It was a hell of a piece. Black was pro-Israel and yet willing to rustle with some aspects of the problems between Israelis and Palestinians (like the fact that Palestinians consider the creation of Israel to be a “catastrophe”) that pro-Israel writers usually don’t even dare to mention.
Here are a few snapshots, but I highly recommend you head over to MinnPost to read Black’s article in full. While you’re there, join the battle of the words in the comments to his piece.
I’m Jewish and I support Israel’s existence. I try to avoid the common phrase “right to exist.” Doesn’t work for me. What does it mean, exactly, and who gets to decide who else, or which other country, has a right to exist? . . .
When I say I support Israel’s existence I mean I think that — on balance and ignoring for the moment many important details and sub-arguments — after the centuries of persecution of the Jews in many lands after they lost their own, topped off by the unspeakable barbarity and evil efficacy of the Holocaust, it seemed necessary (at least to the Jews) for the Jews to have a land in which they were guaranteed refuge and decent treatment. . . .
But the creation of Israel has turned out to be a catastrophe — al-Nakba— for the group that the world now knows as the Palestinian Arabs. (Let’s note here, without trying to settle it, the argument that the catastrophe has many elements of self-infliction. There are only so many arguments I can have with myself in the course of one measly post that started out to be about Helen Thomas.) . . . If I was Palestinian, I would probably believe that Israel does not need to exist, if its existence amounts to mitigating the Jewish catastrophe by substituting a Palestinian catastrophe.
Woah! So what are you waiting over? Go read the whole piece, get mad, get proud, get whatever. And then make your voices heard.
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I’ve often been befuddled by the same question. Why does any country have a right to exist? How is this right granted and by whom? Why does a country need a right to exist?
However, the simple answer (throughout history, no less) is might. It’s the reason The US exists. It’s the reason Minnesota and Arizona and California exist. It’s the reason any thing exists.
Does that bug you’re about to squish have a right to exist?
I think when people refer to Israel’s “right to exist,” they really mean something not altogether different from Eric Black’s concept of “Israel’s existence.”
I think the issue is basically that we all see that countries exist. Lots of countries. Bad countries, good countries, countries that go to war with their neighbors, and oppress their own people. Countries that were created the “right” way, or the “wrong” way, or every “way” in between. Former empires and former colonies, random federations, and randomly-drawn borders.
And for ALL countries – nobody, ever, questions whether they “should” continue to exist (except in the geopolitical planning sense). Nobody wonders “should Russia remain Russia?” or “should China remain independent?” or even “should Iran continue to exist as Iran?”
These sound like ridiculous questions because they are. Nobody ever asks them, about anyone. Nobody questions one fine morning “gee, I wonder whether the US should merge with Mexico? Mexico might like that…” This is complete lunacy.
AND YET. Somehow, when Israel is part of the conversation, it is considered polite conversation to consider whether Israel should be a country at all, or a country of its people. People will discuss whether they should just be forced by the international community to merge with their neighbor. Or be forced to be a non-national, multi-ethnic state (nobody’s ever tried to force that one on, say, France or Ireland). Somehow, we discuss things like “is it OK for this country to patrol its borders?” or interfere when its neighbor fires thousands of rockets at its cities.
That is what people mean by “right to exist” (and I agree that it is a poorly chosen phrase). The international elites’ acceptable discussion of Israel speaks of a nation, a country – one no younger than Pakistan, Egypt, and many others – as if its existence is still an open question, to be debated at the dinner table – “Do we think Israel should exist, or is it not such a good idea? Discuss.”
And the point is that Israel does exist. Its people live, and work, and die – as citizens of their own country. And yet it is the only country on earth where its existence is up for debate.
It is almost as if it has less “right” to exist as an independent country than any other, wouldn’t you say?
That is the precise reason why Israel should cease to engage in discussion over it’s right to exist and not hold up furthering peace negotiations over this meaningless semantic detail.
And I take issue with your claim that Israel is the only country that people debate it’s right to exist. I can give you numerous examples. Tibet used to be a country, and it claims a right to exist. The Chinese believe differently. The Kurds assert that they have the right to their own country. Turkey, Iraq, the US and other feel differently. I could go on but I’m sure you get my point.
It is almost as if it has less “right” to exist as an independent country than any other, wouldn’t you say?
Quite the opposite. I believe it has more right to exist than most other countries. Not more than the US or Russia, but a bit more than Pakistan, and a lot more than any non-nuclear nation.
