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And Justice for All? Print E-mail

By Jay Bushinsky
March 8, 2007

JERUSALEM -- Should Israel transform herself into a bi-national clone of Canada or Belgium -- a democratic state in which its two main ethnic entities, Jews and Arabs, share power without any legal considerations favoring one or the other?

The Canadian and Belgian models are relevant to Israel because each is composed of two major national and linguistic groups.  But the respective percentages are not as extreme as in the Israeli case: English-speaking Canadians of English, Scottish and Irish descent constitute 46 per cent of the population and French speakers of French origin, 15 per cent.  There are six million Flemish-speaking Belgians comprise and 3.4 million French-speaking Belgians.

In Israel, 80 per cent of the citizenry are Jews and 20 per cent, Arabs. This is the demographic background on which the radical proposal made by the Israeli-Arab civil rights organization known in Arabic as "Adallah" (Arabic for "Justice). It advocates drastic changes in the status quo.  The most controversial is the revocation of Israel's unique Law of the Return which guarantees unrestricted and unlimited entry and citizenship to Jews from all over the world.

Its detailed set of proposals publicized here recently also calls for the cancellation of Israel's definition of herself as a Jewish state predicated on the Zionist principles set forth by Theodor Herzl 110 years ago.

Their implementation would require a change in the national anthem, flag and symbol (the ancient Menorah candelabrum.)  Arabic not only would be recognized as an official language, but also would be on a par with Hebrew as the state's principal language.

An immediate consequence of these measures would be the annulment of the Israeli political establishment's description of Israel as "a Jewish democratic state" its replacement by the seemingly sensible term, "a state for all of its citizens."  With all due respect and with honest recognition of the fact that the majority of Israel's Arab citizens are loyal to the state and beneficial to its economic, social and cultural fabric, the Adallah proposals betray an unfortunate insensitivity to the historical
conditions that inspired Zionism as a panacea to the travails and ordeals of the Jewish people during nearly 2,000 years of statelessness in the diaspora.

The Adallah proposals also ignore the profound religious and historical relationship between the Jews throughout their centuries of dispersion and the Land of Israel that was promised to them in the Hebrew bible.

One of the most blatant shortcomings in contemporary Arab and Muslim political thinking is a refusal to recognize the existential crisis experienced by European Jewry as a result of the Nazi party's victory in the German national election of 1932 and the genocide that ensued in its aftermath.  Like the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, who led the Palestinian Arabs in the 1930's, Adallah's adherents refuse to admit that Palestine, especially between 1933 and 1948, was the only place on earth where Jews could demand assylum and create a safe haven, by force if necessary, for compatriots fleeing death at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.

The all-too-familiar argument that Palestine's Arabs did not perpetrate the Holocaust and therefore should not be afflicted by its effects is simplistic and unrealistic. Nevertheless, there is no reason why Israel should not be expected to assure genuine equality and unfettered civil rights to its non-Jewish minority, including Arabs,Druze, Circassians and others.  The strides made by Israel's Arab population toward pragmatic integration in the existing state's political arena are very impressive.

For the first time in its history, a Muslim Arab is a minister in the incumbent cabinet, Arab members of Parliament alternate as chairman of the Knesset's plenum.  And the day may come when a key criterion cited by one of Israel's founding fathers will be fulfilled, namely the election of an Arab as its president or prime minister.  When that happens, they said, the Jewish state indeed will be a democracy.

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