Return of the Israelites
A number of Jewish commentators have criticized a bill that could officially classify Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Haaretz, the conscience of Israel, December 1, 2014, presented Five must-read opinion pieces about Israel's nation-state bill, which can be accessed at
These opinion pieces, as others, focus on the bill as a betrayal of a functioning democracy, contradiction to the Zionist Declaration of Independence, and confirmation of Israel's racism and exclusivity. They fail to examine (1) why the urge to debate the bill, (2) how it relates to the sudden dissolution of parliament and the call for new elections, (3) the disastrous effects on world Jewry, (4) that the bill does not create a Jewish state but replaces the Israel state with an association of communities who can debate what is being Jewish, and (5) the diversion of world Jewry from its accomplishments and replacing them with those of a loosely related Israelite -- an atavistic member of a community that initiated a modern look at law and morality but did not create a significant nation or civilization.
Passed by a 14-7 vote of the cabinet, and sent to the parliament where its endorsement has been delayed, the controversial bill contains 14 principles that guide the drafting of the new law, which seeks to "define the identity of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and to anchor the values of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the spirit of the principles of the Declaration of the Independence;" that is spirit and not context.
The urge to debate the bill
Israel has always steered the debates. Try to talk illegal land seizures, illegal settlements, violations of United Nations regulations, oppression of Palestinians, excessive force, war crimes and Israel will steer the debate to terrorism, security needs, being unfairly singled out, combating anti-Semitism, and let's remember the Holocaust.
The worn out clichés are becoming ineffective - charges against Israel's practices are growing and the world is demanding changes in Israel's oppressive and illegal policies. What does the team do when in trouble? Punt.
In this case, change the subject. Get a new discourse for the world to hotly debate - start talking about "the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people,' and engage the usual army of a million plus Israel sympathizers to start the polemic by filling the blank words in the standard template, "I love Israel with all my heart but _______________, with "I'm not sure that the State of Israel should be defined as the nation-state of the Jewish people." This will give courage for others to state opinions, pro and con, and soon a vigorous debate will follow that drowns out talk about "two-state solutions," continued illegal settlements, dispossessing Palestinians and all the oppressive mechanisms that are making the world see the real Israel. No matter the course of debate, debating truth and accepting falsehoods endlessly to a passive result rather than listening to truth and exposing falsehoods succinctly to an active objective, permits Israel to use the sheltered time to strengthen its illegal and oppressive policies.
Sudden dissolution of parliament and call for new elections
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced he was disbanding his governing coalition because two of his political partners -- Finance Minister Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid Party and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua -- were colluding with ultra orthodox factions behind the scenes to replace him. Not too convincing.
If changing the discourse does not distract the growing chorus of critics, most prominent being the U.S. administration, then dissolving parliament and discussing new elections will keep the U.S. and others at a distance. Convince critics that an election provides the opportunity to replace Netanyahu and his cabinet with a progressive, peace loving and human rights oriented Knesset, and the game plan can continue for a long time.
J-Street has already set the tone with its announcement
1. All signs point to this being a "change election." Prime Minister Netanyahu is highly unpopular--over 60 percent of voters having an unfavorable opinion of him and only barely more than 30 percent wanting him re-elected.
2. Polls show that parties on the center and center-left could emerge with enough seats to be able to form the next government. Two polls have now come out showing that if Labor leader Isaac Herzog runs with Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni, their combined list would emerge with the most seats.
3. The party likely to grow the most is the settler party led by the far-right Naftali Bennett, and that's simply frightening for those of us who believe in democratic values and in two states.
4. The party likely to lose the most is Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid - more than half of whose voters will likely scatter to the right, left and center of the political map.
5. The most significant new player for you to meet this cycle? Former Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose new party could hold the key to forming the next government.
Two contradictions to the usual "good-guy" and "bad-guy" approach to Israeli politics, in which the "bad-guys" are always the party in power and the "good-guys" are the newly formed opposition.
(1) Why did Netanyahu dissolve the government and call for new elections? Israel is always in crisis and this government did not have any unique crisis or was paralyzed.
(2) It has never mattered which political Party governed - all governments, Labor included, have promoted illegal settlements, war with neighbors, illegal seizures of Palestinian lands, obstruction of Palestinian movements, checkpoints, raids on Palestinians, and inability to negotiate a solution to the crises.
