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Israel Was Right To Define Itself As A Jewish State

Dear Editor,

I must, with respect, differ from my friend Alan Dowty, who argued against defining Israel as a Jewish State. While I strongly disagree with much of the recently Knesset-passed Nation-State Bill, especially its denigration of the role of the Arabic language in Israel and its claim that a united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel — a provision that makes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict almost impossible — its emphasis on Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is much more defensible.

The failure of the Palestinians to explicitly accept Jewish self-determination raises serious questions as to their willingness to have a long-term peace agreement with Israel. I have attended numerous academic conferences with Arab colleagues from around the Arab world, and I have had long discussions with the top Palestinian leadership, and I have found that despite 70 years of Israel’s existence, the Arabs still tend to see Jews as a religious group rather than as an ethnic-national group.

Adding to the problem is the fact that under Islam, Judaism has a clearly second-class status. Thus the unwillingness of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jews raises major questions as to whether they indeed recognize the legitimacy of Israel, thus making peace much more difficult to achieve.

Sincerely, Robert Freedman

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