A partial view taken on December 18, 2014 shows the east Jerusalem Israeli settlement of Har Homa (TOP) from the West Bank city of Bethlehem (DOWN), which was originally built in the 1990s, in the annexed Arab east Jerusalem area of Jabal Abu Ghneim. Image Credit: AFP

Israel’s insistence on Palestinians to recognise it as the ‘Jewish state for the Jews’ derives, according to Israeli writers, from demands to ensure durable and lasting security. Yet, this is the very reason that is denying Israel any such security. The demand for a Jewish state has split Israelis into two camps — the right-wing religious and ultra-nationalist camp comprising pro-colonists and the secular liberal camp that yearns for a truly democratic civil state.

The insistence on a Jewish state would necessitate the ‘colonisation’ of all historical Arab Palestine, thus obliterating any chance of peace and security for Israel, first and foremost. A Jewish state and the proposed two-state solution will not be able to exist because, by then, the Palestinian land needed for a real independent Palestinian state will have been gobbled up by Israeli colonisation. For a Jewish state to be realised, it has to ‘purify’ itself of the non-Jewish population, which means a complete transfer of the Palestinians of 1948 and the Palestinians of 1967 from ‘Eretz Israel’, which consists of all historical Palestine.

Opponents of a Jewish state point to facts that make Israel a state with dual nationality, which negates its ‘Jewish purity’. Such a state designed for Jews only would put them above non-Jews (i.e. Palestinians) whose existence on their land is an established historical fact. As such, complete democracy would be negated.

The Palestinian stand, expressed by President Mahmoud Abbas, defines the meaning of a Jewish state as “negating, in the absolute sense of the word” all national and historical rights of Palestinians, for good, in historical Palestine, which would make all Palestinian people “illegal residents in their own homeland”. A Jewish state negates all possibilities of peace between Israelis and Palestinians on one hand and Israelis and Arabs and all Muslims on the other. On the Israeli side, a definition of a Jewish state was openly articulated by the former Israeli cabinet secretary, Zvi Hauser, who said that “keeping pressure on the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state makes it incumbent upon the Palestinians to recognise the ‘Jewishness’ of the state in practical terms, not in words only, including all Jews who should demand this recognition because Israel in its declaration of independence failed to define itself as a Jewish state for Jews only”.

Many in Israel believe that the recognition of a Jewish state is not necessary because it destroys the peace process. Former Israeli president Shimon Peres repeatedly tried to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to insist on that demand. The most shocking comment on this issue came from former Mossad chief Meir Dagan who described Netanyahu’s demand as “absolutely foolish because the 1947 UN resolution clearly supported two states, one for the Jews and the other for the Palestinian Arabs. What we should insist upon is that no return of the Palestinian refugees would ever take place.” Hellil Cohen’s rather perceptive view in Haaretz saw that “the Palestinian leadership, according to the Oslo Agreement, recognised Israel as a state, but Palestinians never intended or meant such a recognition to mean that Jews have sovereignty over the 1967 Palestinian occupied territories or admitting to be alien residents in their homeland. Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state means accepting utter defeat and extreme injustice that hit them, as a matter of fact”. He said “it is very clear that insistence on the Jewish state is another way to deny the Palestinians their right of return and to legalise the colonisation of the occupied Palestinian territories, including [occupied] Jerusalem and, last, but not the least, the right to transfer the Palestinian Arabs of 1948 by cancelling out their Israeli citizenship”.

Illegal identities

All the above meanings and definitions of the Jewish state pale in comparison with the real cause behind the demand for it to have a Jewish identity for the state of Israel, instead of a an Israeli or Hebrew identity/citizenship, which were both declared illegal identities by the Israeli supreme court, last year. The Ashkenazi western Jews, originally Khazars, now ruling in Israel, converted to Judaism in the seventh century. Their ancestral land was in Ukraine, according to the Jewish encyclopedia and according to DNA tests that showed that they were not Semites, but Aryans and had no connection with Prophet Abraham, nor to the Holy Land of Palestine. The Hebrew and Israeli identities belong exclusively to the Arab Palestinian Jews, the Sephardim. Only the Jewish religious identity would make the Ashkenazi Jews legal residents in Israel. Hence, the insistence on the Jewish state and the Jewish identity/citizenship.

Israel is the only state in the world that has no constitution, nor defined borders and is still looking for a legal identity/citizenship for its people. A word of advice would be to ask Israel to define itself, first and then we will see if it is compatible with the actual realities of Palestinian historical and national rights in their ancestral homeland of Palestine.

Professor As’ad Abdul Rahman is the chairman 
of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.