Sari Nussebeih on “The Jewish State”

7 Oct

Last week the Palestinian intellectual and peace activist Sari Nussebeih published a long article on al-Jazeera on why Palestinians specifically and the Arab world in general, cannot accept Israel as a Jewish state.  His article not only misrepresents and distorts Jewish history but historical facts.  He first asserts that the idea of acknowledging Israel as a Jewish state is a recent creation, which ignores the historical fact that the UN General Assembly voted in 1948 to partition the land into two states, one Arab and one Jewish.  To assert otherwise is intellectually dishonest at best.  Furthermore, Nussebeih argues that the very idea of a modern state being defined by ethnicity or religion is problematic.  He states:

“let us suggest also that having a modern nation-state being defined by one ethnicity or one religion is problematic in itself – if not inherently self-contradictory – because the modern nation-state as such is a temporal and civic institution, and because no state in the world is – or can be in practice – ethnically or religiously homogenous.”

This claim, however, ignores the countless states in the region who  define themselves by ethnicity and religion, namely, Arab and Islamic.  Nussebeih further argues that

“recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” implies that Israel is, or should be, either a theocracy (if we take the word “Jewish” to apply to the religion of Judaism) or an apartheid state (if we take the word “Jewish” to apply to the ethnicity of Jews), or both, and in all of these cases, Israel is then no longer a democracy – something which has rightly been the pride of most Israelis since the country’s founding in 1948.”

So, when one looks at the Arab world, are all Arab regimes that define themselves as Arab and Islamic then theocratic governments and apartheid states as well?  Perhaps more disturbingly, Nussebeih suggests that acknowledging Israel as a Jewish state opens the door to ethnic cleansing. After quoting passages from the Tanakh, Nussebeih states:

“No one then can blame Palestinians and descendents of the ancient Canaanites, Jebusites and others who inhabited the land before the Ancient Israelites (as seen in the Bible itself) for a little trepidation as regards what recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” means for them, particularly to certain Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jews. No one then can blame Palestinians for asking if recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” means recognising the legitimacy of offensive warfare or violence against them by Israel to take what remains of Palestine from them.”

The twisting of biblical and Jewish history to suggest Israel would carry out an ethnic cleansing of the Arabs within its borders is unnerving.  Especially since it comes from a proclaimed moderate and peace activist.  Read it all…

Sari Nusseibeh “Why Israel can’t be a ‘Jewish state'”

Jonathan Tobin at Commentary on Sari Nussebeih


Elliot Abrams on Nussebeih

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