Amos said...

Okay, RK and NB - now you are just being silly - as The Historian said, you cannot simply reduce it to religious tenets. Obviously the types of historical contingencies that s/he pointed to also mattered a great deal. If you look at Lebanon, you have yet another model. Btw, intrigued by your use of the word "host country": the Druze have been in those areas for much longer than those countries have been around for, so it seems a bit of a misnomer.

Danny - why the vitriol? If you had read Ariel's other comments, you would have seen that he's well aware of the number of Druze officers serving in the IDF. In any case, you have hardly demonstrated "ignorance" on Ariel's part. You could have made your argument, which is reasonable, without this kind of hyperbole.

Danny said...

Amos,

Maybe the hyperbole is overdone. That said I have seen no evidence that Ariel does in fact realise how pervasive non-jews are in the key units in the IDF. We recently had the death of a druze serving in the Sayeret Matkal - our top unit - we have a number of reconnaisance unit run by beduoin and a significant portion of the Mistaravim are non-jewish. We have a number of senior non-jewish officiers in IDF.

The question posed by Ariel - "Do you foresee Israeli Arabs, even under the best of circumstances, serving in the IDF[they already do], and if so, attaining high ranks[they already have]? Will Israeli Arabs be asked, and accept, the duty of dying[again already happened] for a country pledged to another ethnicity and religion? How can you suppose that equality before the law is enough to make the matter of second class citizenship purely an emotional one [already is] when critical sectors of the governing apparatus are closed to a particular ethnic group?[except they aren't]" doesn't demonstrate to me that he is aware of this and yet again is making statements on topics that - at best - he clearly knows nothing about. This again I happen to be one of those crazies who believe facts matter.

Now had he made a comment along the lines of will those non-jews continue to serve to the state then that would show a higher awareness of a real question mark in the development of Israel. Can Israeli governments continue to take Druze compliance for granted - as it has to date - and arab israeli agnosticism? As for this "feeling" second class, this is more done to indifference on the Israeli state as opposed to active discrimination and also down to the more vocal arab leadership failing to represent "their" constituency as opposed to "state symbols".

Amos said...

On a related note - it's interesting that precisely those people who see in the use of the term "Israeli Arabs" (rather than "Palestinians") an effort by the Israeli state and society to strip the "Palestinians" inside the pre-1967 borders of their identity tend to ignore the experiences of groups like the Druze altogether. They are dismissed as incidental or as evidence of tokenism. In fact, the narrative of Palestinian dispossession, which is pan-Arabist (and today, increasingly Islamist), grants very little space to minority groups in the Middle East. We can see this in how it treats the Druze, but also in how it is assumed to be of far greater significance than, for example, the massacres of the Kurds by Saddam.

I had a post about the occlusion of various minorities from the regnant pan-Arabist, post-colonial narrative about the history of the Middle East a while ago.

Nobody said...

Amos said...

Okay, RK and NB - now you are just being silly - as The Historian said, you cannot simply reduce it to religious tenets. Obviously the types of historical contingencies that s/he pointed to also mattered a great deal. If you look at Lebanon, you have yet another model. Btw, intrigued by your use of the word "host country": the Druze have been in those areas for much longer than those countries have been around for, so it seems a bit of a misnomer.


it's a misnomer... i could find a better definition ... as to why the druze are loyal to this or that state all i know is what those druze i met say themselves ... and these were young secular israeli druze ... but i dont know what books say about this ...

another thing that israeli and lebanese druze told me is that they like to live on highlands, on mountaintops because of the past persecution ... that their neighbors did not treat them well and so they have developed a low altitude phobia and this obsessive compulsive syndrome of stockpiling guns and ammunition in their homes ...

Nobody said...

Amos said...

On a related note - it's interesting that precisely those people who see in the use of the term "Israeli Arabs" (rather than "Palestinians") an effort by the Israeli state and society to strip the "Palestinians" inside the pre-1967 borders of their identity tend to ignore the experiences of groups like the Druze altogether. They are dismissed as incidental or as evidence of tokenism

once nizo translated for me a few bits from israeli arab blogs ... here is one ...

Nizo said...

