If Israel wants to survive, should it stop being a Jewish state?

The question is as important as it is controversial. Photo: Associated Press

OCALA, Fla., October 22, 2013 — In Western society, the war of opinions about Middle Eastern affairs has been raging for generations. 

One of the most controversial claims is that Israel, specifically established as a homeland for the Jewish people, should cease its ethnocentric policies.

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If this were to happen, then it seems likely that a non-Jewish majority would emerge relatively quickly. Such a thing, of course, means that Israel would bear little resemblance to its current form.

Jonathan Cook knows far more about the Holy Land’s geopolitics than most. British-born but currently residing in Nazareth, he is a freelance journalist who has covered the Israel-Palestine debacle for many years.

“Ethnocentrism for Israel means that the protection of its Jewishness is synonymous with the protection of its national security,” he tells The Washington Times Communities. “That entails all sorts of things that would be considered very problematic if they were better understood.

“Israel needed to ethnically cleanse Palestinians in 1948 to create a Jewish state. It needs separate citizenship and nationality laws, which distinguish between Jews and non-Jews, to sustain a Jewish state. It needs an aggressive policy of oppression and divide and rule among Palestinians under its rule to prevent any future challenge to the legitimacy of its Jewishness. 

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“It needs to keep Palestinian refugees festering in camps in neighbouring Arab states to stop a reversal of its Jewishness. And it has had to become an armed and fortified garrison state, largely paid for by the US, to intimidate and bully its neighbours in case they dare to threaten its Jewishness.

“Ending that ethnocentrism would therefore alter relations with its neighbours dramatically.

“This approach in Nothern Ireland and in South Africa worked to end historic enmities. There’s no reason to believe the same wouldn’t happen in the Middle East too.”

Of course, Cook’s views are far less than universally accepted. 

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In a 2011 article titled “Israel Will Remain Jewish and Democratic”, Jerold S. Auerbach of American Thinker wrote that “(a) loud chorus of Israelis on the left, comprising political, intellectual, media, literary, and academic elites, are eager to relinquish the West Bank. It is clearly in their political (disguised as humane) interest to do so. Once eliminate settlements and the geographical base of religious Zionism will be forever lost.

“Cassandra warnings on the left, framed as a choice between a Jewish or democratic state, are designed to undermine settlement legitimacy. But even with settlements, given current and projected demographic trends, Israel will remain Jewish and democratic. And it will retain a justifiable presence in the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. That, after all, is the meaning and purpose of Zionism.”

Perhaps the key question is this: If Israel were to cease being an ethnocentrically Jewish state, would it be able to survive?

“Yes,” Cook says. “Israel’s actions have produced an ocean of anger towards it in the region – and a great deal of resentment towards the US too. And that would not evaporate overnight. At a minimum there would be lingering distrust, and for good reason. But if Israel stopped being an ethnocratic state, it would be as part of an international solution to the conflict.

“The international community would put into place mechanisms and institutions to resolve historic grievances and build trust, as it did in South Africa. Over time, the wounds would heal.”

Little over two years ago, Victor Davis Hanson of National Review wrote that “a new array of factors — ever more Islamist enemies of Israel such as Turkey and Iran, ever more likelihood of frontline Arab Islamist governments, ever more fear of Islamic terrorism, ever more unabashed anti-Semitism, ever more petrodollars flowing into the Middle East, ever more prospects of nuclear Islamist states, and ever more indifference by Europe and the United States — has probably convinced Israel’s enemies that finally they can win what they could not in 1947, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006.”

Far-left? Far-right? Get realRead more from “The Conscience of a Realist” by Joseph F. Cotto 


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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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