Dumpster Diving for Reasons to Deny the Palestinians a State

The Education Ministry’s new civics chief espouses the fuzzy philosophy of the political right.

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

Israeli schoolchildren have a new civics teacher, Dr. Asaf Malach. In his article “Not every people deserves a state,” the new chairman of the Education Ministry’s committee on civics education — appointed this week by Education Minister Naftali Bennett — borrows from Canadian political philosopher Will Kymlicka.

Kymlicka estimates that there are around 5,000 ethnic groups in the world today, and around 600 language groups, compared with 193 countries. As Malach writes, “It seems to me that this is sufficient to prove rather decisively that the principle of self-determination of nationalities ... wasn’t, isn’t and won’t be implemented in the world political order in the foreseeable future.”

The Israeli right wing, writes the civics teacher, was busy trying to prove that the Palestinians aren’t a people because the right took it for granted that “to the extent they are a people, it is clear they deserve a state, and if not, this right is denied them.” From here stems the right’s motivation to augment Golda Meir’s legendary claim: “There is no Palestinian people.”

But these efforts of the right to explain and convince, claims Malach, were aimed in the wrong direction. The definition of a group as a people is not a sufficient condition to entitle it to a country. Malach has no objection to granting the Palestinians the right to a culture; he just claims that this doesn’t necessarily imply their right to a nation-state.

“For this right to be granted to a people, it must meet other criteria — first of all to be of utility for the members of the people and for the political stability of the regional order,” Malach writes. The Palestinians, he adds, do not meet these criteria, since the establishment of a Palestinian state would create “a real option for a fundamentalist continuum from Iran to the Samarian Hills.” Such a step is “a gamble that could undermine regional [and global] stability, which is already hanging by a thread.”

Anyone who tries to outsmart him and claim that a Palestinian state could actually provide benefits for the Palestinian people, and that the conflict’s resolution could inspire new coalitions in the region essential for regional and global stability, will soon learn he hasn’t solved the problem. Just listen to the lecture on “A Jewish and Democratic State” that Malach gave at Hebrew University as part of the program for Zionist thought sponsored by the group Im Tirtzu, which a court has said has fascist traits. You’ll learn something.

Malach listed two other criteria that a people seeking its own state must meet: “a long duration” and “the basics of political culture.” Anyone who would dare claim he wasn’t sure the Jewish people met the second criteria before Israel’s establishment, especially if we consider the 2,000 years before the state’s founding, will hear Malach say: “The Jewish hope for redemption describes the Messiah as a king who will make war and rule.” In other words, “The Messianic hope includes clear political dimensions.”

It is not only Israeli diplomacy that has understood that it’s not enough to speak about security considerations; one must speak in the language of rights and justice. Quietly and diligently, the enlightened on the nationalist right have dived deep into Bar-Ilan University and other institutions in the backyard of Israeli academia. They have dived deep into political philosophy, sailing the length and breadth of its thought. They have read, gleaned ideas and set standards in their own image, and now they are examining reality in their own light.

They have put together a theory aimed to prove the Jews’ right to a homeland and deny the Palestinians’ right to a state — theories that meet international academic standards well enough to produce PhDs and professors, award them funding and grants, open study programs and research institutes, and publish periodicals.

So it’s natural the conditions have developed to introduce these theories into the school civics curriculum. Parents have time at least until September to find answers for their little tyke, who will soon mouth off to them that “just because you have a right to a culture doesn’t mean you have the right to a state.”

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