Israelís fundamental rights as a nation-state

Published: 15 May 2012
Briefing Number 313

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Summary:The Jewish people have a legitimate right to live in a sovereign  nation in the land of Israel.  And that nation has certain fundamental rights. 

This new Beyond Images Briefing summarises the content of a major report on these topics which was published in Israel in October 2011 by the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs (JCPA) and the World Jewish Congress. 

The report examines the political, diplomatic, ethical, historical and legal aspects of Israel’s national rights.  It has been designed as a tool to counter the increasing number of voices around the world who call into question the legitimacy of Jewish national statehood, either flagrantly or in subtle, ‘polite’ fashion. 

The report is entitled ‘Israel’s Rights as a Nation-state in International Diplomacy’, and it can be downloaded from the JCPA website:
Its contributors include Professor Shlomo Avineri, Sir Martin Gilbert, Dore Gold, Professor Ruth Lapidot, Professor Alan Dershowitz, Professor Ruth Gavison and Dr Dan Diker. It is edited (and contributed to) by Israel’s former ambassador to Canada Alan Baker.

This Briefing also includes a key message from Beyond Images on why these issues are at the core of forward-thinking Israel advocacy.

Here is how Alan Baker introduces the report:

“The importance of this book has arisen in light of a concerted campaign launched some years ago and presently being waged against Israel by Palestinian, Muslim and other non-Arab elements in the international community.

This campaign seeks to call into question the very legitimacy of Israel in virtually every aspect of its historical, political and cultural life, and even extends into international organisations, international media, and the web, with the aim of questioning and undermining the very foundations of Israel’s existence.

With a view to providing the international community in general, and readers, academics, parliamentarians and others with an authoritative exposition of Israel’s basic rights as a state in international diplomacy, several world-renowned experts have been asked to write a chapter on some of the most central aspects of Israel’s existence and rights......” 

Summary of the chapters in the Report:

The national rights of the Jewish people - by Ruth Gavison

A restatement of the rights of the Jewish people to a nation-state, by Professor Ruth Gavison, civil rights campaigner, winner of the 2011 Israel Prize for law, and one of the world’s leading experts in the field of nationalism. A vital chapter at a time when the Palestinian leadership rejects the concept of Israel as a Jewish state, and almost the whole international community is silent about that rejection

‘An overwhelmingly Jewish state’ – by Martin Gilbert

A historical reminder of the British Government’s understanding during the Palestine Mandate between 1920 and 1947 of the Jewish right to a national home in Palestine, written by Sir Martin Gilbert, historian and official biographer of Winston Churchill

Self-determination and Israel’s declaration of independence – by Shlomo Avineri

A restatement of the principle of national self-determination for the Jewish people, as well as the rights of Israel’s Arab citizens, as reflected in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, by the iconic Israeli historian and political scientist Professor Shlomo Avineri

The UN and Middle East refugees: the differential treatment of Arabs and Jews – by Stanley Urman    

A comparison between the attention given by the international community to Palestinian Arab refugees since 1948, compared to the neglect of the situation of Jewish refugees who were forced to flee from Arab countries after 1948

Israel’s rights regarding the territories and settlements in the eyes of the international community – Alan Baker

An examination of how a set of “clichés” has arisen about the West Bank and settlements among the international community, without any attempt to review either the legal accuracy or the truth behind the terminology.  Ambassador Alan Baker is an eminent Israeli lawyer and diplomat

The historical and legal contexts of Israel’s borders –  Nicholas Rostow

Final borders are supposed to be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians, but the Palestinians have moved to a strategy of seeking to dictate the outcome of such negotiations and demanding the “1967 borders” regardless of Israel’s rights and regardless of the history. Professor Rostow examines Israel’s rights in relation to borders

The misleading interpretation of Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 – by Ruth Lapidoth

UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967 is one of the foundations of the peace process and existing peace treaties.  However, many people promote Israeli-Arab interpretations of Resolution 242 which are not consistent with either the text or with the intention of those who drafted it.  Professor Ruth Lapidoth is an eminent international lawyer and participated in many past peace negotiations.  She examines this issue

Defending Israel’s legal rights to Jerusalem – Dore Gold

An outline of Israel’s legal rights in Jerusalem at a time when most of the international community labels all Jewish building in Jerusalem since 1967, and even in the Old City, as “settlements” and therefore “illegal”. Dore Gold is the president of the JCPA, and author of ‘The Battle for Jerusalem’

Palestinian unilateralism and Israel’s rights in Arab-Israeli diplomacy – Dan Diker  

