Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis

Identity is a funny thing. I suggest the reading of Amin Maalouf's book on the subject. Jean Paul Sartre wrote interesting lines on it too.

Given the many definitions you can give to Palestinian, Arab, Jew, Muslim, Israeli, these identities are not mutually exclusive. In theory, it is very possible that one same person can be all of them, combined.

Consider Dr. Uri Davis, long-time Palestinian activist. He's famous for criticising Israel. Professor Davis is officially a Palestinian, as written on his passport, and describes himself as an Anti-Zionist Israeli Palestinian Jew. He's born of a Jewish mother, and he's an Israeli citizen. He's a member of the Palestine National Council, and of the Movement Against Israeli Apartheid in Palestine. I don't know if he's a Muslim, but it's very possible. He could also belong to the large category of Arab Jews.

He's only famous because he's an activist, but of course he's not the only case of multiple-identities. Consider also the case of a person born of a Jewish father, with a Jewish surname, of a non-Jewish mother. According to most Jews, he's not Jewish, according to most Arabs, he's Jewish. And this is without even asking him what he thinks he is, or without even considering his religion. Only filiation.

Welcome to Paradoxland, aka: the Middle East.

A funny thing is the phenomenal success of the movie "Bienvenue Chez les Ch'tis" in France. It broke all records in the history of cinema in the country that invented it. 20 million admissions at the Box-Office.

It's a comedy about French micro-regional identities: North  vs South. Can't be more French than that. 

The funny thing is, the two main characters, who each represent the most typical North and South Frenchmen, are both played by children of immigrants, and it's never even mentioned in the story. Both actors come from Algerian parents. But they're so integrated that no one in the audience even questions that they're typically French.

Their sense of humour, the way they talk, the common references, without which this comedy would never work, are totally and absolutely French.

Make no mistake about it. Actors Kad Merad and Daniel Hamidou (a.k.a Danyboon) are both very proud of their parents. But their identity is French. Nonetheless, to anyone in the Middle East, no matter who they really are, they'll forever be "Arabs".

Which brings me again to point this clear distinction between identity in the Middle East and in the West.

In the West, identity is "self-empowered". In the Middle East, identity is defined by others, by default, with absolutely no empowerment or self-determination by the individual: "I can not define who I am". Others do, and others will disagree among themselves as to who I am or what I am, leading to countless practical problems and massively erroneous statistics. 

It also leads to large-scale disinformation and misconceptions. In-depth understanding of Egypt or Jordan implies getting past gross ethnical statistics, because people are simply more complex and subtle than that. They're at the same time more united by a common heritage, and more subdivided into smaller, less homogenous groups.

Under these conceptions lies the dangerous assumption that a number of characteristics (culture, political opinions, tribal allegiance, and other non-biological acquired characteristics) are transmitted through blood, which is the very definition of racism.

As sensitive as we all are to the charm of tradition, this rampant concept of tribal/religious/ethnic classification, along with other remnants in the world (like the hereditary caste system in India) is something that defies pure logic. As shown above, it is very easy to demonstrate how it relies on absurd, subjective concepts, that do not resist simple analytical examination. Therefore, it's very likely that it is necessarily going to erase itself in a distant future, with higher level of education, mixing families and more complex  societies forming.

The question is: when will this change be acknowledged ? And will people and leaders resist it or welcome the change ?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Reinventing "Universal" amid "Tribal"

This year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which all countries member of the UN claim to adhere. Yet... I had an interesting conversation today with six Jordanians, all elite and educated.

At more than one point in the conversation, I heard "I agree with these principles, but this is impossible here in Jordan". After going home I thought about it and asked myself: are there such things as universal values  anyways?

Later at night I joined a group of foreigners, artists and NGO workers. As a coincidence, they were also puzzling at the impossibility to apply some very basic principles in Jordan.

I was pointing that this Article 1 of the Declaration is the product of great thinkers: all men are born equal, and have the same rights, regardless of their religion or colour of skin. I know... some breakthrough ! It's yesterday's news ! Guys sweated out this idea about 200 years ago, at a difficult time. Still... it hasn't reached the Middle East. Not even a "modern" city like Amman.

