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Autonomy for Palestinians in Israel is as relevant as ever

As the Jewish majority increasingly prioritizes Israel’s Jewishness over its democracy, autonomy is necessary for achieving full equality in both individual and collective rights.

By Said Zeedani

Palestinian citizens of Israel participate in a Land Day march in the Negev. (Corinna Kern/Flash90)

Palestinian citizens of Israel participate in a Land Day march in the Negev. (Corinna Kern/Flash90)

Autonomy for Palestinians in Israel was first introduced more than 25 years ago as a fair, democratic compromise, a golden mean, between two conflicting impulses, neither of which can be fully satisfied: integration on the one hand, and independence on the other. The former emphasizes the individual, the citizen with full equality of rights (civil and political). The latter emphasizes collective identity and with it collective rights, including autonomy.

There are some who might say that the time for the idea of autonomy for Palestinian citizens in Israel has come and gone. On the contrary, it is especially important these days as those in power in Israel put more and more emphasis on the Jewish character of the state, and are advancing discriminatory and exclusionary legislation and policies. At the same time, although perhaps not at the same pace or intensity, representatives of the national-cultural minority are emphasizing their distinct collective identity. The result of these processes is not exactly conducive to integration — at least from the perspective of those in power.

So as to avoid misunderstanding, the idea of autonomy was first introduced a generation ago, and is being proposed here again, based on the following points of departure:

The Palestinian challenge in the face of increasing persecution

Firstly, the final and declared goal is to achieve full and equal democratic citizenship rights: full equality between individuals and full equality between the two national-cultural groups. In other words, the idea of autonomy is the realization of the principle of full and equal rights within the framework of the a democratic state. Therefore, it is not an expression of an irredentist tendency. Achieving full equality of rights requires taking two complementary yet parallel paths in order to reach the same end-point. On the one hand, collective rights complement individual rights, and on the other hand compensate for their deficits. Anyone who believes that full equality can be achieved by pursuing the one path without the other is mistaken.

The Jewish character of the state is responsible for the deficiency of democracy and liberalism as far as Israel’s Palestinian citizens are concerned, and that is what makes the demand for autonomy appear logical, convincing and fair. Anyway, autonomy, as I conceive it, doesn’t involve compromising or conceding any democratic citizenship rights. Autonomy constitutes a safety net below the ceiling of citizenship and central government, and it serves as a protection against unjust decisions, practices and policies by the ethnic-national group in power. In the best case scenario, autonomy brings us closer to a democratic, binational state.

Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel take part in March of Return,in the lands of the destroyed village of Hadatha, near Tiberias, April 23, 2015.

Thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel take part in March of Return,in the lands of the destroyed village of Hadatha, near Tiberias, April 23, 2015.

Secondly, it is not possible to define the characteristics of autonomy a priori, without first describing the changing relationships between the two national-cultural groups. These are not natural phenomena with fixed characteristics; what we have are two national groups that change over time in response to changing local and international conditions and events. It’s no secret that in recent years there has been an attempt to “thicken” the state’s Jewish character, along with increasing attacks on Palestinians — against their land, homes, political parties and cultural institutions, and even mosques.

Additionally, the distinct collective identity of the Palestinians in Israel has become thicker and fatter than ever before. In light of this, the path to integration has become much more difficult and arduous, and the demand for cultural autonomy, despite its importance, has become inadequate to address the increasing challenge. What we need is an autonomy that protects and sustains identity, which protects land and homes, which addresses bogged-down issues like the Muslim Waqf and the refugees of 1948, which advances the planning and development of cities and villages, and which is capable of responding to the challenge of national service.

In short, what is needed is autonomy with teeth, which doesn’t exclude the geographic factor, the factor of the land and what lies above the land! Needless to say, the concentration and population density of Palestinians in the Galilee, Triangle and the Negev require a more ambitious and fatter autonomy than cultural or institutional autonomy.

Commitment to democratic values and a national accord

Thirdly, the desired and required form of autonomy should be consistent with any conception for a fair resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, whether it results in two independent neighboring states living in peace, or a single democratic, binational or federated state, or whatever else may be. Any fair resolution, in my mind, should include one form of autonomy or another, whether it is in the framework of one or two states.