- Labor started settlements after the 1967 war, continued them when in power, and never dismantled those ruled illegal.
- Labor's Ehud Barack could not negotiate a peace treaty with the Palestinians.
- All Labor governments have proclaimed Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.
- During September 2000, when a Labor government ruled, Ariel Sharon was allowed to make his infamous walk on the Haram al-Sharif, which provoked the 2nd Intifada.
- Labor defense Minister Ehud Barack was responsible for Operation Cast Lead, the 2008-2009 war on Gaza.
Did the last Labor government coalition, back in 2000-2001, behave much differently than previous or succeeding governments?
Disastrous effects on world Jewry
Why are a relatively few legislators in one nation able to declare their nation as the nation-state of the Jewish people? Who among the world's 15 million Jews gave them the authority?
It is strange that the mass of the world's Jews do not rise in anger, especially because the law will have disastrous effects on them. By relating all Jews more closely to the nation-state of the Jewish people, the law will perturb citizens of the countries in which Jews are citizens. This unique phenomena - being citizen of one nation and automatically associated with another nation that is not a birth nation and therefore different than dual citizenship - will arouse resentment and doubts as to the loyalty of Jews to the state in which they reside. For whom are they working? Are they prone to subversion?
The law places Jews as members of a borderless and international tribe.
Principle 6 of the bill Aid to the Jewish people in distress states: "The State shall act to give aid to members of the Jewish people who are in distress and captivity because of their Jewishness." Being that Israel has served as a money laundering facility for Russian oligarchs and as a haven for those fleeing financial crimes (as well as other crimes), this Principle might be interpreted as a subterfuge to assist Jews in any type of trouble or enable them to gain preference, which again stimulates belief in a Jewish conspiracy to acquire economic and political control. If other nations sense they could and should do the same with a preferred ethnicity, we may have a world with ethnic realignments leading to ethnic warfare - economically, politically and then physically.
Replaces the Israeli state with an association of communities
Despite Zionist protests and previous actions, eventual proposal for the law has been apparent from the day David Ben Gurion declared the Israeli state. There has never been consideration to give all Israeli citizens a common Israeli national identity, only a national identity - Jewish, Arab, Druze, Samaritan, Circassian, Kara'ite, or foreign nationality. Israel has gathered its Jews into a common identity, giving all its selective immigrants a common language, common culture, common history - making them reject their past history, language, music and culture. The artificial creation of a new Jewish Israeli has only been partially successful, its limitations seen by the composition of the Israeli Knesset.
In western democracies, all national political parties represent economic and social interests and proceed in their objectives with an attitude intended to convince that their policies will benefit all the electorate and the national interest. Some nations, such as Spain, have political Parties that represent regional interests, but these Parties are small and do not have much influence in the National Congress. Not so in Israel. Its ever changing political Parties (nothing much to do this year, let's form a political Party) presently include several that might cooperate in running the government but represent specific ethnic interests that do not consider a national interest. The 2014 Knesset contains:
The Jewish Home Party, with 12 of 120 Knesset seats and an objective of creating a nation governed by Jewish law. The party primarily represents Modern Orthodox Jews
Shas, with 11 seats and advocating a state run according to Jewish religious law. Shas primarily represents the interests of Mizrahi Jews, those descended from Jews who had lived in Arab countries.
Yisrael Beiteinu, with 12 seats, that describes itself as "a national movement with the clear vision to follow in the brave path of Zev Jabotinsky," the founder of Revisionist Zionism. Although Yisrael Beiteinu attempts to appeal to all the Israeli public, most of its followers are Russian-speaking.
United Torah Judaism, 7 seats, which represents the ultra-Orthodox community and opposes the separation of religion and state.
Arab oriented Parties that have tried to be mainstream but allowed events to push them into a Palestinian agenda. In total, the Arab parties have 11 members in the Knesset.
Zionist intention to give Jews an identity as a people and artificially create a new Jew, the Israeli Jew, has been contradicted by the vast number of Jews who attach themselves to a community and reject a national agenda. Israel, without a constitution, without borders, without a common identity for all its citizens is an evolving state and not yet a nation. Calling itself "the nation-state of the Jewish people" reverses the evolution path to a devolution process, to becoming a country consisting of competing communities and not one with a trajectory toward an actual nation of citizens with common national aspirations. Israel must become a nation before declaring itself "the nation-state of the Jewish people." Saluting itself as the latter will prevent the former, which means Israel is not now and never will be a nation if the majority of its citizens disregard themselves as Israelis and only think of themselves as Jews.
