Muslim woman shouting 311.
(photo credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters)
Israel is now in the midst of an international campaign for the recognition of a
Palestinian state alongside it. But in fact, the campaign also concerns Israel’s
right to continue to exist as the nation state of the Jews.
number of people now argue that Israel should become “the state of all its
citizens.” Or in other words that there should be one state between the sea and
the Jordan River, in which both Jews and Palestinians live together as equal
Others, who oppose this view and wish to retain at least the
general contours of the two-state solution, argue that the deep differences and
hostilities that exist between Jews and Palestinians will make such coexistence
impossible, and that such a state would probably deteriorate into permanent
civil war. Even if this does not happen, the argument goes, such a state might
ultimately end up with an Arab majority, making it impossible to defend Jews
physically and culturally.
But this argument for Jewish statehood depends
on the ability of the Jewish state to protect its minorities, physically and
culturally. And not only minorities, but also all Jewish groups within it,
including those who stage protests against other factions of the Jewish
population, unpopular as they may be. So long as Israel controls part of the
occupied territories, its obligation of statehood applies to them as
I hope that those who burnt the mosque in the Galilee, as well as
those responsible for all “price tag” activities wherever they take place, are
found, indicted and punished severely. We must send the clearest possible
message that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The same
should apply to those responsible for the organized violence in Anatot last
This is the responsibility of the state and law enforcement
agencies. However, we know well enough that such activities are not the doing of
individuals working on their own initiative. They are part and parcel of social
groups that support them and legitimate them and discourage law enforcement from
taking action. This is as true for Israeli society as it is true for the
Palestinians. It follows that the responsibility is both on the state and its
law enforcement arms, and also on the political, religious and spiritual leaders
of the groups in whose name these activities are performed.
THIS IS not
just a matter of political morality, important as that is. This is a critical
matter of the minimal cohesion and solidarity Israeli society requires if it is
We have lived with deep controversies, and will probably have
to live with them for some time to come. We can only sustain our shared
political existence here and justify it, however, if this does not translate
into hatred and violence. Stressing the emotional basis of distrust and hate is
critical here. One cannot separate between emotions and actions. It may well be
true, and desirable, that criminal liability should be limited to acts of
violence or which are clearly illegal. However, hate mongering and all the
mechanisms that facilitate violence because they erode our common humanity must
also be dealt with. This can only be achieved through education and through
responsible and courageous leadership.
This is a matter of great urgency.
I am therefore willing to adopt a forward-looking approach: all parties
concerned must explicitly and unequivocally declare that the fiercest
controversies will be channeled, by all, to modes of civic
Thinking hard of ways to promote one’s goals through means that
are less likely to deteriorate into violence is also part of responsible
I expect the government to demand that all relevant groups go
through these processes of rethinking their tactics and strategies. They should
make their guidelines public and provide for credible internal enforcement. We
need to see the end of “winking” and “turning the other way.”
of the various groups need to accept the obligations that go along with their
status, just as the state must.
If we don’t or can’t do this, it may well
be the beginning of the end.The writer is the Haim H. Cohn Professor of
Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.