OpinionJournal Federation Feature Article:

In case you missed my VC post, "Does Japan Have the Right to Exist as a Japanese State?", it's available today on the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal website as the OpinionJournal Federation Feature Article of the day. The piece discusses theh fact many countries have an explicit ethnic basis, including some sort of "law of return," but only Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is ever called into question.

Donald Kahn (mail):
That is to be expected. This phenomenon is well-expressed in Cyntia Ozick's essay All the World Wants the Jews Dead, in Esquire, November 1974. I am going to ignore any copyright (some of you can tell me about that) and prepare it as a Word document which I will email to anyone who requests it.
8.24.2006 4:05pm
Donald Kahn (mail):
My email address is
8.24.2006 4:05pm
Joel B. (mail):
Nice to see you on Opinionjournal. It was a good post, and it deserved to be highlighted.
8.24.2006 4:26pm
Bill Harshaw (mail) (www):
While I often disagree with your posts, this article was enlightening. As a note, apparently the Japanese language can draw very fine distinctions about one's affiliation to Japan (not just "Nisei", etc. I seem to recall an article where there was a specific name for someone who, though native-born, was outside Japan for part of his/her primary education.
8.24.2006 4:44pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
Political disputes over the "right" of a group to statehood are commonplace, both historically and in contemporary world politics.

Does Tibet have the right to exist as a Tibetan State?

Does Kurdistan have the right to exist as a Kurdish State?

Do southern white Americans have a right to an independent southern Confederacy sanctioning white supremacy?

Do the Lakota People have a right to self-government?

Do the Biafran People have a right to independent self-government?

The right of any people, defining themselves, to organize a state and to claim for that state, independent self-government is, at best, a moral right, which must be vindicated practically by a demonstration of capacity of will, competence and resources, against whatever similar claims may be made by other groups, which claims entail a practical conflict.

Japan's sovereign unity is not much disputed, internally or externally. There is not, in fact, a complete and total absence of confict. Japan has minority groups, though the minority group population is among the smallest percentages of any large country in the world, and Japan has long-standing boundary disputes with neighbors, just as almost every country does, though Japan's current boundary disputes are among the least contentious, due perhaps to the country's nominaly pacifist military orientation.

Since the establishment of the United Nations under the U.N. charter, the obligations of all States to provide high minimum standards of legal protection and respect to all persons have been well-established, if not universally respected. Many nation-states have been rightly criticized for shortcomings in their respect for human rights.

The idea that Israel faces unique hostility to its claims of national sovereignty is just silly, a form of pointless and narcissistic special pleading.

Arabs and Palestinians are free to make claims of their own -- even claims, which conflict with Israel's. Welcome to a world of conflicting and competing claims.

Grow up and stop whining.
8.24.2006 4:47pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Although I can't fault your basic point, I think that unfortunately the presence of violence calls for greater justifications.

Israel may also be unique in the size of the groups at issue, and the political impact that the law has, by actually (correct me if I'm wrong) having a significant impact on who gets political control.

But basically, I think people criticize Israel because they're tired of the overflowing violence in the region, which may be fair or not.
8.24.2006 4:49pm
David, what would you say to a Native Americans right return?
8.24.2006 5:01pm
israeli guy:
I think you've missed a key distinction here. If Israelis had been inhabiting a piece of land for hundreds or thousands of years, no one would be questioning Israel's right to exist. What people are questioning is the right of a particular group to move into a piece of land where others already live, and then say they want to carve out a country of their own from that land 50 years later.
8.24.2006 5:04pm
Yes, but what's the housing market like in Israel?
8.24.2006 5:11pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
The idea that Israel faces unique hostility to its claims of national sovereignty is just silly, a form of pointless and narcissistic special pleading.

