Saturday, March 30, 2013

[ePalestine] Haaretz: Just 0.7% of state land in the West Bank has been allocated to Palestinians, Israel admits

Dear friends,

An appropriate news story to strike home the meaning of Land Day, March 30th.

Happy Passover to our Jewish friends.

There is a right and wrong here,



Just 0.7% of state land in the West Bank has been allocated to Palestinians, Israel admits

Jewish settlements in West Bank have been allocated 38 percent of 1.3 million dunams of Israeli state land.

By Chaim Levinson | Mar.28, 2013
Over the past 33 years the [Israeli] Civil [Military] Administration has allocated less than one percent of state land in the West Bank to Palestinians, compared to 38 percent to settlers, according to the agency’s own documents submitted to the High Court of Justice.

The West Bank includes 1.3 million dunams (approximately 325,000 acres) of “state land,” most of which is allocated to Jewish settlements.

The declared policy of the previous Netanyahu government was to remove Jewish construction from private Palestinian land in the West Bank and to approve all construction on state lands.

According to the classification of the Civil Administration, a small amount of “state land” was registered with the Jordanian authorities until 1967. But most declared “state land” was declared as such after 1979.

The need for such a declaration emerged in October 1979, when the High Court struck down as unconstitutional the state’s practice of seizing Palestinian land, ostensibly for “military needs” but in practice in order to establish Jewish settlements.

It was after 1979 that the process of the wholesale declaration of territory as state land began. According to the law in the West Bank, any land with continuous agricultural cultivation for at least 10 years becomes the property of the farmer; land under cultivation cannot be seized by the state.

Although the Civil Administration team charged with determining which lands are cultivated is supposed to base their conclusions on testimony and aerial photos, a senior official in the Civil Administration conceded recently in the Ofer Military Court that the decisions are political.

The hearing at which the official was speaking was over the state lands declared with regard to the Hayovel outpost. The latter has been at the heart of a High Court case for over seven years. The state had decided to retroactively authorize Hayovel, but aerial photos clearly show a number of houses and cultivated land, and the road to Hayovel goes through private Palestinian land. The state therefore devised a method of declaring the area between cultivated spots, for example, between trees, as “uncultivated” and thus it could deem it state land. Palestinians claiming ownership of the land petitioned against the decision through the organization Yesh Din and attorney Michael Sfard.

In a court hearing in January an official from the Civil Administration’s oversight unit, Gilad Palmon, told the court: “The official who decides on the declaration [of state land] is at the political level, the defense minister. Another Civil Administration official, Yossi Segal, said: “The political echelon decides the size of the area.”

Three years ago the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Bimkom − Planners for Planning Rights asked the Civil Administration, by dint of the Freedom of Information Law, for figures on the extent of state lands in the West Bank. The Civil Administration refused to provide the information and the organizations asked the court to intervene.

The Civil Administration’s representatives told the court that there are 1.3 million dunams of state land in the West Bank and that it could not provide additional data. Jerusalem District Court Judge Yoram Noam did not accept the response and instructed the agency’s representatives to provide more information.

The Civil Administration subsequently provided the court with the following details: 671,000 dunams of state land is still held by the state. Another 400,000 dunams were allocated to the World Zionist Organization. Most of the Jewish settlements, both residences and agricultural land, are on this land.

Another 103,000 dunams of state land were allocated to mobile communications companies and to local governments, mainly for the construction of public buildings.

Utilities such as the Mekorot water company, the Bezek communications company and the Israel Electric Corporation received 160,000 dunams, 12 percent of the total state land in the West Bank.

Palestinians have received a total of 8,600 dunams (2,150 acres), or 0.7 percent of state land in the West Bank.

The Civil Administration told the court that of this, 6,910 dunams were in the Jenin district, land allocations made a long time ago that are now in areas A and B (under full Palestinian control or Palestinian civilian and Israeli military control, respectively). One dunam was allocated for a stone quarry in the Hebron district; 630 dunams in the Bethlehem district were allocated for Bedouin; 1,000 dunams were allocated in the Jericho district and 10 dunams were allocated in Tul Karm.

Nir Shalev, a researcher for Bimkom, said: “Israel has claimed for years that the settlements are built only on state land, a claim that is repeatedly shown to be inaccurate. The data on allocations to the Palestinians, which the Civil Administration was forced to reveal, show the other side of coin: Israeli policy determines that state lands in the West Bank are for the use of Israelis only − mainly settlers.”

