Israel seeks ‘Jewish’ non-Jews in numbers battle with Palestinians

Israel/Palestine
on 16 Comments

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered a crushing rebuke to the perennial optimists roused to hopes of imminent peace by the visit to the Middle East last week of Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. At an event on Monday in the West Bank celebrating the half-centenary of Israeli occupation, Netanyahu effectively admitted that US efforts to revive the peace process would prove another charade.

There would be no dismantling of the settlements or eviction of their 600,000 inhabitants – the minimum requirement for a barely feasible Palestinian state. “We are here to stay forever,” Netanyahu reassured his settler audience. “We will deepen our roots, build, strengthen and settle.”

So where is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict heading if the two-state solution is dead? The answer: back to its origins. That will entail another desperate numbers battle against the Palestinians – with Israel preparing to create new categories of “Jews” so they can be recruited to the fray.

Demography was always at the heart of Israeli policy. During the 1948 war that founded a Jewish state on the ruins of the Palestinian homeland, 750,000 Palestinians were expelled in a campaign that today would be termed ethnic cleansing. By the end, a large native Palestinian majority had been reduced to less than a fifth of the new state’s population. David Ben Gurion, the country’s founding father, was unperturbed. He expected to swamp this rump group with Jews from Europe and the Arab world.

But the project foundered on two miscalculations.

First, Ben Gurion had not factored in the Palestinian minority’s far higher birth rate. Despite waves of Jewish immigrants, Palestinians have held fast, at 20 per cent of Israel’s citizenry. Israel has fought a rearguard battle against them ever since. Studies suggest that the only Israeli affirmative action programme for Palestinian citizens is in family planning.

Israeli demographic scheming was on show again last week. An investigation by the Haaretz newspaper found that in recent years, Israel has stripped of citizenship potentially thousands of Bedouin, the country’s fastest-growing population. Israel claims bureaucratic “errors” were made in registering their parents or grandparents after the state’s founding.

Meanwhile, another Rubicon was crossed this month when an Israeli court approved revoking the citizenship of a Palestinian convicted of a lethal attack on soldiers. Human rights groups fear that, by rendering him stateless, the Israeli right has established a precedent for conditioning citizenship on “loyalty”.

Justice minister Ayelet Shaked underlined that very point this week when she warned the country’s judges that they must prioritise demography and the state’s Jewishness over human rights.

The second miscalculation arrived in 1967. In seizing the last fragments of historic Palestine but failing to expel most of the inhabitants, Israel made itself responsible for many hundreds of thousands of additional Palestinians, including refugees from the earlier war.

The “demographic demon”, as it is often referred to in Israel, was held at bay only by bogus claims for many decades that the occupation would soon end. In 2005, Israel bought a little more breathing space by “disengaging” from the tiny Gaza enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants.

Now, in killing hopes of Palestinian statehood, Netanyahu has made public his intention to realise the one settler-state solution. Naftali Bennett, Netanyahu’s chief rival in the government, is itching to ignore international sentiment and begin annexing large parts of the West Bank.

There is a problem, however. At least half the population in Netanyahu’s Greater Israel are Palestinian. And with current birth rates, Jews will soon be an indisputable minority – one ruling over a Palestinian majority.

That is the context for understanding the report of a government panel – leaked last weekend – that proposes a revolutionary reimagining of who counts as a Jew and therefore qualifies to live in Israel (and the occupied territories).

Israel’s 1950 Law of Return already casts the net wide, revising the traditional rabbinical injunction that a Jew must be born to a Jewish mother. Instead, the law entitles anyone with one Jewish grandparent to instant citizenship. That worked fine as long as Jews were fleeing persecution or economic distress. But since the arrival of 1 million immigrants following the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the pool of new Jews has dried up.

The United States, even in the Trump era, has proved the bigger magnet. The Jerusalem Post newspaper reported last month that up to one million Israelis may be living there. Worse for Netanyahu, it seems that at least some are included in Israeli figures to bolster its demographic claims against the Palestinians.

Recent trends show that the exodus of Israelis to the US is twice as large as the arrival of American Jews to Israel. With 150 Israeli start-ups reported in Silicon Valley alone, that tendency is not about to end.

With a pressing shortage of Jews to defeat the Palestinians demographically, the Netanyahu government is considering a desperate solution. The leaked report suggests opening the doors to a new category of “Jewish” non-Jews. According to Haaretz, potentially millions of people worldwide could qualify. The new status would apply to “crypto-Jews”, whose ancestors converted from Judaism; “emerging Jewish” communities that have adopted Jewish practices; and those claiming to be descended from Jewish “lost tribes”.

