THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, USA

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Volume XI, Issue # 191, November 4, 2009
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor
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ISRAEL & THE FAMILY OF NATIONS:
A BOOK REVIEW
By Seth J. Frantzman

ISRAEL'S RIGHT TO EXIST AS A SOVEREIGN NATION-STATE:  WHO IN THE WEST CHALLENGES THE RIGHT OF THE MIDDLE EASTERN JEWISH STATE TO EXIST?  THE RISE OF ANTI=SEMITISM IN ACADEMIC CIRCLES & STUDENT MOVEMENTS THROUGHOUT THE WESTERN WORLD -- A ROBUST ACADEMIC REFUTATION OF LATTER-DAY, "INTELLECTUAL" ANTI-SEMITISM & ITS CALLS FOR THE ABOLITION OF ISRAEL
FULL STORY:   It is one of the great shames of the modern world that there is still a question as to whether Israel has a right to exist in its present form or any form at all. Despite the relative insecurity of the country militarily, this problem was absent during the first twenty years of Israel's existence. The actual threat to Israel's survival by the Arab armies meant that, on an intellectual and international level, there were fewer calls for its destruction, at least outside of the Arab and Muslim world. With the exception of some radical voices in the West, such as historian Arnold Toynbee's 1961 comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany, there were relatively few intellectuals in the West that called for the destruction of Israel or attempted to undermine its foundations as a Jewish, democratic state.

Recent years have seen a rise, in academic circles and student movements throughout the Western world, of a general cultural shift against the existence of Israel. From the ivory tower, a constant stream of relatively unscholarly and angry works have been issued by such academics and writers as Noam Chomsky, Tony Judt and Edward Said, some calling for a bi-national state, a code word for the abolition of Israel. But the fringe, consisting of such works as Jonathan Cook's Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East [1] and Alan Hart's Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, [2] is bolstered by a constant assault by some within international organizations, such as the U.N.'s special envoy Robert Serry and the U.N. Human Rights Council's Richard Falk, who have openly denounced Israel.

In response, recent years have seen the publication of several popular works such as Alan Dershowitz's Case for Israel [3] and Yaacov Lazowick's Right to Exist. [4] These follow in the footsteps of Chaim Herzog's Who Stands Accused: Israel Answers Its Critic. [5] But there has been a gap in robust academic refutations of the accusations against Israel. Alexander Yakobson and Amnon Rubinstein's Israel and the Family of Nations: The Jewish Nation-State and Human Rights (London and New York: Routledge, 2008, 256 pp.) is a brilliant effort to fill that gap. Alexander Yakobson, a lecturer in the humanities at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has lectured and written on such diverse themes as elections in the Roman Republic, European academic boycotts of Israel, and Israeli democracy. Amnon Rubinstein, a much better known figure in Israel, has a doctorate from the London School of Economics and was the Dean of Faculty and Professor of law at Tel Aviv University. Currently, he is the Provost and Dean of the Radzyner School of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. In addition, he has served in a variety of capacities in the Israeli government, including that of Minister of Education from 1993-96. Most importantly, for any book that defends Israel, Rubinstein is a respected man of the Left. Given his credentials as a leading member of the dovish and Leftist political party, Meretz, he is in an excellent position to defend the country on moral and intellectual grounds.

The methodology of Israel and the Family of Nations is not dramatically different from Dershowitz's attempt to defend Israel by providing a case by case examination of the accusations against it. This is, at one and the same time, a strength and weakness of the book. While it is absolutely necessary to defend Israel based on the accusations against the country, it also gives the accusations greater substance and means that the authors must present the entire research as a refutation. But none of this would be necessary in a world that accorded Israel the same rights and responsibilities that other nations are accorded, and this is the central point the authors are trying to make.

Yakobson and Rubinstein provide readers with six chapters devoted to answering five questions or responding to five accusations: Can Israel be both Jewish and truly democratic? Is the Israeli law of return unique? Is the nexus between Israel and the Jewish diaspora an exceptional one? How can a nation-state be a state of all its citizens? Along the way, the authors discuss more extreme libels against the Jewish people and Israel, such as the idea that the Jews are not a people at all or that Israel is a "colonialist" state.

Israel and the Family of Nations begins by addressing the U.N. partition plan passed on November 29, 1947. The authors have chosen to begin here not only because this is the plan that led to the creation of Israel, but also to show that "the debate that has gained momentum in recent years over the legitimacy of Israel's definition as a Jewish state usually ignores a basic fact: The 'Jewish State' is what the international community decided to establish in 1947." Here, the reader is introduced to intrigues behind the U.N. vote and the way in which it established the legal basis for the existence of Israel.

In recent years, it has become common for mainstream commentators and professors to accuse Israel of being a "colonialist European" state whose origins are in the "bad old days" of colonialism and which must thus be destroyed the way other colonial "settler" regimes were destroyed, such as in Algeria. Yakobson and Rubinstein note that "to label something 'colonialist' is to imply that it lacks all legitimacy." Here, the authors correctly note that the Zionist movement as a national movement was unique and that its relationship with the British government, rather than being an arm of that government, distinguishes it from other European colonial attempts. Unlike other colonies, where Europeans from the mother country sent settlers to the colony, the Zionist settlers were not from the mother country and represented an independent, national movement sometimes allied with and sometimes at odds with the colonizing power.

The second theme of the book, and probably the most important and original section of it, deals with the question of whether Israel can be both a Jewish and a democratic state. It also deals with the question of the rights of the Arab minority and whether the definition of the country as a Jewish nation-state, with a Star of David on the flag and a national anthem that speaks of a "Jewish soul," can truly represent them. Here, Yakobson and Rubinstein are at their finest, reaching a crescendo by providing nineteen pages of examples from constitutions throughout the world that not only speak of nation-states with a state religion and ethnicity, but also speak of special rights for diasporas. The reader is faced with the weight of facts showing that numerous countries throughout the world, in totality probably the majority, share many things in common with Israel. Whether it is Armenia's relations with its diaspora or the position of the Catholic Church in Latin America, one sees clearly that Israel is not unique and that attempts by scholars, activists, and international organizations to label Israel as ipso facto an anachronism, a "racist" state that is based on ethnicity and religion and therefore undemocratic and out of step with history, are simply based on ignorance.

Israel and the Family of Nations is a timely and necessary book. It is scholarly, but accessible. and should provide a basis for intelligent debate about Israel and for defending its institutions and foundations.

NOTES:
[1] London: Pluto Press, 2008.

[2] London: World Focus Publishing, 2005.

[3] Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley and Sons, Inc, 2004.

[4] New York: Doubleday, 2003.

[5] New York: Random House, 1978.


LINKS TO RELATED TOPICS:
Israel & the Arabs -- The Israeli-Arab Conflict

Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors

American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East

Islamism & Jihadism -- Radical Islam & Islamic Terrorism
Page Three    Page Two    Page One

International Politics & World Disorder:
War, Peace, & Geopolitics in the Real World:
Foreign Affairs & U.S. National Security

   Page Two    Page One

Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.

Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization

Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies

U.S. National Security Strategy



Seth J. Frantzman is a doctoral candidate in Historical Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He writes a column for The Jerusalem Post. He blogs at http://journalterraincognita.blogspot.com.


The foregoing book review by Seth J. Frantzman was originally published in the Middle East Quarterly, Fall, 2009, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis--vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (Article URL: http://www.meforum.org/2494/israel-and-the-family-of-nations)


Republished with Permission of the Middle East Forum
Reprinted from the Middle East Forum News
mefnews@meforum.org (MEF NEWS)
November 4, 2009




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