Because state land is essential for the expansion of settlements, a great deal of pressure is exerted to influence the decision of where such lands are declared. Haaretz checked and found that even when the state claims that certain lands are state lands, the process of determining usage beforehand is careless, and land declared as state land also includes private Palestinian land and cultivated land. One example of such carelessness regards the large settlement of Givat Ze’ev, northwest of Jerusalem. Next to the settlement is a home belonging to a Palestinian man, Saadat Sabri, who also cultivated a plot of land nearby.

In 2006, when building began on the separation barrier, bulldozers destroyed his fields. Although aerial photos clearly showed the land was cultivated the state declared the land to be state land in 2010 and joined Sabri’s plot to Givat Ze’ev. Sabri petitioned the High Court against the move.

Researcher Dror Etkes found that land important to the expansion of settlements was declared state lands, including territory near Susya, Tekoa, Ma’aleh Adumim, Kiryat Arba and other Jewish communities.

In the center of Ma’aleh Adumim, for example, is land that aerial photos from the 1970s show as partially under cultivation. Yet in 2005 the entire area was declared state land and is now built on.

“The findings, which are a sampling, prove the claims that Palestinian landowners have been consistently presenting over the past few decades: Under the aegis of the broad declaration of lands as state lands, which includes almost a million dunams, Israel has taken over extensive cultivated areas, which were stolen from their owners through administrative decisions over which public and legal oversight is minimal, because they were supposedly not cultivated.”

The director of Yesh Din, Haim Erlich, said: “Yossi Segal, who is in charge of abandoned property in the West Bank, reveals the painful and ugly fact that we have been aware of for some time: The survey, which is supposed to be professional, has become a political tool.”

The Civil Administration did not respond to numerous requests for comment.


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Sunday, March 24, 2013

[ePalestine] [Youngstown, Ohio] Vindicator: Obama fails in the Mideast (By Sam Bahour)

[Youngstown, Ohio] Vindicator

Obama fails in the Mideast
By Sam Bahour

Published: Sun, March 24, 2013

As I watched President Barack Obama's helicopter pass above my home, just before landing at the Palestinian Presidential Compound next to Ramallah, I just shook my head in disappointment, first as an American, then as a Palestinian. I thought: "Another U.S. president, on another high fanfare visit, carrying the same, failed political messages."

It was difficult to follow Obama's visit on TV. In normal practice when dignitaries come to town, Israel disrupts the satellite signals that feed our televisions. Nevertheless, I was able to tune in to a single Arabic channel, broadcast from Lebanon, that was unaffected by this.

Peeling away all the protocols, red carpets, formalities and artificial photo opportunities, I focused on what was coined "the policy speech." President Obama gave it in Israel at a conference center to an audience of Israeli students. The president crafted a message directly to Israeli citizens, bypassing the right-wing Israeli prime minister who, until today, continues to build illegal, Jewish-only settlements, despite America's and the world's disapproval.

Clear message

The message to Israel was clear: there is no better ally to Israel than the U.S. He went on and on about how Israel will always be backed by the U.S., no matter what. Militarism won the day.

To Palestinians, and the majority of the world, that message no longer makes sense. Why support Israel as a military occupier that continues to build Jewish-only settlements? Why support Israel when it (as the U.S. State Department has documented) structurally discriminates against non-Jews, both Christian and Muslim, inside Israel? Why support Israel when it refuses to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes? In short, if Israel has become a rogue state and is moving (as Israeli leaders have acknowledged) toward a form of apartheid, why should the U.S. be there to fund it, arm it, use its veto to protect it from the United Nations, diplomatically cover for it, and do business with it?

Given that Israel is costing U.S. taxpayers over $3 billion annually and has put the U.S. in a weaker position in the Middle East because of its intransigence, it is past due that every American demand of their government to withdraw its resources and political clout from entities that are moving the region away from peace, instead of closer to it.

Larger message

Just before Air Force One landed at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel, President Obama's limousine, the armored vehicle known as "The Beast," broke down after being wrongly filled with diesel instead of gasoline. A new one was flown in and no disruptions to the schedule occurred. Nevertheless, perhaps this limousine ordeal carried a larger message: whether "The Beast" or a global superpower, it is crucial that issues are filled with accurate and appropriate substances, otherwise, sooner rather than later, they will start with a sputter and end with a total breakdown.

