Turin Controversy: Ethnocentrism and Israel

Turin Controversy: Ethnocentrism and Israel


“States exist in history” is just about as ridiculous and ambiguous truism we can say about them. Of course they do, but what constitutes them as states? As far as history is concerned it is radically a matter of interpretation, and to a lot of people, not Mitchell Cohen, Judea and Samaria are historically parts of the State of Israel. It so happens Israel occupies these places.

It does not matter whose fault it is that it came to be so. As far as I now see it, the 1967 War was an aggressive Israeli war. But the Jordanian annexation of the West Bank in 1948, and its subsequent Israeli quasi annexation in 1967 are illegal irrespective of who attacked first. Everything else Cohen says is irrelevant as far as my point regarding territory is concerned, namely the Israeli state is a territorially amorphous and legally uncertain entity. This means that its recognition should not be a precondition of negotiations. I, of course, agree that its final borders should be the result of negotiations.

Territorial swaps cover lots of things and in themselves are not illegal anyway. What about the people living on them? I mean Arab citizens of Israel. Will Cohen follow Lieberman and those who propose forcible transfer, loss of citizenship, and thus a soft form of ethnic cleansing? I doubt that these swaps will be very attractive to the Israeli government without making a contribution to what they call the demographic problem.

As to the law of return, he misunderstands my point. I objected to Jews having (and especially still having!) the right to citizenship, when Arabs having been born there cannot return. And their children too. Funny that he discusses only half the point. Even funnier that he thinks of Jews today as the equivalent of blacks in America, needing affirmative action, and not the Arabs still in the camps. Unfortunately, supporters of Israel often come close to the most obvious ethnocentrism that is so at variance with the Jewish tradition since the 18th century.

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Andrew Arato is the Dorothy Hart Hirson Professor of Political and Social Theory at the New School. The interview and exchange originally appeared on Reset: Dialogues on Civilization. ©ResetDOC.