Demanding Recognition of Israel as “Jewish State” as a Tool against Palestinian Rights
The past months have witnessed a debate about the discriminatory nature of several Israeli laws, including with regards to the pre-1948 property as well as citizenship. This includes settler’ attempts to evict Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan as well as the separation of 45,000 Palestinian families. Alongside reports from leading human rights organizations, this debate has brought the issue of Israel’s discriminatory approach and policies to the core problem, that the main target of such racist legislation is Palestinians, in occupied Palestine, including occupied Jerusalem, Israel proper, and in the diaspora and exile.
This FAQ answers keys questions that help understand Palestine’s position on Israel’s demand to be recognized as a “Jewish State.”
1. What does a “Jewish State” mean?
There is no one definition for what a “Jewish State” means politically or religiously. Just like any other state defined by the religion of one particular group, a “Jewish State” implies discrimination and racism against those who are not part of the same group. Currently, the “Jewish Nation-State Law” is the only Israeli law that provides a legally binding definition of “Jewish State.”
2. What does the “Jewish Nation-State Law” specify?
This basic law, which fails to mention the word “equality”, doesn’t define any borders for the state. It specifies that the “right to national self-determination” in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people, that all of Jerusalem is the “capital of Israel,” and that Jewish settlements are a “national value.” There is neither a reference to the rights of the indigenous Arab Palestinian minority within the State of Israel nor the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory. It’s a law drafted to provide constitutional support for an institutional system of discrimination that perpetuates policies and practices of Jewish supremacy throughout historic Palestine.
3. Is the “Jewish Nation-State Law” Israel’s only discriminatory law?
Israel can either be Jewish or democratic. At best, it can be “democratic” for Jews and “Jewish” for the Palestinian people. Defining the state as “Jewish” will always present institutional discrimination against the indigenous Palestinian population. This is the only conclusion that can be made based on the Palestinian people's experience under this system. As the Deputy Mayor of the Israeli Jerusalem Municipality Fleur Hassan explained, “This is a Jewish country (…) there’s only one. And of course there are laws that some people may consider as favoring Jews – it’s a Jewish state”. However, the reality is much harsher than “some people” considering this as merely discriminatory: it is about an ongoing process of persecution and well-documented ethnic cleansing policies being conducted in the name of preserving Israel as a “Jewish state.”
5. Did Israel ask any Arab country to recognize it as a “Jewish State”?
No, Israel’s demand to be recognized as a “Jewish State” has only been made to Palestine. But not only that. Israeli politicians have brought many other obstacles to prevent concluding an agreement with Palestine. An example is the case of property of Jewish citizens in Arab countries, noting that it has not been included in any of the six recent normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries.
6. What is Israel seeking by demanding Palestinians to recognize Israel as a “Jewish State”?
Israel’s Jewish supremacist approach does not start with racist legislation and crimes on the ground but with the very narrative that Palestine was a “desert” void of a people for a “people without a land.” Israel seeks Palestine to recognize their narrative that treats Palestinians as intruders or strangers in their homeland while legitimizing Zionist colonization and ethnic cleansing policies. It aims to pre-empt any just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue based on the internationally recognized parameters of international law and UN resolutions while at the same time requesting Palestine to legitimize a system of institutional discrimination and Jewish supremacy also referred to as Apartheid against 1.8 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, equivalent to over 20% of Israel’s population, and all other Palestinians living under Israel’s military control.
7. Shouldn’t Palestinians consider recognizing Israel as a “Jewish State” in exchange for Israel’s recognition of Palestine?
Palestine’s committed vision for peace is one where the rights to freedom, justice, security, and equality are granted for everyone, primarily including the long overdue inalienable rights of the people of Palestine. This means the rights of every Palestinian and not just those living within the borders of the State of Palestine. Recognition of Israel as a “Jewish State” contradicts this commitment. At the same time, the State of Palestine, as a matter of practice, does recognize states as they are registered in the United Nations and not based on any kind of internal dynamics, ideology, or religion. A “mutual recognition” means Israel’s recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border just as the PLO officially recognized their state in 1993.
8. Historical Context: What happened on 12 July?
Between 10- 12 July 1948, the historic cities of Lydd and Ramleh, strategically located between Jerusalem and Jaffa, fell to Israeli troops. Both cities were part of the Arab Palestinian State according to UNGA Resolution 181, yet they were invaded as part of the Dalet Plan. A massacre was committed, and Israeli officers gave orders for the mass expulsion of the inhabitants of both cities. Approximately 60,000 people were forcibly expelled in what became known as the “march of death” due to the number of people killed in the process. Most of the refugees made their way to the Ramallah area, and many continued towards Jordan. Less than 3,000 Palestinians remained in both cities.
Last May, the cities of Lydd and Ramleh went back to the headlines due to the vicious and violent attacks carried out by Zionist extremists, protected by the Israeli police, against Palestinian citizens. Such events also took place in other “mixed cities” in Israel, including Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre (Akka). At the core of the peaceful demonstrations conducted by Palestinian citizens was the demand for full equality, which is rejected by those who defend Israel as a “Jewish State.”
 A plan to ethnically cleansed “strategic” areas of Palestine, including the road between Jerusalem and Jaffa.