The above statement was made by Elaine Friedland in the context of another discussion. I think it is actually a very important subject to discuss especially by Jewish members of Mepeace. But also by others. Do we also say that Muslims require a Muslim state in order to be free? How about Christians, Bahai, Hindus, Budhists, Animists, Gypsies, Atheists, Homosexuals, etc? What is the definition of "Jewish" in Jewish state? Is it observing Halacha laws? How much Jewish is enough "Jewish"? Who is Jewish? If anti-Zionist Jews becaome a majority in Israel, would it be a "Jewish state"? But the most significant thing is do Jews really require a Jewish state "in order to be free"? Are US Jews not free?

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I've had this discussion with a lot of my Jewish friends, and everyone's answer is different. This is a heavy subject. My opinion: a nationalist discourse is defined by who DOESN'T belong, and since for the purposes of a Jewish state, you're not really defining Jewishness in terms of how religious you are, etc., Jewishness is defined by ethnicity and therefore automatically excludes any others (in law and practice).

U.S. Jews have it really, really good. Even a couple generations ago, Jewish was really considered a separate race--today Ashkenazi Jews are considered white, since they have assimilated into mainstream culture and benefit from white privilege. (Ask if you want me to go into detail about white privilege, since I could write a whole blog entry about that.)
I feel that this is different.
What I mean is that historically Jews were seen as a different race than other peoples (esp. in Europe and the US).
I definantly have it a lot easier than my parents, or especially my grandparents. I identify as being Jewish first as an ethnic identity. It's really hard, since when I tell people that I am Jewish, and I tell them that I don't believe in God it really perplexes them.
HISTORICALLY, yes, Jews were seen as a separate race, but today benefit from white privilege.
Wow. My Ethiopian Jewish friends will be SOOO glad to hear that they benefit from white privilege!
I thank you on their behalf for this good news.

But seriously, are people here on mepeace ever going to stop with the ridiculous overgeneralizations?
Perhaps one should not discuss "Jews" as such but discuss specific groupings. Certainly Ashkenazi Jews oppressed the Eastern Mizrahi Jews during the first 20 years of the state of Israel. Even today, Ashkenazi (European) Jews still dominate Israeli society.

Thank you, Mazin,
My point was (for the zillionth time) against generalizing.
Within every population, the closer you look at what you think is a group,
the more you'll see the division lines within it.
Within Ashkenazis, within Hamas, within Iranians, within Americans, within African Americans, within Ethiopians, within Amharic Ethiopians, within Amharic Ethiopian women who live in Kiryat Malachi...,within paraplegics, within married couples, within herds of deer...

It is so easy to generalize, and so hopelessly wrong, usually.
It's also so easy to just insert a well-placed qualifier and avoid the problem from the get-go.
If you look back to my post, you'll see I said I was talking about Ashkenazi Jews, in the UNITED STATES.
Hannah - you are actually talking about secular Ashkenazi Jews in the US. Yes I know they are the majority of Jews there but there are also hundreds of thousands of religious Jews in the USA, who have no interest in assimilating or taking advantage of 'white privilege'.
Here is my view on this subject and requires some history to explain: Being Jewish is a religion, culture, nation and tribe all at the same time. I hear non-Jews always arguing with Jews on the above point (how can a religion be a nationality?, etc. because from other group’s impressions, your religion is your belief system) but it is all three for the majority of Jews all around the world whether from Indian, Iraq, Poland or Argentina.

The reasons are historical: Jews trace their heritage to a tribe called Hebrews living in what today is mainly the West Bank, Israel, Gaza and parts of Jordan. It was a tribe, linked by a belief in a single God and a set of laws and customs designed to reinforce the cult aspects of the tribal affiliation (in my mind that is all the old testament is about- our history/mythology and rules to obey God). The tribe was dispersed to Babylon where it had to make a decision: how do we stay who we are in a foreign land if our God is tied to our tribal land? They invented (or adapted to) portable religion: God is still my God even if I live outside my land. This changed our tribe completely because it allowed its people to move around the world (in the Middle East at that time, if you moved to a different city, you were expected to believe in the Gods of the new city, so this change was radical). So like all cultures, it changed and adapted to its circumstances and Jews spread out for commerce, because of wars, dispersion, etc. But one of the central beliefs was a connection to the tribal land. This connection was mainly religious with holidays and festivals reminding Jews of the sanctity of Jerusalem. This extended to other parts of Jewish life; many Jews from all around the world would plan to be buried in Jerusalem because it was always seen as “home”.