Fourth, autonomy, whether cultural or richer and fatter (as I argue), cannot be implemented unilaterally. Autonomy is not the same as isolation or separation; it can exist only with the agreement of the central government which must transfer authority on specific matters and for specific aims through legislation.

The autonomous government must be democratically elected by the women and men of the concerned national or cultural minority, irrespective of where they reside. Such an agreement cannot be realized without a serious collective struggle that must be well organized, coordinated and ongoing — a struggle that emphasizes the sincere commitment to the values and principles of the democratic process.

Without such a commitment, the demand for autonomy of any type will be a good and sure recipe for collision. In that context, raising the volume of a nationalist-cultural discourse by leaders of the national-cultural minority, without tying it to the idea of autonomy committed to liberal-democratic values and principles, won’t accomplish much (to say the least). Moreover, doing so can only help to conceal the core issue, the nerve issue — full equality of citizenship rights, both collective and individual rights alike.

Finally, despite the fact that more than 25 years have passed since the idea of autonomy was first proposed, the idea is still virgin and needs to be fertilized and further developed by a free and rational discourse, a discourse with the participation of the relevant parties and movements — political and nonpolitical. The Balad party had the courage to include in its political agenda the idea of cultural autonomy alongside its demand to make Israel a state of all its citizens (limiting or altogether abolishing its Jewish character).

According to that two-pronged approach, as I understand it, autonomy would remain relevant and deserved even if Israel becomes a state of all its citizens. But, because the leaders of the Jewish majority insist on emphasizing the state’s Jewishness at the expense of its democracy, the demand for autonomy must go further than just culture and needs to include other areas, first and foremost land and what lies above the land.

In the end, the realization of geographic, or even cultural, autonomy, requires tools and patterns of struggle that do not exist today, which should not exclude civil disobedience, or at least the threat of civil disobedience. Furthermore, national consensus is a necessary condition for any serious progress in this novel and daring undertaking.

Dr. Said Zeedani is a lecturer of philosophy at Al-Quds University. This article was first published in Arabic on Arab48.

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    1. Firentis

      “Autonomy is not the same as isolation or separation”

      Hahahaha. Right.. You want a state within a state and it isn’t going to involve separation or isolation.

      We are not suicidal. This is not going to happen. If you want the Israeli Arabs to live like their brethren in the WB or Gaza you are welcome to try to push this idea forward. Have a nice day.

      Reply to Comment
      • Here’s a clue. Israel has borders. The world knows what these borders are because in your declaration of independence the UNGAR 181 borders are deemed “irrevocable.”

        Israel revoked those borders by illegally transferring hundreds of thousands of illegal squatters into Palestine, and of course, Jerusalem was taken over in 1948, also a huge breach of international law and hardly an action of a “law-abiding” country as was necessary for the world to believe for the passage of UNGAR 273.

        In short, Israel is a rogue state, outside of its legal borders, the entire planet knows this, and one day soon a reckoning is going to come. I suggest that Israel removes the illegal squatters from Palestine and remove itself back to within the only legal borders that Israel has, the UNGAR 181 borders.

        Because as more and more Americans learns each day that it is Israel who created the Middle East terror we see today through the Irgun and Lehi, Hagana and Palmach. They set the stage by using terror to create a Zionist state.

        It’s really sad that this history exists. The fact that it was the Irgun who pioneered the IED’s against the British, the bombs with gelignite packed with nails and rivets and set off in crowded markets to maximize the death and destruction of innocent Muslim Palestinians, many women and children, the use of children to commit these acts of terror, the use of secondary bombs to blow up first-responders, the timed explosions in various cities, and the internationalization of terror when the Irgun bombed the Italian Embassy in Rome, thankfully the hundreds of letter bombs they also used were discovered, after all, Menachem Begin was known as the Osama Bin Laden of 1946 with his bombing of the King David Hotel and on and on.

        Israel OWNS this history. It owns the fact that it committed kidnapping of Jewish babies adopted in Europe after the Germans killed their parents and the Jewish Agency was instrumental in the kidnapping of hundreds of babies and sending them to Palestine as ‘facts on the ground’.

        One day Israel will need an adult at the helm to save the country, not from Iran, they have no intention whatsoever at striking Israel as they are content to watch Israel self-destruct.

