October 15: Illegal structures

The state comptroller should ask the Jerusalem Municipality how many Arab applications for building licenses it has refused.

Illegal structures
Sir, – The state comptroller’s report notes with concern the increase in illegally-built structures in Silwan, and criticizes the Jerusalem Municipality for “lax enforcement” (“State comptroller criticizes municipality for illegal structure increase in Arab Silwan neighborhood,” October 14).
The state comptroller should ask the Jerusalem Municipality how many Arab applications for legal building licenses it has refused. He should investigate the policy of not granting building licenses to Arabs.
RUTH RIGBI Jerusalem
State of the nation
Sir, – In his criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, Larry Derfner states: “The Palestinians should not be asked to do that, anymore than Israel should be asked to recognize the US, Canada, Britain, France and other countries of the Jewish Diaspora as Christian states” (“Any more doubts about Bibi?,” October 14).
The Jews share more than a religion; they are a nation, as defined in the Bible. Moreover, the Jewish nation was defined as such by the Balfour Declaration and by the UN decision of November 1947, following which Ben-Gurion declared Israel as the nascent Jewish state.
Sir, – Islam and Muslim societies throughout the Middle East and elsewhere have always related to the Jews as a people, not as a religion in the Western sense.
Historically, and as stated clearly in the Torah, our people’s charter document, the Jews are first and foremost a people.
Our religion is called Judaism. This is how we have defined ourselves for eons and – but for about the past 300 years – how non-Jewish societies have defined us.
Following the 18th century Emancipation and Enlightenment, it served the social, political and economic interests of Jews in Western countries to accept a redefinition of themselves as Frenchmen, Englishmen and later as Americans “of the Mosaic persuasion,” i.e., loyal nationals whose religion just happens to be Judaism.
The apogee of this notion in the US was the formation in 1942 of the infamously anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, comprised over the years mainly of nominally practicing Jews who insisted that the Jews were solely a religious group.
American sociologist Will Herberg’s classic work “Protestant, Catholic, Jew” (1955) bolstered the image of Jews as one of America’s three primary religious affiliations.
That Judaism is a peoplehood not limited to the parameters of religious beliefs or practices is patently obvious by the existence of millions of Jews, today as in the past, both in Israel and the Diaspora, who define themselves as atheists. These same individuals would never deny being Jews.
Even the most anti-religious and politically-left Israelis recognize that they are Jews.
In the United States secular Jews who readily acknowledge that they are Jews are satisfied to get around the paradox of their non-practice by seeing themselves as members of an American “ethnic group.”
Promoting this nomenclature over the last century made it easier for Jews to find acceptance in American society along with other Americans who were not White Anglo- Saxon Protestants. An ethnic group in the Western political context is not a national group. It offers no competition and poses no threat to its sovereign host.
That the Jews are a people and not a religion today comes as a shock to many, including many Jews, who from a young age were taught the opposite.
However, Muslims know this, including the leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Modern Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, not Judaism.