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:: Wednesday, July 17, 2002 ::

John Wallach, founder of Seeds of Peace, died last week. Let me suggest making a small contribution to them in his memory.
:: Judah 12:58 PM [+] ::

Check out page A21 of the New York Times for a wonderful statement from American Jews on the conflict in the Middle East.
:: Judah 12:57 PM [+] ::

The IRA does what's long been considered impossible in conflict situations: apologizes. Someone should send this to Ariel Sharon and Yassir Arafat.
:: Judah 12:56 PM [+] ::

:: Tuesday, July 16, 2002 ::

Yossi Beilin in Ha'aretz:
When the eclipse finally ends, when reason returns to our lives, and we stop
beating each other up and making fools of ourselves in actions like closing Sari
Nusseibeh's offices, we'll also go back to the negotiating table, bruised and
hurting, nerves wracked and convinced that finally the other side understands
how powerful we are.

I am convinced it is possible to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement without
granting the Palestinian refugees the right of return. We were very close to such
a solution at Taba in January 2001, where it was proved that it is possible to
reach a fair agreement without Israel agreeing to what it could never accept -
unlimited entry for refugees to its borders. It's no accident that only after the
Taba talks did leaders from the Palestinian Authority begin making clear that
they would not press for implementation of the right of return.
:: Judah 12:11 AM [+] ::

:: Monday, July 15, 2002 ::

This new bill that requires that Israeli citizens sign an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state, including its symbols, flag, and anthem, taken along side with the "Jews-only" land bill, are the latest manifestations of a right-wing offensive in the age-old debate of how to define the nature of the State of Israel. Founded as a "Jewish and democratic" state, Israel has always granted the right to vote to all citizens, regardless of nationality. Its calendar, symbols, anthem, and governments have always been exclusively Jewish, however, and Arabs have always been discriminated against in housing, employment, education, immigration, and social services. religious freedom is generally maintained for all religions (though less so for liberal Jews), except when it bumps up against land issues. Note that this is all within Israel proper, and has nothing to do with the occupied Palestinian territories. The question remains, can Israel be both Jewish and democratic, and if not, which one trumps the other?
It must be noted that the idea of a Jewish state is a state of the Jewish nation or people, not the Jewish religion. In this sense, Jews are much more like Germans, and Israel like Germany, than it is like the Vatican, a religious state. One can be a member of the Jewish people without being a practicing religious Jew. Given that, there are two ways in which democratic rights can be granted - to communities or to individuals. In America, for instance, rights are granted to individuals, regardless of their communal identification. In Lebanon, rights are allocated to the group, such as the Maronites right to choose the President and the Muslims right to choose the Prime Minister. Perhaps, instead of nation-states, a loose confederation of tribal communities would be the best way of politically organizing the Middle East. Currently, that's only a fantasy.
Skipping a complete analysis, one of the most interesting conceptions of Israel is from Dr. Ron Pundak - that Israel is a "state of the Jews and all its citizens". That means that Israel should be a democratic state with equal rights for all, but a special responsibility to the Jews of the world, as they showed by absorbing Jews from the former Soviet Union.
I think the main challenge to Israel being both a democratic and Jewish state is the need of many Jews to have the government guarantee its status as a Jewish state. For instance, no one doubts whether France is a French state or Germany and German state because there is no doubt that even if non-Germans or non-French were to participate fully in the political and cultural life of the country, the French or German culture is so strong that it won't become state of the immigrant culture (even if the immigrant culture adds to our understanding of French or German culture).
Israelis, however, are not as convinced about the permanence of the Yisraeliut, or Israeli-ness, of Israel. They constantly fear being swallowed up by the Arab culture that is the majority in the Middle East. When Jews express worry about a Palestinian right of return leading to the destruction of Israel, it is not a military fear but a cultural one. The secret to solving the conflict about Israel's nature as a Jewish state is a renewed focus on creating an authentic Israeli/Jewish culture, as envisioned by the Zionist thinker Ahad Ha'am. Currently, Israeli culture is a mishmash of European style, American commercialism, Arabic food (as well as anti-Arabic identity issues), and Jewish (both European and Oriental) neuroses, traditions, and religion. With the creation of an authentic Jewish culture, indiginous to the Israel and within its fixed borders, will allow Israelis to feel as secure in being Israeli and Germans are in being German. A strong Jewish/Israeli culture will negate the need for governmental favortism that is often percieved as (and sometimes is) racist against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The last remaining question is the symbols of the state - can the flag contain a Star of David, the anthem talk about the "Jewish soul", and the state symbol be a menorah, without alienating the 20% of the country that is not Jewish? Or is this symbolic alienation acceptable, as long as there is no systematic or legal discrimination? Can these symbols become Israeli by losing their Jewish meaning? Should they? Or is none of this possible as long as "Jew" can refer to someone in the diaspora as easily as it can to an Israeli?
:: Judah 11:55 PM [+] ::

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