Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The Jewish State Again
Before I wrote my post on A Jewish State, several weeks ago, a good friend of mine took objection to my lament that no one seems terribly concerned about the fact that there are many "Islamic States" in the world or that various countries in the region define themselves as "Arab states."
I cannot do justice to his entire argument here, and I anticipate that he will view whatever I post as a distortion of what he was saying. Furthermore, since he has not given me permission to do so, I cannot quote his words directly. Nevertheless, here is my attempt.
According to my friend, the comparison of "the Jewish state" with Islamic states lacks rigor. Islamic states such as the Islamic Republic of Iran are "Islamic," he argues, because they derive their laws from shari'ah (Islamic religious law). But Israel's laws are not derived from halakhah (Jewish religious law). Rather, the Jewishness of the state, according to him, is something that resides in people not texts. Citizenship is linked to blood in a way that citizenship in Islamic states and Arab nationalist ones was never conceived. That is, citizenship in Arab states was not a matter of "Arabness" - as evidence, he cites the Armenian citizens in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, and the Kurdish citizens of Iraq.
I think my friend is confused and mistaken on several fronts, but I have a feeling that this argument resonates with some people. I would like to use this opportunity to resume the discussion we began in the last post, by subjecting the argument above to critique in the comments.