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WATCH: Recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, or an 'ethnocracy?'

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently proposed enshrining the Jewish character of Israel into a basic law, the closest thing Israel has to a constitution. What would such a law mean for Israel’s Palestinian minority? Israeli academic Oren Yiftachel talks about ‘ethnocracy,’ a term he coined that describes the Israeli regime.

By Lia Tarachansky / ‘The Real News

Lia Tarachansky is an Israeli-Russian journalist with The Real News Network reporting on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. She is the director of ”On the Side of the Road,” a documentary on Israel’s biggest taboo – the events of 1948 when the state was created. Tarachansky previously worked as a newsroom producer in The Real News’ Washington D.C. and Toronto headquarters, and her work has appeared on the BBC, Al Jazeera, USA Today, Canadian Dimension Magazine and others.

‘Why I oppose recognizing Israel as a Jewish state’
New law dividing Christian, Muslim Arabs legalizes inequality

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    1. Rima Najjar

      In this video(produced by Lia Tarachansky), the debate on Zionism and the legal definition of the Jewishness of Israel revolves around “what it would mean for a nation already struggling to preserve an image of democracy.” It’s all about image, about Jewish entitlement and privilege – not about what the Jewish victimhood complex has done and continues to do to millions of displaced, dispossessed and oppressed Palestinians. What a sham!

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    2. Samuel

      I don’t understand this intense, almost fanatic opposition to the idea of a Jewish state. England is an Anglican state. And how many Muslim states have we got in the world? Yet nobody complains.

      Having said that, I do understand the opposition to discrimination based on ethnicity. For instance, that law which requires citizens to serve in the army before being entitled to gaining housing grants. I am against that.

      The only areas in which I condone what I would call affirmative action is with regards to immigration. I favor Jewish immigration over non Jewish immigration. For two reasons;

      1. In order to maintain a Jewish majority.

      2. Because the very idea of the Jewish state is to have it as a place of sanctuary for Jews fleeing persecution from places where Jews are minorities.

      Point 2 is not just an academic exercise. Even though today, there are not too many places where Jews are facing state based persecutions or discrimination (except in a few Arab countries and Iran), our history is littered with examples where literally overnight persecutions of Jews were initiated during times of upheaval and change. The chance of such things happening again are still very real, given the propaganda and prejudice that still exists against us in many parts of the world. In many places today, Jew hatred is disguised by hatred of Zionism and Israel.

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      • Philos

        Fair points Samuel, however, I think it is inaccurate to define the UK as an “Anglican state.” It might have been more accurate description in the 16th and 17th Centuries but the state’s laws on religious freedom, fixed in the Human Rights Act as well as by treaty with the EU, have rendered the Anglican features of the state anachronistic. I’d say that the UK organically evolved a widespread secularism. Furthermore, the UK has no religious or ethnic qualification to immigrate there. If your grandparents were British you won’t be considered eligible for citizenship. Indeed, if one of your parents is British but was born outside the UK and his child was also born outside the UK then that child is Ineligible for UK citizenship, which is pretty obscene actually and a hangover of empire. My point is you can’t immigrate based in simply religious or ethnic / national grounds.

        Israel’s immigration policies are patently racist and discriminate against Jewish Israelis as well as everyone else. Also when we look at the composition of the settler movement whose main leadership either came from the USA in 60s and 70s or whose parents did at that time (like Bennett) then clearly being Jewish was not enough to make these people Israeli. Ever since, instead of adapting to Israeliness, they’ve been trying to make Israel in their own image. Sadly, they are succeeding tremendously.

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    3. Samuel

      “I think it is inaccurate to define the UK as an “Anglican state”

      The head of the state in England is the queen. The queen is also the head of the Church of England. No person with a different religion can become the head of the state. Also most state ceremonies are conducted based on the Anglican religion and are geared around the queen.

      Other than that, I agree that by and large, England is mostly secular and democratic. That was exactly my point. Israel too can be a Jewish state yet non discriminatory towards non Jews.

      I also mentioned the various Islamic countries that exist and nobody seems to be as fanatically against those countries as much as they are against the Jewish state.

      Last but not least. The immigration laws. I already mentioned above why I favor the idea of what I consider to be affirmative action rather than discrimination. A bit like in America, there used to be, I am not sure whether there still is, affirmative action for African Americans. In order to overcome years of discrimination against them. For the same reason, I believe that we Jews too have the right to have one state in the world in which an affirmative action type policy will ensure that we remain a majority. See in my above post why I think so.

      As far as whether one likes or dislikes some of the new immigrants and what some of them do or don’t do, that is an entirely different argument. In every place on this earth, there will always be people who have different opinions from each other. But what I want to ensure that there is one place on this earth, Israel, where Jews will be guaranteed not to be discriminated against and even murdered, simply because we are Jews. Of course, I don’t want our state to discriminate against non Jews either. I don’t consider such an affirmative action in favor of Jewish immigration discriminatory. If they object to living in a majority Jewish state they can live in other states where they are already majorities. In the same way that Jews who object to living in a majority Christian or Muslim countries can move to Israel.

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    4. Samuel

      Here Philos, look at the link below which lists a very long list of Christian and Muslim countries which have state religions:


      So why do some people get so horrified about the idea of a Jewish state only? I think that horror about the idea of a Jewish state, exclusively and not of other states with state religions, in itself may have some racist overtones.

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    5. Rangreen

      True, in the UK a non-Anglican cannot become head of state. This is also the case for 99.999% of Anglicans who happen not to be of royal descent.