The Palestinian quest for a unilateral declaration of independence at the United Nations ignores both the physical reality of Israel and its legitimate requirements.   This chapter by Dr Dan Diker of the World Jewish Congress examines why and how the Palestinians are pursuing this course of action, and its implications

Is the Gaza Strip occupied by Israel? by Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch

Since the withdrawal of Israel’s settlers from the Gaza Strip in August 2005 and the physical destruction of the Jewish settlements there, Israel nevertheless continues to be accused of “occupying” the Gaza Strip and of being in breach of the international legal obligations which bind an “occupier”.  This chapter, by a senior lawyer in the IDF, examines the legal issues and carefully refutes the allegations

The violation of Israel’s right to sovereign equality at the United Nations – by Alan Baker

Since 1949 Israel has been a fully-fledged member of the United Nations, but it is still discriminated against and does not enjoy the full rights of sovereign equality guaranteed by the UN Charter.  This chapter, also by Ambassador Alan Baker, examines this phenomenon

Countering challenges to Israel’s legitimacy – Alan Dershowitz

Professor Alan Dershowitz examines and rebuts four challenges to Israel’s legitimacy: the claim that it is a “colonial state”; that it is an “apartheid” state; that it secured its statehood unlawfully in 1948; and that the solution to the conflict should be a so-called “one state solution”

The report also contains the text of the following

-The Balfour Declaration 1917

- The Palestine Mandate 1922

- The UN Partition Plan 1947

- Israel’s Declaration of Independence 1948

- UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967

- UN Security Council Resolution 338 of 1973

- The Oslo Accords and follow-up agreements, 1993 to 1995

Beyond Images key message – the link to Israel advocacy 

The Jewish people have a right of national self-determination in the land of Israel. And that sovereign Jewish state has certain fundamental rights.  These are liberal concepts which are underpinned by universal morality and by international law, and they need to be framed that way. 

It is the denial of the Jewish peoples’ national rights by the Palestinians and the wider Arab and Muslim world which still lies at the very heart of the conflict.  Palestinian denial of the right is manifested in various ways:

- by their refusal to recognise Israel as a state of the Jewish people;

- by their relentless denial of the national history of the Jewish people and their historic connection to the land of Israel, and in particular Jerusalem;

- by their advocacy of an open-ended so-called ‘right of return’ into Israel;

- and by incitement against Israel and Israelis which infuses Palestinian education, media and culture

Israelis yearn for peace: the vision of future peace is a lifeline.  And if recognition of the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state by the Palestinians and across the Arab world was forthcoming, both in word and in deed, then the parties could negotiate viable Palestinian statehood, and achieve future coexistence, stability and prosperity.

Of course, forward-thinking pro-Israel advocates know that finding a long-term solution to the conflict is not a ‘zero sum game’.  It is possible to be ‘pro-Israeli’ and ‘pro-Palestinian’ at the same time.  Of course it is necessary to talk peace, and to talk coexistence.  It is necessary to also talk honestly about the “painful concessions” which Israel will need to make to attain peace (as Benjamin Netanyahu and previous Prime Ministers have reiterated in most major speeches).

But, first, and as a precursor to this, Israel advocates, and those who wish to bring peace between the parties, need to talk about rights. 

The ‘pro-Israel’ camp across the political spectrum – from left to right – needs to be equally forthright in asserting the Jewish peoples’ national rights among liberal audiences.  

You cannot build a Palestinian state by demonising the Jewish one.

And you cannot fulfil Palestinian national rights by denying Jewish national rights.  

The information and arguments in the JCPA / WJC report which are featured in this Briefing should make a major contribution to reinforcing these advocacy messages.

An earlier version of this Beyond Images Briefing was sent round the Beyond Images email list on 30 October 2011. 

Some related Beyond Images resources

Briefing 308 – 23 February 2012
Israeli Palestinian core issues:
Ron Prosor’s key messages to the United Nations

Briefing 300 – 5 October 2011
Two states, but neither of them Jewish:
Palestinian moderate leader Nabil Sha’ath explains his two-state solution

Special Beyond Images Briefing – 16 November 2010
Delegitimisation of Israel, in plain English..... and how to respond

Briefing 249 – 10 December 2009
The roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
The ongoing Arab denial of Israel’s legitimacy

Briefing 275 – 20 January 2011
Palestinian denial of Jewish history:
An obstacle to peace and coexistence

Briefing 6 – July 2002
Recognising Israel’s right to exist: actions speak louder than words