The Guardian editorial from October 11th leaves the reader in absolutely no doubt as to where the loyalties of the management of that newspaper lie with regard to the existence of the Jewish state. When dissected, the strident objections raised to a proposed amendment of Israel’s Law of Citizenship reveal an ideological commitment to the creation of conditions which would promote the Palestinian ‘right of return’ as a means of bringing about Israel’s demise. They also provide evidence of an anodyne willful blindness regarding the political situation which exists under the Guardian’s own nose in the United Kingdom and much of the rest of Europe.
In typical Guardian style, the editorial declares as fact numerous putative points in order to lead the reader to the desired conclusions.
“There are two narratives at work in Israel that have a bearing on the capacity of its leaders to negotiate the creation of an independent Palestinian state next to it. The first is official and intended for external consumption. It is the one that claims Israel is ready to sit down with the Palestinians in direct talks without preconditions and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, should not have wasted so much of the 10 month partial freeze on settlement building before he did so. On Saturday, America was given another month by the Arab League to persuade Binyamin Netanyahu’s government to halt settlement building, the bare minimum required for talks to continue.”
In other words, the Guardian has decided that the Israelis have one narrative for foreign audiences and another, presumably the authentic one, for internal use. This figment of Guardian imagination has no bearing on reality and of course conveniently ignores almost 20 years of prior peace negotiations. Revealingly, it also completely overlooks the fact that for much of the last two decades, it has been the Palestinians who repeatedly put out conflicting messages for foreign and domestic audiences; a practice continuing to this day. Then there is the interesting description of a continued building freeze as a ‘bare minimum’ requirement for the continuation of talks. Taking into account that at no other time in the past 20 years has construction by Israelis prevented the Palestinians from negotiating; it is clear that this current insistence is nothing but an excuse for procrastination.
“There is however a second narrative, which could be called business as usual, and it has nothing to do with occupation, Iran’s nuclear programme, Hizbullah’s rocket arsenal, or any threat which could be called existential. This was evident in all its glory yesterday when the Israeli cabinet approved a measure requiring candidates for Israeli citizenship to pledge loyalty to “the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state”. The naturalisation oath would not apply to Jews, who are granted automatic citizenship under the law of return, so it is, by definition, discriminatory. The existing text binds individuals to declare their loyalty to the state of Israel. The new version requires future citizens to declare their loyalty not just to a state but an ideology, one specifically designed to exclude one fifth of its citizens who see themselves as Palestinian.”
Here, the Guardian is making the highly offensive and inaccurate suggestion that Israel’s main, albeit concealed, preoccupation is discrimination against its non-Jewish citizens. Had whoever wrote this editorial bothered to read the Israeli Declaration of Independence and familiarize him or herself with Israel’s basic laws, the depth of the inaccuracy of this suggestion would be abundantly apparent. Obviously, the temptation to present Jewish Israelis as racists was too great to resist. Obviously too, whoever wrote this buys into, and wishes to promote, the disgusting and erroneous narrative of Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state.
Significantly, the concept of Palestinian ‘right of return’ is not included in the Guardian’s list of existential threats to Israel, although it most definitely does belong in that category. Neither are the facts surrounding the proposed amendment made clear; it still has a long way to go and must pass the Knesset, its exact wording is still under discussion and may yet be modified to include Jewish new immigrants. The mention of the 20% of Israel’s population who are not Jewish and their supposed ‘exclusion’ is clearly irrelevant to the subject at hand as the proposal would not apply to existing citizens, but would apply to future non-Israeli spouses of Israelis of any religion or ethnicity.
So what exactly is the Guardian’s problem with this proposed new law? If it is the concept of a pledge of allegiance in itself, that would seem to be a case of singling Israel out for criticism not applied to other democracies including New Zealand, Australia, The United States, Norway and indeed The United Kingdom itself. That, of course, could be deemed anti-Semitic according to the EUMC Working Definition:
“Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
If, however, the Guardian is taking issue with the concept of a pledge of allegiance to a state with a defined majority religion or ethnicity, then logic would demand that it also address the subject of the numerous Islamic states in the world (including the proposed Palestinian one according to its constitution) and the position of non-Muslim minorities living in them, as well as the requirement demanded of non-Anglican new citizens of the United Kingdom to swear allegiance to the supreme governor of that church and ‘defender of the faith’.
Clearly, given the Guardian’s reticence on the above subjects, the problem as far as it is concerned is neither the actual issue of a pledge of allegiance nor the subject of religion as part of a definition of statehood. Only when we reach the last paragraph of the editorial do we find out what is really bothering the Guardian and so many others about this proposal.
“It seeks to pre-empt negotiation on the third core issue after borders and the division of Jerusalem – the right of return of Palestinian refugees to sovereign Israeli territory.”
In other words the problem, in the Guardian’s view, is specifically the concept of Israel as a Jewish state, which it is trying to suggest is a discriminatory and racist project: a suggestion also deemed anti-Semitic by the EUMC Working Definition:
“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
It is obvious to anyone on either side of the argument that a wholesale return of Palestinian refugees to Israel would sooner or later bring about an end to the definition of Israel as the only Jewish state and of course there are those who promote that goal precisely for that reason. The Guardian’s acceptance of the subject as a legitimate one for negotiation indicates its true agenda in no uncertain terms. Not only does this expose its faux-liberal calls for peace, but it indicates with terrifying clarity exactly within which camp the Guardian’s feet are firmly placed, and that is the camp of the ‘one-staters’.
The proposed amendment to the Law of Citizenship does not demand that new citizens of Israel become subscribers to an ideology, but it does require them to recognize the status quo by expressing a commitment firstly to upholding the democracy of the state and secondly to the existence of Israel as the place in which Jews can exercise their right to self-determination and to the important concept of Israel as a refuge for Jews. Tragically, even after 62 years of statehood, these existing definitions of Israel, as laid out in its Declaration of Independence, are today under threat as maybe never before and in a manner which no other country has to put up with.
It is to a large extent due to the ongoing delegitimisation of Israel as practiced by the Guardian and its ideological fellow travelers that Israel finds itself today in a position in which some very tricky subjects must be discussed. Among those subjects are the level of commitment of some of its citizens to the basic concepts of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state, the influence of foreign funding of organizations dedicated to dismantling the state and the refusal of most of the surrounding Arab states to recognize Israel’s existence under its present definition. Whilst this proposed amendment to the Law of Citizenship does not address those weighty issues, the wave of outcry it has prompted from some sources does indicate the full extent of the problem in that it shines a light on those inherently opposed to the idea of Jewish self-determination. Despite the claims in the Guardian editorial, that is the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East because until the Arab states and their Western supporters accept the notion of one tiny Jewish state in their midst, and abandon all designs for Palestine ‘from the river to the sea’, there can never be peaceful co-existence in the region.
This case also raises subjects for discussion which are by no means confined to the eastern end of the Mediterranean, such as the legitimacy of the use of principles of freedom of expression to promote the negation of the basic human rights (including self-determination) for certain groups and the subject of the limits of the definition of democracy when it comes to the employment of the tenets of that democracy in order to destroy it. Israel is wrestling with these questions at present, possibly with somewhat greater urgency than in many other countries. The time for others will, however, come as elements which reject the concept of pluralistic and liberal democracy seek to impose their ideology on existing societies. This is a discussion which Europe too will not be able to avoid for much longer, despite the best attempts of many, including the Guardian.