It is refreshing to note that Steven Waldbaum (February 1 letter ) recognizes that "the PLO is a valid expression of the desire for self-determination of the Palestinian people." I would like, however, to take him to task for the way he defines Israel.
He said that Israel is "the expression of an ethnic-national will (like France)." This is quite incorrect. France is the country of the French people, i.e. of only those who have French nationality. Israel, however, is not just the country of the Israeli people. Israel, according to its 1952 Status Law, "regards itself as the creation of the entire Jewish people," regardless of their nationality, be it French, American or whatever. This extraterritorial concept on the basis of which Israel claims to be the country of people of other nationalities is unique and inconsistent with international law.
Since nationality cannot be a valid criterion for belonging to the Jewish people, what about ethnicity, which is also suggested by Mr. Waldbaum? It can't be, either. Russian and Ethiopian Jews cannot possibly be ethnically similar. And both are ethnically different from the 55 Indians from Peru who converted to Judaism and immigrated to Israel (Ha'aretz, March 2, 1990). The criterion then is a religion. On religious grounds derived from the Bible, Zionist leaders justify their territorial claim to Palestine, calling it the land of Israel. Also, the very notion of the Jewish people in the Bible is a religious one. They form a religious community that is supposed to follow God's command. To say, as Mr. Waldbaum did, that "Ben-Gurion was an atheist" and that "most Israelis are secular" (and I believe he is right on both) brings about an equation so contradictory and incoherent that even Einstein could not have solved.
February 24, 1993
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