But I will never believe that a country has a right to exist. Countries are legal fictions, just like all forms of social organization.
Indeed, not a single _existing_ country has had its right to exist questioned.
Yes, of course, countries, like Tibet and many others, have gotten conquered throughout history.
And, yes, many separatist movements in countries throughout the world yearn for a state of their own.
I do believe that countries have a right to exist. Because peoples have a right to self-determination.
This right was widely recognized and put in practice after World War I ended. New countries were created.
Did they have a right to be created? Maybe we cannot speak of rights at all, except as special policies that sovereign governments care to enforce. That would explain why “human” rights are so much more tenuous and aspirational than intra-national rights, but, yes, this kind of definition would sweep in the kinds of rights found in the Bill of Rights.
I believe rights exist.
And I believe in a right of self-determination. There is and there should be a special legitimacy to a people’s (ethnic and linguistic and, sometimes, religious, group) desire to set up their own government in a territory with which they are historically connected. I believe that such claims really do deserve special consideration, when pursued peacefully.
I believe that Palestinian Arabs have a right to self-determination. Like any other right, self-determination is not absolute. They don’t necessarily have a right to everything any of them have ever asked for. And no right to take it through terrorism. But Palestine does have a right to exist.
And, Israel, too, has a right to exist.
Now, why is Israel the only existing country whose right to exist is questioned, and so vehemently?
Maybe it’s because it’s relatively new, as a state?
You know, China’s right to exist no one disputes because it’s been around for millenia, but a new-ish state is a different story?
Nope. More than half of existing states have come into being after 1918; most of them since 1945. Who questions the right to exist of Libya (1951), or Singapore (1965), or Croatia (1991)?
Maybe it’s because it’s seen as Western?
You know, some would say that these days more legitimacy is given to the aspirations of countries peopled by non-Europeans. (Never mind for the moment that the ancestors of roughly half of Israelis never lived in Europe (at least not in the past half-millenium, if you’re thinking of exiles from Spain and Portugal).)
Nope, not that either. Ireland, Belarus, Estonia, Slovenia, Canada (I’ve purposely picked 20th-century-created states) — no questions.
Maybe it’s because it got created by Europeans /whites on land on which non-Europeans lived?
You know — okay, have your country, if you’d like, but don’t inconvenience populations that live there now?
Nope. I don’t hear every day hotly debated the right to exist of — let’s see — every single country in the Americas (hmm, that’s a lot of countries), Australia, New Zealand. Nope.
Maybe it’s because the state got set-up for a religious group (some have doubts that Jews are an ethnic group, too)?
You know — different language, okay, you need your own country; different religion, maybe not.
Nope. Remember that Pakistan (and it included what is now Bangladesh) got set up expressly for the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent. It was not for an ethic or a linguistic group — Muslims from all-over the subcontinent moved to live there (though many did not), and Hindus left. Pakistan was created for a religious group. And no one questions its right to exist.
Only Israel gets that special treatment.
Any other possible reasons?
Any that would actually explain why Israel — and not other states — has its right to exist questioned?
Maybe… Maybe because it’s Jewish?…
Which is exactly why Israeli policy should be to say, “We exist, end of story, (and get over it if need be)” and move on to other more pressing matters.
To pick out one thing you mentioned.
I don’t hear every day hotly debated the right to exist of — let’s see — every single country in the Americas (hmm, that’s a lot of countries), Australia, New Zealand. Nope. Only Israel.
You could if you wanted to. These debates happen. Maybe we could do all more to strengthen indigenous voices all over the hemisphere (and world). Maybe the reason you don’t hear these debates is because you don’t find them relevant to you. Maybe it’s because you don’t care. Maybe it’s because those in power don’t want you to hear these debates. But to claim they’re not happening is ignorance or an outright lie.
I stated above, that I don’t believe that any country has a right to exist. People can have rights. I’m wary of group rights, and thankfully live in a country where they don’t exist (except for the indigenous population in certain cases, hmmm). In the classic definition of a liberal democracy, individuals have rights, and the state is the granter and guarantor of those rights. There are no group rights. Collective rights lead to collective punishment, and that’s a slippery slope no one wants to step near.
I support Israel’s existence (both philosophically and financially) and support the existence of a Palestinian state. But, philosophically, I would never agree that either have a right to exist.
And though not technically a country, people still debate the right of Northern Ireland to exist.
There is also a debate over the existence of Iraq as well.