On the subject of identity, here’s an interesting exchange between 2 bloggers, one Egyptian Copt (Shamei) and Israeli-Arab Muslim(Yasmine). Read patiently till the end. Original in Arabic, abridged translation my own:


Shamei: Us, the Christians in Egypt, we're always accused of treason, or that we're lacking in loyalty to the state.
Yasmine: The same for us in Israel, I understand you.
Shamei: Who's "us", you mean the Palestinians?
Yasmine: The Arabs living inside Israel
Shamei: Ah, Israeli-Arabs
Yasmine: I need to ask you to do me a favour, don't ever say "Israeli-Arabs"
Shamei: Why?
Yasmine: I hate that term, because I am one of them.
Shamei: So this expression is a problem? I understand, it's equivalent to "Nassara", the archaic term they use for us Christians.
Yasmine: We are not Israeli-Arabs, we are Arabs who were and who are living in our homes that Israel occupied. Say "Arabs of the Interior" or Arabs 48 or any other term.
Shamei: Did you know that I always compared what happens to Copts in Egypt to the treatment of Palestinians at the hands of Israel.
Yasmine: It is the same (discrimination) for us based on race. We have to work for them (Jews) we have no other choice.
Shamei: You mean Arabs 48 only or all Palestinians?
Yasmine: No, only Arabs 48. When I say “us” I mean Arabs 48
Shamei: So you agree with my comparison to what happens to Copts and what happens to you in Israel?
Yasmine: Yes
Shamei: Alot of (discrimination) takes place in Egypt, especially when it comes to positions at universities. A student may come out first in his class and they would refuse to appoint him because he's Christian.
Yasmine: Yes, you should see here (in Israel). We suffer just to get jobs that we deserve because of our education
Shamei: Many positions in Egypt have become forbidden for us. However employers don't acknowledge it.
Yasmine: Of course, Israel denies it (discrimination) as well.
Shamei: But you in the end have Israel as a clear enemy, but who's my enemy?
Yasmine: Perhaps your country, or people, or the era we live in.

and another one:

Nizo said...

more to come, here's an instalment from that girl’s own blog (Yasmine). Her profile says that she works as a teacher.

The header of Kalimat48 (words 48):

“Words from inside 48, the thoughts of a girl living within the green line who is considered and expected to be among “suspects” in the country she lives in (Israel), only to find out that the sons of her nation (Arabs) view her as a “suspect” as well. Will this perception change one day?”

Then if you scroll down there’s a cartoon my Naji-Al-Ali that she labels “biladi” that proclaims:

“The Galilee is Palestinian and Nazareth is located in Palestine and also Haifa, and Akka, and Yaffa and Lid and Ramleh and Sakhnin and Um Al Fahm, (all) in Palestine and Al-Quds is Arab-Palestinian and my grandmother is from Bissan and Bissan is Palestinian and Safad and Tabarayya, and my country isn't called "Israel", my country is called Occupied Palestine.”

And in a blogpost she compares the movie Chicago in which blacks are discriminated against to her experience in Israel. Here’s another bit about nomenclature:

“What takes place in "Chicago" is very similar to the Zionist's treatment of us in the interior and do note that I will use the word "interior" a lot because I hate to say Israeli-Arabs and I shudder when someone asks me if I'm Israeli-Arab, they always stick us with the name of that country (Israel)!! They can't just call us Arabs of 48 or Arabs of the interior or Arabs of Palestine! Although the last one (Arabs of Palestine) is forbidden for us, and saying it is considered treason to the state (Israel).”

ariel said...

Your points are well taken (about Israeli Arabs already serving, not about my ignorance), but I still believe that most don't serve and that there is an upper limit on positions of importance they can typically attain. I may be wrong, but I imagine that basically all of the key decision-making positions in the government bureaucracy are held by Jews. Again I'll make the limited comparison to European Jews a century ago, who also served, even at high levels, in their various governments. This fact, however, did not indicate that they were on a par with Christians.

Incidentally, the country I live in, the United States, is not a Christian state, although a majority of its people are Christians and often vote explicitly on that basis. If it were a Christian state, I'd find our current crop of religious politicians far more disturbing than I already do. As it is, I'm troubled by the Christian right's current embrace of Jews and Israel, which I think can very easily turn the other way in the future, at which point things may become a little uncomfortable for American Jews. But, certainly at the moment, Jews are not frozen out of key decision-making positions at really any level (the presidency notwithstanding). On the other hand, in the fifties and early sixties, when blacks worked in the government and served in a military that had been desegragated since 1948, even in the North where there were no Jim Crow laws they were still second class citizens in a very real sense. So the mere presence of some members of a minority group in government institutions does not in and of itself indicate that that group has much real power.

Danny said...

Amos,

One of the more bizarre things in the Middle East - as you can imagine against stiff competition - is that Israeli Arabs will often be refered to in arabic as "Muslim Jews". I think that they do have a very difficult position, too Israeli for most arabs and too arab for alot of Israelis.

