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Advancing the Jewish State

Recently Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert created a controversy by naming Raleb Majadele, an Arab-Israeli Muslim, to his cabinet – the first time a Muslim has held such a high-ranking position in Israel’s government. Predictably, reactions were strong. Many moderate and liberal Israeli leaders praised the move, the right condemned it as undermining the nature of the Jewish state, and Israeli Arab politicians tended to dismiss the appointment as a meaningless token gesture.

Israel’s population is 20 percent Arab–the vast majority of those being Muslim with a significant Christian minority as well–and it is high time that Arabs finally be represented in the Cabinet (there are currently 13 Arab members of the Knesset). It is a standing rebuke that Israel’s Arab citizens, generally speaking, are far worse off than their Jewish counterparts, with higher unemployment, lower income levels, and inadequate access to governmental resources. Perhaps Majadele’s appointment, even if it is just a gesture, can serve to highlight this discrepancy and bring more attention to the needs of Israel’s Arab citizens.

Some bemoan Majadele’s appointment as a blow to Zionism, an undermining of the idea of a Jewish state, and I think it is important to acknowledge the implicit tension that exists between Israel’s commitment to being a modern democracy and to being a Jewish state. Majadele, for instance, will not sing Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem that speaks of the Jewish dream of return to our homeland (he does stand respectfully while it is sung). Having a cabinet member who refuses to sing the national anthem brings the issue of Israel’s identity to the fore and calls all of us to grapple with what exactly it means to be a Jewish state. But for me, part of being a Jewish state must certainly be treating all citizens fairly and equally as our highest standards demand: “You shall have one law–for the stranger and citizen alike.” (Lev 24:22).

Jews are called to be “a light to the nations” (Isa. 42:6) and “a holy people” (Ex. 19:6) and, as Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg argues, to do this we must surely set an example in our own state of how to safeguard the rights and dignity of everyone. As Yom Haatzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) approaches, let us affirm our commitment to build a country of which all its citizens can be proud.

Read the Full Debate: What’s the Place of Non-Jews in a Jewish State?



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Heather

posted April 16, 2007 at 7:34 pm


Excellent column. I have often thought that we have gotten so caught up in what we see as “protecting” the idea of a Jewish state, that we forget how we are suppose to live in that Jewish state or wherever else it is that we reside.



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Dave

posted April 17, 2007 at 4:39 pm


There’s no problem with a Muslim becoming a cabinet member. Obviously there are some posters here who would object to a Christian member of the cabinet, but that too would be unimportant. The bigger isssue is with the possibility of Jews becoming even a narrow majority of the population of Israel. This would be caused by a)continued growth in the Muslim population; and b)continued growth in the non-Jewish immigrant population (churches in Israel are going from majority Christian Arab to majority Russians-who came to Israel after having been ‘converted’ by Reform rabbis) Fortunately the haredim are breeding like rabbits (too bad about the anti-Zionism of some of them-but they are Jews). It woulod be interesting if Israel stayed majority Jewish but not majority Zionist. What then?



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Tzvi

posted April 17, 2007 at 5:32 pm


I personally have no problem with anyone of any religion/faith community doing almost anything, as long as they don’t force their beliefs on others. My issue is the fact that we as the question that why as jews must we be held to a higher standard than everyone else? you don’t see jews in the Muslim countries having such high ranking positions?



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Yossel

posted April 17, 2007 at 6:13 pm


B”H Tzvi: Right on! WOuld any President of the United States select a member of his cabinet who openly wanted to change the government of the United States to say, a Communist state? In the case of Israel, it is a question of SURVIVAL. I have NOT heard many Muslims say that Jews have the right to share the air on the planet. On the contrary, they want us all back at Auschwitz, based on what we see from their media and speeches of their leader to their own people. Therefore, by not reciting Hatikva, Majadele is saying that he doesn’t believe Jews have the right to our own place on the planet where we would theoretically be free from progroms or holocausts. What’s his problem? Muslims have 22 other countries to live in, and their holiest site, Mecca, is available to them (and off-limits to everyone else). Talk about racism! Dave, you should refrain from nasty statements like “multiplying like rabbits.” Every Jewish child is a treasure to our people and G-d, and should be referred to as such. On the contrary, we should pray to G-d to provide an ample sustenance to those large, poor, religious families that are sruggling financially and emotionally to survive. That is HIS (G-d’s) responsibility! By the way, Leviticus 24:22 refers to a GER TZEDEK, a righeous convert, NOT to those who seek to destroy us!!!!



