When negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians begin to gather steam or, as is the case now, seem to be re-starting, emotions on both sides are stirred by the question of Israel’s “right to exist,” particularly its right, or lack of same, to exist as a Jewish state.
That such a debate would raise passions to a boiling point on both sides is self-evident. For Israelis, the question goes to the very legitimacy of their state and to the history of the Zionist movement. More, it implies a question of whether it is morally justifiable to seek to destroy Israel by any means necessary.
For Palestinians, the question has two layers: one, acknowledging and recognizing that Zionism succeeded in establishing the Jewish state. The second layer implies a demand that Palestinians acknowledge that their dispossession was justified and legitimate. Most, though far from all, Palestinians can accept the first layer. But search as hard as you might and it is unlikely you’ll find more Palestinians than you can count with your fingers that can accept the second.
Such a vexing question is not asked about other countries. The “right” of the United States to exist was not questioned before, during or after the Americans and their colonial predecessors nearly wiped out the native population. The right of Lebanon, a country sliced out of Greater Syria with an arbitrary pen stroke on a map, or of Jordan, a country split apart from the rest of the British Mandate over Palestine, to exist is not similarly questioned. But Israel’s is. By the same token, those countries do not ask for their “right to exist” to be acknowledged, merely that their sovereignty be recognized and respected. But Israel does ask this. Continue reading