The U.S. has filled the peace process, for the last 20 years, with Israeli-designed falsehoods, only to bring us to a total breakdown today. I was hoping (but not holding my breath) that President Obama would shift gears on this trip and come with a message to the Israelis that the world's superpower is now going to fill the process with accountability. That did not happen, and will not, until average Americans say, "Enough is enough."

Sam Bahour describes himself as a Palestinian-American business consultant from Youngstown living in Al-Bireh/Ramallah, Palestine.


And if you're interested, here is a CNN interview with me regarding Obama's visit:


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Friday, March 22, 2013

[ePalestine] Palestinian-American: A new strategy is needed for Palestinian advocacy in U.S.



Palestinian-American: A new strategy is needed for Palestinian advocacy in U.S. 

Sam Bahour, who voted for Obama, explains why he has no expectations for the president's visit and why the Palestinian strategy in the United States has it all wrong. 

By Amira Hass 

On Thursday morning, about an hour before U.S. President Barack Obama began his very short visit in Ramallah, scores of Palestinians took to the streets to protest the visit and what they see as the United States' unwavering support for Israeli policies.

The demonstration was initiated by the Palestinian Nationalist and Islamic Forces, a shorthand for the organizations in the Palestinian Liberation Organization (including Fatah) and outside it, which represents a wall-to-wall coalition of functionaries who hope to attract rank and file citizens as well.

This was a permitted demonstration - the Palestinian leadership wanted it to take place so Obama would understand that it's the public who is pressuring them not to return to sterile negotiations without so much as a halt in Israeli settlement construction. Among the demonstrators were some Palestinians who hold an American passport, as in similar demonstrations earlier this week, out of the several thousands of Palestinian Americans who currently live in the West Bank.

Sam Bahour, a business consultant, was born in the United States and came back to live in his father's home town, al Bireh, about 20 years ago. Without being identified with a specific political organization, he is outspoken and very involved in public life, both politically and economically. He said he has no expectations of the visit by the president he elected (for domestic American reasons, not Palestinian ones).

There is almost nobody who still thinks that the United States can be a fair mediator, concludes Bahour. In Bahour's opinion, the only group excited about the visit is the narrow Palestinian leadership (Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and about 10 of his associates).

"At best he'll prop up the PA for a couple more years by showing that they are state-like," Bahour said. "This is, I think, part of the U.S. agenda for meeting with the PA.  I don't have much faith that it can result in anything other than giving the PA some credibility that a U.S. president has approached them and allowed them to sustain themselves longer, when all the facts on the ground and all the economic indicators show that the PA is basically  in a collapse mode."

In his opinion, the PLO leadership and later the PA failed for decades to read the political map in the United States.

"The PA leadership views the U.S. presidents like they view presidents of the Arab world: that the president is everything. In the United States, the president is not everything, but rather one component of a very complicated political system. The PA leadership has never really invested proper thought in the United States to be able to understand the influence of that complicated system. The leadership thinks that all politics in the United States happens in Washington, whereas we know that Washington is reflecting the pressures that constituencies on the ground in various communities put on their representatives.

"The PLO has always appointed a weak representative in the United States because it thinks that for direct contact with the White House, it doesn't need any kind of on-the-ground apparatus or organization. Someone who is strong, [they think] he could influence a power base that will disrupt this connection between the White House and the Muqata [PA headquarters]. The reality is just the opposite. As we learn from AIPAC [America's pro-Israel lobby], to influence Washington we have to do hard work on the ground in all 50 states."

This approach is particularly necessary on the Palestinian issue, says Bahour, because instead of being a foreign policy issue, it is hijacked by Congress.

"Any administration, Republican or Democratic, any president, doesn't have the leverage or leeway that they should have on a foreign relations issue. This issue in the United States is a domestic issue. I think it only applies to us - any other foreign affairs issue is a foreign affairs issue, where the administration has its leeway.  The arms industry is probably the body behind hijacking the Congress more than anybody else. Maybe equal to AIPAC. [We do not need to] compete with AIPAC , we should be able to enter the minorities community, the churches, the Arab-Americans, the education system. That is a powerful base to start to influence congressmen at the local level. The average American, if presented with the facts of this conflict, has no alternative but to be supportive of the Palestinians."


