Thursday, February 19, 2009

Middle East More


"... Itzik, Yours is what might be construed as a very impassioned letter coming from a secular Jew whose background was anything but of a Zionistic stripe (although none of us knows the other, the true other --we often hardly know ourselves at times). But at the risk of being a little too analytical, I also intuit a sense of conflict in which you want Israel to be an ethnic (read Jewish) state while at the same time a democratic state. It can be done you seem to say. And you say this with conviction and passion, invoking examples of other states that have an ethnic base but remain a liberal democracy.

We need an in-depth discussion of each of these states and see if they actually measure up to the idealized version of what I consider a democratic state in its fullest and complete expression.

Your personal Judaism requires Israel as a constituent element in your Jewish identity. Since this is so for you (and I agree, for many Jews, if not the majority of the world's Jews) then you must see Israel as a Jewish state whose predominant personality is Jewish (although you don't deal with the thorny issue of what the make-up of that Jewishness consists). You don't give the reader a clear vision of how Jewishness can reign supreme in the context of a liberal democracy which assures equal rights for all regardless of ethnicity or religion.

Could Israel ever have an Arab Muslim prime minister, an Arab Christian president, with a Knesset consisting of 61 Arab Israeli representatives of the same political party?

I, too, have visited Israel, several times, and I have felt the emotion of a few 1000 years of Jewish history within my soul (my secular soul) as I stood in front of the Wall with tears in my eyes. The Holocaust still reverberates in my "gantze neshome" and will forever; Israel was a reward for survival (please no heart-wrenching diatribes about this description) and still occupies that position in the minds of many. But -- if we can't answer YES to my question above, what kind of Judaism were you and I brought up with? You and I were both taught that this question had to be answered YES for the sake of both our Judaism and the prophetic tradition upon which we were nurtured and the democratic principles that we came to understand from our exposure to the ideas of internationalism...."

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