Thursday, September 23, 2010

Does Israel Have a Right to Exist?

As Israel and Palestine continue their peace talks, I find myself thinking about two questions. The first is, “Does Israel have a right to exist?” My answer is “yes.” The second is, “Why does Israel have a right to exist?” Here things get more murky.

There is a tendency among some to delegitimize the State of Israel. According to the Reut Institute of Tel-Aviv, deligitimization “exhibits blatant double standards, singles out Israel, denies its right to exist as the embodiment of the self-determination of the Jewish people, or demonizes the state.”

What do you make of linking Israel’s right to exist to its being “the embodiment of the self-determination of the Jewish people?” If statehood depends on self-determination, should any people hungry for self-determination get a state? Many of us believe the Palestinians have a right to self-determination and a state, but what about the Navaho, the Cherokee, the Basque people, or the Kurds? Should Spain and Iraq consider a two-state solution?

Or is talk of self-determination a distraction from the simple fact that might makes rights? A state has a right to exist commensurate with its ability to secure and defend its chosen borders. In 1948 Israel’s UN backed right to exist would have disappeared within days if not hours had she not been able to resist the invasion of Arab troops. Rights come from the barrel of a gun (or from a barrel of oil as in the case of some states). Even if you imagine that God determines the fate of peoples and states, the only way we know what God desires and which states God favors is to see which people is left standing after the dust of war settles.

Whether we opt for sociology or theology it always comes down to guns. The only reason an independent Canada exists is because the fledgling US lacked the power to conquer it. The only reason the South Western states are a part of the US is because the US did have the power to take them from Mexico. Israel has a right to exist as long as she can defend herself successfully against those who would conquer her. I am not comfortable with this notion, but I don’t see any other way to justify the existence of any state.

So what do you think? Where does a state’s right to exist come from? Is a state’s right to exist the same as a people’s right to exist? How does your answer to these questions impact your thinking about American foreign policy, and Israeli policy toward Palestine, America, and Iran?

10 comments:

The Right to Write said...

In a sense a state exists because it can defend itself and therefore continue to exist. As you said, Canada whould be a part of the US had she not repulsed two US invasions during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

But in another sense, a state has a right to exist if the people who are governed by it see themselves as having a stake in it, and see it as serving their interests and providing for their security.

As we saw during the fall of Communism, once the people take away their consent, a state can die.

Israel is in a similar bind. It needs to find a way to be both Jewish and democractic; it needs to look for ways to solve some of its difficult social and territorial issues. Ultimately, that is what will give Israel the 'right' to exist: That it serves its people, all of them, well and justly.

Otherwise, consent can be taken away. This could be a bigger problem than any outside threat.

Old Lady said...

Many years ago, as a pre-teen, a school assignment was to proffer our opinions regarding the state of Israel. I had read Exodus and was emotionally involved with the premise of the tribes of Israel "coming home" to live in peace. It was a beautiful feeling to feel, so my capricious opinion was that the land should be ceded to the Jewish people. My reasoning was based on bible teachings from Sunday School and the atrocities of the Holocaust. I thought the "Arabs" should back off as there was plenty of land to go around.

Fast forwarding oooooooooh 50 years, I have learned more studying history, current events and I believe I understand what the fight is about. Despite the individual circumstances surrounding any global or local altercation (rally cry) we all inherit through death and violence.

I don't think the whole world needs to be homoginized. I think ethnicity and culture make us beautiful and we are bound by our differences. Without religion, we would not have government. I think the two are inexorably bound.

To borrow from the Buddahist, Balance is the Key. Balance.

e2 said...

Where does a state’s right to exist come from?

Certainly not the United Nada.

Is a state’s right to exist the same as a people’s right to exist?

Sure-Sure.

How does your answer to these questions impact your thinking about American foreign policy, and Israeli policy toward Palestine, America, and Iran?

Americans should mind their own fledgling business or else The West will have a right not to exist. I think the developing Israeli-East Asian cooperation is a timely navigational alternative.

Rabbi Rami said...

Interesting comments, thanks. E2, can you tell us more about the "developing Israeli-East Asian cooperation"?

E2 said...

can you tell us more about the "developing Israeli-East Asian cooperation"?

The Indo-Subcontinent-Greater China are well aware of what's non-existent on Mainstream US radars.

Free said...

You conveniently leave out the fact that the founding of the Israeli state came without the Jews having an army.

The UN "gave" away land that Britain had taken from the "Arabs" and gave it to the Jews.

The Jews used guilt to get the USA and others to support that action.

E2 said...

Speaking of Not-So-@Free [whose profile is non-existent] and related Euro-American Imperialist-Guilt:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdlpeaKxUWo

andrea perez said...

I've listened to the arguments about Israel's right to exist all my life. What doesn't seem to make any sense to me is the idea that Israel somehow was a pity gift and the Arabs suffered. The ownership of the entire Middle East has been debated for thousands of years. Where does one claim begin and another end? Does the region belong to Rome? Greece? Ancient Egypt? the Assyrians? The Persians? the Ottoman Turks?the European Christians?the Northern Kingdom? the Hittites? the Israelites? Who owns the place...it seems to me that whoever is holding it at present is the owner...and that includes the entire region. There wasn't an independent Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Palestine,,,the whole area was divided up when the Ottoman's and the British and the French lost control...So why is it only Israel's right to exist that seems to be the constant question? It' really hard trying to separate this from anti-semitism...But then, why in the 21st century, are we still debating whether theocracies have a right to exist at all? What's wrong with the water over there? Between sharia law and a Jewish homeland, what's the difference? All of us are calling for our "god" to be in control and that makes about as much sense as this constant tribal fighting. When will we finally figure out a way to make it work instead of yelling about who has a right to exist. They all EXIST: get over it already and start finding a way to live.

Barry said...

I'm with Andrea. A state exists because it is there. It's way too late to argue a "right to exist." You can't go back. California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are not ever going to be part of Mexico again, either.

E2 said...

@Barry Your comment about former Mexican territories really sobered me up, which lead me to wonder:

If nations think other nations don't have a right to exist, why don't they try and not make the nations exist, then. Agressive Instigators are itching for a confrontation, so prepare accordingly, I suppose.

"We have us a night-fight. We won't be bothered." - Vernita Green vs. The Bride Kill Bill