Last updated on: 11/4/2015 10:30:51 AM PST
Should Israel Be a Jewish State?



PRO (yes)

Aryeh Spero, Rabbi and President of Caucus for America, in a Dec. 23, 2014 op-ed for The Jewish Press, titled "Yes, Israel Should Officially Designate Herself a Jewish State," wrote:

"Without a doubt, Israel should legally and officially identify as a Jewish nation state. It was founded as such, built as such, and its whole purpose is such... It was built by the Jewish National Fund. It was named Israel and not Palestine to demonstrate itself as a Jewish state...

The desire for Jewish nation status is not rooted in bigotry. Arabs and all people and religions will continue to have civil and religious rights. We are Jews and part of our Jewishness is making sure people are treated properly and share in the same day-to-day laws. Nor do we want a theocracy. But the anthem, flag, Law of Return, and definition must be Jewish. It is a democracy within that context.

We can never allow Israel to be a non-descript, non identifiable state that can, in the name of democracy, turn herself into an Arab, or bi-national, or vanilla-nothing state... Israel is not simply a state with a majority Jewish population, but a Jewish state.

If it is not an official Jewish state, sooner or later, the socialist laws will begin outlawing those things whose character is considered too Jewish and labeled 'offensive, non-inclusive, and intolerant'... the moment Israel no longer calls itself a Jewish state, 175 million Evangelicals worldwide will no longer be out there supporting her with passion. They are supporting a Jewish state, a state promised by God to the Children of Israel, not some non-descript state with simply a big Jewish population."

Dec. 23, 2014 - Aryeh Spero 



Morton A. Klein, MS, President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), in a Dec. 3, 2014 opinion piece for the Jewish Journal titled "ZOA Supports Israeli Bill Affirming Israel as Jewish State," wrote:

"It is historically, legally, politically and religiously the case that Israel is the Jewish nation-state... The Jewish homeland in which Israel today thrives and flourishes has been recognized for centuries by Bible-believing Jews and Christians - of whom there are well over a billion today - as holy land given to the Jewish people by G-d All Mighty…

Zionism is not just about Jewish statehood, it is also about the reconnection of the Jewish people with its biblical and religious homeland. That is why Zionist leader and Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, told the 1936 Peel Commission that 'Our Mandate is the Bible.' Israel is scarcely alone in describing itself as the state of a particular group, religion or ethnicity. In the same region can be found the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Despite the vicious discrimination against, and persecution of, minorities in these states, no-one has said that these states cannot affirm their national identity and purpose. Why then should Israel, the only Middle Eastern country that actually respects and protects minorities, not do so?"

Dec. 3, 2014 - Morton A. Klein 



Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn, MA, members of the Board of the Religious Zionists of America (RZA), in a Nov. 27, 2014 article for The Algemeiner titled "Why Israel Must Be a Jewish State," wrote:

"The core obstacle to Arab-Israeli peace has always been the refusal of both Arab regimes and the Palestinian Arab leadership to sincerely accept the permanent existence of a Jewish state… That is why formally defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people will send an important message to the Arab world that Israel, the Jewish state, is here to stay. If and when the Arabs finally accept this reality, peace will be possible…

Israel... was not created in order to be a purely secular Western state. It has uniquely Jewish features, and most of its citizens want it that way. The Jewish Sabbath is the official day of rest. The national language is Hebrew. The national culture is permeated with Jewish symbols, history, and memories. An official definition of Israel as a Jewish state is the natural corollary of this national consensus...

To facilitate the chances for peace and to advance the cause of national unity – while continuing to respect the equal rights of non-Jewish Israelis – it's time to call Israel what it really is, and was always meant to be: the nation-state of the Jewish people."

Nov. 27, 2014 - Benyamin Korn, MA 
Moshe Phillips 



Stephen Harper, MA, 22nd Prime Minister of Canada, in a Jan. 20, 2014 speech to the Israeli Knesset, a video and transcript of which is available from www.cbc.ca, titled "Video: Stephen Harper's Speech to the Israeli Knesset," stated:

"Jews have been present in Canada for more than 250 years... They are proud Canadians... They are also immensely proud of what the people of Israel have accomplished here… The understanding [is] that it is right to support Israel because, after generations of persecution, the Jewish people deserve their own homeland and deserve to live safely and peacefully in that homeland. Let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so… Our view on Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable."