I remember in University, my sophisticated Arab classmates would defend their countries when someone would question the ability of their homelands to embrace "Universal" values. They would say "We Arabs are modern now, what do you think ? You westerners believe stereotypes based on negative TV propaganda". Is it so ?

Here I'm not even talking about rural areas or religious extremist groups or particularly poor communities, for whom there would be the excuse that they're not exposed to "Universal" values. I'm talking about official State policies, about modern cities, and about values among the educated upper class.

The policy of stamping one's official ID card and passport with one's religion or ethnicity is widely accepted, for example. It means you're marked at birth with a tag that becomes your identity, and modifies the way society and its laws treat you for the rest of your life and that of your children. Incidentally it also creates a specific divide within one's country and society.

In Jordan, you can't obtain the license to open  liquor store if you're a Muslim. A non-muslim cannot marry a Muslim woman. You can get away with DUI if you're a Christian...

This may seem like minor details in the quiet Hashemite kingdom, but transpose the situation in Lebanon or Iraq, and you immediately seize the problem: it can become a matter of life and death, when civil wars have been declared in the past or present on entire populations, based on their religion or ethnicity.

In many countries of the Middle East, "enlightened" leaders pride themselves with western education and progressive views. Recently, Queen Rania made statements on Youtube, that she would prove how modern and forward-thinking the Arab world could be, and get rid of "stereotypes".

Still, in her country, the issue of official identity is left to customary tribal classification. And no one is really thinking about questioning it.

This official policy is deeply rooted. People still think in terms of belonging to a tribe, or to an ethnic-religious group, before they belong to their country. In Iraq you're an "Arab" or "Kurd" or "Turkmen".

In Egypt you have to choose between three religions ("Christian", "Jew" or "Muslim") to even GET an ID card. You cannot be Buddhist or atheist or drop your religion and convert. And without an ID you can't get an education, register to public services, or get a driving licence. You are non-existent.

In any Middle East country, if you're a Palestinian, your grandchildren's children will still be considered as belonging to a separate group.

It seems paradoxical because as a political entity, the State's interest should be to unify its people under the only identity of "citizen".

It feels strange to explain to a contemporary audience these very basic concepts as if they were new. It's like re-inventing the wheel: you feel either very silly, or for a moment pretend to be a revolutionary political genius. Neither is very rewarding.

The repercussions of this division and classification are infinite, and they're perpetuated through heredity, hindering any hope of melting a population into a unified nation, paving the way for more frustrations and possible wars.

Sometimes it reaches absurd levels, comical even. Colombian singer Shakira, for instance, is widely considered in the Middle East to be Lebanese, because her Grandmother was a (Christian) Lebanese. Any other branch of her family and heritage is dismissed, due to a strange concept of superiority of Middle Eastern blood in defining one's identity.

The case of French President Sarkozy is a true gem. He's from Hungarian descent, therefore in Middle Eastern minds he's "a Hungarian", not a "true French" (try explaining that to him !). But, wait for it. One of his grandparents was Jewish. Therefore, "he's Jewish" (as stated by Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram), no matter his upbringing in a catholic family and his own creed. That's no detail in Middle Eastern eyes.

Strangely, a reverse identity crisis was happening in France these past 30 years. Children of Algerian immigrants fought for their rights to be recognised as full-fledged French citizens, regardless of their origins. Rightfully so, because they were born in France, knew no other culture and defined themselves as French, albeit proud of their ancestors. But definitely and totally French.

It's tragic to see that in the Middle East, their identity would be denied: no matter what, they'd be considered as "Arabs", and so would their children's children.

This racist, distorted line of thought is extremely disempowering, stripping the individual of the freedom to define himself. It also is unfitting to an open world where people mix and mingle, marry beyond their "tribe" and travel. A political persona like senator Barack Obama would be completely unthinkable here (they even think he's a Muslim, because of his name).

I feel sorry for those last tribes who are ill-prepared to deal with a changing world. They don't know what's coming at them. In the 21st century, if you don't go out in the world, the world comes right at your door, and there's no stopping it.

So: are Universal Rights something reserved exclusively to "the happy few", developed countries of the Northern Hemisphere ? No. It's not a mere product of European values, impossible to transplant elsewhere.