        Since so many of you have revised the actual history of Palestine, and you have made the Two State Solution(tm) impossible, it is the One State(tm) that is coming. There are now 6.3 million indigenous Muslim Palestinians and 6.3 million mostly transplanted European and Russian Jews with Palestine and Israel, the Apartheid that exists now will either have to be fully embraced or for Israel to keep the currently erroneous notion that is is a free democracy with equal rights, then that means equal votes and equal rights for the indigenous Palestinians from whom Israel was stolen.

        American Jews must get shut of Israel and its Apartheid and state terror. It is time to pay the piper. People have lied for so long, but the truth is right there in front of anyone who looks at the actual history of where Israel actually came from.

        — Proud supporter of Jewish Voice for Peace

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          Your screed here is quite incoherent. You seem to think that 2 state solution was somehow desirable, and you think the UN Partition lines of 1947 have some sort of validity, but then you contrast “transplanted” European Jews with presumably “Indigenous” Palestinians, implying that Jews are alien invaders. The Israeli Declaration of Independence makes no mention of borders, as you seem indicate. IT was the Arabs who rejected the partition. The Arabs do not recognize Israel as having sovereign rights within the pre-67 because of their insistence on the fictional “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees.
          Regarding “terror”, it was the Arabs who began attacking unarmed Jewish civilians in 1920, 1921 and 1929, long before the Irgun came into being. In fact, it was in response to Arab terror that the Irgun was formed.

          I also suggest that you be a little more modest and not attempt to speak in the name of the “entire world” who you claim “all the world knows that Israel is a rogue state”. Israel has good relations with more countries than at any time in its existence, far more than it had in what the Left considers “the good old days’ before the 6-Day war.

          You, like many “progressives” seem to have a lot of rage in you and I would be interested to know why, because I doubt you are actively involved in any of the real human rights tragedies such as that in Syria, in which the vast majority of “world progressives” are keeping silent. Thus it is not “human rights violations” that really motivate those like you.
          Two final points: (1) People like you have been predicting doom for Israel for the last 70 years, yet their prophecies have proven wrong, just as yours has. (2) As someone speaking for the so-called Jewish Voice for Peace, I would think you would be working for reconciliation between the sides, and not encouraging conflict, boycotts and justifying Arab terrorism, such as your organizations honoring an assassin like Rasmiah Odeh.

          Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            Since you are telling us you are an American Indian, I would be interested to know why you are a member of an organization called “The Jewish Voice For Peace”. JVP people are frequently saying “As a Jew, I condemn Israel”, but you are not a Jew so you are not in a position to make such a statement. Also, since you are not a Jew, I think it is rather arrogant of you to say that “Israel is a blight against ‘ethical Judaism'”. I fail to see how you, a non-Jew, has the right to define for me, a Jew who tries to observe Judaism, what Judaism is, just as it would be presumtous for me to tell a Muslim what Islam is.
            I also suggest you broaden your reading about Israeli and Jewish history beyond crank historians like Ilan Pappe and the other “New Israeli historians” you seem to like and find out what the TRUTH really is.

            Reply to Comment
          • duh

            “implying that Jews are alien invaders.”

            It was Herzl who approached the Germans in an attempt to create a protectorate (i.e. occupation) for colonizing Palestine, and later mused in his diary that if Jews could settle in Cyprus they would use it as a base to capture “Eretz Israel.” The Zionists only didn’t have to invade Palestine because the British knocked out that step for them.

            Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          You JVP people are funny. 181 stopped being relevant when (1) The Arabs rejected it (2) The British abandoned the British Mandate. Since then Israel has no recognized borders pending resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians. This is the position of the entire international community, but I am very much entertained by your sisyphean attempts to reinvigorate an obsolete 70 year old resolution. Best of luck!

          It is also entertaining by how much pre-state Jewish terrorism offends you while you are so tolerant of Palestinians murdering Jewish children now. “Jewish Voices for Peace” indeed. A Jewish organization that loves peace so much it invites murderers of Jewish civilians to give keynote addresses at its conferences.

          The “one state solution” (no clue what this ‘tm’ thing is) is not coming for the simple reason that you and your friends can not force us to accept the elimination of our country. All you can do is post screeds online that make you feel like you did something. I hope it makes you feel better but it isn’t going to bring peace. Bravo on the time investment you put in here. I am sure it will change a lot of minds and cause people to want to destroy Israel.