Though they will initially be offered only extended stays in Israel, the implication is that this will serve as a prelude to widening their entitlement to eventually include citizenship. The advantage for Israel is that most of these “Jewish” non-Jews currently live in remote, poor or war-torn parts of the world, and stand to gain from a new life in Israel – or the occupied territories.

That is the great appeal to the die-hard one-staters like Netanyahu and Bennett. They need willing footsoldiers in the battle to steal Palestinian land, trampling on internationally recognised borders and hopes of peace-making.

Will they get away with it? They may think so, especially at a time when the US administration claims it would show “bias” to commit itself to advancing a two-state solution. Trump has said the parties should work out their own solution. Netanyahu soon may have the arithmetic to do so.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

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16 Responses

  1. eljay
    September 1, 2017, 10:28 am

    … With a pressing shortage of Jews to defeat the Palestinians demographically, the Netanyahu government is considering a desperate solution. The leaked report suggests opening the doors to a new category of “Jewish” non-Jews. According to Haaretz, potentially millions of people worldwide could qualify. The new status would apply to “crypto-Jews”, whose ancestors converted from Judaism; “emerging Jewish” communities that have adopted Jewish practices; and those claiming to be descended from Jewish “lost tribes”. …

    Zionism goes to great lengths to prove that it stands:
    – for Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine; and
    – against justice, accountability, international laws, human rights and equality.

  2. German Lefty
    September 1, 2017, 4:46 pm

    The US administration claims it would show “bias” to commit itself to advancing a two-state solution. Trump has said the parties should work out their own solution.

    Actually, this sounds good. No more US support for a two-state solution in order to protect Israel from itself.

  3. just
    September 1, 2017, 6:30 pm

    “That is the great appeal to the die-hard one-staters like Netanyahu and Bennett. They need willing footsoldiers in the battle to steal Palestinian land, trampling on internationally recognised borders and hopes of peace-making.”

    Blood- curdling, really. Thank you for the article and your honest reporting, Jonathan Cook. I still cannot believe they need more “willing footsoldiers” and immoral supporters than they already have (and have had) since and before the Nakba.

    “Trump’s ambassador to Israel refers to ‘alleged occupation’ of Palestinian territories

    David Friedman, who also opposes two-state solution, appears to adopt a stance more in line with Israeli settlers in Jerusalem Post interview …

    … Demanding clarification from the US a Palestinian official said: “Our understanding is that when someone has an official position, like being an ambassador, this person does no longer speak in a personal capacity. Mr Friedman should realise that denying facts doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. He has an extensive record of attacks against the national rights of the Palestinian people, including funding illegal colonial-settlements and participating in celebrations of the Israeli occupation. We call upon the US administration to clarify their position.”

    The legal status of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem – captured during the six-day war in 1967 – is recognised by the United Nations, most countries and by Israel itself in its use of institutions such as military courts to try Palestinians in the West Bank.

    The US state department itself also refers unambiguously to the “occupied territories” in its own reports, including in a human rights report earlier this year.

    Friedman has kept a relatively low profile since arriving in Israel earlier this year. His appointment had been met with a chorus of criticism over his suitability for such a sensitive diplomatic post given his complete lack of foreign service experience and his history of supporting far-right Israeli causes, including the hardline settlement at Beit El.

    The US ambassador’s comment follows hard on the heels of recent remarks by state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who said a recommittal by the Trump administration to the two-state solution would show “bias” to one side.

    In the interview with the Jerusalem Post Friedman suggested that his personal views had not much changed and while his tone may have softened his ideology had not.

    “I don’t want to suggest that my views have really changed very much. Maybe the rhetoric has changed,” he told the paper. “Obviously, you become a diplomat. You change your rhetoric. You have an official job. You work for the United States government. You respect the chain of command. Of course that’s different.”

    Friedman – a former bankruptcy lawyer for Trump – has called President Barack Obama an antisemite and suggested that US Jews who opposed the Israeli occupation of the West Bank were worse than kapos, Nazi-era prisoners who served as concentration camp guards.” …”

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/01/trump-ambassador-israel-david-friedman-alleged-occupation-palestinian-territories

    • James Canning
      September 2, 2017, 12:36 pm

      How very interesting: David Friedman refers to an “alleged occupation”! Should one assert that David Friedman was “alleged” to be Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer?

  4. johneill
    September 1, 2017, 9:44 pm

    this seems like as appropriate a place as any to share: “The Complete List of Rabbis Blacklisted by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate” http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.800651
    i’m surprised how quietly this news was taken on mondoweiss.

    • Misterioso
      September 2, 2017, 12:27 pm

      https://electronicintifada.net/content/rabbi-who-urged-gaza-genocide-excused-rape-soldiers/21566

      “Rabbi who urged Gaza genocide excused rape by soldiers”

      David Sheen The Electronic Intifada 1 September 2017

      EXCERPT:

      “A prominent Israeli rabbi known to have advocated genocide in Gaza also advised that soldiers may rape during wartime, it has emerged.