The people who drafted those Universal Rights did not base them on a specific culture, but on a shared Human capacity for reason, a universal language of logic and common sense that's spread on all continents. This is why they are one of mankind's greatest achievements and are worth defending still, 200 years later, in a Middle Eastern restaurant, as if you were re-inventing the universal wheel. And it may even make you feel like a bit of a philosopher yourself.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Debate

Here's a debate on Israel that started on another Blog. I'll copy the comments here to continue the discussion.

FROM Guest Post: Striking Justice, 
Written by: Mohammad Dalabih

"Haaretz: "The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday (April 1st, also coinciding with April fool's day!) approved (unanimously) an unprecedented resolution recognizing Jewish refugees from Arab countries who were forced to flee their homes in the aftermath of the creation of the state of Israel."

According to the language of the resolution, U.S. officials involved in Middle East peace negotiations, which also reference the Palestinian refugee question, are to "also include a similarly explicit reference to the resolution of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries."

In case you are wondering if you understood that correctly or not, yes, the House of Representatives called for the recognition of the long neglected side of the Jewish suffering after the creation of the state of Israel. They called for the recognition of the Jews who fled the Arab oppression to infant Israel as refugees, and the raising of the matter of financial compensation in any future negotiations if the peace treaty is to have any chance. 

For a comprehensive peace treaty must be just to all sides.

So, we can say that finally, the world's leadership represented by the United States is looking in a just and even way towards both sides, unlike the United Nations which has always been so pro-Arab and supported all that gibberish about the ridiculous right of return.

I am so happy that the world is finally turning its eyes towards all the refugees equally. I hope that the next step will be calling for financial compensation to the early settlers in the South and North Americas, as people fled the oppression and persecution of their home countries for a better life there and should thus be considered refugees.

If I became the president of the United States I would cut all diplomatic contact with Europe until they pay for each American family of English, French, Dutch, German, Irish or any other European descent a good compensation. Fair is Fair.

Australians too, they must get compensation, people living in New-Zealand should not be forgotten either.

You know something? Didn't all modern humans, according to the current understanding of anthropology, originate in Africa? Somewhere is Kenya or around that area? 

hey then went to the different corners of this world. Isn't it plausible that they were escaping some sort of oppression in Kenya? Then Kenya should be paying all the countries in the World and any settlement ever to be built by humanity anywhere on or outside this earth a just compensation as refugees.

Long live democracy and God bless you all.



Well the thing is, they are right....
Jews were driven out of some arab countries after 1948 (Iraq for example) and if the hundreds of thousands of Palestenians deserve compensation (or the right to return) the Jews deserve just the same. 

Of course you can always say that the Jewish state has received much more than needed to compensate its poor refugees from the same sources, but some might argue you're wrong.
MB | 04.08.08 - 5:36 am | #


Well, I don't understand what's new here. Anyone who is persecuted because of his religion or ethnic group should be considered as a refugee. It doesn't bother me if they hapen to be jewish.

If jews were persecuted in Iraq or Egypt, and went to America or Europe, that means they were refugees. At least they didn't go to Israel nor create it.

Don't equate jews with Israel or colonization of Palestinian teriitories. It's much like equating Arabs and terroists.

Remember it's the UN who created Israel.
Anonymous | 04.12.08 - 4:34 am | #


The point is that it is an insult to any refugee to call them refugees. You cannot leave your country, occupy another and displace its population then call yourself a refugee.
whatever | 04.12.08 - 1:58 pm | #


Are we talking about Arab jewish REFUGEES who fled their countries (like Iraq) after and because of 1948 and went to Europe, or are we talking about ISRAELI SETTLERS ? Because both are jews but they're not the same (...). You've got to start knowing there's a big difference. Why would it be an insult to any refugee ? Come to Canada, you'll find plenty of 'fugees from all over the planet, Haitians, Chilean, Chinese, Palestinian, and Jews. By the way guess what ? None of them live in camps. That's only in Arab countries, where refugees are treated like that.
Anonymous | 04.12.08 - 2:18 pm | #


The resolution, very conveniently, fails to make any distinction between jewish refugees who fled to arab countries and those who fled to Israel. It is a well known fact, that i can cite extensively, that the Jewish state organized huge campaigns to bring any willing jews into the new born state after 1984, including those who were in the Arab countries. And now, they are saying they fled it against their will and want compensation for the lands they left. 
Some went even further (and i can cite that as well) into saying that they are the original population that existed before the arabs in the area (north Africa, Gulf and Iraq) to begin with. 