          The solution is and will continue to be two states for two peoples living in peace. We the Jews will have our own country and the Palestinians will have their own country. The sooner the Palestinians accept this the sooner there will be peace. In the meantime you can stomp your feet and scream your guts out and that is going to change exactly nothing because in the meantime we will continue build a prosperous and democratic Jewish state here, with some warts and all. We have all the time in the world and life here in our homeland is pretty damn great.

          Reply to Comment
        • JeffB

          @Michael Hess

          I was going to reply that 181 was not the border but I see the Firentis beat me to the punch. The other side rejected the partition. Failed bills don’t have force in law. The Republicans aren’t bound to utilize the healthcare under Trumpcare anymore than Israelis are bound by their acceptance of 181. The Palestinians were successful in having an ethnic civil war rather than a peaceful partition and as a consequence they lost territory. They haven’t regained it. The only government remaining in what had been mandate Palestine is the Israeli government. The legal borders of Israel are all of the what had been mandate Palestine excluded territory that Israel has relinquished (Gaza) and including territory annexed (the adjustments with Jordan and the Golan).

          Because as more and more Americans learns each day that it is Israel who created the Middle East terror

          I think Napoleon might be a bit shocked to hear that there was no terror prior to Zionism.

          One day Israel will need an adult at the helm to save the country,…l as they are content to watch Israel self-destruct.

          What are you talking about? Rapidly growing GDP, high quality of life, functioning political system. Israel self destructing, is a delusion. Besides if it is self destructing why do you all push for BDS?

          American Jews must get shut of Israel and its Apartheid and state terror.

          I think you dropped a word or something that doesn’t even make grammatical sense.

          Reply to Comment
    2. i_like_ike52

      Said-Since you find living in a “Jewish state” intolerable, could you please give us an example of a successful, prosperous democratic Arab/Muslim state in the Middle East which could serve as a prototype for us Israelis to use where different ethnic and confessional groups live in harmonious cooperation? (Perhaps Lebanon, for example?) Or perhaps the FATAH/PA or HAMAS/Gaza autonomous regimes could serve as an example of successful democratic regimes for Israel to emulate?

      Reply to Comment
    3. i_like_ike52

      Since you find living in a “Jewish state” onerous, how do you feel about Avigdor Lieberman’s proposal that upon implementation of the 2 state solution, areas heavily populated with Israeli Arabs be annexed to the proposed independent Palestinian state so that the Israeli Arabs would no longer be a minority, which is apparently an intolerable situation for many Israeli Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      ​We note with interest how Dr. Zeedani’s irenic, judicious, thoughtful and fairly academic and abstruse exploration of options for a fair and peaceful solution to the current impasse provoked the hysterical shouting in the commentaries above, replete with fanciful accounts of legal governments and borders, and all sorts of the usual whataboutery. What are you guys so afraid of?

      Ike, you presume to tell Arabs and Muslims who and what they are all the time. You just don’t even hear yourself. And Ike, Lieberman’s proposal is only a thinly disguised gerrymandering maneuver grasping at making the then-remaining Israeli Arabs a smaller and that much more easily dominated minority. If Lieberman is serious then he’d have to (impossibly) relinquish much more land areas populated with Arab Israelis. Lieberman’s fanciful geography of “Israeli Arab territory” is itself a lie. Why can’t you far right wing Israelis simply stop insisting on having it all? Why is that so hard?

      Reply to Comment
      • Firentis

        What are we afraid of?

        Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, the fate of Jews and Christians throughout the Arab world.

        We are not going to accept any change that makes it more difficult for the Jews in Israel to defend themselves by themselves. The changes suggested by the author very much undermine that ability, so we will oppose it and ensure it doesn’t happen. We will not allow a parallel state to operate inside of Israel and we will not allow the operation of an autonomous body that will be built on the basis of opposing our existence here. We certainly will not even contemplate the idea of giving veto power to any such autonomous body. The idea that this would lead to a peaceful outcome is indeed fanciful when looking at the history of this region.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Firentis adopts his best stentorian tribal-authoritarian “We” to give me the standard “security” lecture. To be followed by “only We…it is We…only We know..,We will decide…” but his “We” is quite happy to indefinitely deprive “Them” of life and liberty and land without a moments contemplation despite the declared–by numerous generals and Mossad directors–lack of a real proportionate security reason. Security is a legitimate thing. “Securityism” is something else.

