Interview: Dr. Oren Ben-Dor discusses "Why Israel has no 'Right to Exist' as a Jewish State"
Written by Peter Miller
Saturday, 24 November 2007
Now Available on the web:
From KBOO's ONE LAND, MANY VOICES, Friday, November 23, hosted by Hala Gores and William Seaman:
www.pdxjustice.org (click on the link at the top of the page, or scroll down past the videos to get to the KBOO audio programs).
Dr. Oren Ben-Dor discusses his recent article, "Why Israel has no 'Right to
Exist' as a Jewish State". Dr. Ben-Dor is a legal and political
philosopher at the University of Southampton in the UK. Dr. Ben-Dor grew up in Nahariya in northern Israel, but left Israel as a young man and has been living in England for the last twenty years. His latest book, "Thinking about Law: In Silence with Heidegger" has just been published with Hart Publishing Oxford.
His articles on Palestine/Israel have been appearing regularly in
CounterPunch, on the Z-Magazine website, and in the Independent newspaper in UK.
Links to several of Dr. Ben-Dor's articles are included on the
Overcoming Zionism — by Dr. Oren Ben-Dor; November 20, 2007
Joel Kovel’s book written by a well-known American Jewish scholar and
humanist is one of the most thought-provoking, multi-layered and
consistent analysis of the situation in Palestine I came across. Its spirit is that of egalitarian inclusion and moderation and it is
precisely this spirit that compliments the serious scholarship
undertaken to back up his arguments. In this history-transforming book, scholarly authority combines with uncompromising moral conviction to expose the roots of a tragic chronicle that is constantly unfolding in historic Palestine.
Despite its title the book’s argument does not merely touch Zionism or
Israel. The saying of the book is aimed at Jewish people wherever they are, encouraging them to look critically at themselves and thus with restored pride and dignity. Kovel traces the deep origins of Zionism, as well as the wide worldly support it gets with the aid the
self-conscripted world Jewry, to tribal inclinations that constantly seeks to set the Jewish people as “people apart”. Both Jewish survival and their troubled history with other nations owe much to their tribal tendency. The settler colonisation of Palestine was a tribal
‘home-coming’. However secular Zionism originally was, it had already internalised tribal justification. Victim mentality and choseness conceal hidden aggressive tendencies towards non-Jews.
Kovel shows how Zionists ideologues from the most militarised to the
mildest harboured tribal phobia and aggression which could spare no empathy to the people who lived in historical Palestine. The result was that the indigenous population in Palestine was gradually
dispossessed, ethnically cleansed in 1948 and has never been allowed to return. The separatist mentality of tribalism has been effectuating systematic racial discrimination against Arabs through racial basic laws and policies, using every opportunity to portray them as a
‘demographic threat’ despite them being, at least on paper, ‘equal’ citizens of the State of Israel. In the Jewish state, any notion of democracy is structurally and legally constrained for the enhancement and protection of the tribe.
Kovel argues that the many shades of Israeli identity constantly unite
behind the ultimate tribal-identification despite the apparent
secularism of many Israelis and despite Israel’s multi-ethnic nature. The process of mirroring in which identity can overcome identification in self interpretation and contestation is highly constrained to a member of the tribe. It is tribal consciousness that prevents
so-called Israeli ‘humanists’ to confront the deep contradictions that underline their positions and go all the way to criticise the racist foundations of their state. It is this tribal hold of the mind that abuses Holocaust memory and does its utmost to erase other memories. It is tribal mentality that conscripts all the world to ensure that the denial of injustices that happens in, and a result of, the colonisation of Palestine, as well as current inequality within Israel, remain
untouched. All the world become hooked in this tribal mentality by letting Israel off the hook of so many International legal
pronouncement pending against it. A world that is captive of the Jewish tribe and blackmailed to protect it, entrenches the ambit of the moral wrong in the 1967 occupation of the West Bank Gaza and East
Jerusalem rather then extending this wrong to the whole of historic Palestine. It is the despicable protection of tribalism that bestows on the statement that “Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state” a higher and extremist status rather than the statement that hails the fundamental interests of the people who are constantly dispossessed and oppressed by the premise that grounds Israel’s existence and actions.