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[ePalestine] NYT Magazine: Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?

New York Times

March 15, 2013
Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?

On the evening of Feb. 10, the living room of Bassem Tamimi's house in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh was filled with friends and relatives smoking and sipping coffee, waiting for Bassem to return from prison. His oldest son, Waed, 16, was curled on the couch with his 6-year-old brother, Salam, playing video games on the iPhone that the prime minister of Turkey had given their sister, Ahed. She had been flown to Istanbul to receive an award after photos of her shaking her fist at an armed Israeli soldier won her, at 11, a brief but startling international celebrity. Their brother Abu Yazan, who is 9, was on a tear in the yard, wrestling with an Israeli activist friend of Bassem's. Nariman, the children's mother, crouched in a side room, making the final preparations for her husband's homecoming meal, laughing at the two photographers competing for shots from the narrow doorway as she spread onions onto oiled flatbreads.

Read on at:


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[ePalestine] NYT: Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace? (By RASHID KHALIDI)

The New York Times

March 12, 2013

Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace?


WHAT should Barack Obama, who is to visit Israel next Wednesday for the first time in his presidency, do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

First, he must abandon the stale conventional wisdom offered by the New York-Washington foreign-policy establishment, which clings to the crumbling remnants of a so-called peace process that, in the 34 years since the Camp David accords, has actually helped make peace less attainable than ever.

When the most recent iteration of this process began with high hopes at the Madrid peace conference in 1991, which led to the Oslo accords two years later, there were 200,000 Israelis illegally settled in the occupied Palestinian territories: today, there are more than twice as many.

During this time, under four successive presidents, the United States, purportedly acting as an honest broker, did nothing to prevent Israel from gradually gobbling up the very land the two-state solution was to be based on.

Until 1991 most Palestinians, although under Israeli military occupation, could nonetheless travel freely. Today, an entire generation of Palestinians has never been allowed to visit Jerusalem, enter Israel or cross between the West Bank and Gaza. This ghettoization of the Palestinians, along with the unrest of the second intifada of 2000-5 and the construction of seemingly permanent settlements and of an apartheid-style wall, are the tragic fruits of the so-called peace process the United States has led.

The "peace process" has consisted of indulging Israeli intransigence over Palestine in exchange for foreign-policy goals unrelated to the advancement of peace and Palestinian freedom. In the late 1970s this involved the strategic cold war prize of moving Egypt from the Soviet column to the American column.

The Camp David accord between Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar el-Sadat essentially set aside the "Palestinian question." These constraints shaped the Oslo process, in which Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized each other, while all fundamental issues like borders, refugees, water, Israeli settlements and the status of Jerusalem were deferred.

Toward the end of his first term, Mr. Obama essentially abandoned his already modest peacemaking agenda in exchange for a lull in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign for war with Iran. Palestine was again sacrificed, this time to bribe a belligerent Israel for temporary good behavior.

The American-led "process" has ultimately strengthened the Israeli far right and made Palestinian self-determination more unattainable than ever. Continuing with the Orwellian grotesquerie that is the "peace process" is contrary to any enlightened definition of American self-interest. It has burnished the image of the United States as Israel's uncritical defender and enabler. Furthermore, it insults the intelligence of the Palestinian people. Despite the complicity of some of their leaders in a process that has left them stateless while the unending colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues, they deserve to be more than prisoners in their own land.

If Mr. Obama decided to devote energy toward resolving the conflict — a big if — it would not be easy. The Palestinians are deeply divided between supporters of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, which governs the West Bank, and Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza. An even bigger obstacle is Mr. Netanyahu's right-wing government, hellbent on territorial expansion.

In short, if the objectives of the entire peace process are not ending the occupation, removing the settlements and providing for real Palestinian self-determination, then what is the purpose of pretending to restart it?

There are two facts Mr. Obama would do well to keep in mind.

The overwhelming dominance of Israel over the Palestinians means that the conflict is not one that demands reciprocal concessions from two equal parties. In addition, peace has to be made between Palestinians and Israelis, not between Mr. Obama and his critics in the Republican Party, the Israel lobby and Israel's right-wing parties.

