The Visible Rejectionism of Ari Shavit

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Barack Obama walking down Cross Hall with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, September 1, 2010. Credit: Reuters

“Yes, but,” is a more polite way of saying “no,” and that’s how we must understand the words of Ari Shavit (“Turning on the 'Jewish state',” March 20). Ostensibly he supports the two-state solution, but he goes and attacks those who oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. So that we know exactly where Shavit himself stands, he also attacks the peace camp, but his attacks are based on positions he invents for his opponents.

“In Washington, New York and even Tel Aviv,” Shavit writes, “An overall offensive is being waged in recent weeks on the Jewish people’s national state. American and Israeli peace seekers are furiously attacking the demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Suddenly not only the settlements are a war crime, but also the Jewish people’s demand to recognize its right to self-definition. Suddenly Zionism’s fundamental idea, which was recognized in the Balfour Declaration, the UN’s partition resolution and the Israeli Declaration of Independence, is not legitimate.

“The thought that alongside the Palestinian (non-democratic) nation-state there will be a (democratic) Jewish nation-state makes many good people fly off the handle,” he continues.  “People who are usually committed to equality are not ready to grant the Jews what they firmly demand for the Palestinians.”

Shavit’s attack is groundless. To those who oppose demanding from the Palestinians that they recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, it is clear that Zionism’s fundamental idea, self-determination for the Jewish people in a sovereign state in which it is responsible for its fate – that is, “the Jewish state” – is the basis for everything. The Balfour Declaration, the partition decision by the United Nations and what is stated in the Declaration of Independence are steps toward realizing Zionism’s fundamental idea. Contrary to what Shavit says, having the State of Israel alongside a Palestinian state, with the two living in peace with one another, is the aspiration of many good people. They will be satisfied if peace will be merely with the Palestinian state, and not with the nation-state of the Palestinian people.

In order to create an artificial balance and justify his position, Shavit invents a Palestinian nationality. If there is a Palestinian nationality (if there is such a thing as a nationality altogether), then in Jordan there are apparently two nationalities – the Palestinian one and the Bedouin one.

“The nation-state of the Jewish people.” What sort of definition is that? Is an Italian Jew whose family has been in Italy since the expulsion from Spain not part of the Italian nationality? We’d all be better off abandoning this sophistry.

When Israel recognized the fact that there are Palestinians deserving of self-determination, the Palestinians recognized Israel – that same Israel that was founded on the constitutive principles of Zionism. What’s missing is an agreement on substance – borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem.

We must also take Shavit to account for libeling the peace camp, as if its positions are subject to what the Palestinians deem acceptable and that it makes no demands of them. After all, at this stage the Palestinians have yielded 78 percent of what was their land, or also their land, and Israel still hasn’t given up on the remaining 22 percent. The Palestinians will have to effectively concede on their most substantive claim: The actual return of the refugees. That’s also the peace camp’s position, and without that, the debate over a nation-state, yes or no, is superfluous.

But the additional demands that Shavit supports – that the Palestinians give up their history, including the history that took place within the Green Line before the state was founded; and that they ignore the one-fifth of Israeli citizens who are Palestinians — are aimed at thwarting the chance for peace. Will he accept a Palestinian recognition of a Jewish nation-state that is built on the ruins of 400 Palestinian villages and hundreds of thousands of refugees, who have since become millions, and where 20 percent of the citizenry are Palestinians, who are just as nationalist as he is?

Those who present themselves as supporters of the two-state solution, but who insist on demanding recognition of a nation-state, are acting to perpetuate the occupation and settlement.

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