The Jewish State, by definition, rejects some and welcomes others into the fold.
In “Is Israel Racist?”, a reply to an anti-Semitic interviewer (he bailed), the emphasis was on demonstrating why Israel’s particularism is an extension of the individual’s right as a sovereign, discerning human being, for the freedom to include or exclude is not racist. Rather, it is the inherent right of free individuals, living severally or collectively.”
Jews are to be faulted only to the extent that they deny to other nations the rights they claim for the Jewish ethno-state.
Israel’s particularism, moreover, is not race-based, it’s religious.
As understood in the U.S., racism is more often concerned with discrimination based on distinct physical characteristics. It’s thus important to understand that Jews no longer constitute a race.
Before the two exiles of the Jews from Israel, the first in 586 B.C., I would hazard that Hebrews were likely genetically quite distinct. It is still not uncommon for a Jewish marriage of recessive genes to bring into phenotypical expression certain diseases unique to Jews.
Some scientists suggest there is a “genetic basis for a common ancestry of the whole of the Jewish population.” The Cohanim, descendants of Aaron of the priestly caste, certainly share distinct genetic markers.
Thousands of years hence, however, there are white, brown and black Jews in Israel. In fact, there are Jews from 100 countries, including Yemen, India, the Arab countries and Ethiopia.
In 1991, roughly 36,000 Ethiopian Jews were lifted to safety in a series of daring operations initiated by successive Likud governments, headed by Menachem Begin, heir to founding father Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s classical liberalism. It’s hard to imagine an American government doing the same, say, for the racially persecuted Christians of South Africa or Zimbabwe. At the time, Ethiopian Jews were being oppressed by a brutal Marxist-Leninist, Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam.
While Israeli Jews share a common faith—Judaism—in what way are they a race? Clearly, Israeli Jews are a variegated people – many look just like Arabs and vice versa. The charge of racism as we know it in the U.S. is no more than liberal lather, racial agitation as atavistic and base as the kind that unleashed violence on American cities, during 2020.
By all metrics, Israeli-Arabs are not shunned and “segregated” based on defining physical appearance. The accusation that roughly 18 percent of Israel’s more than 9 million citizens incur “institutional racism” doesn’t pass muster. The same deductive debunking applied to this concept in the column “Systemic Racism Or Systemic Rubbish?” applies in Israel.
Namely, from the fact that distinct racial and ethnic groups are reflected in academia and in the professions disproportionately to their presence in the larger population—it doesn’t follow that they have been disenfranchised. Discrimination is far from the only plausible explanation for the lag in the fortunes of certain homogenous groups.
While (unofficially) rejecting multiculturalism, Israel retains liberal, democratic institutions and accords equal rights and protections to minorities. Israeli Arabs have equal voting rights, freedom of speech, assembly and press, as is evident from the hate-filled Islamic journals that thrive in Israel. Israeli Arabs run for the Knesset, hold government posts, and serve on the bench. Israel is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote. Arabic is one of Israel’s two official languages.
The sole legal distinction between the Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to serve in the Israeli army, a perk, some would say. As such, they don’t qualify for veteran benefits and, I imagine, will not get work where military security clearance is required. On the other hand, as the Jewish Virtual Library points out, Israeli Arabs get a head-start in the economy while Jews are conscripted for three years.
In a bit of bafflegab, my Jew-hating interlocutor, to whom this column is a response, related that he had become outraged, after hearing about the woes of “Christian Jews.” His ire was over the fact that, as he put it, “a Jew cannot be a Christian and be considered a Jew.”
I suspect that by “Christian Jews,” my interviewer meant a Christian who immigrates to Israel and is barred from becoming a citizen of the Jewish State. But since my partner in conversation writes incontinently about Jews and claims to know his stuff—I will refrain from so charitable a reading, and simply say this:
Of course a Christian is not a Jew—in the same way that a Muslim is not a Jew or a Christian, and a Jew is not a Christian or a Muslim.
A is not B. If A is a Jew and B is a Christian, then the one is not the other and vice versa.
If a Jew wishes to be a Christian, he must undergo a religious process. The same applies to a Christian: If he wishes to convert to Judaism and be recognized as Jewish, he must complete an arduous conversion that entails both study and ritual.
You may convert to Judaism. You are not a Jew until you do. The tantrum over the un-inclusive nature of Judaism is reminiscent of the pronoun psychosis, which amounts to a nihilistic quest to break down the systems of classification bequeathed to us by the ancients.
More fundamentally, the world is filled with categories of discrete entities. To make sense of the world, we’ve ordered it in such a way. Comes the postmodernist progressive and tells us that there are no categories, everything is intersectional and fluid. How dare you deny me, a flesh-and-blood woman, the right to identify as a daisy. Or, the right of a girl to call herself a boy? Or, the right of a Christian to declare himself a Jew?
How dare you! Racist! Evil-doer! Denier (of something or another)!
That Israel arrogates to itself the right to decide who will join the polity enrages its enemies. They consider Israel an illegitimate entity in part because it is not a true multicultural state, but a Jewish state, to which only Jews have a right of return. There is no corresponding Palestinian right.
The selectivity with which the Jewish State confers citizenship is thus reflexively conflated with racism and “apartheid.” “Nazi” is another sobriquet favored by the far-gone left, which would prefer that its Palestinian protégés be masters in a failed state than a minority in a functioning one.
Nevertheless, there is a strong case to be made—based not on ethnic hate—against any Jew, left or right, who rejects the “Right of Return” to Israel proper of every self-styled Palestinian refugee, yet, at the same time, champions a global right of return to the U.S. for citizens of the world.
Oblivious to the logical and moral contradictions inherent in their special pleading—some Jews work toward rightist political prescriptions for Israelis; but leftist prescriptions for Americans.
These Jews insist that Israel is for the Jews, but America is for the World.
Any Jew who practices this ethical contradiction must be condemned, for promoting for England, America and Europe the national incoherence and multicultural morass he rejects for Israel.
Dedicated to my father, Rabbi Ben Isaacson, son of South Africa, who passed away on December 7, 2020, in his beloved South Africa.
* (Photo by Ahmad GHARABLI via Getty Images)