October 12: What is a Jewish state?

What does being a democratic state say about the rights of minorities, some of whom deny Israel as “Jewish and democratic”?

What is a Jewish state?
Sir, – The debate about the proposed loyalty oath that would require non-Jewish potential citizens to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish democratic state (“Cabinet asked to approve loyalty oath to Israel as ‘Jewish, democratic state,’” October 7) ignores the basic question.
What does it mean to be a “Jewish democratic state”? Does “Jewish” require some public adherence to religious observance? Is there an agreed definition of who is a Jew? What does being a democratic state say about the rights of minorities, some of whom deny Israel as “Jewish and democratic”? This includes Jews who don’t believe in democracy as well non-Jews.
Political leaders repeat the slogan but rarely are willing to define it.
Sir, – When first confronted with the proposed new amendment to the Citizenship and Entry Law, I had mixed emotions.
I had sudden painful memories of the McCarthy era loyalty oaths in the United States in the 50s.
Reading Danny Ayalon’s essay, “Identifying with Israel’s national character” (October 11), however, quickly brought me back to my senses. The writer gave an excellent perspective and background to what Herzl, the Zionist movement, Ben-Gurion’s Declaration of Independence, and the United Nations Partition Resolution of 1947 actually stated.
If non-Jews wish to live here as citizens of our Jewish and democratic state, it is only reasonable that they obligate themselves to be loyal citizens, especially so in the light of the enormous hostility and threats that we face on a daily basis.
Yes, philosophical, religious, national questions still remain in our definition of who is a Jew.
But we will solve them right here on our own land and in our own state.
Ayalon should be praised for his courage and consistency in the face of today’s post-Zionist apologists. His withering indictment of those who have forgotten who and what we are, revealing their confused ideologies and politically correct agendas, are a whiff of fresh air in today’s climate of mendacity and hypocrisy.
A real racist law
Sir, – The proposed amendment to the Citizenship and Entry Law was condemned by the usual suspects as racist. In fact, the proposed law is nationalistic, not racist. The proposed law is proper, because every country has exclusive control of who is eligible to become a citizen, and exclusive control of the conditions of naturalization.
Israelis who are looking to strike racist laws from the Israeli law books should look carefully at the law which sets aside four seats in the Knesset for Arabs.
In the US, a provision of the Hawaiian Constitution limits the right to vote for the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs to Hawaiians, a category defined by descent from the peoples inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. Harold Rice, a white man, was not a Hawaiian under the constitutional provision, although he was born in Hawaii, and although he was by law a citizen of that state. He was excluded from voting on account of his race.
He sued, and won in the US Supreme Court. It was held that a race-based voting qualification, whether couched in terms of race or in terms of ancestry, is unconstitutional.
Opponents of racism would do well to direct their efforts to repealing the set-aside of the four Knesset seats. That is, through and through, a racist law. Jewish Israelis are barred, based on ancestry or race, from voting for four Knesset members.
Hong Kong
‘Residents,’ not ‘settlers’
Sir, – I have to agree with Josh Hasten’s analysis of life over the Green Line (“I want my ‘Galgalatz’!,” October 10).
The very first thing that needs attention is for everyone to stop calling these towns and villages “settlements” and their inhabitants “settlers.” They are residents the same as the residents of Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon and other cities in Israel.
It is just disgraceful that certain cellphone providers and radio frequencies are denied to part of the Israeli population. If the first settlers on the farms and kibbutzim had been treated as second-class citizens, the Zionist dream would have died before it could draw breath.
What legal ground?
Sir, – I read that an absolute condition for the PA to continue peace talks is a continued Israeli building freeze on the West Bank (“Arab League poised to back Abbas decision to leave talks,” October 8).
As a tourist I passed through the West Bank and was told that the PA is undertaking a 40,000- apartment building program in the very same region! What is the legal ground for permitting such activities exclusively for the PA? Why doesn’t Israel require a corresponding building freeze by the PA? Canadian solicitor J. Gauthier, after 20 years of studying Israel’s land ownership under international law, says in his detailed report that no border or land claims have any validity under international law until settled by a mutual peace treaty.
It seems that there is a battle as to whether international law or arbitrary decisions by different institutions and governments (UN, Security Council, US, PA or Israel) are to be applied in this peace process.
Hold the dogs
Sir, – As president of Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I read with much interest Jonah Mandel’s article, “Rabbis’ debate over casings threatens hike in kosher hotdog prices” (October 8), which discusses whether or not major hotdog producers in Israel are using non-kosher ingredients, including pig skin, for their products’ casings.
One way to avoid possibly eating non-kosher products is to adopt a plant-based diet. Such a diet is most consistent with Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources and help hungry people.
How inconsiderate!
Sir, – The Israel government is so inconsiderate. Just when people have learned how to tweet, send text messages and use their cellphones while they cruise along at 100 kilometers per hour, the government has the nerve to up the speed limit to 110 kph (“Speed limit on some roads to change as per panel proposals,” October 11), so the timing of these tricks has to be relearned.
P. YONAH Shoham
Educate against road rage
Sir, – One need only drive around anywhere in Israel to note that if an Israeli driver sees you trying to back in or out, instead of slowing down to let you progress he will accelerate to show he is in charge. A lot of road carnage is simply a lack of consideration and courtesy that is inherent in Israel society.
Maybe, just maybe, tackling this problem through education would reduce road rage and carnage, as well as promote a more caring society where we can enjoy the civil considerations we all deserve!
BEN MIRKIN Beit Shemesh
First brought to light
Sir, – Great article by Matthew Kalman on the end of the fiveyear forgery trial in a Jerusalem courtroom (“Putting the case to rest,” October 7). But would it have been too much to add that the ossuary inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” was first brought to light in the pages of the Biblical Archaeology Review, in an article by the great Sorbonne paleographer Andre Lemaire?
HERSHEL SHANKSEditor Biblical Archaeology Review Washington, DC