Jan. 20, 2014 - Stephen Harper, MA 



Benjamin Netanyahu, MS, Prime Minister of Israel, in comments reprinted in a May 4, 2014 article in The Guardian, titled "Netanyahu Pushes to Define Israel as Nation State of Jewish People Only," available at the Guardian website, stated:

"The state of Israel is a Jewish and democratic state... The state of Israel provides full equal rights, individual rights, to all its citizens, but it is the nation state of one people only - the Jewish people - and of no other people...

Of course, there are those who do not want the state of Israel to be defined as the nation state of the Jewish people. They want a Palestinian nation state to be established alongside us and that Israel should gradually become a binational, Arab-Jewish state inside shrunken borders. But I simply say that one cannot hold the national stick at both of its national ends."

May 4, 2014 - Benjamin Netanyahu, MS 



Chuck Freilich, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, in an Apr. 3, 2014 article for The National Interest titled "Why Palestine Must Recognize Israel as a Jewish State," wrote:

"The Jews are unique, in that they are both a religious group and a people, a nation, with a right of self-determination. That is why we speak of the 'Jewish people', a Jewish nationhood, but not a Christian people, or a Muslim people. The Jews' right to a nation-state was recognized by the League of Nations and United Nations. Israel is and always will be the nation-state of the Jewish people. That is its raison d'être."

Apr. 3, 2014 - Chuck Freilich, PhD 



Yedidia Z. Stern, SJD, Vice President of Research at the Israel Democracy Institute, in a May 16, 2014 article for the Israel Democracy Institute, titled "A Jewish State Warrants Our Sacrifice," available at the Israel Democracy Institute website, stated:

"A Jewish state is indispensable because it allows the Jewish nation to blossom within its nation-state, permits the Jewish culture to thrive in the public sphere, and enables the Jewish religion to flourish as the Torah of the Land of Israel... A universal democratic state offers no added Jewish value beyond that which could be gained through a strong and self-confident Diaspora community. Should Israel choose to be content with a 'normal' democratic existence and renounce its Jewish distinctiveness, the demand that its citizens set aside their welfare on behalf of the country would be weakened. Our power and strength depend on our ability to endow Israel with meaningful Jewish content on the national, cultural, and religious planes."

May 16, 2014 - Yedidia Z. Stern, SJD 



CON (no)

Kai Bird, MS, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist, in a Dec. 25, 2014 op-ed for the New York Times, titled "Israel, a Jewish Republic?" wrote:

"Israel was never intended to be a theocracy... Twenty percent of its citizens are not Jewish, but rather Muslim, Christian and Druze. And this minority is growing. Furthermore, most of Israel's citizens who do claim Jewish ancestry are in fact secular, nonpracticing Jews. About 30 per cent of its million-plus Russian immigrants are not even recognized as Jewish by the Orthodox rabbinical courts. A Jewish nation-state law would discriminate against these non-Jewish citizens - but it could also provide the quasi-judicial pretext for denying Palestinians citizenship if the ultraright get their way and Israel someday annexes the occupied territories…

Over more than six decades Israelis have created a distinct national culture, largely based on their language - always a key ingredient to any national identity. And this cultural identity is wholly separate from mere religiosity. This definition of Israeli identity - one based on the Hebrew language and culture rather than religion - is a very good thing for the prospects of peace… His [Netanyahu's] insistence on a 'Jewish state' seems to be only a prescription for endless conflict with his 'Muslim' neighbors - and perhaps today a tactic to postpone further negotiations on the creation of a Palestinian state. The notion of a Jewish state is ultimately political poison for the Jewish Diaspora, and specifically for American Jews... talking about a 'Jewish state' destroys a useful and wise ambiguity. Instead, Israelis need to celebrate their 'Israeli' national identity."

Dec. 25, 2014 - Kai Bird, MS 



Patricia Marks Greenfield, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles, in a Sep. 26, 2014 op-ed for the Washington Post, titled "An Israel Equal for All, Jewish or Not," wrote:

"Over time, nations have become more ethnically and religiously diverse; populations have become more urban and educated; and economies have become more commercial. In response to these social and economic changes, many nations have left behind the notion of a favored state religion. It is time for Israel to do the same. It must be a fully secular state.

What was necessary for Israel after the Holocaust is no longer necessary and has even become counterproductive. As long as being Jewish holds such a preeminent place in Israel, then Muslim and Christian Arabs will always be second-class citizens, vulnerable to discrimination in housing, employment, education and other areas. Nor can Ethiopian citizens be truly equal so long as their Jewishness and religious heritage are called into question by powerful religious authorities...

