PM Netanyahu is right: An open letter to Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken

It really is simple. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is absolutely right in his insistence that Israel be recognized as the National Homeland and State of the Jewish People.

Now I certainly cannot lecture you and any other Israeli on your feelings in this matter. I am not Israeli. I lived in Israel for a time when I was younger, but I didn’t stay and make Aliyah. I never served in Tzahal. I never really sacrificed for Israel. I give money to the Magen David, and I have spent over the last 38 years or so thousands of hours as part of the Zionist Movement. But, I do consider myself a strong supporter of the Zionist dream, and I would ask that you and others that share your opinion please consider my words here.

I think you are mistaken in your piece in Haaretz when you argue here against Ari Shavit’s (and by extension the Prime Ministers position) piece in the same newspaper.

In that piece you rightly recognize that those of us who support the fact that Israel needs to be recognized as the National Homeland and State of the Jewish people cite this as the core the principle of Zionism itself. After all what is Zionism in it’s most essential form if not the philosophical underpinning that the Nation of Israel indeed be the National Homeland of the Jewish People. Isn’t that the root definition of the term “Zionism”?

It is after this that your argument goes awry. You state:

“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.”

First of all… While that may be the aspiration of many good people in the Peace Camp, and I know that there are many good people in the Peace Camp, that is not the aspiration of the majority of the Palestinian people. Nothing happens in a vacuum and the Israeli Palestinian conflict is certainly no exception to that rule. Whether or not you (or the interestingly enough the Hard Right that denies that there even is a “Palestinian People”) recognize Palestinian nationalism, it exists and the Palestinians recognize it. So de facto (if not de juer) does the U.N. who has recognized a Palestinian State from 1948 and forward.

And so yes in Jordan, there are two nationalities and they have been at odds whether we like to recognize that or not. Of course why else did Jordan declare that people in the West Bank were not citizens of Jordan? The ruling Hashemites recognize a difference and so do those in the opposition to that regime. Are you really arguing that the Palestinians in Jordan do not recognize themselves as Palestinian?

But being Palestinian doesn’t mean that one cannot be Jordanian as well. If a person feels that their nationality is Palestinian but wants to live or supports the political system in Jordan then I see no reason that someone cannot be Palestinian-Jordanian. Just as people can be part of the “Jewish Nation” (meaning being bound to the ethnic traditions and culture of the Jewish people) and live in America, or Europe, or any other part of the diaspora. Certainly I can still be a committed Zionist and not live in Israel (though some may certainly disagree).

Ok, anti-nationalist feelings aside. You then go on to say:

“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.”

No… the Palestinians DID NOT recognize “that same Israel”. They recognized that there would be a State called Israel and that was it. Why do I say that? Because had they recognized an Israel founded on the constitutive principles of Zionism they would have renounced the so-called “Palestinian Right of Return”. Borders, security and the status of a City (even as important as Jerusalem) are all up for discussion, even if they are breaking points in themselves. The refugee situation and insistence on “Right of Return” (not to confused with the Hoq’ HaShvut) goes right to the heart of the situation.

The Palestinian polity has never given up on that and still doesn’t to this day. The insistence on that “Right” has publicly been stated by P.A. President Abbas and is certainly supported Palestinian Public Opinion (which also by the way rejects a Democratic Palestine where Jews and Arabs enjoy equal rights). Of course everyone understands that this would cause a demographic shift in Israel which would cause Israel to cease to exist in the terms that the nation was founded upon.

What is proof of this? Well, look at the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) Movement. It proposes a boycott of only Jewish businesses in Israel. Of course it doesn’t say that (because credit to them, they are media savvy enough to understand just how destructive that would be) but ask any member of said movement if they also advocate boycotts of Palestinian/Arab Israeli businesses, sports teams, cultural groups or academics. Every time I have run into BDS people, I ask that question and every time the answer is the same “No”. Of course they couch their terminology in just saying it’s about Israel but if you don’t boycott the Arabs in Israel exactly who is left to boycott? Either the Jews or the small percentage of immigrant non-Jews.

You then go on to say:

“…Will he (Shavit) 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.”

I cannot speak for Ari Shavit but I think I can safe safely say that (at least according to the polls) most Israelis WOULD accept a Palestinian recognition of a Jewish State that is “built on the ruins” of villages and creation of war-time refugees. I live in the U.S. and I accept that my nation was built in part by war, and conquest. It happens, in the world. It has happened since the dawn of time and it will continue to happen into the future. No matter how much we wish it would not, it is simply unrealistic to think it will not. Oh and by the way, you can bet that the Palestinians would ALSO accept a nation built on the smoking ruin of Israel and the creation of millions of Jewish refugees.

Supporting a “Two State Solution” and recognition that the only real way to a lasting peace (something that I very much do support) is in understanding BOTH peoples legitimate aspirations for self governance. To recognize this fact does nothing to delegitimize the history of Palestinians who lived in the Mandate.

Personally, I believe Shavit is absolutely correct when he says:

“…..because it is actually impossible to demand from the Palestinians that they change their spots and convert their identity, it is required to demand they recognize this: that the Jewish people is a people of this land, and it did not arrive here from Mars (my emphasis). It is necessary to demand of them to admit that the Jewish people has a history of its own and a tragedy of its own and its own justification. The Palestinians must concede that the Jews are not colonialists but legal neighbors. There will not be peace if the children growing up in the Deheisheh refugee camp will not know that the country across the border is a legitimate Jewish state of a true Jewish people, whom they are decreed to live with. It is those who give up on the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state who are actually giving up on peace.”

This is important and I think this is where you and others in the Peace Camp go awry. I do not doubt the intentions of many there. I am not a raging Right Winger, in fact I come from a Center-Left perspective. I follow Israeli politics closely and where I there, I would probably vote for either Avodah or HaTnuah. I understand that people want peace and want to find a way to find a “just peace” for this conflict. So I am not demeaning anyone on the Left.

That said, I have to say that the PM’s argument in this case is correct. His demand cuts to the heart of the matter and it is one that needs to be addressed whether one likes it or not. Shavit is correct in identifying that this conflict does not take place in a vacuum and that the Palestinians and their supporters do need to take responsibility for their part / actions in this conflict. That is not some racist or harsh demand. It is a demand that necessitates a real peace treaty.

Of course, there is a certain amount of hopelessness to resolving this conflict peacefully and who really wants let their optimism for a resolution drain down a “sinkhole of despair”? I don’t think anyone outside of extremists in either camp wants that. But we also cannot be blind to what is happening beyond the Green Line in the fractured Palestinian Polity or to their supporters throughout the world. Just wishing for an end to Nationalism, or supporting solutions like a proposed creation of the United States of Isratine (or other ridiculous names), might be fine in a fictional 24th Century Earth (Star-Trek reference here), but this is not that place and not that time. AND given the history of the Jewish people is that really something that we can “bank on” right now.

So Mr. Schocken (and those who agree with him), unless you are willing to simply come out and declare the Zionist dream D.O.A. or renounce that, then you should very much re-consider your arguments here. Zionism defined is the National movement of the Jewish People. Israel was created by Zionism and it is something that must be recognized or there cannot be lasting peace.

About the Author
Jon Segall is creator of the blog The Progressive Zionist. Jon has lived in Israel and studied Israeli and American Policy in the region. Currently Jon, is re-learning Hebrew, and is an active practitioner of the Israel Self Defense Martial Art Krav Maga.