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Heather

posted April 17, 2007 at 8:39 pm


Yossel, What if a Jehova’s Witness was elected to the US Congress? He or she would not salute the American flag. That doesn’t mean that they want to overthrow the government. Tzvi, While there may not be Jews in those positions there are individuals of other faiths who hold positions of power in predominantly Muslim countries.



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Tzvi

posted April 17, 2007 at 9:19 pm


Heather, you wrote: >While there may not be Jews in those >positions there are individuals of >other faiths who hold positions of >power in predominantly Muslim >countries. 2 words for you :”NAME THEM!! for years it was common knowledge that when the bigger, fortune 50 companies had business in the muslim world they didn’t send jews,, and infact these countries actually descriminate against non-muslims regularly. Though I was glad when I saw that even in some of the countries like Iran, they are allowing women to participate in Gov’t the reality is that these countries are closed to jews, and only barely tolerate the non-jews who go because they have to do so.



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Heather

posted April 18, 2007 at 12:07 am


I didn’t say Jews were in the governments. I said that those of faiths other than Islam served in governments of predominantly Muslim nations The Minister of Human Rights in Iraq is a Christian woman. In Bosnia the largest religious group is Muslims, yet the presidency is rotated between the different ethic groups meaning it is some times held by a Muslim, sometimes by a Catholic and sometimes by an Orthodox Christian. The Deputy Prime Minister of Lebannon is a Christian. That’s just scratching the service.



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Tzvi

posted April 18, 2007 at 2:47 pm


Heather, Lets reference some of the examples you mentioned: IRAQ: invalid example, as we are there and they are in the middle of a Civil war and the Goverment is about as effective as a Sand flea. BOSNIA: another “artificial” state, one that without the US/NATO/UN presensce would have killed its minorities in the 1990’s LEBANON: for starters you reffered to her as the “Deputy” which is not the same as a top level cabinet position. Secondly, Christians, while a minority in Lebanon, are a significant minority in that country, and lastly, of all the Middle eastern Nations, It is considered the most Cosmopolitan, after Israel. Like I said you have yet to name names, and can’t support your argument that the Arab nations do anything for their minority members other than persecute them into oblivion. And esp. as Jews are not welcome IN most of their countries, much less would be allowed to vote or run for an office.



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Yossel

posted April 18, 2007 at 10:58 pm


B”H WHAT’S WRONG WITH JEWS IN POSITIONS OF RESPONSIBILITY IN MUSLIM COUNTRIES? WHAT’S WRONG WITH JEWS LIVING IN MUSLIM COUNTRIES? Yet Jews are not permitted to live there, let alone be part of the government! Talk about racism!!! What’s wrong with Jews in Muslims living side by side in “the territories?” Why do the Jews have to be kicked out of those areas? Talk about racism!!! What’s wrong with Jews NOT being accused of trying to rule the world, mixing non-Jewish blood with flour and water to make matzoh, poising the wells, or killing Muslim babies? Why can’t the Jews ever get a break? Why can’t we exist on the planet and be allowed the rights of life, liberty and the persuit of happiness? Yet we’re still expect to be the “good ones” and let those who want our extinction (G-d forbid) take over our land while we go homeless? Arab countries continue to feed anti-Jewish propaganda to their citizens. ENOUGH!! Jews, stand up and get respect! Muslims should be permitted in the Israeli government when Jews are permitted to be in governments of Muslim countries!! If the government of Israel wants to allow the Palestinians to control land, let the land be SHARED (Jews and Muslims) and let them live side to side in peace together!! Let’s be fair! Period. Regards…Yossel



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Tzvi

posted April 20, 2007 at 2:45 pm


Yossel, I hate to disagree with you, but kahane was right…the land is OURS…as a condition of peace we should offer everyone a cash incentive to Leave israel. I figure a 1 time payout, would hurt the Israeli gov’t in the short term, but in the long term the “problem” will be taken care of. they don’t want us, and frankly I don’t see a need for “them” either.



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Scott R.

posted April 20, 2007 at 4:34 pm


Tzvi, They would take the money, leave, and then pressure to come back under their “law of return”.



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Tzvi

posted April 23, 2007 at 3:18 pm


Scott, If you made it a condition of saying you take the money, sign away your right to return, leave and don’t let them come back.



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Yossel

posted April 24, 2007 at 9:46 pm


B”H Tzvi: Since when do Arabs honor their word? Written or verbal? They were supposed to remove the “Israel has no right to exist” clause out of the Palestinian charter…they were supposed to preserve Yosef’s Tomb and allow Jews to visit there…ad nausem. And I certainly wouldn’t kick Jews out of ANY part of our Holy Land!!! And yes, Rabbi Kahane A”H was right…Yossel



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