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      • Samuel

        And is it also true that main state ceremonies are conducted according to Muslim or Jewish religions rather than the Anglican religion?

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        • Rangreen

          All the rights and privileges of citizenship in the UK, and the rights and duties of state agencies, are the same for all citizens regardless of their origins. They have nothing to do with Anglicanism (with the exception of the Head of State, who must be a member of the royal family and of the Church of England).

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          • Samuel

            Read again what I said above. That was the exact point that I made. It is possible to have a state religion and at the same time be a democracy. So Israel too can be a state of the Jewish people without it giving up the notion of democracy. It too like England can respect the rights of it’s minorities. Yet judging by the hysterical reaction of some people when we talk about Israel as the Jewish state, you would think that they think that the idea of a Jewish state and a democracy are two contradictory terms. If so, why isn’t the idea of an Anglican state and democracy self contradictory too?

            Is it because some people are biased against the Jewish people? I think even some Jews are biased against Jewishness. The thing is that to me at least, there is nothing Jewish about such Jews. They have shed their Jewishness long ago. First they shed their religion. Which many of the rest of us did too. But some of us stopped there. We still feel Jewish. Jewish by culture, by language, by tradition and by a common history. Those other Jews don’t even feel that. They shed their religion and now they want to shed their nationality too. Well that’s their issue. If that is what they want, it is their democratic right to do it. But leave the rest of us out of it. They too should allow the rest of us to exercise our democratic rights to continue to build a Jewish nation state that is also a democracy and free of discrimination against minorities. A hater below used the term “Israel is a work in progress”. He is right. But not in the way that he meant it. We are a work in progress trying to build a Jewish democratic state. We have a lot of work left to do. The democracy bit is sometimes hard in a middle of a war that the Arabs have been relentlessly waging against us because they don’t want Israel to be a Jewish state. They want it to be yet another Arab Muslim state. The 23rd such state.

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    6. Average American

      Israel is a work in progress. Its goals have been clear from its start. Jewish Lebensraum across The Land Of Israel (which is alot bigger than the current Israel). And of course the people who are already there need to move aside for The Jews. Ridiculous. No comparison to anything in USA history.

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      • Tzutzik

        “No comparison to anything in USA history.”

        You are absolutely right Average.

        We came back to our ancestral homeland which was taken from us by European colonisers 2000 years ago which some of us never left.

        America is made up of people of mostly European descent who took over from native American Indians. You are an Arab American who lives in America. Why don’t you return to Arabia and stop lecturing to us?

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        • Average American

          In USA, colonizers at least didn’t try to call it their ancestral homeland. All the Jews in all the world did not have ancestors from what is now Israel. What a load of crap. And don’t give me the Abraham stuff. It’s Jewish Lebensraum just like Aryan Lebensraum which claimed Poland was ancestral homeland. Stop lecturing you? Happy to oblige. Now if I can just get my AIPAC controlled congresspeople to stop supporting your bullsh*t with my tax dollars and military equipment and lives of our sons and daughters.

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          • Tzutzik

            You are a funny man Average.

            I didn’t know that you support Israel single handedly with your tax dollar.

            But since you do, you might also start supporting Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt too with your Arab American tax dollar so that Jewish Americans won’t have to.

            As to what Americans called America, who cares? They are there now but since you don’t like colonisers, you should not be there. You should return to Arabia where you came from Average.

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          • Average American

            T, of course you don’t respond to the main point, which is Jewish Lebensraum. Nothing to say on that? Divert and distract, that’s you.

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          • Tzutzik

            “of course you don’t respond to the main point, which is Jewish Lebensraum.”

            I don’t respond to your fantasies average.

            And while we are on the topic of ‘non responding’, you might want to respond to the point that I raised about you?

            I have no problems with normal Americans, I like most Americans (that’s not you, Average). But since you profess to be against colonialists, why are you still in America, Average? Why don’t you go back where you or your ancestors came from? If I am not mistaken, you come from Arabia?

            That’s what you want me to do Average, to return to somewhere where I don’t belong. Even though I was born in Israel.

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          • Average American

            Oh it’s no fantasy, it’s happening before our eyes. For you to call it a fantasy shows you either don’t have eyesight, or you want to cover it up so The Gentiles won’t notice. Too late.

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          • Tzutzik

            What is happening in front of your eyes, Arab American?

            The “settlements”? Jews repopulating places from which Arabs kicked Jews out of in 1948?

            Places like the Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem. Get it? The Jewish quarter. Jews living in the Jewish quarter which was known by that name even 1000 years ago because Jews lived there …

            And Gush Etzion which was populated by Jews before 1948 and befeore it was overrun by Arabs in 1948 who murdered the Jewish prisoners of war while their hands were tied behind their backs …

            And a few other “settlements” close to the green line which are required for secure borders, in line with UN resolution 242 all adding up to no no more than about 4% of Judea and Samaria …

            You call that Lebenstraum, you obscene little man? Now get out of America and return to Arabia where you came from. Stop trying to give decent Americans a bad name, Arab!

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    7. Sol Salbe

      I’m a great fan of Lia Tarachansky and even had the pleasure of meeting her. However, she is not Israeli-Russian but Russian-Israeli (or Russian-Canadian-Israeli if you insist.) She was born in Russia and moved to Israel, just like my neighbours who were born in Vietnam and moved to Australia are Vietnamese Australians.

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    8. Susan

      I had talked to far too many Arabs and Muslims who tell me that Jews are not a nation or even an ethnic group. They tell me that Jews are a religious group only. This makes me wonder if they will ever accept Israel’s existence. I say this as a dove, but I have serious doubts.

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