Jewish self-determination in Israel means racism, exclusion and oppression for Palestinians

Haneen Zoabi is a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a member of the Israeli Parliament (Knesset).

Israeli citizens who voted for her are likely to agree with her comment (as quoted in the Jerusalem Post’s Arab MK Zoabi: Jews not entitled to self-determination) that

“the Jews are not a nationality, so we cannot talk about self-determination for the Jewish people.”

These voters are largely Palestinian Arab citizens, who are today voting “in droves” to the consternation of Netanyahu. They agree with Zoabi, because to do otherwise means to acquiesce with their erasure as Palestinian Arabs from their own homeland.

Jewish citizens of Israel are likely to find her comment abhorrent, because it goes against the very fabric of their Zionist Jewish identity, though not of their existence as citizens of Israel.

Let me explain.

Palestinian citizens of Israel had been under military administration since Israel was established on part of Palestine in 1948 until just one year before the 1967 occupation.

As researcher Sarah Ozacky-Lazar says, Israel military administration of its Palestinian citizens

“penetrated all areas of civilian life and became a state instrument for political, economic and social control of the Arab minority.”

The political-national consciousness among Palestinian citizens of Israel has been on the rise since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 when they were able to intermingle with Palestinians in these territories.

In Israel, there is no such thing as an Israeli nationality — only citizens — Jews of varying origins and beliefs (who are the majority in Israel by virtue of the ethnic cleansing of most of the non-Jewish Palestinian population) plus non-Jews, with the largest minority comprised of the Palestinian Arabs who survived the ethnic cleansing and their descendants. The non-Jewish population of Israel is 25.2% (2016 est.).

The very definition and existence of Israel as a Jewish state has created and continues to create huge problems for Palestinians, those inside the Green Line as well as all other Palestinians in their various existential conditions — refugees, exiles, occupied, under siege — you name it. [See Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) for information on the ongoing aftermath of this Nakba].

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs published a paper by Daniel J. Elazar titled ‘Israel as a Jewish State’, in which he describes Israel’s Jewish character as follows:

… the tensions between the desire on the part of many Israeli Jews for Israel to be a state like any other and the desire on the part of others for it to manifest its Jewishness in concrete ways that will make it unique…

The Jewish polity is worldwide in scope but partially territorial. It is more than a state, although a state is an essential part of it. It is authoritative but only for those who accept citizenship within it. Many of its members share more than one political loyalty. It exists by virtue of a mystique, an orientation toward a future that looks to the redemption of mankind. Preeminently, the Jewish polity survives because of the will of its citizens and their active application of that will to carve out an area of autonomous existence in the midst of polities that would absorb or eliminate them. As it turns out, this is as true of Israel in its own way as it has been of the diaspora Jewish communities, just as it was true of all the earlier Jewish commonwealths.

The “autonomous existence in the midst of polities that would absorb or eliminate them [Jews]” as described above is what “self-determination” means in Zionist Jewish thought.

The Jewish polity dreads “elimination” [ethnic cleansing] but has no compunction in eliminating the indigenous people of a territory in order to establish the territorial part of the Jewish polity, which is “an essential part of it”.

Those Israeli Jews who desire for Israel to “be a state like any other “ would agree with Zoabi’s statement.

Haneen Zoabi is Palestinian, because that’s what she is by birth and heritage. Culturally, she is an Arab.

The Israeli government endows the terms “Arab” and “Jews” with the constructs of “ethnicity” and “nationality”. The “Arab” construct allows politicians, and indeed half the “Israeli” (often used to mean Jewish) population, according to one poll, to suggest the eviction or “transfer” of its Palestinian citizens to other Arab countries — i.e., to condone yet more ethnic cleansing. The sentiment is described in the poll as anti-Arab, when, in fact, it is anti-Palestinian. The territory of Palestine is the issue — not that of Egypt or Iraq or Tunisia or any other Arab country.

Conversely, according to this line of thinking, Jews worldwide are endowed, not only with a cultural tradition and ethnic status, but also with the status of belonging to a Jewish nation and nation state.

Accordingly, an American Jew, a national of the United States, for example, is entitled to become a citizen of Israel by virtue of his or her Jewishness. The indigenous Palestinian refugee or exile is denied his or her internationally recognized right of return.

To confuse the issue further, the Jewish Virtual Library in ‘ Are Jews a Nation or a Religion?’ brings religion into the mix:

Judaism can be thought of as being simultaneously a religion, a nationality and a culture

My family on my mother’s side are citizens of Israel. Displaced from their village of Ijzim (See a video here: “Before the Nakba, the Haifa village of Ijzim was one of the richest villages in Palestine…”), they now live in Haifa. They have every reason to agree with Haneen Zoabi’s characterization of Jewish self-determination, because it means Apartheid to them.

They were appalled and angry when a bill calling for Israel to be defined as a state of all its citizens, which was introduced by Zoabi and two more Joint List members of the Israeli Knesset, was summarily dismissed.

In unusual move, bill disqualified before being discussed on Knesset floor because it ‘seeks to deny Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people’

In that sense, Jewish self-determination in Israel means racism, exclusion and oppression for Palestinians.
Note: The above was first published (and then collapsed) on Quora at the following link:



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