Recognizing Israel as the Jewish State: Part I
Recognizing Israel as the Jewish State: Part I

The question of whether Israel should demand that Palestinian Arabs formally recognize her right to exist as “the” Jewish state has been the subject of discussion and debate within Israel for many years. As former Israeli ambassador Dore Gold observed, in the last century, Israel is the only state established whose legitimacy was officially acknowledged by the League of Nations and the U.N. 

The League of Nations Mandate did not grant the Jewish people the rights to establish a national home in Palestine, it simply recognized the pre-existing right that had never been surrendered or forgotten. The Jewish people had been sovereign in their own land for a thousand years before many were forced into exile. The establishment of the State of Israel did not represent a creation ex nihilo.

These rights were upheld by the U.N. under Article 80 of the UN Charter after the U.N. replaced the League of Nations.  (Dore Gold and Jeff Helmreich, Jerusalem Viewpoints Number 507 Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, November 16, 2003).

The Arab Response

When addressing the international community, the Palestinian Arabs insist that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state will annul their right to establish their own state, compromise the rights of the non-Jewish minority in Israel and preclude resolving the question of the Palestinian refugees. These excuses are unfounded. They have never accepted the right of Israel to exist, which is why the two-state solution has never been a realistic solution. 

They have never accepted the right of Israel to exist, which is why the two-state solution has never been a realistic solution. 
Speaking for the Palestinian Arabs, Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) chief negotiator, openly rejects to the idea of Israel being the Jewish state.  “We will not agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state,” he said. “There is no country in the world where religious and national identities are intertwined.”

On Al-Arabiya TV, a Saudi-owned pan-Arab television news station, Erekat added: "Israel can define itself however it sees fit; and if it wishes to call itself a Jewish state, so be it. But the Palestinians will never acknowledge Israel's Jewish identity." Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, considered in the West as a moderate, agreed with these statements. (“The recognition sham,” The Jerusalem Post, November 14, 2007; “Erekat: We Won’t Accept Jewish Israel,” The Jerusalem Post.November 12, 2007; Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinians have not abandoned armed struggle,” The Jerusalem Post,November 10, 2012).

Erekat's assertions are wrong. As Professor George Scelle, international jurist and member of the U.N. International Law Commission, wrote: “What characterizes a nation is certainly not race—for there is no longer a pure race; it is a combination of manifestations of conscience solidarity—some of an historical nature, others of an intellectual, religious, social or even emotional nature—which together result in the creation of a collective desire for common life, an organization of solidarity and a permanent relationship…it is this psychological element which constitutes the very essence of nationality.” There “can be no doubt” that all the Jewish communities are “one nation or one people.” (Nathan Feinberg, The Arab-Israel Conflict in International Law (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press of The Hebrew University, 1970), 21-22); Allen Z. Hertz, “Aboriginal rights of the Jewish People,” The Times of Israel (February 18, 2014).

The situation of the Jews is “exceptional,” he noted, due to their dispersion. Though they “lack some of the elements of solidarity” found in other peoples—especially solidarity developed “by living in close geographical proximity, their traditions, customs, the persecutions they endured and mystic aspirations are so firmly integrated ---certainly more so than in the case of other peoples –for this very reason that they have not assimilated with the political groups in whose midst they have lived or settled.”  Paul Fauchille, the French jurist, held the same opinion about the Jews. In discussions about the Balfour Declaration and other Allied and Associated Powers, he stated “The Great War of 1914-1919 brought with it official recognition of yet another persecuted people: namely the Jewish people.” (Feinberg, op.cit.23-24).

Aside from many jurists, historians and scholars who “unequivocally endorsed” the existence of the Jewish people, there are international institutions that added their affirmation. On July 24, 1922, the Council of the League of Nations recognized the existence of the Jewish people, its historical link to the land of Israel and its right to reestablish its ancestral home there. The Mandate acknowledged the Zionist Organization’s Jewish Agency as the representative of the Jewish people in all issues regarding the reestablishment of the national home. (Ibid. 23).

The judges from the U.S. France, Britain and the former Soviet Union who presided at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany explicitly acknowledged that “atrocities against the Jewish people were committed.”  On practically every page of the Nuremberg Trial proceedings, mention is made of the murder of “the Jews” throughout Europe as members of the Jewish people “in the ethnic sense, not the religious sense,” because during the Holocaust even Jews converted to other religions were murdered as Jews along with those who had not left the fold.” (Ibid. 24-25).

French political scientist Shmuel Trigano also dismisses these excuses as a delaying ploy frequently used by the PLO, especially in the Palestinian Charter. The idea that one state does not have to acknowledge the “religion” of another State is irrelevant in this case. The word “Jew” here means a “nation”, not a “religion.” This is why the November 1947 U.N. General Assembly Resolution (181, II) uses the expression “Jewish State” twenty three times, when it advocates the creation of “two states in Palestine, a Jewish one and an Arab one.” (Shmuel Trigano, “The Open Racism of the Future State of Palestine,” SPME Archives, October 28, 2010).