If Mr. Obama cannot face those realities, it would be far better for him to just be honest: the United States supports this intolerable reality and is willing to bear the resulting international opprobrium. People the world over realize that America for many decades has helped produce a situation where, pious invocations of support for a Palestinian state notwithstanding, there is, and for the foreseeable future will be, only one true sovereign authority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River: the state of Israel.

Only Israeli Jews are full citizens of that land, while 5 million Palestinians live in a state of subjugation or exile and 1.2 million Palestinian Arabs live in Israel as second-class citizens. A "one-state solution" based on enduring discrimination and oppression is ultimately unsustainable. Its only remaining external support comes from the United States and Europe, whose citizens are increasingly aware that such a structure is deeply at odds with their own values, as apartheid South Africa was.

For Mr. Obama, a decision is in order. He can reconcile the United States to continuing to uphold and bankroll an unjust status quo that it helped produce. Or he can begin to chart a new course based on recognition that the United States must forthrightly oppose the occupation and the settlements and support an inalienable Palestinian right to freedom, equality and statehood. There is no middle way.

Rashid Khalidi, a professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University, is the author, most recently, of "Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East."


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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

[ePalestine] World Bank: Palestinian Economy is Losing Long-Term Competitiveness (A MUST READ)

What I've been preaching for a very long it is in numbers...


World Bank


Palestinian Economy is Losing Long-Term Competitiveness

March 11, 2013

JERUSALEM, March 12, 2013 – The World Bank's latest Economic Monitoring Report stresses that while the donor community's efforts are directed towards short-term relief for Palestinian fiscal stress, it is important to recognize that the prolonged system of closures and restrictions is causing lasting damage to the competitiveness of the Palestinian economy.

The report entitled Fiscal Challenges and Long Term Economic Costs was released today ahead of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting, a forum of donors to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which will meet in Brussels on March 19. The report analyzes the state of the Palestinian economy and the PA's fiscal position.

The Bank's analysis of the prospects for an economically viable Palestinian State in the near future remains largely unchanged: Palestinian institutions have the required capacity to exercise state functions, but Israeli-imposed economic restrictions continue to constrain sustainable economic growth. This situation is unlikely to change as long as political progress remains absent.

This latest report, however, offers new analysis by exploring the long-term damage to the competitiveness of the Palestinian economy wrought by the worsening fiscal situation and the absence of political progress.

The economy is in danger of losing its capacity to compete in the global market, according to the report. It shows that the structure of the economy has deteriorated since the late 90's as the value-added of the tradable sectors has declined, illustrated by the productivity of the agriculture sector having roughly halved and the manufacturing sector having largely stagnated.

The share of exports in the Palestinian economy has also been in steady decline since 1994, dropping to 7 percent in 2011, one of the lowest in the world. Moreover, Palestinian exports are concentrated in low value-added goods and services, the majority of which is exported to Israel.

Of equal importance to the long-term viability of the economy, the quality of infrastructure in key sectors like water and transport is deteriorating and damaging economic productivity. This negative impact is most severe in Gaza where significant resources are required to bring the level of infrastructure performance to a desirable level.

The labor force, too, could lose long-term employability, say the report's authors. With low labor force participation and high rates and duration of unemployment, many Palestinians of working age do not have the opportunity to develop on-the-job skills. Increased employment in the public sector has provided some short-term relief, but this is unsustainable and does little to prepare employees for future private sector jobs.

"Continued financial support by the donor community, and increased reform efforts by the Palestinian Authority to manage the current fiscal challenges must remain a high priority," said Mariam Sherman, World Bank Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza. "However, much bolder efforts to create the basis for a viable economy need to be made to prevent the continued deterioration that will have lasting and costly implications for economic competiveness and social cohesion."



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[ePalestine] NYT: On Questioning the Jewish State

March 9, 2013, 7:30 pm

On Questioning the Jewish State

I was raised in a religious Jewish environment, and though we were not strongly Zionist, I always took it to be self-evident that "Israel has a right to exist." Now anyone who has debated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will have encountered this phrase often. Defenders of Israeli policies routinely accuse Israel's critics of denying her right to exist, while the critics (outside of a small group on the left, where I now find myself) bend over backward to insist that, despite their criticisms, of course they affirm it. The general mainstream consensus seems to be that to deny Israel's right to exist is a clear indication of anti-Semitism (a charge Jews like myself are not immune to), and therefore not an option for people of conscience.