And how is the situation in Canada relevant!? Not to mention the situation in tents. And btw, Palestinian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan live in conditions way below the ones that exist in tents.
whatever | 04.13.08 - 12:58 am | #


Hi. I wrote a comment yesterday (the 4th one). Why should there even be a distinction. From a legal point of view, it's the same.

I still fail to see why there should not be any Jewish refugees, just because we don't agree with the existence of Israel.

I've worked a lot with refugees, I know all about tents and camps. They're usually civilians who have nothing to do with war.

I also happen to have lived in Egypt and Iraq for several months, and I assure you that there are people who were evicted, pushed out, threatened, because of their religion, and because thick-minded people did not see the difference between a local Jewish person, who had nothing to do with Israel thousands of miles away, and a fully armed soldier in a settlement in Palestine.

Nowadays, minds are closing up, narrowing down. No Jews left in Iraq, so now it's the Christians who are being threatened and evicted. When there's no Christians left, the Sunni evict the SHi'a, and vice-versa. When there's no Shi'a left, they start threatening the neighbour.

Seeing politics aong religions / sectarian lines is a false distorted view of the world, my friend. Misery and suffering know no boundaries.

I hope Palestinian "refugees" can have a better life in the Middle East, or go to that home they've never seen: Palestine, and start all over their lives if that is what they want.

But Mostly, I wish that Arab countries can open their hearts more and welcome, really welcome their Palestinian fellowmen like Western countries do. There are 49 jobs a Palestinian cannot aply to in Lebanon. Plenty of restrictions on civil positions in Egypt. 

I don't know yet about Jordan, but I suspect it's the same. They pay more for school too. And I'm talking about 2d or 3d generation palestinians, that should be considered as full citizens of their host states since the beginning of their lives.

For now, they're far better off in Western countries than among their "brothers" of the Middle East. Is that normal ?
Descartes | 04.13.08 - 6:04 am | #


(...) You have obviously spent much time in this region and still cannot make heads of tails in it. that is scary (...) !!

First, about the oppression of the Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. How do you expect a country that is oppressing its original populations to do refugees any justice? The sectarian divisions have been used and will always be used by local dictatorships to make sure no population based national movements ever exist. 

Anyone who has the faintest understanding of the region knows that. Minorities are constantly targeted by government propaganda whenever the government is facing political challenges. And for the record i am not talking about Jordan. that's number one, number two this is far far far from relevant to the point being discussed here! 

Now, How can a settler be a refugee?! settlers create refugee problems. Do i really have to explain that?! If it is proven by historical data that some jews escaped Arab oppression to countries other than Israel that would be something completely different. 

But one has to make a distinction, arabs are often failing in doing this and the resolution follows the same mistake. it does not make any distinction between those who left to become settlers driving an original population out and those who left to other countries. 

Again, you're understanding of the region is poor in a scary scary way.
Mohammed Dalabih | 04.13.08 - 8:26 am | #


(...) dear Mohammed,

thank you for suggesting that I haven't the faintest understanding of the region... I'd be the first to admit it, because people who pretend they understand it all are often the biggest problem. I prefer people with doubts, who question everything and try to get fresh points of view.

I'm trying my best... From your comment I take it you, unlike me, have it all figured out and can make heads and tails. Lucky man ! You're one of the very few, or... the only one so far : I suggest you become a Middle Eastern studies academic, because they're all still scratching their heads.

To defend my case, I try to use not only my brains but also my legs: came here, to Jordan, to Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, I meet people, Palestinian (Christian and Muslims), muslims and jews from everywhere, and I do read a lot... 

Thats more than a lot of people are prepared to do before becoming judgemental.

That being said, you should read carefully: words are important when reading. No one said refugees and settlers are the same. On the contrary, I tried to point out that they are not.

Let logic and reason take the place of passion, shall we ?

What is a REFUGEE ?