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas criticized the International Quartet after they demanded he recognize the Jewish state when he said, “Don’t order us to recognize a Jewish state. We won’t accept it.” As far as Abbas is concerned, Israel can call itself “The Zionist republic, the Hebrew, the National, [or] the Socialist [Republic] call it whatever you like. I don’t care.” (Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, “Abbas mocks idea of Jewish state,” Palestinian Media Watch, May 4, 2009).

In a speech in to the U.N .Human Rights Council in Geneva on October 28, 2015, Abbas openly condemned Israel’s ‘occupation’: "Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, haven't you wondered: For how long will this protracted Israeli occupation of our land last? After 67 years (i.e., Israel's creation), how long? Do you think it can last, and that it benefits the Palestinian people?” Abbas also vilified Israel:  "[The] holy sites which have been desecrated every other second again and again for seven decades now, under an occupation that does not quit killing, torturing, looting and imprisoning..."(Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Abbas says all of Israel is "occupation,’" Palestinian Media Watch, November 2, 2015).

Ahmad Samih Khalidi, a senior associate member of St Antony's College, Oxford, a former Palestinian Arab negotiator and an advocate of a one state solution, defends Arab refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.  “…Defining Israel as a Jewish state,” he said “prejudices the political and civic rights of Israel’s Arab citizens, who comprise 20 percent of the population and whose second-class status would be consolidated by dint of recognizing the “Jewishness” of the state, and second, because to acknowledge Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people would compromise the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, as there would be no moral or political grounds for them to return to a universally recognized Jewish state.” (Ahmad Samih Khalidi, “Why the Palestinians can’t recognize the Jewish State,”   Journal of Palestine Studies, Volume 40, Number. 4 (Summer 2011);  Ahmad Samih Khalidi, “Thanks, but no thanks Statehood does not offer the equitable and fair solution the Palestinian people deserve;”  Ahmad Samih Khalidi, “A one-state solution: A unitary Arab-Jewish homeland could bring lasting peace to the Middle East,” The Guardian (September 28, 2003.)

Additionally, he wrote: “…if Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, then the lands that it occupies today (and perhaps more, for there are as yet no borders to this “homeland”) belong to this people by way of right. And if these lands rightfully comprise the Jewish homeland, then the Arab presence there becomes historically aberrant and contingent; the Palestinians effectively become historic interlopers and trespassers—a transient presence on someone else’s national soil.” (Khalidi, “Why the Palestinians can’t recognize the Jewish State,” op.cit.) 

Khalidi believes this “touches on the very core of the conflict and its genesis. Indeed, it is the heart of the Zionist claim to Palestine: Palestine belongs to the Jews and their right to the land is antecedent and superior to that of the Arabs. This is what Zionism is all about, and what justifies both the Jewish return to the land and the dispossession of its Arab inhabitants.” (Ibid; John V. Whitbeck, “What ‘Israel right to exist’ means to Palestinians,” The Christian Science Monitor, February 2, 2007); Ali Jarbawi, “Defining the Jewish State,” The New York Times, March 6, 2014).

Destroying Israel has been a primary objective of the Palestinian Liberation Movement (PLO) from the outset.  In a Radio PLO broadcast in Hebrew on October 31, 1967, Ahmad Al-Shuqayri, who founded the PLO in May 1964, announced “Filastin is the homeland of the Palestinian people.” They and the Arab nation will never relinquish their patrimony. “We will fight until Israel is destroyed …One hundred thousand Arabs surround you; they will not leave Israel alone and allow it [to] exist.” His urged the Jews to leave Israel to other countries where Jews live so they will enjoy peace, prosperity and stability. The Balfour Declaration precipitated the calamity and only Jewish emigration from Palestine will end the catastrophe.  (Moshe Shemesh, “Did Shuqayri Call for ‘Throwing the Jews into the Sea,’” Israel Studies Volume 8 Number 2 (Summer 2003):76.)

Negotiations and treaties were not designed to further a peace process. The Oslo Accords or any agreement, he said, “is just a temporary procedure or just a step towards something bigger…”  They are meant to lull and dupe Israelis into believing a settlement can be reached with the Arabs though summits, confidence building measures such as prisoner exchange, evacuation of territory and political and other concessions. Unfortunately, appeasement is viewed as a weakness and not a source of strength in the Middle East.

To achieve this goal, a hudna (cease fire, truce) (Denis MacEoin, “Tactical Hudna and Islamist Intolerance,” Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2008), 39-48.) or a tahadia (quiet period) (Efrat Weiss, “A year of relative quiet,” Ynet (September 28, 2005) are religiously legal sanctioned strategies to gain tactical advantage over one's adversary until the next round of fighting begins.

Instead of viewing these time outs as a sign of conciliation, they need to be viewed at the Arabs see them. (Daniel Pipes, “Lessons from the Prophet Muhammad’s Diplomacy,” Middle East Quarterly (September 1999); Sheikh Professor Abdul Hadi Palazzi, “Correspondence: The Treaty of Hudaybiya,” Middle East Quarterly (December 1999).

Tomorrow: Israel's response