annie - The phenomenon of returning to Jerusalem could not have occurred before the advent of modernity. The modern world has provided the tools of organization and communication. Moreover, the phenomenon of secularism in the Jewish world is very late (19th century). So, indeed, the yearning to return to Jerusalem is at the very center of the Jewish civilization. The Jews always saw themselves as an exiled nation that will ultimately be redeemed to their ancient land. However, your expectation that this should have happened at some point in late antiquity or during the Middle Ages is really quite silly. You are projecting your modern world onto people of the Middle Ages. Individuals and small groups of Jews, indeed, returned to Jerusalem throughout the ages, but a political movement that sets goals and organizes their realization is a recent phenomenon. Obviously, in traditional life, people are passive, and they have faith in divine control of history. In modern times, the there is a secular Jewish public which wishes to determine its own destiny through its own actions.
The rise of Israel, therefore, is an expression of the ancient Jewish aspiration to return to Jerusalem. It's obvious. Why would one dedicate one's life to building a Hebrew society in the face of such hostility and dangers? People wish to fulfill their dreams, and the modern world enabled it to happen.
You noted that one half of the Jews haven't moved to Israel. I remember as a child going to Hebrew school that the teacher would belittle Israel, telling us that "there are more Jews here in NYC than there are in the entire Land of Israel" (and it was true). Today, as in your comment, that has to be corrected to "one half". In other words, the trend in the Jewish world is clear. In our old age, we might be hearing a further correction to your demographics: "Why is it that a third of the Jews don't want to live in Israel..."
Steven Shenfield - The Reform Movement didn't "cave into Zionism" nor did Reform Jews "betrayed their own principles by accepting Jewish peoplehood". The movement came into existence in the 19th century, and meanwhile in the 20th century some very dramatic events touched the lives of all Jews. Already in 1937, the Reform Movement in its Columbus Convention expressed its support and sympathy for the settlement of Jews in Palestine. Obviously, this change in ideology is a reaction to the evil Nazi regime. You might call this "caving in" because of your anti-Israel perspective - but you have to see the world in the eyes of the Reform Jews. The phenomenon of Nazism was unthinkable in 1885, but it was a fact of life in the 1930's. How could the movement pretend that assimilation and integration are still relevant? The change of course was a natural reaction to the changing realities of the Jewish experience.
Another dramatic event that is impossible to brush aside is the revival of the Hebrew language and the rise of an independent Jewish state. It's rather difficult to maintain a position that the Jews are no longer a people when, in front of your eyes, the Jews are obviously a people. You call it "betraying principles", but again you are viewing things only through your anti-Israel perspective. From the perspective of Reform Movement educators, it's rather obvious that Jews speaking the ancient language of Israel and living in the ancient land of Israel are not just a "religious community". They're a people, and obviously the Reform Movement understands that they are "our people".
You should try and see things in the eyes of others. The story of modern Israel is a gigantic drama, and it is certainly the biggest success story of Jewish history. The Reform Movement has decided that it must be part of it.
“We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine... nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state”
CitizenC - This above quote from the 1885 Pittsburgh Platform of the American Reform Movement is by no means a rejection of Jewish peoplehood. Quite the contrary - it is an affirmation of Jewish peoplehood and the collective aspirations of the Jews. When someone declares that "we consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community", that someone is admitting that until now (1885) the Jews considered themselves to be a nation, not merely a religious community. Moreover, there is even an affirmation that the Jews until now (1885) were concerned with the restoration of the Jewish state - a decade before the appearance of Herzl's book, "Der Judenstaat". The rabbis in Pittsburgh decided that they no longer consider themselves a nation, but in so doing they are admitting that other Jews do consider themselves a nation. And, since the 1999 Pittsburgh Platform, even the Reform Movement defines the Jews as a people and encourages immigration to Israel.
RoHa - I know that it's hard for the anti-Israel crowd to understand that there might be another side to a story. I know that it's pointless to explain to you that there are people out there in this world who sees things differently than you do - but note that there is, indeed, a phenomenon on this planet called "disagreement". You, for example, think that the Jews had no right to found a state in Palestine, but amazingly the Jews thought that they do have such a right. Call it a "mystery" if that helps you deal with the strange phenomenon of disagreement and conflict.
Anyway, when a state comes into existence, it exists. Even if RoHa thinks that it shouldn't have come into existence, that state nevertheless exists. It could be that there will be those who oppose the founding of the state, and they might even go to war in order to end its existence. Listen now to the VERY complicated logic of political science: If the war effort of those opposed to the new state is successful, the new state will cease to exist. However, if the new state is successful in its war, then it exists even if RoHa thinks that this is not right. It could also be that the new state will even be accepted as a member of the UN without having to receive your approval.
