Religious Interpretations: Demographic Threats or Citizens? (RELS 348)

The creation of the state of Israel was based on the Zionist idea of a Jewish homeland for all Jews as described in the infamous Balfour Declaration. Links to the Jewish religion, as well as an attempt to escape persecution in Europe were used to justify the colonial project that has resulted in the Israeli state at the expense of the indigenous population. The Jewish state for the Jewish people has since been used to solidify Israel’s legitimacy on both the domestic and international levels. Even up to this very day, Israeli policy makers brandish the fear of Israel loosing its Jewish character in order to shore up votes from Israeli citizens. In recent years, specific emphasis has been put on the domestic threat that Arab citizens of Israel pose to the Jewish character of Israel. Despite claiming to be a democracy, the idea of non-Jews comprising the majority in Israel is something that troubles many Jewish Israeli policy makers and citizens. Palash Gosh’s (Feb 1, 2012) article “Israel’s Demographic Time-bomb: An Arab Majority State?,”( discusses the issue of increasing numbers of non-Jewish Israelis in Israel and the implications this may have for the future of the state.

Initially, Gosh points out one glairing contradiction in Israeli domestic policy – the expansion of settlements in Palestinian territory. As Jewish settlements within the West Bank and Gaza increase (despite being in violation of the 4th Geneva Convention), the prospect of a two-state solution is less and less likely. The policy of breaking up the contiguity of Palestinian land with Jewish settlements could result in a singular Israeli state in which Arabs will greatly outnumber Jews. Gosh points out that despite continuing these practices, Israeli policy makers are also too worried about such an outcome. He goes on to cite Dr. Yitzhak Ravid who “proposed that Israel implement a stringent policy of family planning in relation to its Muslim population.” Gosh also brings attention to former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert who “warned of a demographic battle, drowned in blood and tears.”  As of today, even when excluding Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza, 25% of the population within Israel is Arab (Muslim, Christian and Druze). The latter part of Gosh’s piece includes an interview with Ben Moscovitch in which Moscovitch does well to summarize Israel’s dilemma: “A majority-Arab population would result in a one-state, bi-national solution, which would therefore eradicating the Jewish state…. This one-state solution is unacceptable and would destroy the modern concept of Israel and Zionism.”

It can be said that many Jewish Israelis, like the Boers, view much of history through the lens of religion. For example, the Boers do not see their victory over the Zulus in the Battle of Blood River as the result of superior technology and strategic planning, but as a miracle. Israelis who employ a similar religio-historic lens do not view the creation of the modern state of Israel as de facto colonialism (enabled by British imperialism in the Middle East), but as a miracle. This same logic applies to illegal settlements – settlers are not violating international law, but rather, they are securing land for greater Israel. Finally, a Zionist and religious interpretation of ‘democracy’ in Israel allows Knesset members to view to 25% of their population as a demographic threat, as opposed to legitimate and equal citizens of the state.

#uwreligions #demographicthreat

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