Over the years I came to question this consensus and to see that the general fealty to it has seriously constrained open debate on the issue, one of vital importance not just to the people directly involved — Israelis and Palestinians — but to the conduct of our own foreign policy and, more important, to the safety of the world at large. My view is that one really ought to question Israel's right to exist and that doing so does not manifest anti-Semitism. The first step in questioning the principle, however, is to figure out what it means.

One problem with talking about this question calmly and rationally is that the phrase "right to exist" sounds awfully close to "right to life," so denying Israel its right to exist sounds awfully close to permitting the extermination of its people. In light of the history of Jewish persecution, and the fact that Israel was created immediately after and largely as a consequence of the Holocaust, it isn't surprising that the phrase "Israel's right to exist" should have this emotional impact. But as even those who insist on the principle will admit, they aren't claiming merely the impermissibility of exterminating Israelis. So what is this "right" that many uphold as so basic that to question it reflects anti-Semitism and yet is one that I claim ought to be questioned?

The key to the interpretation is found in the crucial four words that are often tacked on to the phrase "Israel's right to exist" — namely, "… as a Jewish state." As I understand it, the principle that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state has three parts: first, that Jews, as a collective, constitute a people in the sense that they possess a right to self-determination; second, that a people's right to self-determination entails the right to erect a state of their own, a state that is their particular people's state; and finally, that for the Jewish people the geographical area of the former Mandatory Palestine, their ancestral homeland, is the proper place for them to exercise this right to self-determination.

The claim then is that anyone who denies Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is guilty of anti-Semitism because they are refusing to grant Jews the same rights as other peoples possess. If indeed this were true, if Jews were being singled out in the way many allege, I would agree that it manifests anti-Jewish bias. But the charge that denying Jews a right to a Jewish state amounts to treating the Jewish people differently from other peoples cannot be sustained.

To begin, since the principle has three parts, it follows that it can be challenged in (at least) three different ways: either deny that Jews constitute "a people" in the relevant sense, deny that the right to self-determination really involves what advocates of the principle claim it does, or deny that Jews have the requisite claim on the geographical area in question.

In fact, I think there is a basis to challenge all three, but for present purposes I will focus on the question of whether a people's right to self-determination entails their right to a state of their own, and set aside whether Jews count as a people and whether Jews have a claim on that particular land. I do so partly for reasons of space, but mainly because these questions have largely (though not completely) lost their importance.

The fact is that today millions of Jews live in Israel and, ancestral homeland or not, this is their home now. As for whether Jews constitute a people, this is a vexed question given the lack of consensus in general about what it takes for any particular group of people to count as "a people." The notion of "a people" can be interpreted in different ways, with different consequences for the rights that they possess. My point is that even if we grant Jews their peoplehood and their right to live in that land, there is still no consequent right to a Jewish state.

However, I do think that it's worth noting the historical irony in insisting that it is anti-Semitic to deny that Jews constitute a people. The 18th and 19th centuries were the period of Jewish "emancipation" in Western Europe, when the ghetto walls were torn down and Jews were granted the full rights of citizenship in the states within which they resided. The anti-Semitic forces in those days, those opposing emancipation, were associated not with denying Jewish peoplehood but with emphatically insisting on it! The idea was that since Jews constituted a nation of their own, they could not be loyal citizens of any European state. The liberals who strongly opposed anti-Semitism insisted that Jews could both practice their religion and uphold their cultural traditions while maintaining full citizenship in the various nation-states in which they resided.

But, as I said, let's grant that Jews are a people. Well, if they are, and if with the status of a people comes the right to self-determination, why wouldn't they have a right to live under a Jewish state in their homeland? The simple answer is because many non-Jews (rightfully) live there too. But this needs unpacking.

First, it's important to note, as mentioned above, that the term "a people" can be used in different ways, and sometimes they get confused. In particular, there is a distinction to be made between a people in the ethnic sense and a people in the civic sense. Though there is no general consensus on this, a group counts as a people in the ethnic sense by virtue of common language, common culture, common history and attachment to a common territory. One can easily see why Jews, scattered across the globe, speaking many different languages and defined largely by religion, present a difficult case. But, as I said above, for my purposes it doesn't really matter, and I will just assume the Jewish people qualify.

