Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Calling Italy a Christian State

Greg (Jerusalem Prize) Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian, dispenser of Likudnik snake oil, and now Gillard soulmate, slipped this little gem into his propaganda piece for 27 June: "Netanyahu has lately insisted that the Palestinians and neighbouring Arab governments recognise Israel as a Jewish state. All of Israel's Arab interlocutors have refused point blank to do this. Israel's population is 75% Jewish, the only majority Jewish state in the world. Recognising Israel as a Jewish state would seem to be no more controversial than calling Italy a Christian state or any of the Arab nations Muslim states."

Don't you love the phrasing: "would seem to be"? Maybe, just maybe Netanyahu's demand is not as simple it seems? Of course, if "recognising Israel as a Jewish state" is "no more controversial than calling Italy a Christian state," then why the "insistence" and why the "refusal"?

The reference to Italy, of course, is completely disingenuous. The Italian government isn't insisting on its neighbours recognising it as a Christian state for the simple reason that Italy has not achieved nationhood in the way Israel has. Italian Christians did not a) enter Italy as colonists; b) ethnically cleanse a non-Christian majority population already in residence there; or (c) refuse to allow the return, as international law requires, of this ethnically cleansed non-Christian majority lest it outnumber Italian Christians such that they would no longer be able to retain their privileged status as Christians and Italy would become a secular state for all its citizens, Christian and otherwise.

As for Arab nations being Muslim (majority) states, this has nothing to do with ethnocratic, ethnic-cleansing colonial projects. Arab countries do not have Muslim majorities because indigenous non-Muslim majorities were expelled beyond their borders, just as European nations don't have Christian majorities because indigenous non-Christian majorities were expelled beyond their borders. There is no body of non-Muslim refugees clamouring for the right of return to Muslim-majority Arab nations, for the same reason that there is no body of non-Christian refugees clamouring for the right of return to Christian-majority European nations.

No, the only reason Netanyahu is insisting that the Palestinians and the Arab states grant Israel de jure recognition as a state which privileges Jews in law and is underpinned by a Jewish majority is so that Israel can claim that the legal right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and lands in Israel has been superseded and no longer applies, and so that Jews from any part of the world can relocate to Israel should they feel so inclined- with the Palestinian and Arab blessing that came from that de jure recognition.

I look forward to seeing Sheridan argue for a Christian state in Australia. After all, to rephrase him, "recognising Australia as a Christian state would seem to be no more controversial than calling Italy a Christian state."

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