Thus, the oppression, dispossession of, and discrimination against,
Palestinians, is a world problem. Tribal-based coordinates of
‘pragmatism’ and the ‘never again the Holocaust’ rhetoric blocks any reflection and serious discussion about the possibility of
de-colonisation towards and the establishment of civic and egalitarian constitution all over historic Palestine. Tribe trumps equality. It is that seemingly reasonable but in fact callous world endorsement of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state and to commit crimes that makes this colonisation so unique and ruthless.
Kovel discusses the origin of anti-Semitism as a lie regarding the
origin of Christianity crudely implicating Jewish part in the death of Christ - a lie that has been tragically put to the very service of continuous resurrection of tribal Judaism. The deep forces that shape history and historians are exposed with ruthless honesty. Kovel’s argument of how anti-Semitism and Zionist nationalism nourish one
another is enlightening. Kovel shows that rather than fulfilling its aim as a spiritual home and a haven for Jews, the State of Israel is sure to take the entire world on a violent route, inter alia violence against Jews, with its obsession with its tribal crave of maintaining its Jewish majority and character. One of Kovel’s insights is that tribal thinking has the tendency to produce and utilise the very
anti-Semitism that it seem to try eliminating. The implication of Kovel’s arguments is that Israel is a state whose tribal core pushes it to commit suicide, metaphorically speaking, suicide that, like the biblical suicide bomber Samson, is fated to take the whole world with it.
Kovel is at pains to show us that this tribal thinking that
characterises the legalism of Talmudic Judaism is not a characteristic of Judaic thinking. He does not want to essentialise Judaism into tribalism.
Kovel argues that tribalism and the anti-Semitism it both fights against
and nourishes could not be in sharper contrast to the prophetic tradition of Judaism, a tradition that uses the creative force of Jewish existence as the forces of radical social criticisms and reform, a one which produced the likes of Marx, a one which is capable of forming the ground of, and providing the impetus to,
universal ethics, morality and Human Rights.
Deep down Zionism has a tribal psyche, one that constantly needs to
maintain the conditions to define itself by radical separation, through the instigation of violence if necessary, namely through creating the conditions for the demonisation and gangsterisation of the people who are Other to it and against it. The notion of separation (apartheid)
originates in tribal thinking. Guilt and bad conscience are just the fašade of the inability of thinking to relinquish its tribal separatist core.
Kovel masterfully connects many frameworks of analysis to show that the
self-preservation of Zionism unleashes the tribal warfare of controlling the accumulation and movement of Capital in order to hinder the
historical momentum of social changes. Tribalism champions ecological destruction, pushing Palestine beyond its limits by excessive
urbanisation and population and by destroying the desert for the use of Jewish people (action masqueraded as “making the desert bloom”). Last but not least, tribal mentality makes super-powers dance to its flute. Kovel reminds us just how lobbying world powers to fight the Zionist wars on behalf of the Jewish tribe has been masterfully carried out in the United States by the Israeli Lobby. The account of the alliances between Christians fundamentalists who see Zionism as the vehicle for eventual return of Christ is equally disturbing.