"A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.." (1951 UN Convention, amended protocol in 1967)

Examples: A Palestinian who was forced out of Palestine, an Iraqi political opponent in Europe, an Irani political opponent in Europe, a member of a Darfur tribe displaced to Chad, an Egyptian Jew come to Canada because the creation of Israel generated hatred against Jews, a Chilean leftist in the 70's, etc.

Your two paragraphs look like you've written them very fast and I'd really like to understand what you mean (if this is a dialogue, and not a contest in ego), because I am genuinely interested in this kind of dialogue:

You say Now for clarity I assume you talk about Israel. Why this statement ? I didn't talk about Israel doing any justice to anyone. You misread and it does not further any point. 

Your point about dictators is quite obvious and also unrelated to the issue at hand: the US resolution (not yet voted) on Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries.

As you've just read, in International Law, the region where refugees are hosted is irrelevant to the definition of what is a refugee, as long as it is not their country.

And to answer you: yes, there are Jews who left Arab countries because of the creation of Israel. 

You are right: Israel tried to attract them (it was its own interest). But most of them chose NOT to go to Israel, but rather to oter, western countries.

Following the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the status of Jews in Arab and Muslim countries changed dramatically. When virtually all of Israel’s neighbors declared or supported war on the Jewish state, approximately 850,000 refugees were forcibly expelled from their homes. Others became political hostages. In virtually all cases, individual and communal properties were seized and/or confiscated by governments without any compensation provided.

I agree that this resolution (Crowley resolution, n.185) comes at a very bad time for the peace process. It generates anger (you're the proof of that), and I believe it is the work of anti-peace process people with an agenda.

But unfortunately the principle is right. They're bad people but they're clever. You attack the principle, which is not the best way to tackle it.

To be a refugee rights advocate (as I've been for years), you can't favour one tye of refugee over the next, or your credibility is weakened.

To conclude, I believe right now Israel is the n.1 enemy of the reputation of the jews in the world, therefore the n.1 enemy of worldwide Jews, much as muslim terrorists are the n.1 enemy of peaceful Muslims in the world.

The Western world is starting to learn how to differenciate between muslims and terrorists. It's time the Muslim world learns to differenciate between Jews and Israelis.

I'm sorry to hear that this discussion is "scary" to you. You should never be scared of an open discussion.

There's a saying: "there's only one bigger fool that the one who pretends to know it all: the one who argues with him"

I discuss with you because I hope you are open to a calm and logical, no name-calling, discussion.

Lina, I love your blog, love debating, and love the complexity of your region. Keep it up 

Descartes | 04.13.08 - 10:51 am | #


I understand that none of the commentors above feel that Israel has any right to exist? Why should that be so?

Jordan has also had an import of population. The royal dynasty and its supporting tribes came to Jordan from the Hejaz. The creation of Jordan was very much done by the British, even more so than their involvment in the creation of Israel.

So tell me again: Why is it evident to you that Jordan is fine but Israel is the problem?
Ruth | Homepage | 04.15.08 - 6:15 pm | #


Dear Ruth,

One obvious answer is that the creation of Jordan did not expel local residents and create a refugee population.

In truth, I don't think that Israel had any legitimacy to be created by the UN in 1948, at a time when France and the UK were starting de-colonizing elsewhere.

More to the point, Israel has completely lost any legitimacy after it started to act illegally by occupying land and creating settlements.

The creation of a State that is "ethnically" based (a "Jewish State") is to me completely anachronic. In 1948, most jews in the world chose to stay in their homeland (Europe, America).

Plus, any definition of people by their "ethnicity", or alleged "religion" as defined by specific laws of the State, is extremely disempowering and against individual freedom, and equal rights.

I don't think that "Jordan is fine", by the way, far from it, and partly for the same reasons related to ethnicity-based laws, official religious discrimination, etc. I don't know if that answers your question.


That being said, there is an existing situation. There are three ways out.

ONE: the creation and consolidation of those two independent, autonomous, free States: Palestine with no blocade on one side, Israel on the other. This is very unlikely at the present time, and in the near future, and if/when this happens, it is very unlikely to be a lasting peaceful situation.

Two: violence. Either the current status-quo-generated violence or another string of all-out wars bringing coalitions on both sides. Eventually demographics could prove the Arab side stronger.

