I think that's a nice wrap-up of the Israeli point of view. But it's rather a mess regarding the rest of us. There's not much mystery here. In English and the Latin languages, "nation" and" state" are interchangeable, as in the "United Nations" (an organization of states), while "nationality" is the word for "citizenship". That's why human rights law talks about "nationality" as a civil status and having one as a civil right (not as some ethnic attribute). "Nation" referred to descent (or race) about a century ago, when Zionism was conceived, but has since come to include civic nations that unite people around civic values rather than ethnicity. So the US, France, UK, etc, are certainly nation-states, and if Poland is associated historically with ethnic "Poles," still anyone with Polish citizenship holds Polish "nationality", so it's a nation-state too. Where a civic nation has secessionist groups, then you can talk about multi national states. But states hate that, so they tend to deny that the "nation" it represents is somehow different from the full body of its citizens.
Israel is unique in holding that no "Israeli nation" exists at all. By law, Israel is the state of the "Jewish nation" and no other nation: all non-Jews who hold Israeli citizenship are on the outs regarding a lot of "national" services and perks that go to Jews only. Israeli law makes the distinction plain by having two words in Hebrew: ezrahut (citizenship, which is usually and wrongly translated as nationality, due to citizenship routinely being called "nationality" in international law) and le'um (nationality in the ethnic sense, as in "Jewish nation"). It is indeed the rhetorical mechanism by which Israeli citizens are grouped into an ethnic hierarchy - the state belonging to the Jewish nation and not Israel's other citizens - and non-Jews become the infamous "demographic threat" of too many non-"nationals" (non-Jews) becoming Israeli citizens. It's actually a pretty vile racist ploy, when you think about it, and far from how every other country in the world manages its national unity.
So, Jonathan has this quite right. But to honor our predecessors, credit for this crucial point about nationality in Israeli law must go to the late Roselle Tekiner, who wrote about it in the 1980's in an article published in the (sadly now defunct) journal "Without Prejudice," then edited by the visionary Joe Schechla.
Excellent piece, makes a great package with the comments.
Just one technical point regarding the line: [Israel's] admission to the United Nations in 1948 was based on its claim to only the 1948 armistice line, which does not include Jerusalem or any other part of the West Bank."
Would that this were true. The UNGA resolution recommending Israel's admission to the UN cited commentary that included recognition that no final boundaries had been set. In those debates, in 1949, the representative of Lebanon, C Malik, objected that: "To admit Israel before it had given up territories which had not been allotted to it by the Assembly's decision was equivalent to giving it a blank cheque to draw its frontiers wherever it wished. In effect, it meant condoning, by a solemn act of the United Nations, the right of conquest. Moreover, such a decision would be prejudicial to the negotiations on the demarcation of boundaries now in progress under the supervision of the Conciliation Commission." The Zionist representative had no real answer to this, arguing only that recognizing Israel would facilitate negotiations about such things. See A/AC.24/SR.45 of 5 May 1949.
At the time, Israel was indeed holding land within the Armistice Line, but this line wasn't mentioned in either the GA or SC resolutions.
Also, the comparison to Indian reservations is apt and haunting, but it's also important to remember that Ariel Sharon made repeated visits to South Africa during his tenure as Housing Minister and, according to South African officials there, consistently asked about the Bantustans. The 1995 Oslo Accord later established terms for the Palestinian Authority that replicated the Bantustan constitutions very closely, right down to the name -- in South Africa, "Bantu Self-Government Authorities."
I’m a little puzzled by some of these comments.
Sure, I too was bemused that Dr. Harel apparently thought Israel was doing okay as long as it was dominated by the secular “liberal” Judaism and its Enlightenment principles that he shares. It's bewildering that this vision overlooks so blandly the Nakba, the occupation, and all the horrors committed under secular-Jewish Zionist leaderships. Much like the odd idea that Israel would have been fine if it hadn’t been for that darned 1967 war and the occupation where Israel “lost its soul.”
Still, I suggest that Dr. Harel be warmly thanked for this editorial because it really does represent a tremendous paradigm shift. Two points here. First, he and others of his "liberal" community (the term always requires scare quotes in this context) are recognizing that the Palestinian problem isn’t going away, that it’s horrible, that Israel must change profoundly, and that this change may well extend to Israel’s becoming a fully secular state for all its citizens. That’s a massive step, and a courageous one on a personal as well as professional level. That it’s hard for him fully to peel out of his previous understanding of Israel is to be expected. How many of us can drop a whole realm of thought, whole cloth, in one leap? I still meet tons of “leftists” who rage about specific US foreign policies but still treat them as aberrations, not having grasped that the US, far more often than not, the bad guy on the world stage. Such revelations move in increments. And apparently Dr. Harel has already gone far down that tortuous road.