          “As numerous scholars have contended, Israel’s major, intensive preoccupation with security has become a supreme value and symbol, even a sort of religion – “securityism” – whose tenets dominate the Israeli ethos….
          When political positions play a major role in the mindset of the individual – and in particular, when they create a clear, generalized ideological outlook – they will have a unique effect on the manner in which members of society view the world. They influence the type of information that receives attention and the manner in which it is coded and arranged within the brain. For instance, Israelis who believe in the “Greater Land of Israel” have a range of feelings of insecurity – as well as different solutions that they believe would ensure security – different from those of Israelis who believe that the strip of land in which we live is the homeland of not one but two nations. Similarly, a look at the platforms of the political parties over the years shows that the right-wing parties place much more emphasis on dangers than the left-wing ones….
          Primarily, we must understand that life in constant insecurity and fear, without a proper understanding of the conditions in which the Jewish people exist in Israel, directs us toward a narrow perspective, one that limits our opportunities to cope with challenges of the present and the future. And these also demand that we take a calculated risk.”

          Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Security is crucial to us and we are not going to jeopardize it. I have already explained what we are afraid of but you are clearly perfectly willing to play Russian roulette with our lives. No, thanks.

            Find me an Israeli security expert that would agree to the proposal in this article. Best of luck.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            See my reply to jeffb.

            Reply to Comment
      • JeffB


        Will you stop with the ridiculous praise, “irenic, judicious, thoughtful and fairly academic and abstruse exploration of options”. It was none of those things. He just asserts that’s what’s needed is for the state to develop institutions that “protects and sustains identity”. Why would the state of Israel have any interest in protecting and sustaining a Palestinian identity how does that advance state aims? That’s never answered or even asked. He is not even clear what rights are collective, what rights are individual and what rights belong to the conjoined married state.

        The problem with setting up autonomous subgroups is always how the laws intersect. A Jew gets into a traffic accident with a Palestinian. Who collects evidence? What court determines liability? If either party was also engaging in criminal behavior (say the Jew was drunk) how does that change things? Etc…

        An irenic, judicious, thoughtful and fairly academic and abstruse exploration of options would have laid out a more serious plan. This is just a statement that Said Zeedani likes the idea of explicit binationalism. Which is fine, and also somewhat consistent with how Israel already governs itself. But he needs to argue for it.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          “Why would the state of Israel have any interest in protecting and sustaining a Palestinian identity how does that advance state aims?”

          Well. I certainly agree that the state of Israel with its current aims has not the slightest interest in protecting and sustaining a Palestinian identity. Its seems though that the state of Israel works day and night to foreclose any fair solutions with the Palestinians but then displays a huge amount of interest in whining about it when the Palestinians start devising their own solutions that derive from every other possible non-violent path being shut down by Israel. How dare those Palestinians exercise ingenuity.

          And it seems that the state of Israel also demands up front that the Palestinians protect and sustain its “Jewish identity” in “a Jewish state” yet has no interest in protecting and sustaining a Palestinian identity? But this one way street is a “democracy”?

          “But he needs to argue for it”

          Oh, he does, does he? And he isn’t already completed his 567-page magnum opus on it? And submitted it for your review? To your satisfaction?

          Ok, you like historical analogies, JeffB–why does “he needs to argue for it” sound to me like the feudal Lord’s bureaucrat telling the peasants that their idea–that they need to farm additional hectares because the Lord’s taxes and restrictions are not allowing the peasants to avoid starvation–needs work, is incomplete, is not well argued enough to the Lord’s satisfaction, and maybe the peasants should think of other ideas like going on a diet because being thin is a good thing after all?

          This is a variant of the sputtering Israelis do when the Palestinians have the cheek to stage protests without clearing it ahead of time and getting them permitted, and after the Israelis have with utter ruthlessness shut down every avenue of non-violent protest and every avenue towards a reasonable settlement, quite content to “manage the conflict” interminably? How dare the peasants protest without clearing it with us!

          How dare those Palestinians come up with another idea not thoroughly worked out with every I dotted and T crossed. After we’ve rejected every other one? Why, it’s unacceptable!

          “explicit binationalism…also somewhat consistent with how Israel already governs itself.”

          Whoah, JeffB, now that is an outlandish statement. You need to argue for it.

