Sunday, April 8, 2007

Shalom, Shin Bet

By Uri Avnery

"RECENTLY, THE CHIEF of the Shin Bet declared that the "Israeli Arabs", a fifth of Israel's population, constitute a danger to the state.

He requested permission for the General Security Service to act against anyone who aims at changing the official designation of Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state" - even if they use nothing but completely legal means.

It follows that In the view of the chief of the Security Service, a central figure in the Israeli leadership, the task of the Shin Bet (now commonly known in Israel as Shabak) is not only to protect the state from spies and terrorists, but also from any challenge to its ideological designation, like the KGB in the former Soviet Union and the Stasi in communist East Germany......

That brings us to the subject now raised again by the Shin Bet chief.

I attacked Ben-Gurion on many subjects: the total domination of all affairs in the country by the Labor Party (then called Mapai), the corruption that was then starting to infect the ruling class, the discrimination suffered by Jewish immigrants from Oriental countries, the religious coercion, etc.

But the pivot of this struggle was the definition of Israel as a "Jewish state".

What is a "Jewish state"? That was never made clear. A state whose citizens are all Jewish? A state that belongs to Jews only? The "state of the Jewish people", which also belongs to millions of Jews who do not live here and are citizens of the US, Argentina and France? A state ruled by the Jewish religion? A state that expresses Jewish values (and if so, which ones?)......

The term "Jewish state" is nebulous. It can be interpreted in several ways. When one adds the word "democratic", it becomes an oxymoron - if a state belongs only to a part of its population it is not democratic, and if it is democratic then it cannot belong to a part of its population, even if they compose the majority......

Activating the secret police to abort this process would mean turning Israel into a police state. Not a "democracy protecting itself", but, rather, a state protecting itself from democracy.......

When the State of Israel really belongs, practically and officially, to all its citizens, it will be much easier for the Arabs here to decide on their status. If they choose to belong to the Israeli nation, much as Hispanics in the US belong to the American nation, that will be fine. If they prefer the status of a national minority, they should enjoy the rights of such a minority in a modern state. Either way, the Arabic language and Arab culture must be fully recognized by the state. The affinity of the Arab citizens with the Palestinian people and the Arab world must be considered just as legitimate as the affinity of the Hebrew citizens with the Jewish people throughout the world......"


Avnery does not address the Palestinians' right of return nor justice for the Palestinian majority that was expelled when Israel was formed by force of arms. However, what does he mean by this paragraph:

"If Israel is an attractive country, natural increase will rise and many will knock on its doors, people who desire to join our nation. The Israeli nation - unlike the Jewish religion - can in principle absorb everyone who wants to belong to it."

So if and when the Palestinian refugee comes knocking on the door with the deed to his property in his hand, what is Avnery's position? And when several million Palestinians want to return to their home, will this contradict Avnery's hope when he says, "I HOPE that the State of Israel remains a state with a Hebrew majority, that the Hebrew language will remain its main language, that it will express the modern Hebrew society and its culture and also keep alive the Jewish tradition of generations past?"

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