America must rethink its unique and contradictory defense of Israel’s Judaism


With the formation of a new Israeli government, the Biden administration must rethink its message on Israel and the Palestinians, especially in the absence of a clear path to ending the conflict. Besides providing humanitarian aid to Gaza and sending Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to the Middle East to cement the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, President Joe Biden has advanced two principles: that Palestinians and Israelis “You deserve equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracyديمقراطي“and that the area should”Recognition of Israel’s right to exist as an independent Jewish state.

What is remarkable is that Commentators Calling for equal rights for Palestinians was considered unusual – but not Washington’s unique call for Israeli Jews, which has become second nature. The latter went unnoticed, as did the contradictions inherent in the call for democracy and equality, on the one hand, and the Judaism of Israel, on the other—which, by definition (and by law), provides fewer rights for non-Jews. citizens. As Americans have turned their attention to tackling systemic racism and inequality here at home, the deep contradictions inherent in our policy toward Israel come to a head.

At first glance, it may seem that the American position on the Judaism of Israel is not strange. Countries often define themselves in national-religious terms. As a Jewish state, Israel is no exception in this way. There is the Syrian Arab Republic, although there are many non-Arabs, such as the Kurds, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, although there are many non-Muslim Iranians. Historically, the United States has supported non-democratic regimes, even cruel dictatorships, for reasons of expediency, and accepted ethno-national states in the context of conflict resolution arrangements. As much as we may not like the way nations define themselves, we reluctantly agree, on the basis of their membership in the United Nations and a degree of realism. But there is no case with the exception of Israel where the United States particularly and actively advocates some form of ethno-national state that degrades much of its population and demands that others do the same.

When thinking about US support for Israel, the focus usually turns to military, political, and financial assistance, of which Israel is largest cumulative recipient Since World War II. But America’s support for the “Jewishness” of Israel is often overlooked as an objective of American foreign policy. This advocacy, found across the American political spectrum, distorted our discourse on Israel/Palestine and, inadvertently, encouraged Jewish supremacy in Israel. It also exposed the limits of talking about both democracy And the Jewish. With a new government in Israel about to be ratified by the Israeli Knesset – without long-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the Biden administration must rethink its message.

Advocating for Israel specifically as a Jewish state It directly and indirectly conflicts with the idea that states should represent and treat all their citizens as equals, which is at the core of democracy, an issue that Biden has made central to his administration and its foreign policy. First, there is the obvious issue of a citizen’s sense of belonging to a specific state in terms that exclude it. More importantly, this formula privileges Jews – even non-citizens – over non-Jewish citizenship in some important respects. For example, a Jew who is a non-citizen, has no relatives in Israel, and has no direct connection to the state or land, has an automatic right to citizenship, and the assets granted by the state to go along with it, while a relative – even a spouse – of a non-Jewish citizen in Israel He does not have the same right.

America’s active embrace of this idea fostered a sense of entitlement in Israel that affected public attitudes and failed to stem the descent toward Jewish supremacy. This goes beyond the rise of far-right Jewish groups, Actress now In the Knesset, which actively advocates the expulsion of Palestinians – including citizens – from Israel. Consider 2018 Nation-state law that was Passed successfully During the Trump administration, without an American protest, which does not refer to democracy and declares that only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel. And they consider that 79% of Israeli Jews, according to Raed 2016 Pew Research Center Poll, they say Jews in Israel have privileges over non-Jews, and 48% agree that “Arabs should be expelled or moved” from Israel.

With the endless occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the line between Palestinian citizens and non-citizens was bound to blur, due to growing Jewish fear of losing the demographic majority in Israel/Palestine and provoking the Jewish extremist right. , as explained in eruption This came in the wake of Israeli attempts to expel Palestinians from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. Israeli cities known for their friendly coexistence between Arabs and Jews, such as Haifa, soon faced violent confrontations. Suddenly, it’s not hard to imagine the path of structural inequality that leads to something worse.

Much American political discourse portrays the Judaism of Israel as something sacred that must be protected. Even among those who want to see Israel withdraw from the occupied territories, the arguments often have less to do with Israel’s obligations under international law, the inherent rights of Palestinians, or human rights, and more to do with the threat to Israel as a Jewish state. Under this mentality that has been displayed even by some progressive politicians, the non-Jewish citizens of Israel – not to mention the Palestinians under occupation – constitute a “demographic threat” to Israel’s Jews that must be anticipated or controlled. This has only reinforced – or at least failed to stop – the slippery slope of an entrenched Israeli discourse in the biblical “Promised Land” narrative, including widespread convictions about Jewish privilege and broad political support for Israeli sovereignty overcomplete and unitedJerusalem is the capital of Israel. But if it is Jerusalem, why not Hebron, Nablus or Bethlehem? If the land belongs to the Jews, where does that leave the non-Jews? This intrinsic basis of legitimacy is built implicitly and explicitly in most Israeli Jews’ sense of rights and legitimacy, which inevitably opened the way for the expansion of Israeli Jewish supremacy. Rather than working to fend off this dangerous trend, it was inevitable that the projected American enthusiasm for Judaism in Israel would encounter the kind of contradictions that, inadvertently, gave way to fanatical Jewish zealots.

Let’s be clear. Many countries in the Middle East, including non-democratic ones, that are now accepted as sovereign entities—Jordan, Israel, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, to name a few—did not exist as such in the early twentieth century. From an international point of view, their current legitimacy as sovereign entities is strictly a function of their admission to the United Nations, not their own narratives about their creation. In American discourse, the line between the entrenchment of policy toward Israel in international laws and norms, and its consolidation in the Jewish narrative about Israel, has been blurred. This was the case long before the Trump presidency, which relied on the support of evangelical Christians who supported a religious narrative of Israel, sent an envoy to Israel who publicly confirmed that narrative, and rewarded that evangelical support by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel. (Although the support of young American evangelicals for Israel is back off, as I wrote recently).

Everyone is entitled to their own national and religious narrative, but these narratives cannot be the basis for sovereignty in interstate relations—certainly not for American foreign policy. As a sovereign state, Israel can define itself as it wants. But the United States—especially under a Biden administration that prioritizes the struggle for democracy—should not embrace and defend what is inherently inconsistent with the cherished values ​​of democracy and equality it wants to defend and advance. In this context, we must defend states that belong to all their citizens equally, and not those that belong to one group of citizens at the expense of others.

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