Monday, November 12, 2007

Saeb Erekat and the Jewish State

According to the Ha’aretz newspaper, “Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, rejected on Monday the [Israeli]government’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Erekat said that ‘no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.’”

Saeb Erekat is no stranger to distorting the truth to promote his cause. Like the creators of urban myths, he knows that the average person will accept a rational-sounding statement as true without checking. He knows that people are likely to accept a statement that validates what they believe should be true. And he knows that repeating a lie often enough will make it commonly accepted as truth.

And so he boldly pronounces: “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.” But Mr Erekat knows this to be absolutely false.

Article 1 of the Saudi Arabian Constitution:

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God's Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, God's prayers and peace be upon him, are its constitution, Arabic is its language and Riyadh is its capital.

Aritcle 6 reads:

Citizens are to pay allegiance to the King in accordance with the holy Koran and the tradition of the Prophet, in submission and obedience, in times of ease and difficulty, fortune and adversity.

And Article 7:

Government in Saudi Arabia derives power from the Holy Koran and the Prophet's tradition.

Article Two of the Constitution of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan reads:

Islam is the religion of the State and Arabic is its official language.

And lest we think that such statements are limited only to the constitutions of totalitarian Arab dictatorships:

The Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland reads begins:

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Eire, Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial …

Part I section 2 of the Argentinian Constitution reads:

The Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion.

Section 4 of the Constitution of Denmark states:

The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and, as such, it shall be supported by the State.

But why go on? Suffice to say that all of the following states have established religions, and connect their “national identity to a religious identity”:

Bolivia, Costa Rica, Denmark, England, Greece, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, and of course, Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Tunisia, Yemen…

Oh, and before I forget, according to Article 4 of the Basic Law of the Palestinian National Authority, which Mr. Erekat represents:

(1) Islam is the official religion in Palestine…
(2) The principle of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main Source of legislation.

And one last note: Jews have historically been viewed, and have viewed themselves, to be a nation. It is not at all clear that when Israel is referred to as a “Jewish State” the intention is to Judaism as a religion or faith. On the contrary, it would appear that in referring to Israel as a “Jewish State” the intention is that Israel is the state of the Jewish people or the Jewish nation.

But Mr. Erekat knows that, and that is what he rejects. Mr. Erekat and Mr. Abbas want a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and will recognize the existence of the State of Israel only as a state of its citizens. If those citizens are mostly Palestinians - as, for example, the result of their demand of the "right of return" - then Israel will be a Palestinian state. That potential for the eradication of the Jewish State is the limit of their willingness to compromise. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State - as legitimately belonging to the Jewish people - means relinquishing the possibility of the destruction of Israel. It means giving up the struggle. That is a comporomise Mr. Erekat and Mr. Abbas will not make. The preservation of the struggle with Israel is as central to their thinking as to that of the Hamas. It is the core belief that binds all Palestinians, and it is the main obstacle to peace.