Over the past 200 years, Jews mostly in Europe and the Americas, began to not believe or follow the religious aspects of the tribe but still considered themselves Jewish. This was an easy step because Jews are also a culture and nation so losing one aspect of your identity was not difficult. Because this happened in very large numbers, it was an easy transition to go from meeting at the synagogue to the community centre to feel a part of your nation. At the same time, many Jews saw that being a foreigner, an outside minority kept them in a precarious situation with regards to the majority. So it was a logical step to saying we are a nation, let’s return to our tribal homeland. For Jews in the Middle East, it was an idea they could easily relate to even if their situation as a minority was better than Jews in Europe.

Fast forward to this era- we still hold the original self-definition (we are a religion, nation and culture) but like any belief, it changed because of the circumstances on the ground. The Jews returning were met with opposition by the Palestinians who now lived on the same land. The Palestinians interpreted the Jews as foreign colonists so many opposed them. The Jews (who saw themselves as indigenous) interpreted this opposition as another form of hatred of the Jews they had encountered in Europe. This cycle lives on with each group “reacting” to the others “actions” through this lens of interpretation- meaning each side is sure they are only reacting to the other and if you only react, it means you are the victim and have no responsibiltiy. After years of violence between us and because of the very long history of Jews being abused as minorities, today we use the term “Jewish State” like a security blanket. We have thousands of years worth of fears because of the way we were treated as a minority (killings, expulsions, etc.) so we wrap all that fear into a term we call the “Jewish state”. It is that mixed with our desire to have a society based on our own customs and practises.

What does it mean for us Jews and for Palestinians? That is what we all have a different opinion on.

For me, anyone who says they are Jewish is Jewish. I don’t want any religious laws because I am an atheist. I do want to have an army that protects my safety as a part of the group I belong to. I want Palestinians (and those Israelis who do not consider themselves Jewish) to be equal and to have the same rights and control over their destiny that we have.
Sure, Mazin.
Theoretically, Jews don't need a Jewish state to be free.
For that matter, theeoretically, Palestinians don't need a state of their own,
Islamic or otherwise, to be free either.

From Cory's final paragraph I have to assume that he would prefer Israel not to be defined as a Jewish state but a state where all citizens have equal rights, and are protected, as in the US and other liberal democracies.

We have to remember that Cory's self-definition as an atheist secular Jew is a very modern concept. When my family moved to Palestine in the early 1800s there was no such thing as a non-religious Jew. To be Jewish, by definition, was to be religious. It was only after the emancipation of the European Jews that fully secular life became possible. In the 20th century 'support' for Zionism and the Jewish state has overtaken religion in the USA as the primary mode of identification for Jews. It's almost like a secular religion. One 'believes' in Zionism as an ideological tenet of faith. The reactions I get from most US Jews when i go on speaking tours is to treat me like a heretic. The common term is 'self-hating' Jew. No matter that I have raised my family in a traditional kosher home and my kids read Torah at synagog. I love being a Jew, yet somehow I'm 'supposed' to be a Zionist too. Never made sense to me.

States defined by religion have always been problematic. The European nations were 'Christian' states in the middle ages. Church authorities has judicial powers and could even impose the death penalty. It's much the same today in some Muslim countries, and to a lesser extent in Israel. However we also have 'Rabbinical Courts' which have legal authority over Jewish citizens.

Every successful democratic state today provides exactly equal status under law and regulation for all citizens. Israel's choice is to be either Democratic OR Jewish. It cannot be both.
'support' for Zionism and the Jewish state has overtaken religion”- EXACTLY. Just as Judaism as a portable religion replaced praying at the temple in Jerusalem during the Babylonian exile (586BC), for most Western and secular Israeli Jews, Zionism and the belief in a Jewish state replaced the portable religious aspect of Judaism this century.

But I still consider myself a Zionist and a believer in a Jewish state. I also admit that even though most Israelis like to talk about a democratic Jewish country, it is not an easy fit but I am not convinced it is impossible. It makes me sad and angry that Palestinian-Israeli citizens, at worst have to deal with structural inequality (access to budgets, employment in some sectors) and at best, have to feel an outsider in their own land. But I see this as more of an outcome of the conflict than Zionism itself.

Again, to me the concept of a Jewish State it is a security blanket, a way to deal with the insecurity we have today- to be in control of our own destiny. Like any security blanket, I could be convinced to give it up if I found arrangement that suited my security needs.



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