The other sense is the civic one, which applies to a people by virtue of their common citizenship in a nation-state or, alternatively, by virtue of their common residence within relatively defined geographic borders. So whereas there is both an ethnic and a civic sense to be made of the term "French people," the term "Jewish people" has only an ethnic sense. This can easily be seen by noting that the Jewish people is not the same group as the Israeli people. About 20 percent of Israeli citizens are non-Jewish Palestinians, while the vast majority of the Jewish people are not citizens of Israel and do not live within any particular geographic area. "Israeli people," on the other hand, has only a civic sense. (Of course often the term "Israelis" is used as if it applies only to Jewish Israelis, but this is part of the problem. More on this below.)

So, when we consider whether or not a people has a right to a state of their own, are we speaking of a people in the ethnic sense or the civic one? I contend that insofar as the principle that all peoples have the right to self-determination entails the right to a state of their own, it can apply to peoples only in the civic sense.

After all, what is it for a people to have a state "of their own"? Here's a rough characterization: the formal institutions and legal framework of the state serves to express, encourage and favor that people's identity.

The distinctive position of that people would be manifested in a number of ways, from the largely symbolic to the more substantive: for example, it would be reflected in the name of the state, the nature of its flag and other symbols, its national holidays, its education system, its immigration rules, the extent to which membership in the people in question is a factor in official planning, how resources are distributed, etc. If the people being favored in this way are just the state's citizens, it is not a problem. (Of course those who are supercosmopolitan, denying any legitimacy to the borders of nation-states, will disagree. But they aren't a party to this debate.)

But if the people who "own" the state in question are an ethnic sub-group of the citizenry, even if the vast majority, it constitutes a serious problem indeed, and this is precisely the situation of Israel as the Jewish state. Far from being a natural expression of the Jewish people's right to self-determination, it is in fact a violation of the right to self-determination of its non-Jewish (mainly Palestinian) citizens. It is a violation of a people's right to self-determination to exclude them — whether by virtue of their ethnic membership, or for any other reason — from full political participation in the state under whose sovereignty they fall. Of course Jews have a right to self-determination in this sense as well — this is what emancipation was all about. But so do non-Jewish peoples living in the same state.

Any state that "belongs" to one ethnic group within it violates the core democratic principle of equality, and the self-determination rights of the non-members of that group.

If the institutions of a state favor one ethnic group among its citizenry in this way, then only the members of that group will feel themselves fully a part of the life of the state. True equality, therefore, is only realizable in a state that is based on civic peoplehood. As formulated by both Jewish- and Palestinian-Israeli activists on this issue, a truly democratic state that fully respects the self-determination rights of everyone under its sovereignty must be a "state of all its citizens."

This fundamental point exposes the fallacy behind the common analogy, drawn by defenders of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, between Israel's right to be Jewish and France's right to be French. The appropriate analogy would instead be between France's right to be French (in the civic sense) and Israel's right to be Israeli.

I conclude, then, that the very idea of a Jewish state is undemocratic, a violation of the self-determination rights of its non-Jewish citizens, and therefore morally problematic. But the harm doesn't stop with the inherently undemocratic character of the state. For if an ethnic national state is established in a territory that contains a significant number of non-members of that ethnic group, it will inevitably face resistance from the land's other inhabitants. This will force the ethnic nation controlling the state to resort to further undemocratic means to maintain their hegemony. Three strategies to deal with resistance are common: expulsion, occupation and institutional marginalization. Interestingly, all three strategies have been employed by the Zionist movement: expulsion in 1948 (and, to a lesser extent, in 1967), occupation of the territories conquered in 1967 and institution of a complex web of laws that prevent Israel's Palestinian citizens from mounting an internal challenge to the Jewish character of the state. (The recent outrage in Israel over a proposed exclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties from the governing coalition, for example, failed to note that no Arab political party has ever been invited to join the government.) In other words, the wrong of ethnic hegemony within the state leads to the further wrong of repression against the Other within its midst.

There is an unavoidable conflict between being a Jewish state and a democratic state. I want to emphasize that there's nothing anti-Semitic in pointing this out, and it's time the question was discussed openly on its merits, without the charge of anti-Semitism hovering in the background.

Joseph Levine is a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he teaches and writes on philosophy of mind, metaphysics and political philosophy. He is the author of "Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness."



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