Wednesday, January 23, 2019

  • Wednesday, January 23, 2019
  • Elder of Ziyon


Yousef Munayyer, a BDS activist for the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, wrote an absurd op-ed that The Forward naturally felt had merit.

Here's his main argument:

The truth is that no state has a “right to exist” — not Israel, not Palestine, not the United States. Neither do Zimbabwe, Chile, North Korea, Saudi Arabia or Luxembourg have a “right to exist.”

States do exist; there are about 200 in our world today, even though there are thousands of ethno-religious or ethno-linguistic groups.

And these states don’t exist because they have a “right” to. They exist because certain groups of people amassed enough political and material power to make territorial claims and establish governments, sometimes with the consent of those already living there and, oftentimes, at their expense.

Most people understand this. I’ve never heard anyone demand to know whether Switzerland, or even the United States, has “a right to exist.” States come and go over time; borders can change, names can change, regimes can change and yes, discriminatory systems underpinning regimes can change, too. But one state demands to be beyond reproach through a mythical “right to exist”: Israel.

Can you imagine asking indigenous Americans and indigenous rights activists — fighting for the rights of a population whose languages, societies, culture and possessions were categorically decimated in the process of erecting the United States — whether the United States has a “right to exist”?

That you can’t imagine this is testimony to the disingenuousness of the question. For this question is asked — almost always of critics of Israel’s policies — not for the purposes of debate and discourse, but rather, to create a gotcha moment, to undermine the credibility of the person questioned.

It is intellectually dishonest and intended, almost always, to silence critics and criticism of Israeli policies.

This is an amazing twisting of the truth.  Israel is the only nation whose right to existence is regularly questioned, and Munayyer twists this into making it sound like only Israel insists on the right to exist!

Munayyer's assertion that no state has the right to exist is flat out wrong. The concept of a nation's right to exist pre-dates Israel, as Wikipedia notes:

The  right to exist is said to be an attribute of nations. According to an essay by the nineteenth century French philosopher Ernest Renan, a state has the right to exist when individuals are willing to sacrifice their own interests for the community it represents.
... Proponents of the right to exist trace it back to the "right of existence", said to be a fundamental right of states recognized by writers on international law for hundreds of years.... The phrase gained enormous usage in reference to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. "If Turkey has a right to exist – and the Powers are very prompt to assert that she has – she possesses an equally good right to defend herself against all attempts to imperil her political existence," wrote Eliakim and Robert Littell in 1903. In many cases, a nation's right to exist is not questioned, and is therefore not asserted.
That last sentence demolishes Munayyer's core argument. (The Wikipedia article goes over other states and aspiring states that assert a right to exist, including "Palestine," which also demolishes his argument that only Israel insists on that right.)

Does anyone question Israel's right to exist? Um, yeah. Every day. Including Munayyer's BDS buddies like Omar Barghouti.  But proof of Israel's right to exist can be seen, ironically, from Yasir Arafat:

 In 1993, there was an official exchange of letters between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Arafat, in which Arafat declared that "the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid."
The unquestioned Palestinian leader admits that he did not agree for most of his life that Israel has the right to exist, and then he claimed he accepted that right.

Munayyer is disproved by the leader of the Palestinians that he claims he is supporting.

But, since Munayyer declares the question of Israel's right to exist to be a "bullshit question," let's cut through the bullshit.

When people talk about Israel's right to exist, it implicitly means Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. That is, of course, Israel's purpose, to be a refuge for Jews around the world. (Arafat, of course, tried to thread the needle by saying he accepts the State of Israel but not its purpose.)

Munayyer emphatically rejects that right of a Jewish state to exist.

Asking the question whether Israel has the right to exist isn't a "gotcha" question - it is a question asking whether the Jewish people have the right of self determination, like all other peoples, and can say that Israel fulfills that right.  Those who answer "no" are antisemites, and their refusal to accept Israel's existence is proof of their bigotry.

That is what Munayyer objects to. The question that he refuses to answer reveals that he, and the people on his side, are bigots.

It isn't intellectually dishonest to ask that question - it is intellectually dishonest to refuse to answer.



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