Kovel then turns his gaze to the state of Israel, that state which
could only be created by massive expulsion, whose education for tribal and militarised rationality can only be maintained by a set of racial laws that govern property rights, educational curricula, economic
rights, movement rights, immigration rights and of course political stakes while presenting itself and indeed hailed as a paragon of
democracy. The incompatibility between Zionism and democracy hints at the deeper ontological actuality that tribalism can never develop
egalitarian sentiments towards the fundamental interest towards all others can not develop constitutional guarantees of their deep
interests. Tribalism must end up preserving the most ruthless and stubborn form of ethno-nationalism or Ethnocracy in which the tribal identity is sure to find thousand violent ways to reinvent its
Kovel holds the mirror to the face of world Jewry for lending themselves
to protect that state thereby becoming themselves complicit in the constant generation of hatred against Jews, hatred that in turn continue to fuel the tribal survival. Kovel demands nothing short of soul searching on behalf of Jews of that surplus which is left of their Jewishness once tribal tendencies have been overcome. No doubt that many Jews in the world will try to talk down this pearl of humanistic account.
The tribe can not sustain self criticism. The hatred to the tribe to all
others is projected onto those who criticise it from within – being dubbed Self Hating Jews.
Kovel scholarly exploration and moral intuition led him to the
conclusion that it is not merely Zionism that needs to be deconstructed.
It is not merely showing that Jewish and democratic state is an
oxymoron like so many people did before. It is very easy to deconstruct Zionism as a political ideology but the social and political voice needs to find a connective tissue to the ontological tribal origins of which Zionism is a conclusion and a symptom.
Kovel’s range of research perspectives is impressive and his analysis
is razor-sharp. His thesis relies on primary historical scholarship and combines it with thoughtful philosophical reflections and novel
connections. This book is a truly thinking text that has the form of argument backed up by wide range knowledge. As such it traverses many intellectual frameworks. Kovel’s ability to bring together historical scholarship, philosophy, theology, Marxist analysis, ecological
critique, statistical data and link all those to current everyday
stories is truly agile and breathtaking.
The book ends with a proposal for a single democratic state for all
people Jews and Arabs, who live in Palestine thus ending colonial rule there and establishing an egalitarian and free constitution over a clear demos. It is important to note that he is not alone in proposing that. In July 2007, a group of leading ex Israeli and Palestinians Academics and Activists met in El Escorial Madrid to discuss the urgent reasons and possibilities for a one state solution in Palestine. In complete resonance with Kovel the group in El Escorial was not merely claiming that a partition of Palestine is not viable but that it is fundamentally unjust playing to the hand of Zionism by entrenching that right of Israeli Jews to occupy, dispossess and discriminate those who lived and now live in what is now the State of Israel.
It is evident that this book brings together a lifetime of intellectual
pursuits, wisdom and personal struggle to save what Kovel sees a gem Judaic being gave to humanity and save this gem from the tribal
aberrations. Pluto Press should be praised for its courage in
providing the platform for a very important intellectual, perhaps
crucial, call for all the world to wake up from the sedation and
blackmail of Zionism and tribalism. The University of Michigan should be praised for shouldering this most important service to humanity by distributing Pluto books in the United States.
Kovel’s main achievement is that he advances a thesis that reconnects
Zionism to the Jewish Question. He shows an internal tension within Jewish thinking and does not succumb to simplistic severance of the Zionist question and the Jewish question. Inspired by books like
Kovel, the Jewish Question needs to be dwelled upon even more than Kovel was able to do in this book. There are many ways in which his courageous lead is sure to be further dwelled upon and canvassed. On the one hand, it can be claimed that he was wrong to open up any link between the debate on Zionism and the one on Judaism/anti-Semitism. By contrast, it can be claimed that his linkage did not go far enough because some Jewish universal accounts can still shows echoes of
tribalism. For example, Emmanuel Levinas’ claim that the Jewish
heritage constitutes universal ethics of radical alterity and that this ethics is different to the Greek’s notion that otherness is
already an attribute of thinking-Being, smacks of tribalism. Any claim to Jewish exclusive prophecy that is dressed as universal is highly
problematic to say the least. Jewish constant marginality and
separation coupled with assimilation is not free of problems. . Kovel is highly aware of how the historicity of the inherent separateness of “people apart” has lead to half-hearted and tension-bound
assimilation, anti-Semitism and persecution, period of relative
equilibrium, theoretical developments of a rootless theoretical
umbrella for cosmopolitanism and of course, ethnonationalism. (pp. 19-20)
What is important, though, that no argument that link Jewish thinking
and Zionism should be silenced ab initio ridiculing it as anti-Semitic.
