Recognizing the State of Israel in the Age of Nations: Some Considerations.

The “Palestinian-Only” buses in the West Bank are truly an appalling thing, however such a measure should not come as a surprise since it has been long and widely attested Israel is a state erected on the principle of apartheid (no judgments in this statement intended).

Visualizing Palestine Palestinians Only Buses

Anti-“Palestinian-Only Buses” poster (c) Visualizing Palestine

Indeed, it is a matter of fact that Israel is a racist and a discriminatory state from the mere observation that it serves as a national home for one religious group, a state in which one ethnicity is favored over the other ones (Jews vs. the rest, regardless of that fact that Jews do not, in fact, represent a single ethnicity). To the founders of Zionism, Jews were a nation before being a religion. Accordingly, the state of Israel is a religious state created for the “Jewish nation”. Let me add here that, as in Lebanon, all matters of personal status, which includes marriage, are determined by religious authorities (the rabbinical courts). Like us also, civil marriages entered into outside of Israel are recognized.

However, beyond the vain issue of recognizing, or not, Israel’s right to exist, here are some disturbing historical facts we should recognize, pointing toward the fact that the conflict opposing Israel to its neighboring Arab countries is not a first-timer in history: similar types of conflict have existed throughout history and they have all ended in the recognition of the invader’s sovereignty. (Assuredly, this is not necessarily to push toward an Arab recognition of the state of Israel.)

Not so many centuries ago, Europeans have established colonies in America, exterminating hundreds of millions of Native Americans, displacing some other hundreds of millions, reducing them to slavery, etc. And yet, the world today recognizes the states of Northern, Central, and Latin America. Furthermore, it is completely oblivious to those “remote” atrocities.

Not so many century ago too, the Seljuks (Turks) invaded the Byzantine empire, putting an end to Anatolia’s multi-secular Hellenic culture. Yet Greece later recognized the Ottoman empire and today recognizes Turkey.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Ottomans slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians and caused the exodus of millions of them. Despite that, both countries recognize each other nowadays, although things remain  “complicated” between them (the same applies to Greece as well).

Forced exodus, genocide, occupation, colonization, crimes against humanity of all kinds are, in Durkheimian vocabulary, “normal phenomena”:  they exist in all civilizations and have been since the birth of humanity. The 1948 Arab-Israeli war is no exception.

Millions of Native Americans have suffered throughout history, millions of Armenians, many millions more in different regions and different times. Many Native Americans are now confined within approx. 310 “reservations” (i.e., an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs).

However, there is a small difference between this conflict and the earlier ones: back then, the world was living in the age of empires, conquests, and colonization; today, we live in an age of nations.

In the age of empires, new populations emerged, existing ones migrated; to remain, they evolved, if they did not, they disappeared.

As for empires, their frontiers fluctuated to the rhythm of wars between neighboring enemies (pleonasm? neighbor has long been a synonym for enemy), invasions, conquests… populations were forces to follow different lords, kings, emperors, and to adopt new languages, new religions…

In short, in the age of empires, partition and annexation were common and even accepted phenomena: through violence, empires “quite simply” emerged, others disappeared, “quite simply” again.

In the age of nations, however, things became different. Nationalism’s major consequence was to solidify the population’s link to one territory and language, making it “theirs forever”, holding it as permanent, giving the illusion it was eternal. Therefore, any change of frontiers between nation-states is deemed utterly unacceptable by international standards.

I am not trying to say that Arabs should recognize Israel because the course of history shows that the sovereignty of the victor were eventually recognized and established as final. I am only trying to say that this is the course of history. But again, that was in the age of empires, not that of nations.

As for the path to choose, I don’t really have anything to say. Of course, one can choose to fight Israel, resist against Israel, refuse Israel’s right to exist… Will it cease to exist? The Arab armies could not succeed in this endeavor at a time when they were much stronger than they are today, and when Israel was much weaker than it is now.

Anyhow, history is unpredictable. After all, Israel has never been — nor currently is — a great, vast empire. The hegemony of the US will, one day, wither and fade away, leaving “old Europe” unable to sustain the tiny state anymore. And, who knows, perhaps the radicalism of both Israelis and Arabs will be slowly eased with time, allowing old nations to mix and new identities to emerge.

Psalm 137

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3 Responses to Recognizing the State of Israel in the Age of Nations: Some Considerations.

  1. Michael says:

    I though the bus issue was about buses into Israel, and the security checks associated with the border crossing, not buses inside Judea & Samaria. Did I get it wrong? I mean, I thought that Israel is allowed to choose who and how may enter its territory. As far as I know, Arab citizens of the State of Israel are allowed to take whatever bus they want. How is this different from, for example, passport control discrimination in the EU, where some are allowed in while others are refused entry?

    • a.s. says:

      Well, in this case, it would be like creating bus- and/or airlines for Mexicans only to enter US territory, or “German-only” trains to go into France… that’s not very, umm… human-rights based?

      • Michael says:

        The non-Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria are not banned from any buses. If they are traveling on a bus from, say, Jerusalem, to Beit Lehem (or vice-versa) the bus goes through the securitry control and moves on. They can and do board and use the Israeli-operated buses inside Judea and Samaria. In order to cross into Israel, however, they must go through a security checkpoint. Not all buses go through the checkpoints, and it is impractical to re-route the lines. So now, as a service, there are buses from where people are (the security checkpoint), to the place where they want to be (Tel Aviv, for example, where they work). Not very convinient, I agree, but discriminating? Hardly.

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