Return of the Israelite
Some of the 14 principles of the nation-state bill are controversial, promoting a debate of the existence of Israel as a valid nation.
Principle 2 - Founding principles:
A. The land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and the birthplace of the State of Israel.
B. The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its right to self-determination according to its cultural and historic heritage.
C. The right to the fulfillment of national self-determination within the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
D. The State of Israel is a democratic state, established on the foundations of liberty, justice and peace in light of the vision of the prophets of Israel, and realizes the individual rights of all its citizens under law.
These are not Principles - they are spurious statements that have no proven historical foundation.
Let us lay an improper reference to rest -- once and for all -- Jews around the world have a strong association with each other; as do Parsees, Buddhists, Mennonites, Basques, Mormons, Kara'ites, and a host of small religions, sects and ethnicities, but none of these constitute a nation.
Two persons make a people, but a people don't make a nation. A nation refers to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and history. If it were otherwise, why has Israel's thrust been to give its Jews the scaffolding of a new nation by giving them a common language, culture, descent and history, which reject how they previously lived. The Mizrahi who came to Israel were Arabs; the Ashkenazi were western; the Falasha were Ethiopians and the Yemenites were from the Arabian Peninsula. Israel replaced the differing languages, dialects, music, cultures and heritage of these ethnicities with unique and uniform characteristics. Accompanying the destruction of each community was the destruction of centuries old Jewish history and life in Tunisia, Iraq, Libya and Egypt. All these immigrants became a new Jew, an Israeli Jew, who had no proven aspects of the biblical Hebrews
The Jews that emerged from the Hebrews emigrated to different nations, eventually spoke different languages, acquired different customs, formed different institutions and no longer shared a common history. Unchained from the continual strife in a non-productive region, they spread throughout the world, loosely bound together by a common religion, shared myths and shared values -- a moral code that more equalized human beings and a Talmud that regulated parts of their life..
Ancient Israel was home to ancient Jews, but it is questionable that the area that is now Israel was the ancient home of modern Jews. When ethnicities speak of an ancient home, they speak, such as from the voices of Native Americans, of caring for the land or for hunting grounds, for attachment to a soil that nourished them. They may look back at a recognized civilization that gave the world new advances in either technology, culture, warfare, administration or other disciplines, of leaving identifiable physical traces that excite mankind.
The Jews in ancient Israel advanced laws that guided aspects of everyday life and associations by providing an incipient codification of oral traditions. Final codification of oral and written laws occurred centuries later in Mesoptamia with compilation of the Babylonian Talmud, which is now closely followed by mainly orthodox Jews. The Israelites also fostered the concept of humanism, an outlook that questioned divine rule and gave more importance to the worth of the human being. These became universal values, whose home was an entire world and not a restricted area.
Hebrews worked the land of Canaan but that is not the legacy they left. Attachment to the land and description of a magnificent Hebrew civilization are spiritual phenomenon, rendered by biblical writings that are not entirely supported by archaeology and history. The principal focus of attachment by moderm Jews to ancient Israel is Jerusalem, and mainly due to remembrance of its Temple, one building, only one building, whose actual existence becomes more dubious each day -- archaeology and history have reduced the biblical King Solomon, who has no existence in the historical record, to a minor chieftain, incapable of constructing a huge edifice, such as the first Temple. The constantly repeated, "If I forget thee O' Jerusalem," serves to continually remind Jews that Hebrews inhabited a specific ancient land and, by association to this one Temple, moves them to strangely claim to be heir to the entire ancient land.
Here we face the usual conundrum that disorients mankind - people will believe what favors them and react strongly against a reality that contradicts their beliefs. Nevertheless, a substantial number of independent and well qualified archaeologists, researchers and historians have capably refuted the biblical accounts that occurred before 800 B.C., the time of King Omri -- the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom.
All this is described by Professor Ze'ev Herzog, Deconstructing the Walls of Jericho at:
A history of the ancient Hebrew people rests on the acceptance of the Old Testament as a historical narrative. Recently, the Bible has been shown to be a literature by a people and not an authentic history of a people -- a saga with historical occurrences. Its tone, language and stories are mainly derived from Ugaritic literature of the 12th century B.C. Canaanite city-state of Ugarit and from previous Sumerian, Egyptian, Akkadian and other texts, stories and legends. From Ugarit and the Bible at http://www.theology.edu/ugarbib.htm
when we listen to their voices we hear echoes of the Old Testament itself. Several of the Psalms were simply adapted from Ugaritic sources; the story of the flood has a near mirror image in Ugaritic literature; and the language of the Bible is greatly illuminated by the language of Ugarit.