Big issues that touch all humanity hang here in the balance and they
must be debated openly. Freedom of Speech should reign as Voltaire reminded us.
A critique of tribalism can also be criticism of the West’s calculative,
representational, methodology-bound, legalistic and technical thinking. The fact that the world joins the tribe and thus becomes itself a tribe, the actuality of it being assimilated into the tribe, forming the
apartheid implicated in the axis of evil, is something that requires serious contemplation and debate. Deep inside Palestine is the locale that threatens unleashing those skeletons of humanity out of the
What Kovel’s book did me is to awaken the possibility and importance of
exploring the most of controversial of questions. This question would explore the role and the power of various manifestations of tribal mentality in leading up to the Holocaust. In this respect, could it be that world tribalism and its child, Zionism, constitute the most
sinister form of Holocaust denial and forgetfulness?. The supremacist monopoly to Holocaust memory in Israel can be argued to be a hint at this yet deeper denial of this colossal attempt at extermination. The denial of the Holocaust is not an argument of numbers and facts. Such arguments by the well-known Holocaust revisionists are themselves form of denial of primordial ontological processes. We must not let the issue of tribalism off the hook by arguing about facts and numbers. The Holocaust did happen and humanity should never never forget its Being. And yet, so tragically, it does. A deep philosophical critique of tribalism must also make us brave enough to look at the ontological unfolding that lead to the Holocaust, listening to what the undisputed horrors of the Holocaust tell us in a deepest and most mysterious of ways. Doing this will indeed be to remember and to contemplate it. Deep understanding is more primordial than the legalism and moral
abhorrence in the coordinates of which the Holocaust is currently
It is important that a free platform is given to those who go develop
this link in many directions. It is important to allow for a serious debate and disagreements. The tendency of not merely construing Zionism as a cause but merely as a symptom is very urgent. Silencing by treating Zionism just as another political conflict would normalise deep denial that casts its shadow over humanity, a shadow that will ultimately serve Israel’s domination and oppression.
Growing up in Israel, so many times did I come across so charming
people that when push comes to shove align themselves behind the racist statehood of the state. Many celebration of love and coexistence are conditional upon unconditional acceptance of the premise of a Jewish state. It is tribalism that prevents people to see that national self determination does not require a Jewish state. Joel Kovel set us all, as humans, a challenge of justice and love. To find a path to tribal
mentality is sure to be torturous. The book is written in such a
spirit intending to start the ball rolling towards a peaceful
revolution that will replace the Jewish state with a single state which will enshrine equality and liberty of all its citizens as its main goal. A state that will not cause our ethical reflection drop dead upon hearing the word ‘Holocaust’. We must start not only to utter but to shout with conviction, as humans, that Israel has no moral right to preserve the premise of its statehood that has been inflicting so much misery. Kovel demonstrates just how urgent it is to generate new thinking about the idle and disastrous chatter ‘two states solution’ of and the ‘peace process’ which is based on it.
Oren Ben-Dor was born in Haifa and grew up in Nahariya, Israel. He lived there until the age of 25. He teaches legal and political philosophy at the School of Law University of Southampton. His books Constitutional Limits and the Public Sphere (2000) and Thinking About Law: In Silence with Heidegger (2007) are published by Hart Publishing, Oxford.
November 20, 2007
Thus Spoke Equality
Why Israel Has No "Right to Exist" as a Jewish State
By OREN BEN-DOR
Yet again, the Annapolis meeting between Olmert and Abbas is
preconditioned upon the recognition by the Palestinian side of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Indeed the "road map" should lead to, and legitimate, once and for all, the right of such a Jewish state to exist in definitive borders and in peace with its neighbours. The vision of justice, both past and future, simply has to be that of two states, one Palestinian, one Jewish, which would coexist side by side in peace and stability. Finding a formula for a reasonably just partition and
separation is still the essence of what is considered to be moderate, pragmatic and fair ethos.
