Abbas, Don’t Recognize Israel as a Jewish State

We, Jews, must free ourselves from the obsessive need to define ourselves as a single entity.

AP

I was born in April 1948 and I was circumcised on the eighth day of my life. My mother tongue is Hebrew, even as my mother’s native language was “foreign.” During my schooling, even though we were secular, I participated, like everyone else, a few hundred times in national ceremonies, which were kind of religious. I took the ceremonies seriously, like most of my people. I also had an aliyah, to read from the Torah, for my bar mitzvah, like most of my people. I studied the Bible for 11 consecutive years. I studied Hebrew literature, which no Jew in the world really learns and understands.

I served in the army. There, too, I was forced to participate in such ceremonies. I have gone to weddings, brit milahs, funerals, and all of them were religious. I got married in a religious ceremony, and circumcised my son. I have always moved carefully between built-in Israeli anti-Semitism characterized by deep hatred of the Jewish religion and my, or our, intense enmity toward Western anti-Semitism, which I had heard about but did not know.

We do not need the state to be recognized as being Jewish. This does not mean I am announcing my support for the Palestinian position in the dispute. No. I am also not asking from you “to be flexible, in order to free us from the corrupting occupation,” and so forth. I am asking you, if it is not too difficult, not to recognize the “state of the Jewish people,” even if U.S. President Barack Obama asks you to. Even for our own good. In short, don’t help hand our sovereignty over to the hands of a virtual global entity, which will have claims to the land and whose representatives are immune from the rule of the majority - a sort of undercover and automatic reinforcement for the power.

Don’t lend your hand to the nationalists - those who wear kippot, or those who eat pork - in destroying even further the fabric called Israeli democracy, using “Jewish identity,” which no one has a clue what that is. Even the love for the land has been translated for us into a military-religious-national phrase. I really love it, outside of this discourse. And in the name of love, I am writing you: This recognition is unnecessary.

I had, and I still have, a lot of friends, Jews and non-Jews, and among the Jews there were, and still are, religious, Haredi, Mizrahim who eat legumes on Passover, Ashkenazim who do not eat legumes on Passover, Mizrahim who eat hametz on Passover, and Ashkenazim who only eat kosher on Passover, and so forth. I had, and still have, Arab friends - Muslims, Druze, Christians. And among the Christians I had, and still have, friends who are Orthodox, Catholics, one Copt, and communists. I would like for our sons to know this mosaic, not just as soccer fans who get excited over Arab stars such as Salim Toame, Ahmed Abed, Maharan Radi, or Muanas Dabur.

For now, the stars only entertain us, and disappear at the end of their careers. The mosaic from which they come is not only soaked in poverty, but is not present in our lives, because the “Jewish identity” of the state. And that is only one example of the boring national blindness.

It is not good for our lives which do not exist except within this ancient myth and false Western fantasy. The Jewish identity has turned us into narrow-minded idiots, lacking a concrete interest in our land, which has nature, birds, flowers, little water, a lot of desert, and people who want to be happy, as people.

It is clear that the demand for recognition of a Jewish state is just an excuse to perpetuate the occupation. Beyond this demand, anyway, there is no horizon to our great dismay. Therefore don’t give in - not on the two-state solution, and not on your refusal to recognize the “state of the Jewish people.” It is enough to recognize the State of Israel. No more.

True, we must free ourselves from the racism of the state, from the discrimination embodied in the present definitions. We need to free ourselves from racism, which abandons, for example, Arab high-tech workers in Yokne’am to the attacks of hooligans, who slash tires and cars - and no one does anything to protect them. We must free ourselves from the obsessive need to define ourselves as a single entity, which has only one past, rather than many, as if this entity has only one origin, rather than many, and as if it has only one language, rather than many.

Don’t give them this rubber stamp. Please.