Sunday, March 10, 2013

[INTER 2103] Does Israel have a right to exist as a Jewish state?

In the latest post on The Stone, "On Questioning the Jewish State," Joseph Levine writes about the tactic of charging with antisemitism anyone who questions "Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state." Levine argues that, even if it is granted that the Jews constitute "a people" with a right to self-determination, and that they have a claim to the disputed territory in question, it still doesn't follow that "Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state." Why? Because, according to Levine, the Jewish people's right to self-determination comes at the expense of non-Jewish peoples. Levine mentions the Palestinians, of course, but there are other non-Jewish minorities living in Israel, including the Adyghe people, the Bedouin, the Druze, and the Samaritans, among others.

Levine concludes that "the very idea of a Jewish state is undemocratic, a violation of the self-determination rights of its non-Jewish citizens, and therefore morally problematic." According to the UN's Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
If Levine is right, then does that mean that peoples can exercise their right to self-determination only if it does not infringe on other peoples' right to self-determination? If so, does that seem like a reasonable restriction on rights? [Compare Article 4 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789): "Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights."]

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