Thus, the really deep issues--the "core"--are conceived as the status of Jerusalem, the fate and future of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories and the viability of the future Palestinian state beside the Jewish one. The fate of the descendants of those 750000 Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed in 1948 from what is now, and would continue to be under a two-state solutions, the State of Israel, constitutes a "problem" but never an "issue" because, God forbid, to make it an issue on the table would be to threaten the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. The existence of Israel as a Jewish state must never become a core issue. That premise unites political opinion in the Jewish state, left and right and also persists as a pragmatic view of many Palestinians who would prefer some improvement to no improvement at all.Only "extremists" such as Hamas, anti-Semites, and Self-Hating Jews--terribly disturbed, misguided and detached lot--can make Israel's existence into a core problem and in turn into a necessary issue to be debated and addressed.
The Jewish state, a supposedly potential haven for all the Jews in the world in the case a second Holocaust comes about, should be recognised as a fact on the ground blackmailed into the "never again" rhetoric. All considerations of pragmatism and reasonableness in envisioning a "peace process" to settle the 'Israeli/Palestinian' conflict must never
destabilise the sacred status of that premise that a Jewish state has a right to exist.
Notice, however, that Palestinian are not asked merely to recognise the perfectly true fact and with it, the absolutely feasible moral claim, that millions of Jewish people are now living in the State of Israel and that their physical existence, liberty and equality should be protected in any future settlement. They are not asked merely to recognise the assurance that any future arrangement would recognise historic Palestine as a home for the Jewish People.What Palestinians are asked to subscribe to
recognition the right of an ideology that informs the make-up of a state to exist as Jewish one. They are asked to recognise that
ethno-nationalistic premise of statehood.
The fallacy is clear: the recognition of the right of Jews who are there--however unjustly many of their Parents or Grandparents came to acquire what they own--to remain there under liberty and equality in a post-colonial political settlement, is perfectly compatible with the non-recognition of the state whose constitution gives those Jews a preferential stake in the polity.
It is an abuse of the notion of pragmatism to conceive its effort as putting the very notion of Jewish state beyond the possible and desirable implementation of egalitarian moral scrutiny. To so abuse pragmatism would be to put it at the service of the continuation of colonialism. A
pragmatic and reasonable solution ought to centre on the problem of how to address past, present, and future injustices to non-Jew-Arabs without thereby cause other injustices to Jews. This would be a very complex pragmatic issue which would call for much imagination and generosity. But reasonableness and pragmatism should not determine whether the cause for such injustices be included or excluded from debates or negotiations. To pragmatically exclude moral claims and to pragmatically protect immoral assertions by fiat must in fact hide some form of extremism. The causes of colonial injustice and the causes that constitutionally prevent their full articulation and address should not be excluded from the debate.
Pragmatism can not become the very tool that legitimate constitutional structures that hinder de-colonisation and the establishment of
So let us boldly ask: What exactly is entailed by the requirement to recognise Israel as a Jewish state? What do we recognise and support when we purchase a delightful avocado or a date from Israel or when we invite Israel to take part in an international football event? What does it mean to be a friend of Israel? What precisely is that Jewish state whose status as such would be once and for all legitimised by such a two-state
A Jewish state is a state which exists more for the sake of whoever is considered Jewish according to various ethnic, tribal, religious,
criteria, than for the sake of those who do not pass this test. What precisely are the criteria of the test for Jewishness is not important and at any rate the feeble consensus around them is constantly reinvented in Israel. Instigating violence provides them with the impetus for doing that. What is significant, thought, is that a test of Jewishness is being used in order to constitutionally protect differential stakes in, that is the differential ownership of, a polity. A recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is a recognition of the Jews special
entitlement, as eternal victims, to have a Jewish state. Such a test of supreme stake for Jews is the supreme criterion not only for racist policy making by the legislature but also for a racist constitutional
interpretation by the Supreme Court.The idea of a state that is first and foremost for the sake of Jews trumps even that basic law of Human Freedom and Dignity to which the Israeli Supreme Court pays so much lip service. Such constitutional interpretation would have to make the egalitarian principle equality of citizenship compatible with, and thus subservient to, the need to maintain the Jewish majority and character of the state. This of course constitutes a serious compromise of equality, translated into many individual manifestations of oppression and domination of those victims of such compromise--non-Jews-Arabs citizens of Israel.