          Reply to Comment
          • JeffB


            “explicit binationalism…also somewhat consistent with how Israel already governs itself.”
            Whoah, JeffB, now that is an outlandish statement. You need to argue for it.

            That’s fair. To pick an example, right now Israel formally divides many aspects of the law by cult. Religious communities have formal status and those formal status have legal effect. A person affiliates with one of over a dozen religious communities in Israel as a matter of law. That community has exclusive authority to perform marriages and then only for 2 people who are registered with that religion in Israel (though Israel does recognize marriages performed abroad). Similarly religious affiliation determines the school one attends. Mamlachti schools are not effectively open to Arabs and Arab schools are not effectively open to Jews.

            Those sorts of laws are examples of Israeli applying binational policy. Taken much further is what full fledged binationalism would look like.

            And it seems that the state of Israel also demands up front that the Palestinians protect and sustain its “Jewish identity” in “a Jewish state” yet has no interest in protecting and sustaining a Palestinian identity? But this one way street is a “democracy”?

            Yes it is. The purpose of a state is to be entity for collective force for a nation. The nation in this case are Israeli Jews. Were Israel to become fully binational (in practice as well as principle) the nation underlying the state would change. The French state requires Spanish immigrants to sustain a French identity, they don’t require French nationals to sustain a Spanish identity. The democracy is a mechanism for the nationals to agree on what the policies should be to advance their common interests. It is not a mechanism for undermining those common interests.

            How dare those Palestinians come up with another idea not thoroughly worked out with every I dotted and T crossed.

            This is yet another example of where your rhetoric moves from overwrought to dishonest. My objection was not that there was some holes. My objection was that Zeedani’s proposal doesn’t have any i dotted or any T crossed. It wasn’t thought at all. He addressed 0 of the many thousands of complications.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “The purpose of a state is to be entity for collective force for a nation.”

            This is murky and unsatisfying as a definition of a 21st century democratic state. Sounds crypto-fascist or at least it is murky.

            “The French state requires Spanish immigrants to sustain a French identity, they don’t require French nationals to sustain a Spanish identity.”

            The French state may require Spanish, Hungarian or Tunisian immigrants to sustain a French identity but cannot and does not ask them to sustain an ethnic/racial/Catholic identity. Israel can only ask its non-Jewish citizens to sustain an ISRAELI identity. Not a Jewish identity.
            See: https://972mag.com/why-i-oppose-recognizing-israel-as-a-jewish-state/78751/

            “The democracy is a mechanism for the nationals to agree on what the policies should be to advance their common interests. It is not a mechanism for undermining those common interests.”

            And those “common interests” are…what? Israeli interests? Yes. “Jewish interests”? No. Your version of “common interests” appears as a non-sequitur.

            Zeedani dotted and crossed all the letters he could in the space allotted. Not a reasonable complaint.

            Reply to Comment
          • JeffB


            As we’ve talked about before a French identity is an ethnic, cultural, linguistic, historical and religious identity. And yes France asks people to uphold all those parts. They may uphold only some (like French Jews), but the entire basket is what it means to be French. So yes the French can and do ask people to uphold that basket. The examples you keep citing out of context came from the last round when I pointed out then when parts of this basket were challenged the French most certainly did require subgroups to uphold the entire basket.

            As for the rest between Israeli and Jewish… there are 3 groups.
            a) Global Jewry. This is not a nation, though Israel ideologically ties itself to this group.
            b) Israeli Jewry + allied minorities (Bahá’í, Druze…). This is a nation.
            c) Population of the former mandate Palestine. This is a just a collection of people, not sharing enough in common to be a nation.

            (b) is the only entity for which a nation-state is possible at this time. However (b) can expand, and in say 100-200 years through assimilation (b) can be the same (c). In the meanwhile the demographics and migration patterns of Jews insure that over the next 100 years the strong distinction between (a) and (b) is going to disappear only about 10% of global Jewry won’t be either Israeli or closely allied with Israel. (a) and (b) have been merging for generations and because population is exponential, that distinction while still being important today will disappear. (b) and (c) will likely eventually merge, as well. If they do assimilation is the most humane way of accomplishing that merger.

            Real binationalism means replacing the nation the state represents from (b) to become (c). That is essentially a new nation-state entirely. Given how strong (b) is relative to (c-b) that outcome strikes me as unlikely. Given how little (c) has in common, asking why the individual people of (c) (especially those in (b)) would have any desire to sacrifice and support the state representing (c) deserves an answer.

