What does it mean for a person to be Jewish? What is special about the State of Israel? Does it make sense to call the state, Jewish? I don’t think so.
There is a Jewish people. We are 14 million in our extended family
who are Jewish by birth or through the conversion process. The Jewish nation was born in the land of Canaan, which became the land of Israel. For centuries, Judaism was our state religion, Hebrew our language, and Jerusalem our capitol. The Jewish nation was conquered, our temple destroyed, most of the Jews expelled, with colonization by a series of foreign empires, including the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Romans, who named the land Palestine, and then the Islamic Arabs, the Ottoman Turks, and the British.
The Jews today are of the same extended family, or tribe, as the Jewish population of ancient Judea. Jews have wandered and settled all over the world, but we have never forgotten our constant connection and dedication to our one homeland in the land of Israel.
There are three facets that make the State of Israel special to the Jewish people. The modern State of Israel:
1. Recognizes the land of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, without prejudice to the rights and claims of others
2. Serves as a haven for Jews from around the world, and
3. Protects Jewish life and Jewish religious practice while giving
equal rights to those of other faiths.
There is no Jewish king. The laws are not based on Jewish religious law. Restaurants are not required to be kosher and all businesses are not required to be closed on the Sabbath.
If the U.S. government recognized North America as the homeland of the indigenous Native Americans, and served as a haven for any Native American from around the world, and if the U.S. Government guaranteed the right of Native Americans to practice according to their tribal codes, that would not make the U.S. a Native American State. If New Zealand officially recognized the Maori as indigenous, and guaranteed them indigenous rights, that would not make New Zealand a Maori state. Every modern democratic republic should recognize the rights of their indigenous peoples.
Consider the rights given by the State of Israel to the Jewish People in light of the indigenous rights proposed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including:
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands,
territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.
This international agreement is also relevant to Jewish communities in the West Bank. Although these have been called “settlements” it might be more appropriate to call them Israelite reservations, similar to the lands reserved for the Native Americans in the U.S. They are not illegal barriers to peace. They are an essential requirement for fulfillment of the indigenous rights of the Jewish tribe.
There is nothing in the discussion of indigenous rights that would give Jews any superiority over other indigenous peoples. Certainly negotiations should allow indigenous peoples of all religions as well as non-indigenous citizens to share the land and enjoy full civil rights. However, the efforts of the forces of foreign Arab Islamic imperialists to deny indigenous rights to claim all the land as Arab, must be fought. Israel must also fight the forces of Western capitalist imperialism that would try to maintain control over all the land to further its interests. Israel is not a Jewish state, or a Western state, but a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, middle eastern democratic republic that recognizes the indigenous rights of the Jewish people.