In our world, a world that resisted Apartheid South Africa so
impressively, recognition of the right of the Jewish state to exist is a litmus test for moderation and pragmatism. The demand is that Palestinians recognise Israel's entitlement to constitutionally entrench a system of racist basic laws and policies, differential immigration criteria for Jews and non-Jews, differential ownership and settlements rights, differential capital investments, differential investment in education, formal rules and informal conventions that differentiate the potential stakes of political participation, lame-duck academic freedom and debate.
In the Jewish state of Israel non-Jews-Arabs citizens are just "bad luck" and are considered an ticking demographic bomb of "enemy within". They can be given the right to vote--indeed one member one vote--but the potential of their political power, even their birth rate, should be kept at bay by visible and invisible, instrumental and symbolic, discrimination. But now they are asked to put up with their inferior stake and recognise the right of Israel to continue to legitimate the non-egalitarian premise of its statehood.
We must not forget that the two state "solution" would open a further possibility to non-Jew-Arabs citizens of Israel: "put up and shut up or go to a viable neighbouring Palestinian state where you can have your full equality of stake".Such an option, we must never forget, is just a part of a pragmatic and reasonable package.
The Jewish state could only come into being in May 1948 by ethnically cleansing most of the indigenous population--750000 of them. The
judaisation of the state could only be effectively implemented by
constantly internally displacing the population of many villages within the Israel state.
It would be unbearable and unreasonable to demand Jews to allow for the Right of Return of those descendants of the expelled. Presumably, those descendants too could go to a viable Palestinian state rather than, for example, rebuild their ruined village in the Galilee. On the other hand, a Jewish young couple from Toronto who never set their foot in Palestine has a right to settle in the Galilee. Jews and their descendants hold this right in perpetuity. You see, that right "liberates" them as people. Jews must never be put under the pressure to live as a substantial minority in the Holy Land under egalitarian arrangement. Their past justifies their preferential stake and the preservation of their numerical majority in Palestine.
So the non-egalitarian hits us again. It is clear that part of the realisation of that right of return would not only be a just the actual return, but also the assurance of equal stake and citizenship of all, Jews and non-Jews-Arabs after the return. A return would make the egalitarian claim by those who return even more difficult to conceal than currently with regard to Israel Arab second class citizens. What unites Israelis and many world Jews behind the call for the recognition of the right of a Jewish state to exist is their aversion for the possibility of living, as a minority, under conditions of equality of stake to all. But if Jews enjoys this equality in Canada why can not they support such equality in Palestine through giving full effect to the right of Return of
Let us look precisely at what the pragmatic challenge consists of: not pragmatism that entrenches inequality but pragmatism that responds to the challenge of equality.
The Right of Return of Palestinians means that Israel acknowledges and apologises for what it did in 1948. It does mean that Palestinian memory of the 1948 catastrophe, the Nakbah, is publicly revived in the Geography and collective memory of the polity. It does mean that Palestinians descendants would be allowed to come back to their villages. If this is not possible because there is a Jewish settlement there, they should be given the choice to found an alternative settlement nearby. This may mean some painful compulsory state purchase of agricultural lands that should be handed back to those who return. In cases when this is impossible they ought to be allowed the choice to settle in another place in the larger area or if not possible in another area in Palestine. Compensation would be the last resort and would always be offered as a choice. This kind of moral claim of return would encompass all Palestine including Tel Aviv.
