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Mark Behets

Very impressive text. I would not dare to try to challenge the argumentation in it, but I just would like to challenge it from a practical point of view. Zionism as to my understanding is defined in this text, means the "right of return" of Jews to the state of Israel within its internationally recognised borders, and is surely defendable. However, the inhabitants of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, also refer to Zionism to justify their "right to return to the biblical homelands". This is an interpretation of Zionism which Is not defendable anymore, and in my view implies that any argumentation in favour of Zionism needs to explicitly reject the second interpretation.

Eric Schliesser

Thank you for your kind words, Mark. No doubt your heart is in the right place, but you don't get to decide for others what is or is "not defendable" and what they need to "explicitly reject."
Other than that I refer you to points (i) and (ii) in my essay (and the huge literature on the complex status of Israel's borders, but Wikipedia is a good start: ).

Yisrael Medad

To Mark Behats:

You write: "However, the inhabitants of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, also refer to Zionism to justify their "right to return to the biblical homelands". This is an interpretation of Zionism which Is not defendable anymore, and in my view implies that any argumentation in favour of Zionism needs to explicitly reject the second interpretation."

In the first place, since Zionism, alright, modern Zionism as it developed from the early to middle 19th century and then from the First Aliyah in its eighth decade to be followed by the founding of the Zionist Organization by Herzl in 1897, of course the residents of the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria "refer to Zionism to justify" a right of residence.

Beyond specific borders, to conceive of a Jewish homeland, one that achieved the recognition of international law to be "reconstituted" by the League of Nations in 1922, following the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the San Remo Conference decisions of 1920, without that territory which includes Hebron, Shiloh, Beth El, etc., is nigh ridiculous. Secondly, there is no need to get stuck with the phrase "biblical homelands".

The Mandate wording is quite clear: "Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country;" and that historical connection was not ancient or Biblical (to be, perhaps, sneered at) but contemporary. Jews resided in Hebron, Jerusalem's Old City, Gaza, Nablus (we refer to it as Shchem) and other sites that now, for some odd reason, is somehow not to be considered "Jewish territory".

That odd reason, I suggest, is due to the fact that up until 1948, local Arabs engaged in a quite successful ethnic cleansing project to remove Jews from those areas and after 1948, Jordan made sure no Jews would live in those areas.

As Eric Schliesser writes, Zionists failed to establish permanent borders. But whatever those borders are to be, one need recognize that the Green Line demarcating the cease-fire lines of 1949 until the 1967 war resulted from Arab aggression. There were borders of the 1947 Partition proposal which the Jews accepted and the Arabs rejected. Once the Arabs then went to war to eradicate the Jewish community (and then, from May 14th, 1948, the state of Israel) one could say it was the Arab failure to accept any border delineation that is the problem Zionism faces, and with it, the rest of the world.

And the continued acts of aggression since 1967, should indicate that it is, indeed, the responsibility of Arabs to agree to Israel's borders. And since Hamas refuses to agree to any Jewish sovereign status anywhere, the whole argument of the legitimacy of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is moot.

One last point: since Transjordan was part of the original Mandate for Palestine, any future territorial arrangements must take into consideration the territory of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, as well. And if one thinks that cheeky, since Jordan insists in having a say in what goes on in Jerusalem based on the new Palestinian Authority-Jordan Pact of March 2013, this must be a two-way street.

Mark Behets


I’ve well read points (i) and (ii) of your essay and I admit that I was happy to find them in your text. However, I hoped you would also go one step further and confirm that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank cannot be justified by the “Zionism” as defined it in your essay, and as it historically existed before 1905 (as you undoubtedly know far better than I do, Herzl originally considered besides Palestine also Argentine, Uganda… as possible territories for the Jewish homeland).

As to emotions and rational thought: I don't know whether you had the chance to visit the West Bank and have conversations with the Palestinian inhabitants. If not, I can highly recommend the trip, which I made 4 years ago. Like you probably presume, the experience caused a lot of emotions, which however started a process of reflexion which brought me to the rational insight that the settlements are a main cause not only of unnecessary humiliation but also of inhibiting normal socio-economical life for the Palestinians. The hundreds of Israeli settlements, and the roads interconnecting them, are all forbidden territory for the Palestinians, and split the West Bank into islands only connected by sparse tunnels under these roads. And this is not justified by any vital need of the Israelis: the civilian settlements are not necessary for Israel's defence (as could be argued military presence on the West Bank is).

An anecdote will illustrate the point I’m trying to make (and which will make the connection to Spinoza, with whom you started your essay). When I asked an Israeli settler at the West Bank why he wanted to live in the West Bank and not in Tel Aviv, he answered: “Tel Aviv is where the Philistines lived, I want to live in Judea, the territory chosen by God for my people”. Although I respect this statement from a religious point of view, I however could not oppose more its use in the domain of (international) law. Spinoza was so right in refuting religion to have any authority in public affairs (my interpretation of The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus).

Mark Behets

To Yisrael Medad

Your argumentation seems very juridical to me, so I will not discuss it in detail in this philosophical blog. I only point out that it seems rather unilateral to me, as you for example do not mention:
• following phrase in the Mandate text you refer to: “… it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,” (source: Wikipedia).
• The UN resolutions of 1947 and later years.

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