Second, Dr. Harel’s editorial signals something I suggested back in 2005: the fissure opening in Jewish-national unity. The political Zionism gluing Israel together has always depended on plastering over deep divisions among Jews about what a Jewish state should be like. If that “national pact” breaks down, then Israel won’t be able to claim to be the “state of the Jewish people.” The way things are going, it will be the “state of the Orthodox Jews.” Israel can’t survive without its US and European Hasbara lobbies securing its income, trade privileges, etc., and the great majority of American Jews are Reform or Progressive … or secular. Ironically, this is one reason why Israel has to keep building the settlements - to keep the fundamentalist territorialists in the fold. This editorial signals that a major chunk of Israel’s claimed "national" constituency is calving off. As I read him, Dr. Harel is ready to let Israel go and embrace true democracy and equality. That’s a huge step, a principled one, and one likely to bring penalties down on him. I personally respect and welcome it. I'd like to hear more from him.
Puzzles: I don’t know what Danaa means by “this scheme.” If Dr. Harel has a scheme, it would seem to be a secular democratic state. What’s wrong with that? Maybe I lost the thread. Also, to Danaa: sweepingly negating the sense of ethnic community shared by Jews through the centuries really isn’t helpful, I don’t think. If people feel such affinity, that’s all such identities are. It’s not sufficient – or even ethical, in my book -- for someone else to presume superior authority over the matter and shout “false consciousness!” Jews in the US, Europe and elsewhere experience Jewish identity as a communal one, sometimes a very powerful communal one. In sum, I suggest leaving Jewish community to one side. In itself, it's not relevant here: what’s relevant is whether one conceives of Jewishness, or any identity, as having a license to oppress others.
Marnie: Not sure what you mean by the death knell and Israeli pain. His whole editorial seems to be aiming at the problem that Israel isn’t being made to feel any pain, and should be. Could you please clarify?
Stephen: Good point about Hamas. Supporting data: surveys have always found OPT Palestinian support for an Islamic state running under 4 percent.
RoHa: Fully agree about that god-awful cringe-worthy singing in Australian supermarkets.
The point being, exactly? Are you saying that the entire South Africa transition is a failure due to land reform problems? That democracy brings crime and therefore should be avoided? Or just that the transition has problems? Sure it has problems. Big ones. I'm just not sure what you're trying to say, regarding Palestine.
Taking these in turn:
Land reform has been a huge problem forever, since the Dutch settlers first expropriated all the good farming land from the indigenous Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana and other black African farming societies. The revolution promised that most of this land would be returned, but the ANC government dragged its feet on this until it was confronted by mass protest (South Africa is the most vigorous democracy I've ever seen). Now it's catching up.
The Parliamentary decision to take land without compensation remains highly controversial, of course. But it will be applied to unused land. White farmers hold vast tracts they aren't using. The law provides appeal processes to determine this.
White farmers have suffered from periodic invasions and attacks by criminal black gangs or wandering thugs for decades. This pattern greatly worsened with the sudden decompression of repression of millions of black people in the Bantustans and from a flood of pan-African immigration into the country, some of it criminal, following the economic boom. (Prior to that, white farmers happily exploited cheap black labor and freely terrorized black people as they liked.) One first effect of the transition was a terrible crime explosion, which hasn't been solved and plagues the quality of life for whites and blacks alike. Would this happen in Palestine? I think it could, if not so badly. The town and village culture in Palestine is still mostly intact, with all its social fabric. But as refugee populations return, they will bring with them the drug and criminal networks operating in the refugee camps.. SA offers a cautionary tale for planning in this respect.
Re failed black farms on small plots provided through land reform: This is a tiny sliver of the economy, but still an important thing to consider. Among many incompetencies of the ANC government has been a failure to develop proper agricultural outreach and support services for new farmers. Most land reform around the world, in fact, fails due to small plot-holders lacking the necessary capital, inputs, knowledge and skills to make small farms work. The first effect of land reform is often that small privatized plots are sold to large landholders, which is just what we see to SA. And land reform will certainly fail in SA if no special effort is made to help smallholders and middle-holders succeed. The ANC elite has bungled ag outreach like they bungled a lot of things. A new Palestine government would face the same challenges, especially with refugee return and small farmers needing a lot of help learning how to run small businesses in the new national economy.
I actually didn't meet a lot of poor rural black people in South Africa who wanted to be farmers, however.. In fact, I can't think of one, during my HSRC work in Limpopo province. They know how hard farming is. They wanted wage jobs, and better wage jobs. Hence the economic boom has centered in the cities, bringing other problems - exploding traffic burdens, huge housing needs, etc. Hopefully, now that the Zuma bloc is out of power or at least damaged, some better policies can come into play.
What I take from this? Try not to let a unified Palestine be run by the PLO and its crony elite. The PLO was completely corrupted under Arafat's rule and the PA remains a mafioso operation, with little grasp of most governing responsibilities. Land reform regarding the settlement blocs is absolutely essential, but considerable support will be needed for people returning to expropriated land. That kind of thing.