            Finally fascist is a particular type of economic organization primarily. There was no discussion of economics at all. Fascist is used by the left as a meaningless curse word. You are using the term I suspect in this later sense, and that isn’t saying anything.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Love the way you pontificate about what is a French identity and what it means to be French and how France supposedly requires people to “uphold the entire basket.” This is contrived nonsense. Post-Revolution France (that would be 228 years now) is explicitly, formally secular and non-clerical, often passionately anti-clerical. And the principle of separation of church and state, laïcité, has a long history , and was formalized in the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State.

            It is utterly false to say the French state asks immigrants to uphold Catholicism or Christianity or the unstated ethnic associations people like Le Pen bring to that. It is bogus history. It is an inversion of the truth. It is a right wing kitsch Disneyland princess version of the real modern France. This is a device you are using to try to blur the huge and decisive differences between the Israeli state’s relationship to Judaism and ethnicity and France’s relationship to Catholicism and ethnicity in the governing of their respective citizenries. What you are trying to pass off as a mandatory part of a “basket” modern France supposedly “asks” people to “uphold” (what does that mean?) is in fact a wished for fantasy scheme of the fascist French far right, the worst of the people around Le Pen, who to this day are frankly anti-Semitic and nostalgic for the Third Reich and Le Pen has given these people privileged positions:

            To imply that French Jews have a critical French item missing from their “French basket” and must “uphold” that item is to play right into the deep and incorrigible anti-Semitism of Le Pen, and you, like so many unprincipled right wing Israeli opportunists of the moment, do it precisely so you can justify adopting the parallel far right anti-Arab, Jewish supremacist version of all this eastwards across the Mediterranean Sea from France. For similar reasons you support Putin’s annexationist militarism.

            Your extended, convoluted a), b), c) rumination about Israeli and Jewish and nation replete with peremptory dismissal of the people of Palestine is nothing more than your private, idiosyncratic, arbitrary theory and wish. It does not amount to something more than that. And “assimilation” amounts to a soft-pedaling euphemism for themes of supremacism and subjugation.

            Moreover, your characterization of fascism as “a particular type of economic organization primarily” is eccentric as well, in the extreme. I am well aware that some on the left carelessly throw around the word “fascist” as an epithet, but in your case I had distinct meanings and connotations of fascism in mind. When you announce, oddly, that “The purpose of a state is to be entity for collective force for a nation” (coupled to “The nation in this case are Israeli Jews”; and with, in this case, power concentrated in one ethnoreligous hereditary group in a state where 25% of the citizenry are not Jewish, gathering into one “collective force for a nation,” and with the frequent shrill comments in these pages about the decadence of American Jewry and it’s salvation in Israel, and your gravitation to populist authoritarians (Trump, Le Pen, Putin)) you in fact are recalling themes of fascism: total mass mobilization; the strength of collective unity pulling in one direction, as in the bundled together rods of fascia; the rebirth myth; populist ultra-nationalism; the myth of decadence and themes of authoritarian reversal of decadence and community decline; victimhood, etc. Ze’ev Sternhell, authority on European fascism, especially its French origins, is dead right: Israel currently is an amazing laboratory for fascism. So many ingredients come together. I do not think “crypto-fascist” too strong a word to apply to “The purpose of a state is to be entity for collective force for a nation.”

            Moreover, the National Socialists overriding emphasis on race or bloodlines and ethnicity amalgamated to a Herrenvolk culture shaped only one particular form of 20th century fascism. Sad to say, when you attach “The purpose of a state is to be entity for collective force for a nation” to “The nation in this case are Israeli Jews” you flirt with the National Socialist type variant of fascism. You really do. Are the parallels exact? Are we talking about equivalences? We are not. But it is uncomfortably close and resonant. And your trotting after Le Pen and Putin is circumstantial peripheral evidence.

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          • JeffB


            Well that’s a pity you were getting more sane. Back to a paranoid rant. I’m a mainstream Democrat not a fascist. The definition you are so critical of comes from Max Weber who was involved in a mainstream center left party. Le Pen has spent years purging antisemitism from the National Front, an article about some of the people close to her maybe having been to events a quarter century ago doesn’t change that.

            Get a grip.

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