Abram Epstein

A Jewish state, yes! A Muslim state, yes! That’s Israel

Sunday, April 19th. Rabin Square. Israel.

Two thousand “Black Flag” protesters joined to demonstrate against the Netanyahu blitzkrieg attempt to subvert the Israeli justice system so his indictments as a criminal would never lead to his forceful resignation from an “emergency government” formed to fight the Corona virus, much less lead to his incarceration.

His unwitting, or more aptly witless, co-conspirator, Benny Gantz, appears on the verge of co-sponsoring Netanyahu’s devious machinations to abort justice and deliver himself newborn on the stage of Israeli premiership.

Here, permit this observer from the mezzanine of diaspora ticket-holders, to join the applause for those now forming ranks in the army of the true opposition to Netanyahu, calling itself “Demokratiah” and  to offer my opinion about a plausible future agenda.

The protest had one speaker whose salutary tone especially was a highlight of the lurking danger facing the new movement. I refer to MK Yair Golan. (Please avail yourself of his background as a general and his politically “liberal” role in framing recent discussions about a Two-State peace plan.) Golan started by saying he was not at the protest to criticize Netanyahu or Gantz, but to speak of “hope” for the future.

Sorry. More and more, as I have listened to this famed Aluf speak to J Street and IPF forums, the more I get the same queasy feeling.  He’s playing a card game called, “I intend to be Prime Minister.”

The buzz words are contrary to the Black Flag movement.

First, Yair Golan speaks of the absolute imperative of maintaining the identification of Israel as a “Jewish State.”  Everything these days is nuanced by context. Of course, Israel is a Jewish state. God willing it will always be a Jewish state. BUT, it’s also a MUSLIM state. That’s right. So, when Yair Golan makes his assertion, he does so in an exclusionary sense. To him, it can’t be a Jewish state and also a Muslim state. 

The Black Flag/Demokratiah movement is saying the opposite: Israel is the Jewish State and to the Muslims it is the Muslim State and both are united as one nation of citizens with allegiance to the flag and STATE of ISRAEL. Yair Golan and his ilk of the war-weary worn-out generation shall never abide the change which must come if Israel is to be a truly magnificent democracy.

The second “buzz word” Yair Golan speaks has to do with his reference to the West Bank. He is for walling in the  Arab enclaves, or, alternately, the Settlements–in a massive ghettoization scheme. Where is the recognition the West Bank is Palestinian? Where is the Jewish n’shama that says you don’t steal another People’s land? Because he has been criticized for wanting to return some Settlements to the Palestinians, he launches into the pitfalls of messianic promises which presumably the Haredim use to justify all their Occupation…never pausing to consider his own self-contradictory willingness to justify the expansion of 600,000 Jews into formerly Arab populated land. 

His past, I urge, must be recognized for what it is: the past.

The Demokratiah movement must develop a concrete agenda if it is not to become a voice in the wilderness drowned out by the noise of endless dispute.

I urge two steps: One, convene a “Congress of Major Progressive Organizations and Leaders  to Consider the Architecture for the Formal Establishment of Equality Between Muslims and Jews in the Bi-National State of Israel.” Members would be both Israelis, Jews and Arabs, as well as diaspora Jews who have played a progressive leadership role.

The “Congress” should meet with the intention of  achieving the equivalent of the American Federalist Papers, advancing positions on preserving the eternal sanctity of both the Jewish and Muslim presence in Israel, each having  a uniquely sacred sense of Israel as a homeland to be religiously, and culturally preserved in unrestricted freedom of expression for both our Peoples.

Second, The Congress should set the date for its first political “convention” when it would inaugurate a “Jewish-Arab” party to run in a national election.

To my friends who gathered in Rabin Square, to my cousins who have fought in her wars and waved that Black Flag, I salute you. You have lit a very bright spark. Now you must believe in the hardest thing of all: Yourselves. It is time to tell the Settlement Jews to come home to pre-1967 Israel (or an adjusted border). Call their Settlements “Israel,” but make their West Bank land ultimately only salable to the new Palestinian state. Until then, let their votes be counted, but not toward members of the governing coalition, not until they return home. A new Knesset may find them a path to live again in Eretz Yisrael where they truly belong.

About the Author
Abram Epstein, a New Yorker, has served as Director of Education for several synagogues and actively participated in the Manhattan Educators’ Council. His graduate studies at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center focused on ancient Near Eastern religion and Biblical Judaism. He is a recipient of the university’s prestigious Founders’ Award for Academic Accomplishment and has a screen credit as Historical Consultant for "The Seventh Sign" starring Demi Moore. His other books include, "The Historical Haggadah," "The Matthias Scroll," "A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity," and most recently, "The Matthias Scroll–Select Second Edition." Abram invites communication on his FB page: "Abram Epstein" or "Abram's Historical Writing."