Gaza and the West Bank may be separated from each other, but they are not separated from Israel. Given this reality, Gaza and the West Bank must inevitably become part of Israel; there can be no two-state solution. And Israel must leave behind its official Jewish identity to acknowledge its multiethnic, multireligious character by providing equal treatment for all… If Gaza and the West Bank were truly part of Israel, and Israel were truly a multiethnic, secular society, there would be progress toward peace."

Sep. 26. 2014 - Patricia Marks Greenfield, PhD 



Ali Abunimah, MA, Co-Founder of the Electronic Intifada, in an Oct. 3, 2014 interview with The Real News Network, titled "Does Israel Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State?" the transcript of which is available online at the Real News Network website, stated:

"I question the claim that the way for Jews to have security and to feel secure is through an exclusivist [Jewish] state that requires so much violence against the Palestinians. And it required immense violence to create it... And it requires immense violence to maintain it... one has to examine what are the dynamics, what are the structures, what are the realities that perpetuate conflict and bloodshed and hostility, and I would argue, and I do argue, that it is the effort to create and maintain an exclusivist state at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian population…

[T]he way to undo this hostility is through decolonization, is through going forward to a situation and, in a sense, returning to a situation where Jews and Palestinians can be part of the same entity, and to do away with this notion of Palestinians as a demographic threat."

Oct. 3, 2014 - Ali Abunimah 



Noam Sheizaf, Co-Founder and CEO of +972, in a Sep. 11, 2013 blog post titled "Why I Oppose Recognizing Israel as a Jewish State," available from 972mag.com, wrote:

"Even if Netanyahu's demand was genuine [Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state]… it should be opposed – not just by the Palestinians but also by Israelis. Because a 'Jewish' state – as opposed to a state whose culture is Jewish or is 'a national homeland' for Jews – will always be a racist, discriminatory state… Jewish identity cannot and does not wish to be inclusive… A state that sees itself as 'a Jewish State' is inherently an exclusive state, because a person cannot become Palestinian-Jewish or Muslim-Jewish. Almost 25 percent of Israeli citizens are not Jews… If Israel is a Jewish State, that means that every fourth person cannot – ever – assign themselves or be assigned the state's core identity. He or she will probably be discriminated against both formally and in practice, but more importantly, this person will be deprived of the symbolic meaning of citizenship in the nation-state model… There is no such thing as 'a Jewish and democratic' state; there never was and there never will be, unless you want to redefine what citizenship in a modern-day democracy means. But there could be an Israeli and democratic state… Israel can be a state whose culture is Jewish or the national home for Jews, but it cannot and should not be a state just for Jews."

Sep. 11, 2013 - Noam Sheizaf 



Sari Nusseibeh, PhD, Professor of Philosophy at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, in a Sep. 30, 2011 opinion piece for Al-Jazeera titled "Why Israel Can't be a 'Jewish State'," wrote:

"At least one in five Israelis - 20 per cent of the population... is ethnically Arab... and recognising Israel as a 'Jewish State' as such makes one-fifth of the population of Israel automatically strangers in their own native land and opens the door to legally reducing them, most undemocratically, to second-class citizens (or perhaps even stripping them of their citizenship and other rights)... a 'Jewish State' as such in Israel would mean legally that while Palestinians no longer have citizens' rights there, any member of world Jewry outside of Israel... should be entitled to full citizens' rights there, no matter wherever they may be in the world today and regardless of their current nationality."

Sep. 30, 2011 - Sari Nusseibeh, PhD 



Jamal Zahalka, PhD, a member of the Israeli Knesset (Balad Party - Arab), in a Feb. 17, 2007 interview with author Justin Podur for the Z-Net online political magazine, titled "A State of All Its Citizens," currently available at the Podur.org website, stated:

"Israel should be a state of all its citizens, not a state that belongs to one part of its population. Israel defines itself as a Jewish state. So, it's not our state. It's not just a question of definition or nature. It's a question of substance, structure, aims, goals, policies, laws …

The state should be the state of all its citizens, in equality. That's modern democracy, based on the equal human being, not the hierarchical human being... Israel is not a secular state - it has not even reached the point of separation of religion and state. You can't separate religion and state so long as the state is defined as a Jewish state… The Israeli structure is that the state is a Jewish state and there are minorities. We think the state should be empty - and there are Jews, and there are Arabs, and there can be others. Like, in principle, India. India is a secular state… neutral between religions, between groups. It doesn't belong to one of the religions."

Feb. 17, 2007 - Jamal Zahalka, PhD