Talkback - “The proposal called for a Jewish state, an Arab state and a separate Jerusalem zone – and in founding these three entities, war would be prevented.” In this quote from my comment, I am giving you the logic of the UN in proposing partition. Indeed, their intention was to prevent war.
Another quote of mine that you like to repeat is: “The people of a country have the right to defend their country against partition, conquest and expulsion and also the right to restore its unity”. Yes, people have the right to go to war - but this doesn't mean that they will be successful in their war. The Palestinians had a right to oppose partition, and they had the right to resort to violence against the Jews. However, they failed in their war effort. You seem to have adopted the Palestinian view that "they were right", and therefore the Jews shouldn't have won the war. However, the Jews nevertheless believed that they had the right to found their state and to succeed in their war effort. It's called "conflict" (i.e. the two sides see things very differently).
A third quote of mine that you like to repeat is: "No one had a right to found another state therein (an illegitimate blow to the territorial integrity of an 'existing' state).” This is a presentation of a Palestinian argument. Obviously, the argument is false. Without getting into the debate if there was or wasn't a Palestinian state (notice that I wrote 'existing' in quotation marks), there are many examples of states being founded within existing states. It's called "rebellion". It's really quite simple: If you fail in your rebellion, you're a "traitor", and they might throw you in jail (see for a recent example the leader of Catalunia). The Confederate States of America is an example of a failed rebellion. However, on the other hand, if you succeed in your rebellion, you become a "national hero" or the "father of your country". So, using your logic ("Palestine was an 'existing' state"), the founding of Israel could be defined as a successful rebellion. You should be able to live with that.
Mahmoud Abbas might or might not “suspend the Palestinian recognition of Israel until Israel recognizes the State of Palestine on the 4 June 1967 borders”. It's really a very strange political culture. Actually, it's as if Mr Abbas doesn't understand the meaning of "recognition". How does one suspend recognition of a state? Anyway, it's worthwhile reminding Mr Abbas that there was a mutual recognition within the Oslo Agreement of 1993: The PLO recognized the State of Israel, and the State of Israel recognized the PLO.
Palestinian statehood is one of the five final-status issues. Another final status issue is the question of borders. So, obviously, it is absurd that Mr Abbas expects Israel to recognize his state in the June 1967 borders when both the issue of the Palestinian state and the issue of borders must be negotiated (and the conflict must end). It would be nice if Mr Abbas would agree to renew the negotiations.
Another final-status issue is the status of Jerusalem. Mr Abbas complains that the USA has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel even though this issue was supposed to be negotiated between the two sides. By the same token, Mr Abbas has asked for recognition of the Palestinian state even though this issue is supposed to be negotiated as well. Actually, both these ploys are the two sides of the same coin: Mr Abbas does not want to negotiate with Israel, so he went to the UN to get recognition of Palestinian statehood (without having to agree that the conflict has ended) - and the Americans have established that if the Palestinians don't agree to negotiate, they'll decide about Jerusalem (even though the conflict is unresolved).
Mr Abbas claimed that the Nation-State Law "stripped the Palestinian citizens of Israel... of their rights". Instead of debating with him that his claim is total nonsense, someone should whisper in his ear that he has messed up the propaganda war with Israel big time. For years and years, we hear the bla-bla-bla that the Palestinian citizens of Israel don't have rights. Now, suddenly, Mr Abbas is admitting that until now they certainly had their rights, but only with the new Nation-State Law were they "stripped of the rights".
Getting back to the unusual perception of "recognition" in Palestinian politics, I'd like to repeat that one cannot suspend recognition. Once you recognize a state, it really is final. However, as we see in Mr Abbas' speech, he sees things very differently. He thinks that he can take back his recognition of Israel, and this is apparently quite normal. Well, the truth is that the Palestinians don't recognize Israel. Throughout the years, you hear a Palestinian representative in a press conference saying "we recognized Israel..." Never will you hear a statement in the present tense: "We recognize Israel". It's always in the past tense. Saying "we recognized Israel" in the past tense is obviously a true statement (the signing of the Oslo Agreement indeed happened in the past), but it is very tricky. In the Palestinian political culture, as we see in the UN speech of Mr Abbas, you can take back your recognition, and apparently they have. So it's always "we recognized Israel", hiding the simple fact that "we do NOT recognize Israel".