Sunday, March 10, 2013

  • Sunday, March 10, 2013
  • Elder of Ziyon
The New York Times Opinionator column yesterdayis from Joseph Levine, professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He argues that Jews, as a people, have no right to a state.

The core of his argument:

So, when we consider whether or not a people has a right to a state of their own, are we speaking of a people in the ethnic sense or the civic one? I contend that insofar as the principle that all peoples have the right to self-determination entails the right to a state of their own, it can apply to peoples only in the civic sense.

After all, what is it for a people to have a state “of their own”? Here’s a rough characterization: the formal institutions and legal framework of the state serves to express, encourage and favor that people’s identity. The distinctive position of that people would be manifested in a number of ways, from the largely symbolic to the more substantive: for example, it would be reflected in the name of the state, the nature of its flag and other symbols, its national holidays, its education system, its immigration rules, the extent to which membership in the people in question is a factor in official planning, how resources are distributed, etc. If the people being favored in this way are just the state’s citizens, it is not a problem.

But if the people who “own” the state in question are an ethnic sub-group of the citizenry, even if the vast majority, it constitutes a serious problem indeed, and this is precisely the situation of Israel as the Jewish state. Far from being a natural expression of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, it is in fact a violation of the right to self-determination of its non-Jewish (mainly Palestinian) citizens. It is a violation of a people’s right to self-determination to exclude them — whether by virtue of their ethnic membership, or for any other reason — from full political participation in the state under whose sovereignty they fall. Of course Jews have a right to self-determination in this sense as well — this is what emancipation was all about. But so do non-Jewish peoples living in the same state.

Any state that “belongs” to one ethnic group within it violates the core democratic principle of equality, and the self-determination rights of the non-members of that group.

I conclude, then, that the very idea of a Jewish state is undemocratic, a violation of the self-determination rights of its non-Jewish citizens, and therefore morally problematic. But the harm doesn’t stop with the inherently undemocratic character of the state. For if an ethnic national state is established in a territory that contains a significant number of non-members of that ethnic group, it will inevitably face resistance from the land’s other inhabitants.
If we accept that Levine's arguments are correct, every single state in the Western Hemisphere, as well as Australia and others, have no right to exist - because there is a minority (no matter how small, in Levine's characterization) who are indigenous residents whose own self-determination is fatally wounded by the existence of these states.

Apparently, Levine he feels that only Jews are violating the rights of other peoples.

By Levine's definition, Kurds and Armenians and Tibetans and anyone else who wants to exercise self-determination would also be acting illegitimately if there is even a small group of people not belonging to those groups on the lands they claim.

In fact, if you follow his bizarre logic, while "of course Jews have a right to self-determination," in no practical way can that right be exercised. What kind of a right is it when it is hamstrung by definition?

Levine's logical fallacy is that one's right to self-determination is illegitimate if it happens to compete with anyone else's similar right. This is something he simply made up. A people's right to self-determination is independent of others' rights. Unless there is a new continent that is discovered, by definition everyone's rights to self-determination is going to interfere with others'.

Given this reality, what can a people who aspire to self-determination do? They grant the maximum rights possible to the minority population, without giving up on their own rights. The minority population can make a decision to live with these rights - and fight to increase them within a society that hopefully is democratic and tolerant - or, if appropriate, they can choose to move to an area where they are the majority and can practice their own rights to self-determination freely, similarly granting maximal rights to their own minority groups.

Levine is essentially engaging in a sophisticated form of anti-semitism, where by his definition only the Jewish people's rights must be subsumed to the rights of others; the others are not limited by any means that he sees fit to mention.

Also unmentioned by Levine is the small fact that every Arab country defines itself as either "Arab" or "Muslim" or both in their constitutions, thus being just as guilty as Israel of infringing on minority rights - and therefore being just as non-deserving of statehood.

Levine lets the veil fall from his own pretense of objectivity when he states
[I]f an ethnic national state is established in a territory that contains a significant number of non-members of that ethnic group, it will inevitably face resistance from the land’s other inhabitants. This will force the ethnic nation controlling the state to resort to further undemocratic means to maintain their hegemony. Three strategies to deal with resistance are common: expulsion, occupation and institutional marginalization. Interestingly, all three strategies have been employed by the Zionist movement: expulsion in 1948 (and, to a lesser extent, in 1967), occupation of the territories conquered in 1967 and institution of a complex web of laws that prevent Israel’s Palestinian citizens from mounting an internal challenge to the Jewish character of the state.
This statement is so a-historic, and so wedded to the anti-Israel narrative, that Levine's anti-Israel bias is revealed in all its ugliness.

Only the most rabid anti-Zionist claims that Israel forcefully expelled Arabs in 1948 in order to maintain a Jewish majority - in fact, the vast majority of Arabs fled on their own.

There were essentially no expulsions in 1967 to outside the territories.

Moreover, Levine absurdly characterizes the attacks on Israel from Jordan and Syria in 1967 as "resistance," which would be laughable if he weren't a professor at a prestigious institution.

Finally, Israeli efforts to maintain itself as a Jewish state - practicing that very same self-determination that Levine pretends that Jews have - is described negatively, a "complex set of laws" meant only to make Arabs into second-class citizens.

As the Arabs so, Levine is looking at everything Israel does through an anti-Israel lens, not even considering the idea that Jews indeed do have national rights on their historic homeland. Even worse, he does not admit that Israel bends over backwards to give rights to its Arab minority beyond those given in states where they are the majority. No, to Levine, Jewish nationhood (and apparently only Jewish nationhood) is inherently racist.

Sorry, but this is not a serious essay that advocates for equal rights. This is a hate-filled screed that is dressed up in academic garb. the NYT's decision to run this shows that they are easily seduced by quasi-academic arguments that are simply disguises for anti-Israel hate.

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