I applaud Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for appointing a Muslim Israeli Arab to the Cabinet. What a contrast to the surrounding Arab nations, many of whom refuse to allow Jews to be citizens. However, I disagree with Rabbi Waxman that this is a position to applaud. Why? Because Olmert should never have accepted into his Cabinet someone who does not support the prime mission of Israel: to be the Jewish State, whether Neturei Katre or bi-nationalist. As a citizen of the open democracy of Israel, Raleb Majadele can vote, run for office, and freely express his views. However, justice does not require that someone who wants to destroy the basic mission of the State be appointed to shepherd it. The wolf is guarding the sheep.
It is true that Israel did not ensure equality of opportunity for its Arab citizens. The constant state of war forced upon it by its Arab neighbors meant that its Arab citizens were always seen as a fifth column and therefore not conscripted into the army. Why place Arabs in the difficult position of having to fight against fellow Arabs in the event of war? However, that meant that Arab young people did not have the benefit of Israeli Army experience that is a career ladder for so many.
Nevertheless the disparate support for education, infrastructure, housing, and job development given to Arab villages and towns was shortsighted. In the context of an Israeli budget always stretched to the limit and supported by Diaspora Jewish money, we may understand why such a situation developed. The problem is we are paying the price today.
We Jews remember what it is like to be a minority people. The Torah tells us to treat the stranger fairly, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt. Fair distribution of aide is the right thing to do. There are also real concerns about demographics and the nature of the Jewish State, particularly in the Galilee where many Arab villages and towns are found. And it is also the smart thing to do. Studies show that higher education and job opportunities are the strongest indicators of reduced birthrates.
Israel is caught in its own moral dilemma. On one hand it wants to treat all its citizens equally. The plight of Arab citizens strikes the conscience of many Jewish Israelis. (It is unfortunate there is not a equivalent concern in the Arab world for its minorities.) There is increased support for individuals and organizations who reject the idea of Israel remaining a Jewish State. Such a tendency is not only foolhardy, but also dangerous. There are many Arab states. While they may debate what the role of religion or tradition is in their nations, none goes through the angst or ambivalence we do about their Arab identity. Israel needs to treat our minorities justly. Israel does not need to apologize for its mission as the only Jewish State in the world.
It is also unfortunate that over 60 years after the Holocaust, as anti-Semitism is rising throughout Europe and the Arab world, so many Jews here and in Israel think the solution is to eliminate the Jewish nature of the State of Israel. Eliminating Israel as a Jewish State would not bring peace. Just the opposite. It would empower the radicals to set their sights on the rest of the Westernized world. It would also endanger Jews everywhere in an even more serious way.
We need Israel as a Jewish State now more than ever. We should expect our leaders and our philanthropic organizations to be clear about that and refuse to support even those who prefer to destroy Israel with the kid glove–by rejecting Israel’s essential Jewish nature–rather than the fist.
–Posted by Rabbi Susan Grossman
Read the Full Debate: What’s the Place of Non-Jews in a Jewish State?