      “Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Safad in present-day Israel, approved rape by the military in a 2002 article that has gone largely unnoticed.

      “Writing on Kipa.co.il, a popular Hebrew-language website catering for religious Jews, Eliyahu contended that Israeli soldiers would lose their motivation to wage war if they are not allowed to rape non-Jewish women.

      “The comments were made five years before Eliyahu recommended that Israel should use massive force in Gaza.

      “In 2007, he said that Israel ‘must kill 100,000, even a million’ people in Gaza if that was necessary to stop Palestinian resistance fighters from firing rockets.”

  5. JosephA
    September 1, 2017, 11:45 pm

    Thanks for your reportage. The situation in the modern states of Israel and Palestine is downright farcical.

  6. RoHa
    September 2, 2017, 1:00 am

    ” a revolutionary reimagining of who counts as a Jew and therefore qualifies to live in Israel”

    If the reimagining is revolutionary enough, it could resolve a large number of problems.

    Expand the class of Jews to include anyone with ancestor born in pre-1948 Palestine, regardless of the religion of the ancestor or the descendant.

    This would turn nearly the entire population of the West Bank, Gaza, and sundry refugee camps into Jews. Israel then has lots of new Jews, and so can remain a Jewish state, while at the same time reducing the demographic threat.

  7. a blah chick
    September 2, 2017, 7:14 am

    I seem to recall an article (Haaretz?) a few years back which talked about how Israel was going to bring this group of people from somewhere in Southeast Asia to Israel to live. They were a group that identified as Jewish but were not recognized by the Rabbis in Israel as such. There are quite a few communities like this around the world I believe but I can’t see this helping the “numbers rackets.” The rabbis are not going to like the state telling them who is a Jew, that’s their job.

  8. Vera Gottlieb
    September 2, 2017, 9:27 am

    There is a saying in Spanish…a cada cochino le llega su sábado. Loose translation: there is a Saturday for every pig. And your ‘saturday’ will come too, israel…

  9. rkthomas13
    September 2, 2017, 10:38 am

    The Palestinians should convert to Judaism. That solves their problem of discrimination by the Israelis, automatically gives them the vote and solves the Israeli need to have a jewish state. No one takes religion seriously anyway, so why not do what groups have done throughout history, just adopt the religion of the conqueror and go on with life.

    • Elizabeth Block
      September 2, 2017, 8:01 pm

      They’re not allowed to convert.
      Neither are the “guest workers” from Bangladesh, Thailand, Philippines, some of whom have children born in Israel, speaking Hebrew, but (of course) not citizens. Some have applied to convert. Nope.

  10. Misterioso
    September 2, 2017, 10:56 am

    A relevant and excellent read:

    http://zope.gush-shalom.org/ home/en/channels/avnery/ 1504285130

    Gush Shalom –  02/09/17

    “Crusaders and Zionists”  by Uri Avnery

    EXCERPT:

    “But given all the differences of time, the comparison [between the Crusaders and the Zionists] is still valid, and provides much food for thought – especially if you sit on the shore of Caesaria, the imposing Crusaders’ wall just behind you, a few kilometers from the port of Atlit, where the last Crusaders were literally thrown into the sea when it all came to an end, just 726 years ago.”

  11. Citizen
    September 2, 2017, 11:29 am

    Maybe Bibi could get together with Hagee and enlist a ton of goy Christian Zionists as “Jews” to go live in Israel, the better to rapture up–not so different than Jews making, what’s it called?

  12. Ossinev
    September 2, 2017, 1:10 pm

    “The leaked report suggests opening the doors to a new category of “Jewish” non-Jews. According to Haaretz, potentially millions of people worldwide could qualify.”

    I can foresee a Catch 22 here which will probably scupper the Yahoo`s Bennett chasing scheme. The vast majority of these Jewish “Non- Jews” (shall we call them “Auto-Semites” ?) will be non Aryan/Non – European – in plain terms will the current generations of Fascist Israelis be willing to see hordes of black or coloured legal “infiltrators” on their chic boulevards , in their coffee bars and on their beaches.

    Speaking of beaches some of these Zioloons appear to be suggesting that the West inc America ( flooded Texas is of secondary importance ) should be funding a clean up of the sewage problem threatening Israeli beaches.
    http://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/01/middleeast/gaza-sewage-electricity-crisis/index.html

    • Marnie
      September 4, 2017, 12:22 am

      They are so grindingly horrible. The mess they make they refuse to clean up – that job is for the shabbos goys of the world.

      However, the u.s. and europe definitely have to help GAZA, not the rogue state of israhell.

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