The crux of the debate is what Israel's Arabs make of the very idea of a Jewish state in the ancestral land of the Jews. And our conclusion since the fall of 2000 has been -- as the famously dovish TV journalist Amnon Abramowitz put it at the time -- that while we pro-Oslo Israelis were devising two states for two peoples, our Arab counterparts, on both sides of the Green Line, were contemplating two states for one people: the Palestinians.
The past few months saw rising temperatures of accusations and counteraccusations among sections of the Jewish community. Leftist Jews criticized Israel,
professor Alvin Rosenfeld criticized anti-Zionist Jews, the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee) published Rosenfeld's article, Rob Eshman criticized Rosenfeld ("Shutting Jewish Mouths," Feb. 16) and Jewish Journal readers criticized Eshman (Letters, Feb. 23).
When Israeli Arabs protest that talk of the "demographic threat" is racist, can Israeli Jews blame them? If non-Jewish professors and politicians anywhere on earth spoke of a Jewish demographic threat to their countries, what would Jews call it? What, for that matter, would decent non-Jews call it?
Raising the specter of the Arab demographic threat to Israel is, in fact, racist -- if you believe that Zionism is racism, that a Jewish state is a racist state.
I don't believe that (even while I know there is no shortage of Jews whose Zionism doesn't amount to anything more than racism). Although the Jewish state by definition "belongs" to the Jews more than it does to its non-Jewish citizens, I don't consider it a force for racism, but the opposite: Whatever racism exists in Israel, the Jewish state came into being as an answer to racism of a rather larger magnitude -- the habit of anti-Semitic oppression.