THREE: the creation of a united state, with equal rights for all, that would require years of nation-building and massive investments in school programs, economic development programs in the West Bank and Gaza. It has been done before, painfully in 19th century France, in reconciled South Africa, in the USA, in Spain...

Descartes | 04.16.08 - 1:13 pm | #


Muhammad, very smart post and the cynicism is painfully funny. 
The point here, Descartes, is that although Jewish refugees might have been “oppressed”, or even if you go as far as to take the terrifying magnitude of the holocaust before the supposed oppression into consideration, we find ourselves in a situation where the Palestinians have to pay yet again to clear the conscience of a guilt-ridden west, and the Israelis enjoying milking this guilt to their benefit. 

The Jewish refugees as you define them are irrelevant to the peace process and the ones who are, are not refugees, but settlers in Israel (it’s not a Jewish-Palestinian peace process). In both cases (with Palestinians escaping Palestine and Jews in the Arab World) the refugees were created due to the aftermath of the creation of the “Jewish” state of Israel. Yes I do agree that these should still be treated as refugees, if what you said is true, but this issue should be approached separate of the peace process, and the debate would have a considerably different tone. 

As for the options for resolving the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, I again think this is a different debate.
Anonymous | 04.17.08 - 6:07 am | #



Are you telling me that Israel is a French or British colony? 

The UN is currently the only possible source of creating legitimacy in international law. The other source is customary law. All thoughout history military victory gave legitimacy. Israel had to fight for its indepence and won.

So it has legitimacy on this account as well.

The creation of Poland in its current borders after WW2 expelled local residents (the Germans from Silesia) and created refugees (said Germans as well as Poles who fled the territories which were handed over to the Soviet Union). Therefore Poland lacks legitimacy according to your logic.

Your perception of what is “anachronic” does not seem to be widely shared. In the most recent past, new states were formed to accommodate ethnic groups. Chezchia and Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia and newest member of the family of states: Kosovo. So you have a lot of convincing to do to turn the wheel back on ethnically based states before you even get to Israel.

Today a majority of the world’s Jews live in Israel. Why should the year 1948 be the watershed? By the way you ignore the Jews from Arab countries who today make up more than half of Israel’s population.

There is no differnent law or citizenship for Israeli Arabs. Why do you think that the Israeli law is against indivual freedom and equal rights? Most European states are defined as nation states.

Whould you also say that Germany violates the rights of non-ethnic Germans by granting German citizenship according first to the bloodline and only second via naturalization?

I find it a non-sequitur that you dismiss the idea of two states for two peoples as unrealistic in the foreseeable future but endorse the idea of one country for two people. Surely this is even more unrealistic in the foreseeable future?

Could you possibly be morst interested in putting an end to the only existing Jewish state?

Ruth | Homepage | 04.17.08 - 8:49 am | #


Dear Anonymous and Ruth,

You make good points and the debate is becoming now more interesting. At least there doesn't seem to be major misunderstandings: you both absolutely understood my points. 

Anonymous: you are right, it shouldn't be a Jewish-Palestinian peace process. It should be an Israeli-Palesinian peace process.

But, unfortunately it has also become a problem for the Jews everywhere else (in that sense I said that Israel's policy became the n.1 enemy of the Jews).

I agree with all your points: this issue should be approached separate of the peace process, since it is a different debate. But it is not "irrelevant". Otherwise there would be no post by a Muhammad.

Timing is of the essence. By voting resolution 185, the US Congress is generating more frustration in the Arab world (as the original post shows), therefore harming the peace process.

Words are also of the essence. How many of us can sustain a whole debate without slipping and misusing words such as "Arab", Israeli, "Jewish", "Zionist", "Muslim" instead of the other ? 

Words are becoming blurred, and that is messing up the debate.

I recently read an article about the "Jewish lobby in the USA". In fact it was not about the Jewish lobby at all, not even the Israel lobby: it was all about the Zionist lobby, and the authors failed to see a distinction. How many care to be subtle and look closely ? How many know there are Arab Jews ? Anti-zionist Israelis ?


Dear Ruth,

We seem to have very different points of view, but at least you are very consistant in your remarks and understood mine well. 

I did not imply that Israel is a British or French colony. I said it was a creation of the UN, the very year the de-colonisation of Asia started (1947), soon followed by Africa.

