A different two-state solution

Israel has an influence on Jews around the globe, whether or not they want to be identified with the Jewish state. The time has come to re-think the paradigm of a single state for Jews.

January 29, 2012 22:05
3 minute read.
Supporter waves flag at pro-Israel rally in Hondur

Supporter waves flag at pro-Israel rally in Honduras. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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I am a wandering Jew, born and raised in New York City and finally settling down in Hawaii. I am as far removed from Israel as you can geographically get. And yet, every day I read the news from Israel, since I realize that whatever happens to the Jewish state will have an impact on Jews everywhere.

Of course, this is not fair to the Jews living around the globe. Israel is a nation, run by people with certain ideologies and political interests. It has been set up as the Jewish state, but for Jews living elsewhere it is not our state.

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It may be that, as Jews, united we stand and divided we fall. But why is Israel the only conception of united Jewry? Why must Jews everywhere be held accountable for what the nation of Israel does? What a burden this must place on the people who run the State of Israel. Any errors of judgment by Israeli politicians can not only harm Israel, but can also threaten the lives of millions of Jews outside of Israel.

It seems grossly unfair that Israeli politics shapes the lives of Jews everywhere. Israel effectively has a monopoly on defining and defending the Jewish people. While Zionists claim that this is better for the Jewish people than being at the mercy of non-Jewish governments, there is the implicit assumption that the people who run Israel are always going to do right by the Jewish people.

Personally, I don’t put my faith in people, Jewish or otherwise. People are imperfect, including Israelis.

While it is true that the policies of Israel will reflect on non-Israeli Jews, the question should be asked whether it is wise to give a monopoly to Israel as the representative of the Jewish people.

Should there be more than one Jewish state? Given the diversity of the Jewish people, more than one state would make sense. The Jewish people, after all, come from all around the world. As a people we are comprised of all races and nationalities. We even have different belief systems, ranging from Hassidic to Orthodox to Reform to atheist to Jews for Jesus. How can one state represent the wide range of people who are defined as “Jews”? If there were more than one Jewish state, there would be competition by each government to provide the best lives for its people.

One state could be liberal, the other conservative.

One state could be secular, the other more religious. For a people as diverse as the Jewish people, a multiple-state solution seems more appropriate than the one-size-fits- all-Jews State of Israel.

Most importantly, this division would spare the rest of the world’s Jews of having to suffer for the failed policies of any one Jewish state. The burden of failure would fall on the failing government, and not on the Jewish people as a whole. Diaspora Jews would not feel at the mercy of one nation’s politics.

Unfortunately, this idea of multiple Jewish states will not sit well with the rest of the world. The new state would have to be created somewhere, and the non-Jewish people who may be living there will probably not like their land being taken over by another culture.

Israel lays claim to its land based on an historic association with that part of the planet. Unless Israel is willing to divide itself into two Jewish states, it is unlikely that the world will find a place for another one.

So it looks like we are stuck with Israel and its polemical politics and often irrational ways. Unless we wish to assimilate and lose our Jewish identity altogether, Israel will continue to represent diaspora Jews.

It’s not fair to be judged by the actions of others. It’s not fair that non-Israeli Jews are defined by Israel. But if the world were fair, would we need Israel?

The writer is a medical anthropologist and director of the Good Shepherd Foundation in Pahoa, Hawaii.

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