I posted here about the controversy concerning NIF’s new guidelines as reported by Nathan Guttman in The Forward. He reported that the group would require grantees to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish homeland. On that basis, I wrote a post harshly critical of what I perceived as a one-sided set of rules which would discriminate against Israeli Palestinian grantees.
Apparently, according to an authoritative source, Guttman portrayed the guidelines incompletely. The sources he used for his report appeared interested, again I have this from a reliable source, in guidelines that would’ve forced grantees to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. That isn’t going to happen.
Leonard Fein, in fact, said in my last post when I noted that NIF was considering compelling grantees to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, that I had lied. And then he had the chutzpah to wish me a healthy New Year! In fact, there were those within the NIF who proposed just that. But their proposal was not successful.
My source tells me the proposed guidelines will include a provision acknowledging Israel as a Jewish homeland. But the language will also affirm that Israel is:
…A democracy dedicated to the full equality of all its citizens and communities.
I want to make clear that while I’m not fully satisfied with this new wording, it’s less offensive than the incomplete language suggested by Guttman. And I believe that those who negotiated this wording did so in good faith and attempted to conciliate both a Jewish and Palestinian perspective on the issue.
The reason I’m less than content with the above quoted language is that it does not offer Israeli Palestinians what it offers Israeli Jews. If you are dedicated to the full equality of all citizens and you’ve conceded to Jews that their nation is their homeland, but refuse to concede this to Palestinian citizens, then they still aren’t equal to Jews. You’ve come awfully close, but close isn’t equal. There are some things you just can’t finesse and this is one of them.
There is absolutely no reason that Israel cannot be a single state in which two separate ethnic groups see it as their respective homelands. For any who would claim that this formulation indicates a bi-national state, that is not the case since Israel will still be a unitary state containing two major ethnic groups. It will not be two states and will not divide into two separate ethnic enclaves. While there are some especially on the Jewish side who would prefer to see Israel as a state rid of Palestinians, most Israeli Jews want a state in which the two groups co-exist within a single state of Israel. Palestinian citizens, of course, want a unitary, and not bi-national state.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.