Saturday, April 24, 2010

Protest Elliott Abrams/A State for All Its Citizens

Elliott Abrams is coming to town!

His visit should not be overlooked!



Sunday April 25, 2010

8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m

(show up any time)

At the corner of

Park Heights & Slade Avenues


Please bring signs with messages for Middle East Peace!!


A State for All Its Citizens


The United States should not be fooled by Israel's

claim that it can be both Jewish and democratic.


By Nadim N. Rouhana | April 22, 2010


In the conflict studies courses I teach, I expose my

students to theories that claim state-sanctioned

inequality is a source of perpetual conflict. I know

this to be true not only from my academic research, but

from personal experience: I also run a small research

institution in the northern Israeli city of Haifa that

focuses on the status of the Palestinian citizens in

Israel and their relationship with the state. This

population, with the silent complicity of the United

States, has long been the target of official state

policies of discrimination.


In spite of America's professed commitment to equality,

the U.S. government makes an exception when it comes to

Israel's insistence on being recognized as a Jewish

state, which in theory and practice means privileging

Jewish citizens over all other citizens. U.S. President

Barack Obama declared his support at the United Nations

last September for "two states living side by side in

peace and security -- a Jewish state of Israel, with

true security for all Israelis, and a viable,

independent Palestinian state." Similarly, Vice

President Joe Biden told an audience at Tel Aviv

University in March that negotiations should lead to "a

Jewish state with secure and recognized borders." It

appears that affirmation of Israel's identity as a

"Jewish state" is becoming a routine part of U.S.

discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.


But it would be politically and morally wrong for the

United States to support recognition of Israel as a

Jewish state. Israel's Palestinian minority makes up

between 16 to 20 percent of the population, depending

on whether the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are

counted -- a larger percentage than the African-

American population in the United States. The total

percentage of non-Jews in Israel -- Muslims,

Christians, and others -- reaches approximately 25

percent. To recognize Israel as a Jewish state excludes

this sizable minority from full and equal participation

in Israel's political and civic life. This is a recipe

for enduring social strife and conflict.


There are few honest observers in Israel who dispute

that a Jewish state, by definition, privileges one

group of citizens over another. This inequality is

expressed in various ways, including in Israel's Basic

Laws and its laws of land control, immigration, and

resource distribution. The modern Israeli state belongs

only to its Jewish citizens -- and even to non-citizen

Jews in the diaspora -- but not to its Palestinian

citizens. As a result, a sizable minority of Israel's

citizens have no state to call their own. Israel's

Basic Laws stipulate that "a candidates list shall not

participate in elections to the Knesset ... if the

goals or actions of the list ... expressly or by

implication" negates Israel as a Jewish state. Thus a

party that explicitly requires Israel to become a state

for all its citizens and not a Jewish state runs the

risk of disqualification.


Is this really what Obama wants? Has he contemplated

the built-in inequality that accompanies a "Jewish state"?


The U.S. government's ironclad commitment to Israel's

security is the result of international politics, on

which there can be differing views. However, supporting

Israel's continued privileging of one group of citizens

over another on the basis of national identity or

religious affiliation is neither morally defensible nor

harmonious with America's founding principles. The

concept of a "Jewish state" is not equivalent to the

still-objectionable term "Christian state" used by some

groups in the United States. Rather, it is akin, in the

eyes of Israel's non-Jewish citizens, to the concept of

a "white state" -- a notion that is completely

unthinkable in the West.


The United States has previously overlooked Israel's

settlement policy for reasons related to its national

interests and domestic political considerations. Now

Israel is confronting the grave consequences of these

policies: Difficult political choices over West Bank

settlements have precipitated increasingly sharp

divisions within Israeli society. Similarly, the

diplomatic support the United States lends to Israel's

ambition to be recognized as a "Jewish state" does not

serve either country's long-term interests. Israel's

welfare is best ensured by a system that guarantees

real equality for all its citizens and national groups,

rather than state-sanctioned ethnic discrimination.


Nadim N. Rouhana is professor at Tufts University's

Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and director of

the Haifa-based Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for

Applied Social Research.



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