Israel's Jewish Character Is Subject for Debate

I believe strongly that all people are equal, irrespective of race or religion. Israel was founded on just the opposite view.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama have spent a great deal of energy trying to forestall any discussion of Israel's Jewish character and what that actually means. The Israelis want the feckless and illegitimate Palestinian Authority head, Mahmoud Abbas, to affirm Israel's "right to exist as the Jewish state." But that raises the question: Does Israel have a right to continue as a race-exclusive state?

Israel is the Jewish state for the Jewish people. It came to be through an act of ethnic cleansing -- creating the world's most protracted refugee crisis in the process. Today, the Jewish state is home to about 1.5 million non-Jews. To be a non-Jew in the Jewish state is to be a second-class citizen. The ideology that underpins the existence of the Jewish state -- Zionism -- is a racist doctrine.

Zionism is the belief that Jewish people ought to be privileged in Palestine/Israel solely because of their race. Moreover, non-Jewish indigenous people -- the Palestinians -- must be forced off the land so that it can be settled by Jews. That's what happened in 1948 and that's what's happening today in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Many liberal Zionists don't like to acknowledge it, but the process that yielded the land west of the green line was just as wrong as anything the setters have done. Its scale was also several magnitudes larger.

I don't believe that militia that purged my people from their lands to create a racially pure Jewish state had a right to do so. I don't believe that the Jewish state has a right to exclude me from living as an equal citizen on the lands of my forefathers. I have a right to exist in Be'er Sheeva -- that's where my family is from. But, I am barred from doing so because I am not Jewish.

And that's really what all of this is about. I believe strongly that all people are equal, irrespective of race or religion. Israel was founded on just the opposite view. Most people agree that no state that takes racial supremacy as its foundational germ has a right to resist reform. So why is Israel the exception? Well, it's not.

It's astonishing that this is a controversial view in the 21st century. It's surely a feat of Zionist historicizing that otherwise intelligent and moral people in the West continuously affirm the "right of Israel to exist as the Jewish state." The racism inherent in this statement -- Jewish privilege exists through ethnic cleansing and apartheid -- is appalling. Yet, people uncritically affirm that "right."

Frankly, it is perverse and absurd to ask a brutalized people, a people who have been ethnically cleansed from their homes at the ends of European Zionist guns, to affirm the "right of the Jewish state to exist."

Barack Obama recently told the UN General Assembly that "Israel's existence should not be subject for debate." The American president should be reminded that as Leader of the Free World, his mandate ends with Palestine; the Palestinians are not free. Furthermore, as the principal enabler of Jewish Likudik policies, Obama is hardly a disinterested party to the conflict. He has a vested interest in a robust Israeli occupation. The Israel lobby threatens to derail his bid for reelection, and the lobby endorses Jewish privilege. That's how Obama ends up stumping for a racist state at the UN.

The existence of colonial entities is always subject for debate, and Obama should understand that. When he took the Oval office, he famously returned the bust of Winston Churchill to the British authorities. He was right to do so. Churchill was a rabid colonialist and was Prime Minister when Britain suppressed the Kenyan Mau Mau rebellion. Obama's grandfather was tortured by the colonial British authorities for resisting colonialism and fighting for his freedom.

The elder Obama had it right. Freedom is a human prerogative which propels people to resist overwhelming power, even in the face of torture. One wonders how the grandfather would react to see his grandson come down so forcefully on the side of racial oppression and colonialism.

It is time for the world to reject Zionism and Jewish privilege in Palestine/Israel. It is time for all the people in Palestine/Israel to live as equals. It worked in South Africa, and it has to work there.

I will never affirm the right of a Jewish person to purge my grandparents from their lands for being the wrong race. But I will work with that Jewish person's grandchild to create a non-racist, egalitarian future for all of us. What I'm talking about is the one-state solution, where all the people of Palestine/Israel live as equals under the law. Is that really so controversial?

Popular in the Community