Why “Greater Israel” is anti-Zionist

Mike Huckabee, Yisroel Beitenu, and the Muslim Brotherhood agree in opposing the maintenance of a democratic, Jewish state in the Land of Israel.

A commenter on my post about Mike Huckabee’s support for ethnic cleansing in Greater Israel correctly notes that the problem arises in the first place only because Israel – against the advice of ben-Gurion, among others – chose to occupy the West Bank after the 1967 war. Jews are a solid majority in pre-1967 Israel, but not in the combined territory. So the one-state solution is inconsistent with the existence of a state that is both democratic and Jewish.

There are three ways to resolve the problem:

– a two-state solution, leaving a democratic, Jewish-majority state within the 1948 borders. This would be my preferred outcome.

– a one-state solution without expulsion of the Arabs and with majority rule. That state might be democratic, at least for a while, but would not be Jewish, and probably would result in the subjugation and eventual expulsion of the Jews. This is the Muslim Brotherhood’s preferred outcome.

– a one-state solution that either denies voting rights to enough Arabs to maintain a Jewish voting majority or expels enough Arabs to maintain a Jewish voting majority. This is the preferred outcome of Yisroel Beitenu and Mike Huckabee.

Neither denial of voting rights nor expulsion is a consistent with democratic principles. If you think of Zionism as a movement to establish and maintain a Jewish, democratic state in Israel, the Yisroel Beitenu position that Huckabee endorsed is therefore profoundly anti-Zionist. The fact that the loudest-mouthed “Zionists” in Israel and the U.S. don’t find it offensive is the reason why lots of us no longer identify with what now passes for “Zionism.”

Even within the old borders, of course, the position of the Arab minority is not nearly as rosy as supporters of Israel imagine it to be. The Army is in many ways the central social institution in Israel; the army unit you served in is more central to your identity, and more important in career terms, than the university you graduated from. The exclusion of Israeli Arabs from the IDF thus means that they are not, in practical terms, granted equal citizenship with Israeli Jews. But that problem is potentially soluble in the context of a stable peace in a two-state setting. The demographic inconsistency between Greater Israel and democracy is not soluble.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

16 thoughts on “Why “Greater Israel” is anti-Zionist”

  1. Israeli Arabs aren’t excluded from the IDF. They aren’t conscripted into the IDF. That is, aside from the Druze, who are. Most Israeli Arabs do not volunteer for the army, though there is always a large contingent of Bedouin youth who do, and a significant minority from other Arab communities in Israel.

    I’m not going to make the claim that Israeli Arabs are full participants in the Israeli state. But they aren’t excluded from the IDF.

  2. When the IDF’s main actual mission is oppressing Palestinian Arabs, it’s not surprising that Israeli Arabs don’t sign up for it.

    “If you think of Zionism as a movement to establish and maintain a Jewish, democratic state in Israel…”

    I consider that to be as dead as the original founders of modern Zionism.

  3. Sounds as if you are saying that Israel cannot be big, democratic, and Jewish. You can choose any two, but you cannot have all three. Is that a correct reading of your position?

  4. I’m with you on your preferred solution.
    The question now is how do you make it so.

    I mean besides the obvious policy move that could make it happen next week:
    American aid to Israel becomes utterly contingent on Israel’s support of the two state solution on 1948 borders.

    Obviously we can’t do tough love here…

    Obviously because, many of us, myself included, were born into some sort of life-time debt and bondage thing owed to the state of Israel. They’ve been taking my tax dollars for as long as I’ve been alive. And that doesn’t look to stop any time soon. And part of that deal I guess is that God forbids me (and my government) from ever demanding anything in return for it. It’s free money. Manna from heaven so to speak.

    So Mark…

    How do you propose to make it happen?
    Whip them with more free money?

  5. a one-state solution that either denies voting rights to enough Arabs to maintain a Jewish voting majority or expels enough Arabs to maintain a Jewish voting majority. This is the preferred outcome of Yisroel Beitenu and Mike Huckabee.

    Actually, Lieberman has endorsed a Palestinian state for a long time, and as far as I know, he’s never advocated expelling Arabs. In fact, his plan (endorsed by Henry Kissinger!) is premised on a two-state solution: he’d like to redraw the border between Israel and the future Palestinian state so that Jewish settlements on the other side of the Green Line are on the Israeli side, and the triangle region is on the Palestinian side.

