It is said that radical times call for radical thinking, but even by my own standards this is a controversial proposal: perhaps there is merit in an argument for the creation of a second Jewish state – not to replace Israel, but in addition to it, to embarrass it in front of the world.
For more than 60 years the state of Israel has been publicly operating objectionable policies such as land grabs and collective punishment largely sheltered by certain western governments from international criticism and UN resolutions. In addition, some Israeli politicians have been accused by western academics of exploiting the tragic suffering and mass extermination of the Holocaust, and using the noble phrase “never again” as a cover to pretty much do as they please (as in the recent Gaza campaign) while maintaining throughout that they are representing Jews worldwide.
In truth, there has never been a greater rift between the Jewish diaspora and an elected government in Israel as the one that exists today. The newly elected government is so short-sighted and naive, lost in its extremist right-wing policies and desperate for power, that it was effectively still born. How else to explain the appointment as foreign minister of Avigdor Lieberman, a thuggish “politician” more like one of those Neanderthal characters from the era of apartheid South Africa?
The new prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s choice of Mr Lieberman as the public face of Israel is evidence of his own ignorance and arrogance. Even politicians with hardly any experience would realise that to appoint such a polarising figure, many of whose views are offensive even to committed allies such as the US, let alone covert allies in the region, is to shoot oneself in the foot. The EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has called Mr Lieberman “a man with whom I have been at odds for my entire life”, Egypt doesn’t want him to visit, and the Palestinians wouldn’t be seen in the same room as him.
Furthermore, a report in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth cited a poll conducted by J Street, the US Jewish advocacy group, which revealed that 60 per cent of American Jews oppose the extremist views expressed by Mr Lieberman during the Israeli election campaign, and a remarkable 75 per cent support a cut in US financial aid to Israel if the new government puts the skids under signing an agreement with the Palestinians. Today, clearly, a growing number of Jews around the world do not identify with Israel, largely because of its policies. Many of them object that a state claiming to represent their tolerant culture and sacred beliefs is the only country in the world that is officially occupying another people’s land.
Additionally, the notion that Israel is likely to last as a Jewish state is challenged by the demographic realities on the ground. Its population of Arab citizens is expanding, while educated and affluent Israelis are having fewer and fewer children. Moreover, a recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute found that most Israelis see themselves as Jewish first and Israeli second.
What, in fact, gives Israel the exclusive right to speak in the name of all Jews when it hosts fewer Jews than the USA, and when its very own ethnic make-up is diluted by the 20 per cent native Arab-Israeli citizens and the millions of other Arabs whose land it occupies? Demographically, the estimated 13 million Jews in the diaspora represent more than twice the number of Jews who live in Israel. Their assertions are akin to Taiwan claiming to speak on behalf of all Chinese people because it is “democratic” and “under threat”.
So I propose the creation of an additional Jewish state – also democratic, but not in the business of tarnishing the good reputation of the Jewish religion and people. After all, there are dozens of majority Muslim and Christian countries that are not founded on holy lands: why not one more Jewish one?
Because of the global economic crisis there are several countries in financial difficulties that might consider a possible purchase offer: Iceland, for one, with all due respect to Icelanders. With its dire financial situation, tiny population of 300,000 and strategic location between the USA and Europe, it would be an ideal candidate that shouldn’t cost more than $50 billion or so to purchase on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who don’t identify with Israeli policies and governments and who genuinely seek peace and tranquillity in a state that carries their attributes.
A successful, prosperous and secure second Jewish state could neutralise the voodoo spell that Israel has on the American Congress and media, as well as European leaders still haunted by the nightmare memories of their countries’ support or complicity during the extermination of their Jewry. This radical idea could act as a wake-up call for Israeli politicians who bank (literally) on America’s long-term counterproductive support, and make them realise that Israel has to face reality and finally commit to genuine peace negotiations for its own good.
It’s just a thought; after all, radical times call for radical thinking.
* This article first appeared in The National newspaper on Sunday, April 12th 2009.