Friday, August 27, 2010

B. Michael: A Pravoslavic and republican tomato

B. Michael

A Pravoslavic and republican tomato

Prof. Shlomo Avineri (Haaretz, August 13, 2010) debates Salman Masalha, who ridiculed the expression “a Jewish and democratic state” and compared it to the expression “a Muslim and democratic state” (Haaretz, August 8, 2010).

Avineri decides to learn from this barb that Masalha has supposedly denied the existence of a Jewish people and its right to self-definition, and charges ahead full tilt to defend the people, the state and the expression “a Jewish and democratic state.”

But Avineri is making life easy for himself. With convenient and useful consistency he ignores one crucial and fundamental fact: The state of Israel is the only country in the world where the exclusive authority to determine who belongs to its people is in the hands of the clergy of some transcendental, mythical entity, which does not participate much in the public discourse and is not subordinate to any mortal (except those who serve it…).

Avineri also tries to compare the Jewish people in Israel to other peoples in the world. As he sees it, “a Jewish state” is like a Palestinian state, a Dutch state, a Polish state, an English state. Every state has its people. But this comparison is baseless. It’s not a qadi who decides who is Palestinian. It’s not the Archbishop of Canterbury who decides who is English. It’s not a cardinal in Warsaw who decides who is Polish and it isn’t the ayatollahs in Iran who decide who is Persian. Only here, only in Israel, have all the usual tests of ethnic and national affiliation been abolished. Not culture, not language, not birthplace, not historical background, not a common fate … none of these decide. Only the seal of the clerical bureaucrats determines whether or not a person belongs to the people and the nation.

The result is a rather absurd paradox: Instead of the state of Israel realizing the right of Jews to self-definition, it has become the only place in the universe that denies them their right to define themselves. Everywhere else in the world a person is allowed to define himself as a Jew, and Jewish communities are able to embrace him to their bosom in any way they choose. No law prevents them from doing this. Only in Israel has this right been outlawed.

And the paradox redoubles when we realize that while the Jewish people everywhere in the world is indeed a people in every respect, it is only in Israel that it has once again become solely a religious community, a cult the definition of which has been given over entirely to clerics and their certifications of ritual fitness.

It can be said this is the worst failure of what Avineri calls “the Zionist revolution.” It intended to transform a people into a nation and it has ended up turning part of that people into a religious community.

Therefore until such time as the state of Israel comes to its senses and takes away from the clerics the exclusive authority to decide who belongs to that people whose right to self-definition it purports to realize – Salman Masalha is right: “A Jewish and democratic state” is a ridiculous phrase, just like “a Muslim and democratic state.”

And if this comparison is insulting to Prof. Avineri, he is invited to ponder the following equation: “A Jewish and democratic state” is a logical and very meaningful concept much like “a Pravoslavic and republican tomato.”

Jerusalem, August 15, 2010
Salman Masalha, "A Jewish and democratic restaurant"
Shlomo Avineri, "A Palestinian people, yes, a Jewish people, no?"

Alexander Yakobson, "What's in the name?"
Uri Avnery, "Poisonous Mushrooms"
Lev Grinberg, "You can't be a Jewish Muslim"



Facebook comments:
Post a Comment

Middle East
  • The Arab world's quagmire

    Only a society that can engage in introspection and self-examination can emerge from its dark past and march confidently to a different future. Otherwise, it will continue to sink into the same marshy swamp.

    Read more

    A Feeble Middle East

    The West learned on its own flesh that this region conducts itself by other codes. Iran has continued to entrench its standing by means of its religious ideology. The toppling of Saddam Hussein shattered the illusion of the existence of a unifying “Iraqi identity” and gave an encouraging shot in the arm to Iran, which is forging ahead.

    Read more

  • The decay in the Arab world

    With great sadness, it can be said that in the absence of a sane civil alternative, the Arab world will continue along this path.

    Read more

    Neither Arab nor Spring

    The vicissitudes that have, for some reason, been collectively dubbed the "Arab Spring" are neither Arab nor Spring. One can say that they are actually living proof of the identity crisis and reverberating bankruptcy of Arab nationalism.

    Read more

  • another title

Israel - Palestine
  • Our troubles come from us

    And so we have reached a situation in which every Arab is concerned with his own problems and everyone talks about what preoccupies him personally – that is, his own troubles.

    Read more

  • Never-ending tragedy

    The Israeli right, in all its forms, wants exclusively Jewish control over all of the Land of Israel. To the Palestinians who live in this space, it promises residency – temporary, of course, on condition that they keep their heads down, accept their designated status and behave accordingly.

    Read more
  • Solomon’s Mosque

    Religion, every religion, is the No. 1 enemy of nationalism. But under conditions of tension, such as tribal warfare, these polar opposites combine into a toxic soup that consumes all common sense.

    Read more

  • They see not, nor know

    The term "neutralize" is very popular with people who have served in the security and expulsion forces. The question to be asked is, What did the poet who spoke of "neutralization" mean in this plan?

    Read more

    For Jews only

    From the moment the pundits followed in the footsteps of the politicians, both large and small, they carried this noxious melody everywhere. They were part of legitimizing the illegitimate in Israeli politics.

    Read more

  • With yearning soul

    The Zionism that aspired to establish a "Jewish home" in the Jews' "ancient homeland" did not take into consideration the fact that the land was not empty. It thus adopted the principle of population transfer, based on the same ancient biblical tradition.

    Read more

    Rabbis of the Dry Bones

    Racism surfaces when a society loses its self-confidence and turns to seeking ways to defend itself against what is different and perceived as increasingly threatening.

    Read more

  • الحلم

    أنّي في سجن جدران بيضاء
    حيث لا يعرفني أحدٌ، وأصواتٌ
    تختفي في الرّدهات، وأضواء تستنشقُ
    جمجمتي اللّاهثة.
    تتمة الكلام

Press photo to Email



Site Archive


  • The pit and the pendulum

    In those days, we did not drink four goblets of wine, because everything that gladdens the human heart is not a part of our custom.

    Read more

  • Welcome Back to History

    Islam, like other imperialist ideologies, still needs enemies to flourish. Enemies have served Islam in the past as fuel for its wagons. Without enemies Islam declines and stagnates...

    Read more

  • another title

  • Balkrishna Sama

    Man Is God

    He who loves flowers, has a tender heart.
    he who cannot pluck their blooms,
    has a heart that's noble.

    Read more

  • Martin Niemöller

    First They Came

    First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist.
    Then they came for the Socialist
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Read More

  • Salman Masalha

    The Song About the Child

    Boston Gospel Choir

    Text: Salman Masalha
    Composer: Stephen Feigenbaum