    Does that make Lieberman an anti-democrat? There’s an old argument, going back to Mill, that ethnically homogenous states are actually more conducive to liberal democracy. Traditionally, both the nation-state and democracy were liberal ideas, championed by people who disliked the old autocratic multinational empires. Is it racist? There’s definitely an argument to be made that it is, but it can’t be made with much consistency by people on the Zionist Left like Professor Kleiman, who after all want to preserve the majority status of the Israeli Staatvolk.

  6. “a one-state solution that … denies voting rights to enough Arabs to maintain a Jewish voting majority”

    This is not a possible future resolution, Mark – it’s the status quo. The Jews of the West Bank are full Israeli citizens. They vote in Israeli elections, are served by municipal services supplied by Israel, work for Israeli employers and shop at Israeli stores, are subject to service in the IDF, and are protected by the IDF. It makes no sense to think of them as some sort of expat community. In every meaningful way, they live in the State of Israel now.

  7. I don’t think that Mark has exhausted the alternatives. It’s not limited to nation-state, herrenvolk democracy, or multinational state. The EU and Switzerland suggest various forms of confederation that preserve national character but also allow for a larger sovereignty. Canada, too. (OTOH, so does Yugoslavia and Belgium.)

  8. RK is right to point out that Lieberman endorses another option. Because of Jerusalem, this is the only viable option.

    Jerusalem is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. In reality, Israel will never agree to give up Jerusalem. It’s not an issue or what it “right,” although Israel does have a legitimate claim there. (Jews lived there continuously from Biblical times to 1948, when they were thrown out of their homes after the War of Independence.) Jerusalem is an emotional issue for Israelis. Now that Israel has it, they won’t let go of it. It’s that simple.

    You might say that with international pressure, Israel could be forced to give up Jerusalem. In fact, that, too, is a dead issue. Clearly the US won’t do it. Europe–the birthplace of antisemitism–hasn’t made the effort to do it, either. Yes, they’ve barked and snarled from time to time, but they haven’t even tried to bite. Let’s face it. Europe just plain doesn’t care. You can thank Muslim extremism for that.

    So, any “solution” that involves giving or internationalizing Jerusalem won’t happen. If the Palestinians want a state, it will be without Jerusalem. That opens up a lot of room for negotiating over boundaries. And yes, the Palestinians should have reciprocal gain for whatever they lose.

    The only issue is where to draw the borders. It’s time to get on with it.

  9. “I don’t think that Mark has exhausted the alternatives. It’s not limited to nation-state, herrenvolk democracy, or multinational state. The EU and Switzerland suggest various forms of confederation that preserve national character but also allow for a larger sovereignty. Canada, too. (OTOH, so does Yugoslavia and Belgium.)”

    Oh come on, this is just silly.
    What’s your plan? You create the Israeli province and the Arab province, and a constitution that says the two are voluntarily associated together? The very first damn thing both provinces will then vote for is to leave this “voluntary” association. Malaysia and Singapore, or Egypt and Syria, had vastly less hatred between their two components, and both of them fell apart pretty soon.

  10. I’ve thought a lot about these posts over the past day, while shoveling snow a few miles north of Harold Pollack. I’d be relieved if I thought the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman you referred to in your earlier post actually thought like Mike Huckabee. I don’t think Huckabee really believes or in a true sense understands the implications of his position. If Palestinian Arabs were actually driven out of the West Bank or killed en masse he’d be horrified. My worry is that the spokesman understands perfectly well the implications of his position. And that in fact those implications are the point.

    If you’re confident, in your heart, that this isn’t the case, by all means say so. It isn’t right to draw equivalences between things that look equivalent, if you have a suspicion they really aren’t.

  11. Joe wrote: “although Israel does have a legitimate claim there. (Jews lived there continuously from Biblical times to 1948, when they were thrown out of their homes after the War of Independence.)”

