Thursday, November 4, 2010

Logic for Jews only

It seems Professor Avineri is cutting the very branches of logic he seeks to hold on to, one after the other.

Salman Masalha

Logic for Jews only

Professor Shlomo Avineri raises difficult questions and wishes to discuss them, adding: "Anyone who, like me, supports a solution of two states for two peoples and wants to see Arab citizens of Israel gain full civic equality can, and perhaps even must, pose them" ("The right questions," October 5 ).

The issues concerning the melange of tribes residing in this country are not at all simple. The definition of what a people is, in this context, is quite complicated as both peoples are still in formative stages. Throughout human history, nations have vanished and other peoples have awoken one morning, felt they were a nation and began to interact as such in cultural and political frameworks.

The questions Prof. Avineri seeks to raise are difficult ones. But this is only an apparent difficulty - because upon reading his arguments, it seems he is cutting the very branches he seeks to hold on to, one after the other.

Let's assume that it is indeed true that "a majority of Israel's Jewish citizens distinguish between 'the State of Israel' and 'the Land of Israel,'" as he claims. The question then becomes why he demands something different from the other side, in saying "it should be clear to us, and to them, that Acre and Jaffa and Be'er Sheva are not part of Palestine."

If this is the logic guiding him, the same logic should apply to the other side - which should thus distinguish between the State of Palestine and the Land of Palestine. There is no contradiction, therefore, in Acre, Haifa and Jaffa being part of the Land of Palestine, even if they will not be part of the State of Palestine - just as Hebron will simultaneously be part of the State of Palestine and the Land of Israel. That is how healthy logic works, and that is how healthy peoples act in the framework of international law.

The second question raised by Prof. Avineri is also problematic. "The second question is directed at Israel's Arab citizens. Some of their leaders prefer to refer to themselves as 'Palestinian citizens of Israel,' and that, of course, is their right. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that following the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, this definition is liable to seem problematic," he writes.

Let's continue along the lines of this logic, and put it this way: The question is directed at Jewish citizens of the nations of the world. Some of their leaders prefer to refer to themselves as Jewish citizens of the United States, France, Russia, etc, and that, of course, is their right. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that following the establishment of an independent Israeli state, this definition is liable to seem problematic. Does Prof. Avineri accept that this, too, is problematic?

And in the same context, it would be interesting to know to what nation Prof. Avineri would say figures like Benjamin Disraeli, Alphonse Ratisbonne and the composer Felix Mendelssohn belong. To the Jewish people? And if not, why? You could go so far as to say that if the most famous Jewish boy were to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport a second time, seeking to immigrate, Prof. Avineri's representatives would, at best, send him off on the first flight back overseas. Just a reminder to Prof. Avineri - the name of that famous Jewish boy is Jesus.

It seems such questions are inconceivable from his perspective; that is why he won't even consider them. This whole entire debate demonstrates how Prof. Avineri repeatedly climbs the branches of the tree he himself planted and nurtured, but, astonishingly and repeatedly, cuts down the very same branches with his own hands, to the point that he has become a licensed tree cutter.

It's nice that Prof. Avineri wants to see "full civil equality for Israel's Arab citizens," but for that equality to be complete, it also has to exist logically. To this point, I have not been able to fathom the logic of his words.
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Published: Op-Ed, Haaretz, November 4, 2010

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