Immediately before and during the Hasmoneon dynasty that controlled Israel between 140 BC and 116 BC Jews began to leave the Levant in sizable numbers, moving to Alexandria, Mesopotamia, Cyrenaica, Cyprus, Antioch and Rome. The emigrants had opportunity to stay and those who previously left had the opportunity to return but evidently they had insufficient attachment to a Jewish nation. Soon the attachment was lost entirely as Jews spread throughout the Roman Empire and to the Fertile Crescent where they formed vital communities. By the year 1000 A.D., Mesopotamia and Persia contained 75% of world Jewry, with the rest in North Africa and Western Europe.
Using the word "diaspora" to describe the displacement of world Jewry is deceptive. Similar to Basques who inhabit Spain and France, similar to Episcopalians who left Great Britain for America, similar to the Puritans and a myriad of other groups who fled persecution, and similar to Chinese who stretched out to various parts of the world, the Jews sought wisdom, freedom and prosperity. Where they found those elements, they found home. If not, they found themselves in similar circumstances to most of the world's peoples and faced with conditions that the ancient Jews endured in most eras - economically deprived, subjugated and persecuted - unable to escape their fate.
Principle 7 - Heritage:
A. The State shall act to preserve the cultural and historic heritage and tradition of the Jewish people, and to cultivate and foster them in Israel and the Diaspora.
B. In all educational institutions serving the Jewish public in Israel the annals of the Jewish people, its heritage and tradition, shall be studied.
C. The State shall act to enable all residents of Israel, without regard to religion, race or nationality, to act to preserve their culture, heritage, language and identity.
Outside of religious observances and spirituality, it would be interesting to know the cultural and historic heritage and tradition of the disparate Jewish people, what and how they shall be studied and how a foreign nation fosters them in the Diaspora.
In article C, why use the words "all residents" and not "all citizens?" If "The State shall act to enable all residents of Israel, without regard to religion, race or nationality, to act to preserve their culture, heritage, language and identity," why did the Zionists initially ignore all these elements in its immigrants and subdue the heritage of its Palestinian citizens?
Principle 8 - Official calendar:
The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the State.
Official calendar, and not just for holidays? Is this the lunar solar calendar, which is eleven days shorter than the solar cycle? If so, why the need to confuse an Israeli public that is already satisfied with the Gregorian calendar and will be forced to adjust to another calendar that uses an archaic measurement of the year? Does this mean everyone must have a Date Converter app?
Principle 11 - Hebrew law:
A. Jewish law shall serve as a source of inspiration for the Knesset.
B. If a court faces a legal question that must be decided, and cannot find an answer in legislation, precedent or clear deduction, it shall decide the matter in light of the principles of liberty, justice, integrity and peace in the heritage of Israel.
Rather vague and not well defined. What is Jewish law and how is it applied to modern interchanges? Does this mean the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin, "the council of seventy-one Jewish sages who constituted the supreme court and legislative body in Judea during the Roman period?" Could be, but let us hope not.
In October 2004, a representative group of rabbis in a ceremony in Tiberius claimed re-establishment of the Sanhedrin. The new Sanhedrin has not been recognized by the Israeli government and is probably unknown to the vast majority of Israelis. If all knew what the Sanhedrin website at
regards as its authority, they would gasp.
One area where the Sanhedrin has offered extensive opinions is in the area of war and military policy. Based on the Mishnah's statement "they may not send forth (the people) to a Milchemet Reshut (non-mandatory war) except by order of the court of seventy-one," the new Sanhedrin has declared that it is "the authorized institution to decide in matters of military policy, issue definitive moral guidance to soldiers on active duty and in the reserves. It also comments on the current administration's defense policy..." They clearly state "The commandment to 'inherit and dwell' (Deut. 12:29) in the Land of Israel is obligatory upon every Israeli government. In this regard Israel is commanded by G-d to conquer the entire expanse of the Land of Israel within its Biblical boundaries, including the Gaza strip."
Evidently the Sanhedrin already exercises some military control.
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