    Uggh… I just don’t get this kind of sentimental crap. I’m not referring to you, Joe. But to those who nurse these nostalgic notions of ancient history despite the exigencies of modern reality. I mean, look, by this logic the United States must give up all right to North American soil and hand it over to Native Americans. (Which btw, I would likely suffer under but find supremely morally satisfying!) But, come on. It’s a nice fantasy. How many of us can really claim right of ownership to anything? Can you own the wind, my brother, can you?!!!

    Seriously though.

  12. Eli says: “Uggh… I just don’t get this kind of sentimental crap. I’m not referring to you, Joe. But to those who nurse these nostalgic notions of ancient history despite the exigencies of modern reality. I mean, look, by this logic the United States must give up all right to North American soil and hand it over to Native Americans.”

    That’s not quite the same thing. An equivalent situation would be if Native Americans somehow managed to occupy New York state, and despite all odds, repelled every attempt by the US government to quell the uprising. Then, the Native Americans would have history AND present circumstances on their side, and could conceivably claim that they have a right to keep it and the US should just shut up and accept it.

  13. Eli and MCD, you’re both making the same mistake. This is not “ancient history.” Many people alive today remember 1948 and I certainly remember 1967. Jews were living on the West Bank and particularly in Jerusalem in 1948, but not in 1949. There is no question about this. But, this is a small point.

    My bigger point is this: Regardless of whether or not we agree with their reasons, Israel simply will not give up Jerusalem. Period. If this conflict is going to be resolved, Jerusalem will remain in Israel’s hands. The only other choice is territorial compensation to the Palestinians.

  14. You can call this sentimentality if you like, but it’s far from sentimental to those Jews who live on the West Bank; it’s a real, daily part of the life they lead, in which they put their physical lives in what is for them a real spiritual world.

    I’m all for the two-state solution myself. It makes me nervous for one particular reason, which is that when the Arabs controlled the West Bank, Jews were not permitted free access to their holy sites, and sometimes were not permitted any access at all. There are a lot of places on the West Bank that Jews consider holy, and are in fact mentioned in Torah, particularly the Cave of the Machpelah, where the patriarchs are buried (if you believe the tradition, that is). Long ago, when I visited that site, the tour guide point out a hole in the wall where, during the time of Arab control, Jews had to stop and look inside. That was as close as the Jews could get.

    A very wise man of my acquaintance once said that Israeli behavior toward the Arabs has been mediocre, and has probably gotten worse, but as far as I know the Israelis have never kept Muslims away from their holy sites that are under Israeli control, and in fact have kept Jews away from the Temple Mount partly because Arabs object to Jewish presence there.

    None of this in itself is a reason to maintain Israeli control of the West Bank, and of course it cuts no ice with the non-religious, but it’s worth thinking about. I expect that eventually the Palestinians will gain control of the West Bank. When and if they do, it will be interesting to see if they’ve learned enough to keep the Cave and other holy sites open to the Jews. I’m dubious, but then I’m a pessimist.

  15. I think you put that nicely, David. There’s such a great gap between myself and those who hold such steadfast and ancient ethnic and religious traditions, such that they would go to war over them. In a way I find their “sentimentality” moving, but in another way it makes me incredibly sad for the future, and in some cases quite sick. If we can’t acknowledge the relativism behind our traditions – that they have always only been manmade meanings – then we risk miring ourselves in arbitrary and pointless miseries.

    From my perspective all this bickering over the “holy land” is an idiotic fiasco. Would it be so terrible if they put down all their prayer mats, leather straps, special hats, sticks, robes, etc. and just chilled the fuck out? Dude, your silly God doesn’t exist! Culture isn’t meant to be static. It is meant to live on in some forms, but be destroyed in others, forever mixing and swirling together as people live with one another and grow together. In a modern, secular age in which the opportunity for old boundaries for love and communication to fall has never been greater, arguments like that of “who gets to keep Jerusalem” just seem really anachronistic and awful. I mean, what is religion really about anyway? As an atheist, I often feel like I’m one of the few people who actually “gets” religion – as absurd as that sounds. It’s love, man. If your religion isn’t making the world a better place, then you’re probably not very good at your religion.

  16. Why does there have to be a Jewish state anywhere? Why can’t Jews live wherever they want? Oh wait, they already do. Never mind. A state explicitly designed to be an “[insert ethnic group or religion here] state” is fundamentally undemocratic. Democracy requires that people live peacefully in coexistence.

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