In that sense, the colonization seems to me obsolete, anachronic and against the trend of History.

The UN is the only source of legality, true. But legality is not legitimacy. Israel has two problems: it acts illegally (occupied territories after 1967, despite the resolutions of the UN), that is a fact. 

But also, more subjectively and on a philosophical level, it seems illegitimate to me, 1) because of its nature as a "Jewish" state and 2) despite its UN legal creation, I refute the legitimacy to seize and colonize a foreign land.

In that sense, your examples are well-chosen. Poland's borders have never had any legitimacy, as you know, just like Palestine, Poland was part of an Empire, always partitioned by other powers: in 1807, 1815, 1919, 1939, 1945...

My definition of "anachronic" is not unanimously shared, it is true. But the creation of Kosovo or the current events in Belgium do not strike me as very good ideas. 

Mono-ethnicity is not, I think, a good vision for the future.

The trend of human history shows on the contrary that multi-ethnicity and multi-culturalism are virtually unstoppable. It's happening, It's already there, No walls or borders can stop it, not for long. All that ethnicity-based nationalism creates is more war.

On the other hand, you see prosperous open societies (as defined by philosophers Bergson and Karl Popper) in Europe and America, that are wide open to multi-culturalism. And the European Union is always unifying more. That, I think, is the future, rather than micro-states like Kosovo, who aim at mono-ethnicity.

Your point stating "There is no different law or citizenship for Israeli Arabs" is quite easy to refute: official discrimination based on religion, IDF conscription, freedom to travel to/fro Occupied Territories make them second-class citizens. Also, numerous laws regarding family and citizenship are religion or ethnicity-based (marriage, Aliyah...)

And obviously where are the equal rights in Palestine: from a legal point of view, any occupied land and its population is under the responsibility of the occupying power. The current map of Palestine is reminiscent of Banthoustans in South Africa...

To be fair, one has to say that 1) the freedoms enjoyed within Israel, including by Arabs, are far greater than in many Arab countries, and that 2) Arabs are represented in a fairly elected Parliament (Knesset), which is not the case for minorities in most Arab countries.

You claim that "a majority of the world’s Jews live in Israel", and I doubt that, also depending on what is your definition of a Jew.

That is an interesting subject, "who is a Jew" and also "what is a nation" ? You say "Most European states are defined as nation states."

You are absolutely right by naming Germany's traditional "bloodline" ancient nationality law (that has been changed, by the way, to be consistant with European standards).

This traditional German "race"-based definition of the nation was challenged and replaced in Europe by the modern definition in Political Science. A nation is neither a bloodline, nor a race, nor a language, nor a culture, nor a religion, nor is it defined by a geography. A nation is a "will to live together and share a destiny", as defined by Ernest Renan.

Finally, to conlude: you understood me right: I am interested in putting an end to States that do not clearly separate religion and Law, ethnicity and State, or favour one ethnic group above the others.

You can also include all Sharia-based states like Egypt and sibblings.

More importantly, all modern political philosophy stands against the official classification of citizens by race, colour or religion, as stamped on IDs and passports all through the Middle East. 

In the UK, or America, your passport says "American", it does not say "Christian" or "Muslim" or "Buddhist". And you can decide to change your religion.

Dismissing the two-state solution is actually "sequitur" and makes a lot of sense, for Jews and palestinians.

In 1999, Palestinian activist Edward Said wrote:
“…after 50 years of Israeli history, classic Zionism has provided no solution to the Palestinian presence. I therefore see no other way than to begin now to speak about sharing the land that has thrust us together, sharing it in a truly democratic way with equal rights for all citizens.” Now it's been 60 years.

Jewish advocates such as Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein, Illan Pappe also pleaded for a federal state.

What is more unrealistic is a two-state solution that has been pursued since 1947 and that created only war, since the very first day. The one-state solution has the merit of never having been tried, and of being philosophically consistent with existing modern states in the developed world.

Another interesting discussion you imply is "who is a Jew", and who decides who is a Jew: the individual himself (empowering posture, mine), or the community (the community of the Jews, the community of the anti-semites, etc). Is it a race, it is a religion ? I tend to think it is, and should be, no more than a religion, as I do not believe in racial classifications.

Descartes | 04.18.08 - 5:30 am | #