By Gideon Levy | Jun.23, 2013 | 2:19 AM |
The provocative (and challenging ) question in this headline is irrelevant. With the exception of Israel, such an accusation hasn’t been hurled at any state, and to be honest, Israel isn’t seriously considered illegitimate either – at least not in the sense the nationalist right in the country would have us believe in order to scare the public. When discussing the topic the question is not whether certain states are legitimate or not, but whether certain regimes are. The regimes of Iran, North Korea, Burma and others are considered illegitimate due to their conduct, but no one questions the legitimacy of Iran as a state. Of course there are states that were born in sin – the United States leading the pack – but no one questions the legitimacy of the U.S. That is true concerning Israel as well. It is an existing state, whose existence isn’t in doubt.
When the right screams ‘delegitimization,’ it purposely exaggerates. Even the most heated criticism of Israel is directed at the regime: most of it deals with Israel being a regime of occupation – an overtly illegitimate reality – and some of it is directed at its definition as an ethnic-national state, the Jewish state.
There is no other state that carries out such an occupation, nor another state that defines itself according to its ethnic, religious or national purity. France is not the state of the French, nor is Germany the state of the Germans. They’re both the states of their citizens. Germans and French aren’t defined only by the blood in the veins – whether one’s grandfather had French blood or an Aryan grandmother – but rather by the naturalization processes in these countries.
A German of Turkish descent, as well as a Frenchman of Algerian descent, are citizens with full equal rights. In the new era of international immigration the matter of ethnic purity has become irrelevant and illegitimate. This should be true regarding Israel as well. It has no right to claim other criteria than the rest of the world.
The fear mongering of delegitimization is aimed at obscuring reality and allowing Israel to ignore responsibility for its actions, which is the source of the Israeli regime’s lack of legitimacy. Precious few seriously discuss destroying Israel, and in any case, no one has the power to do so. Israel’s critics and haters – and unfortunately there many of these – question Israel’s regime and policies, not Israel’s existence. They believe that the values of natural justice dictate a different Israel: not an occupier and not (only ) Jewish.
Therefore the responsibility for its perception as illegitimate belongs to those who support the status quo. It isn’t Israel’s fierce critics at home and abroad who are to blame for the anti-Israeli campaign and its consequences – boycotts, isolation and hostility – but rather those who decide on Israel’s policies. In the 21st century states that insist on continuing an occupation or define themselves as purely ethnic are ostracized. These are the points raised by Israel’s critics. They include this author, who, actually, is motivated by fear for Israel’s future, and there are others who are motivated by pathological hatred and illegitimate anti-Semitism. Israel should not supply excuses for this hatred.
The “Facing Tomorrow” Presidential Conference did nothing to legitimize Israel, as the spin doctors would like us to believe, just as documenting the wrongdoings of the occupation or pointing out racism aren’t to blame for the delegitimization of the regime. In fact, the vestiges of legitimacy the Israeli regime enjoys are due to its relative democracy, at least as far as Jews are concerned. Those who are now trying to limit existing civil rights only add to Israel’s isolation.
We would be better off facing reality honestly, with a sober outlook rather than a brain-washed one: A state that was established in large part on the ashes of the Holocaust, whose creation was enthusiastically supported by most nations and whose existence is supported by an even larger majority today, has veered off the path and lost its way; that is the reason for the outcry against it. Israel is cruelly and violently ruling another nation, leaving so many of its sons, who were born here, stripped of self-determination and civil rights, and it defines the rights of its citizens solely according to their national-religious affiliation. Would you support such a state? Is its nature legitimate in your eyes?