Legislation is under consideration in Jerusalem that formalizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. We support it. Why?
Because it is historically, legally, politically and religiously the case that Israel is the Jewish nation state. The Balfour Declaration, later incorporated into the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, recognized the historical fact that what later became Israel was the “Jewish homeland.”
The 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 encompassed the creation of a “Jewish state” and most of the world has called it that ever since its emergence in 1948.
In short, this legislation correctly recognizes that Israel was and is the Jewish state. The founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, and every other major Zionist leader from that time forward were dedicated to establishing a Jewish state.
The Jewish homeland in which Israel today thrives and flourishes has been recognized for centuries by Bible-believing Jews and Christians — of whom there are well over a billion today — as holy land given to the Jewish people by G-d All Mighty. This land has been called for centuries the ‘Promised Land’ — who promised the land and to whom was it promised? In Genesis, it is promised by G-d to the Jewish people.
It was precisely because this is the Jewish homeland that the Zionist movement turned down proposals of Jewish statehood elsewhere, like Uganda. Zionism is not just about Jewish statehood, it is also about the reconnection of the Jewish people with its biblical and religious homeland. That is why Zionist leader and Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, told the 1936 Peel Commission that “Our Mandate is the Bible.”
Israel is scarcely alone in describing itself as the state of a particular group, religion or ethnicity. In the same region can be found the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Despite the vicious discrimination against, and persecution of, minorities in these states, no-one has said that these states cannot affirm their national identity and purpose. Why then should Israel, the only Middle Eastern country that actually respects and protects minorities, not do so?
No one expects Britain to remove the Union Jack (which includes two crosses) from its flag just because many of its citizens include Muslims, Hindus and Jews. No one tells Scandinavian countries to remove the crosses that adorn their flags. And no one has told Muslim majority states to remove the Islamic crescent from their flags. The flags of over 40 countries possess either the cross or the crescent. Only in the case of Israel’s star do we hear it is unacceptable.
The U.S. pledge of allegiance speaks of “One Nation under God.” Must this be changed in deference to the views of atheists? Of course not. National heritages are not to be discarded because not every citizen sees their own views reflected in them.
Importantly, this legislation does not discriminate against Israel’s rich tapestry of minorities. The rights and liberties of Israelis of different religions and ethnicities would remain unaffected by this bill. They will continue to play, as they have been doing, an important role at all levels of Israeli life.
Non-Jewish citizens live and are welcome in Israel, but the Israeli state, its institutions, laws, flag and anthem reflect the history and aspirations of the people who founded it with their labor, resources and blood.
It is said that this legislation will set back the prospects of peace. This is untrue. Tragically, Palestinian Arab terrorists will continue to try and murder Jews whether or not Israel passes this legislation.
The prospects of peace are set back by continued Palestinian Arab and wider rejection of Israel as a Jewish state within any borders, the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s refusal to fulfill its obligations under the Oslo agreements to disarm, outlaw and arrest terrorists and to end incitement to hatred and murder — not because Israel is duly affirming itself as the Jewish nation state.
Peace is also set back by many countries, including some that are Israel’s friends, when they are silent on PA incitement and pro-terror, anti-peace actions, when they fail to demand of the Palestinians that they amend or rescind the Fatah and Hamas charters, which deny Jewish peoplehood and call for Israel’s destruction; fulfill their Oslo commitments; and fail to penalize Mahmoud Abbas’ PA by terminating aid and diplomatic support for it as a result of these failures.
There is no reason to object to this legislation’s purpose — the formal recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, as virtually the whole world recognizes it to be.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America.