Mark L. Levinson
Like Israel itself, still ticking since 1948

First we take Oahu…

This summer saw the appearance of a book titled Palestine, by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the Supreme Leader of Iran. Its pages do not envision the redemption of Palestine from Jewish hands in terms of violent conquest. Instead, as described by Amir Taheri on the Gatestone Institute website, the book conceives that eventually the international community will tire of the headaches Israel causes. Then with Israel already weakened by continual skirmishing, everyone will assent to a UN-supervised referendum that sets up a one-state solution.

“All Palestinians and their descendants, wherever they are, would be able to vote, while Jews ‘who have come from other places’ would be excluded,” writes Taheri, and he estimates the intended electorate at eight million Arabs and 2.2 million Jews. The results would make the difference between toleration and expulsion for those considered to have come from other places.

A chart attributed by Israel National News to Khameini’s Twitter account explains that “This is a fair and logical plan that can be properly understood by global public opinion and can enjoy the supports of the independent nations and governments.”

Will public opinion really support a referendum deciding who can claim a share in the land’s future when the criteria for voting already prejudge that very question? Where else in the world would anything resembling such a referendum even be suggested?

In Hawaii, as it happens. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, a constitutional convention this year “is expected to consider different options for Hawaiian self-determination,” and those voting for delegates “must be descendants of the aboriginal people who lived in the Hawaiian islands prior to 1778. They must also affirm the ‘unrelinquished sovereignty of the Hawaiian people’ and declare that they have a significant cultural, social, or civic connection to the Native Hawaiian community.” In other words, if your family has been there only two hundred years, you don’t get a vote. And if your family has been there since the first lucky seafarers landed but you’re assimilated into American culture, you don’t get a vote either. The paper quotes Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch: ““Who would believe that in this day and age U.S. citizens are being denied access to the right to vote explicitly because of their race and their points of view?”

Judicial Watch, which calls itself “a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation,” is supporting a federal lawsuit to quash the election because the constituency “excludes almost 80-percent of all Hawaiians,” says Hawaii News Now — a figure coincidentally matching the Arab-to-Jew ratio Khameini has in mind for his Palestine referendum.

New residents west of the Jordan have always drifted in from all over, adding to the mix, so setting a cut-off date for their authenticity is silly.  Similarly, “Hawaiians were never an Indian tribe,” protests President Keli’i Akina of the Grassroots Institute of Hawaii. “We were citizens of all races in a constitutional monarchy.”

In the meantime, the US government is making sympathetic noises regarding this nativist Hawaiian nationalism. The US Department of the Interior “will propose a rule that establishes an administrative procedure that the secretary would use if the Native Hawaiian community forms a unified government that seeks a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States,” reports the Honolulu Civil Beat, while noting: “There is no guarantee that the next administration will be one that shares President Obama’s interest in moving the idea of Native Hawaiian self governance forward.”

Yes, apparently America’s first black president is on board for the racially restricted Hawaiian vote despite the extra irony of being a disqualified Hawaiian himself. And his party, where the romantic sentimentalization of pre-modern societies sometimes trumps the desire to promote democracy, may be staying in power. It would be reassuring to Israel if Obama would say a word against the vote that Khamenei is proposing — from the Israeli Jews’ standpoint, a vote to end all votes.

About the Author
Mark L. Levinson, in Israel since 1970, has worked as a writer for hi-tech companies and, now primarily, as a Hebrew-to-English translator.