At no time, however, it would be on the cards to throw Israeli Jews from their land.An egalitarian and pragmatic realisation of the Right of Return constitutes an egalitarian legal revolution. As such it would be paramount to address Jews' worries about security and equality in any future arrangement in which they, or any other group, may become a minority. Jews national symbols and importance would be preserved. Equality of stake involves equality of symbolic ownership.
But it is important to emphasis that the Palestinian Right of Return would mean that what would cease to exist is the premise of a Jewish as well as indeed a Muslim state. A return without the removal of the
constitutionally enshrined preferential stake is return to serfdom.
The upshot is that only by individuating cases of injustice, by extending claims for injustice to all historic Palestine, by fair address of them without creating another injustice for Jews and finally by ensuring the elimination of all racist laws that stems from the Jewish nature of the state including that nature itself, would justice be, and with it peace, possible. What we need is a spirit of generosity that is pragmatic but also morally uncompromising in terms of geographic ambit of the moral claims for repatriation and equality. This vision would propel the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But for all this to happen we must start by ceasing to recognize the right Israel to exist as a Jewish state. No spirit of generosity would be established without an egalitarian call for jettisoning the ethno-nationalistic notion upon which the Jewish state is based.
The path of two states is the path of separation.Its realisation would mean the entrenchment of exclusionary nationalism for many years. It would mean that the return of the dispossessed and the equality of those who return and those non-Jew-Arabs who are now there would have to be deferred indefinitely consigned to the dusty shelved of historical injustices.Such a scenario is sure to provoke more violence as it would establish the realisation and legitimisation of Zionist racism and imperialism.
Also, any bi-national arrangement ought to be subjected to a principle of equality of citizenship and not vice versa. The notion of separation and partition that can infect bi-nationalism, should be done away with and should not be tinkered with or rationalised in any way. Both spiritually and materially Jews and non-Jews can find national expression in a single egalitarian and non-sectarian state.
The non-recognition of the Jewish state is an egalitarian imperative that looks both at the past and to the future. It is the uncritical recognition of the right of Israel to exist at a Jewish state which is the core hindrance for this egalitarian premise to shape the ethical challenge that Palestine poses. A recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state means the silencing that would breed more and more violence and bloodshed.
The same moral intuition that brought so many people to condemn and sanction Apartheid South Africa ought also to prompt them to stop seeing a threat to existence of the Jewish state as the effect caused by the refugee 'problem" or by the "demographic threat" from the non-Jew-Arabs within it. It is rather the other way round. It is the non-egalitarian premise of a Jewish state and the lack of empathy and corruption of all those who make us uncritically accept the right of such a state to exist that is both the cause of the refugee problem and cause for the inability to implement their return and treating them as equals thereafter.
We must see that the uncritically accepted recognition of Israel right to exist is, as Joseph Massad so well puts it in Al-Ahram, to accept Israel claim to have the right to be racist or, to develop Massad's brilliant formulation, Israel's claim to have the right to occupy to dispossess and to discriminate. What is it, I wonder, that prevent Israelis and so many of world Jews to respond to the egalitarian challenge? What is it, I wonder, that oppresses the whole world to sing the song of a "peace process" that is destined to legitimise racism in Palestine?
To claim such a right to be racist must come from a being whose victim's face must hide very dark primordial aggression and hatred of all others.How can we find a connective tissue to that mentality that claims the legitimate right to harm other human beings? How can this aggression that is embedded in victim mentality be perturbed?
The Annapolis meeting is a con. As an egalitarian argument we should say loud and clear that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state.
Oren Ben-Dor grew up in Israel. He teaches Legal and Political Philosophy at the School of Law, University of Southampton, UK. He can be reached at: email@example.com