As for why Palestinians get more coverage than the Kurds killed by Saddam, one only has to look at the "reward" the very brave reporter who broke this story got - he was tortured, convicted and hanged in Iraq as a "Zionist" agent. The man who publicised it - Kana Makiyah - was and is viciously attacked as some US/Zionist/Imperialist/[presumably]Capitalist stooge. Of course this has to be weighed against the courage of those who risk being called anti-semitic by mighty and all-powerful Israel Lobby when bringing to light Israeli misdemenours. I don't think we need to immediately jump to cultural narratives - or even "anti-semiticism" - when explaining the differential in reporting. If you were an arab, who would you rather upset - the useless Israel "Lobby" or the Syrian Mukhabarat?

Nobody said...

Danny said...

Amos,

One of the more bizarre things in the Middle East - as you can imagine against stiff competition - is that Israeli Arabs will often be refered to in arabic as "Muslim Jews". I think that they do have a very difficult position, too Israeli for most arabs and too arab for a lot of Israelis.


one of my arab friends who went to paris came back with an absolutely shocking story about his interaction with morrocan immigrants there ... from the moment he said he is from israel they started calling him jew !!! after a while of this conversation he was lucky that police was around ....

also you can find occasionally funny comments on blogs where israeli arabs talk to other arabs ...

Abed. Hamdan Says:

October 22nd, 2006 at 12:46 am

lol

yes I Meant Arab 48 :)

Many Arab 48 youths are coming to study at my university (Jordan University of Science and Technology : http://www.just.edu.jo )

and their number is increasing !!!

so what I’ve found is, most of Jordanians don’t know anything about them. Not only Jordanians, but also Palestinians who live in Jordan doesn’t know anything about them !!

worse yet, many (Not all of them, the Majority i mean) of the Arab48 studnets are misBehaving, and are more like westerns in behavior! ya3ni they don’t follow Islam rules, girls can live with guys, and this is so wrong.

There are, of course, many of them are good and role model for the rest of us, but to be honest , the students here are giving bad impression of the Arab 48.

Source

Danny said...

Ariel,

Non-Jews have served as Aluf in the IDF. There is one rank higher that of Chief of Staff which to date has always been Jewish - although I don't believe it is formally disallowed, merely inconcievable, bit like a black or female president would have been in the 60s US.

As for the comparison with Blacks in the 50s and 60s, this is really not the same. Blacks were segregated in military service - which only the haredim have in the IDF - and denied access to certain positions a priori, which Israeli non-Jews are not. From recollection, the black leaders were not suggesting that the US become part of Africa and the whites "go back" to Europe. The discrimination the Israeli Arabs face have multiple roots but the main causes are corrupt and incompetent leaders, perception of association with our enemies, loud demands for rights whilst just as loudly shunning responsibilities and a disunity that ensures they don't speak with one voice - as opposed to say settlers or haredim.

As atonement for my hyperbole about "ignorance", I seize this chance to agree with you on a topic. I think the Christian Right's "Zionism" is a deeply disturbing trend for a number of reasons. For one, the almightly seems to have a tendency to change his political alliances. For another, I am not that happy about the strength of influence of this lobby on Israeli internal politics( a topic that incidently would be far more interesting than M&W's and have the added bonus of being true ).

ariel said...

Danny,
As I said in my post, the American military was desegregated in 1948, so blacks were neither serving in separate units nor barred "a priori" from attaining any rank. Beyond the fact that, formal rules or not, neither American blacks in the sixties nor Israeli Arabs today are likely actually to reach key decision-making positions, the comparison is inappropriate. The causes for discrimination may or may not have more grounding in the one case or the other. My only point with the example was that the mere presence of a minority group in government institutions does not necessarily indicate that its general standing is on a par with the majority.

On your olive branch (really an unexpected treat), I'm curious to know more about how you see American evangelicals influencing things in Israel.

Nobody said...

the angry arab has recently put the following quote from an article by abunimah's on his blog ... i think it should be interesting in the context of the discussion we had about nationalism vs arab imperialism in the middle east. Here we go

"By identifying Israel with the supposed underdog, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Haaretz implicitly recognizes that there are indeed some striking similarities though not ones it would acknowledge. Kosovo, like Israel, was illegally severed by force of arms from another country against the wishes of the majority population of the whole territory. Both entities came into being and can only survive with the sponsorship and support of the Great Powers of the day who sustain them in violation of international law because it suits their imperial interests. Furthermore, both entities are animated by a virulent ethno-nationalism that is fundamentally incompatible with the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy that they claim to have come into being to uphold. In this sense, Kosovo is the latest in a collection of Western-backed pseudo-states that also includes the Kurdish entity (!!! NB) in northern Iraq."

Source

you know, there may be one thousand and one differences between arab bloggers like jeha and the angry arab .. and yet, amazingly, there is one thing about which they all seem to be in agreement