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The purpose of establishing Israel was solving the “Jewish question” and ending the persecution of Jews in Europe. However, that led to creating three other unsolvable problems.
The move, however, gave rise to various other issues, including the Israeli and Palestinian questions, the Arab perception of the West and tensions between Arabs and the West.
Israel was established 75 years ago based on the solution of the Zionist movement, a national solution to the Jewish question in Palestine. The Jewish crisis initially emerged in European countries where the Jews resided. Political and economic transformations at the time led to the displacement of Jews from their homelands and their resettlement in Palestine at the expense of the Palestinian people.
It is striking how the supposedly secular Zionist movement has used religion for mobilisation purposes by employing numerous myths, such as “God’s chosen people” and the “return of the Jews from the diaspora to the promised land.” The religious or mystical beliefs of the Jews consider Palestine “a land without a people for a people without a land.”
Jewish nationalism is inherently contradictory, as it attempts to align religious beliefs with modern political ideals. Nationalism and religion have never been synonymous, and no nation has previously based its entire national identity solely on religion.
While Judaism has unique characteristics, the development of a nation and nationalism requires a shared culture, history, geography and way of life. The Jews, however, originate from different countries, each with its own language, culture, history and national identity.
Today, almost 70 per cent of Israeli Jews were born in Israel. Israel has managed to create a society that has successfully reproduced itself, thanks to its “melting pot” policy. This policy has relied on the revival of the Hebrew language, the promotion of a religious narrative of history and the provision of a historical and “moral” justification for Israel’s establishment. Countless institutions, including the Israeli military, universities, the General Federation of Labour (Histadrut), political parties, the Kibbutzim, the Moshav, the Holocaust Museum, and newspapers, have played a role in implementing this policy.
The irony of Zionism lies in its success in creating Israel while simultaneously fading. As a result, the role of organisations such as the World Zionist Organization, the World Jewish Congress, and the Jewish Agency – that have historically lobbied for the creation of Israel – has ended or diminished significantly due to various transformations, including privatisation in Israel, the Likud policies, and the alliance between nationalist and religious extremist right-wing forces.
Zionism, as a political entity, has disappeared, and its product, Israel, has become the embodiment of the solution to the “Jewish question” in Europe. This solution has, however, given rise to a new issue: the “Israeli question.” It concerns the existence of the state of Israel rather than the existence of Israeli Jews set against the existence of Palestinians or Arab states. Israeli Jews are developing a unique identity that differs in cultural narratives, history, politics and lifestyle.
This identity distinguishes between Jews in Israel, “Yishuv,” and Jews in the diaspora, leading to debate about the true nature of the Jew. Are they religious or secular? Who has the right to determine Israel’s affairs, the Israeli Jew or the Jew living outside Israel? The debate also questions whether Israel is the only hub for the world’s Jews or simply one of several.
Instead of being a “solution state,” Israel has become a “problematic state,” with an Israeli civil identity emerging in contrast to a made-up religious Jewish identity. Rather than providing support and protection for Jews worldwide, Israel has become a political, security, economic and moral burden on Jews and their supporting countries.
One of the main reasons for the Israeli question is the failure to establish a purely Jewish state, resulting in a “binational” Israeli-Palestinian state. Moreover, Israel does not conform to its status as a democratic state, as it implements discriminatory measures against Palestinians based on their religion.
Opting for religious instead of secular Zionism has exacerbated discrimination against Palestinians and limited the space for secular Jews, who find themselves in a religious state. This tendency is reflected in the masses currently taking to the streets in Israel against Netanyahu’s extremist right-wing government that is attempting to confiscate democracy while simultaneously reinforcing Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.
The Palestinian question is rather complex and requires an understanding of its demographics. Palestinians who remained on their lands during Israel’s establishment now comprise 24 per cent of Israeli citizens, preventing Israel from becoming a purely Jewish state. Their struggle against discrimination has exposed the limits of Israeli democracy and its racist nature.
Additionally, Palestinians residing in the Palestinian territories live in the shadow of the Israeli occupation. Their struggle has garnered worldwide sympathy and exposed Israel for the colonial, racist and religious state it is.
Palestinian refugees and their right of return represent another major obstacle to normalising Israel’s presence in the region. The issue prevents the achievement of a settlement that reduces the Palestinian cause to the 1967 Israeli occupation. Here, it is important to note that the refugees and their narratives form the basis of contemporary Palestinian identity and nationalism.
Moreover, there is the issue of how Arabs perceive the West. Israel has become a political, moral, security and economic burden on Western countries.
From most Arab citizens’ perspectives, it is impossible to see the West without considering its support of Israel, thereby complicating the establishment of healthy relationships. For Arabs to reconcile with their surroundings, it is necessary to shape their perceptions of the West more objectively. This, in turn, will lead to a more stable and peaceful world.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen’s congratulatory statement on Israel’s 75th anniversary presents a recent example of what stands in the way of a healthy Arab perception of the West. While she spoke of the Jewish people fulfilling their dream of establishing a state in the promised land, she overlooked the tragedy of the Palestinian people that resulted from the Nakba. While praising Israel for having a “vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East,” she ignored the country’s many documented violations of Palestinian rights.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of our writers. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Fanack or its Board of Editors.