Huh!?! How could any person not recognize that Israel faces a "unique hostility to its claims of national sovereignty"? It certainly does, and I would think that even the most militant Palestinians would agree. They would posit their own reasons for why it faces such "unique hostility", i.e., they would argue that it faces this hostility because, unlike Japan, it has no right to exist at all and has no historic rights to the land it claims. As a Zionist, I vehemently disagree with such arguments. Regardless, it is simply beyond dispute that Israel faces such a "unique hostility" -- whether the hostility is fair is a different question (and I think it is almost indisputably unfair).

Further, it cannot be disputed that Israel receives a disproportionate amount of attention from the world community. Now, I find the argument that this is because the "whole world wants the Jews dead" to be silly, overly simplistic and just not helpful. Rather, the reasons Israel receives such a disproportionate are due to many complex factors, including the historical significance of Israel and Jerusalem in particular to the two largest religions in the World (Christianity and Islam respectively). Of course, soem of the attention it receives is a result of Jew-hatred, but to say that is THE reason is absurd.

David's point was that a specific criticism of Israel is a ludicrous and unfair criticism. Argue that on the merits -- I agree with David on this one, but not on much else. But to deny that the criticisms exist and that it is a unique criticism that many other nations with similar national identities do not face is to deny objective facts.
8.24.2006 5:17pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Israeli guy,

we went through this last time, but that's just not right. The question of whether Jews had the right to migrate to Turkish and Mandatory Palestine and then demand sovereignty over part of the land is distinct from the question of whether Israel is a "racist" state because it has a Law or Return and is otherwise established as an ethnically "Jewish" state. To put it another way, even if Israel and the Arabs could agree now on a re-partition of the disputed lands, that would do nothing to resolve the issue of whether Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state. Now, if you are arguing that most of those who question Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state are merely being disingenuous, and really just think that the Palestinians are entitled to the land, I agree with you. But there are others, like the reader who asked me the question, who are not pro-Palestinian, but have absorbed the relevant propaganda, and wonder why Israel "but no one else" exists as an ethnically based state. And the answer is that the premises that the question are based on is wrong, that ethnically based states are quite common. This will not satisfy those who were just using the question to pursue another agenda, but should satisfy the merely curious.
8.24.2006 5:20pm
te (mail):
I understand from the news that some Japanese fisherman were recently killed by Russians in disputed waters. I don't know if any were kidnapped.

Does this give Japan the right to start firing missiles into Russia?
8.24.2006 5:24pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Wilder, I'll ignore your rudeness and point out that all of the examples you give were at best (the Confederacy) very short-lived states, and for the most part are non-states, the equivalent of asking in the 1920s whether Zionism is a good or bad idea. And the Confederacy example is inapposite anyway, since the question there was whether they had a right to secede or not, both the north and south existed in their own minds as white, protestant entities. If you can come up with an example of where there is an ongoing debate over whether a state that has existed for sixty years or more has the right to exist based on the state's ethnic identity, please do.
8.24.2006 5:33pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
I don't think the comparison of Israel to Ireland is very apt, but the one with Japan is closer to the mark. I tend to agree with Professor Bernstein's view that Israel gets criticized from wanting to be a "Jewish" state when other countries with similar practices escape such criticism.
Of course, while his argument shows that other countries are similar to Israel, it does not necessarily show that the idea of a Jewish state is a morally correct idea, or that it is not racist, etc., just that it may not be so unique.

As for why people appear to criticize Israel so much for this and other perceived shortcomings, here is why:

the "left" in the US, but more especially in Europe and elsewhere, sees the Palestinians as the "downtrodden" or underdogs in this conflict. The reason for this perception is simple. Although jews were almost annihilating during WWII and the Holocaust, Israel now has a very powerful military, and a booming economy, and controls most of the land that is the jews' historic home in the middle east, whereas the Palestinians have not much of a military, a pathetic economy, many live in abject poverty, and they control very little of their ancestral lands. Of course, we can debate why, and whose fault all of this is, until the ends of time, but the Palestinians' much less powerful status vis-a-vis Israel's is the basic reason for why many lefties are so critical of Israel.

Also, even if you knock down one criticism of Israel (by showing that the jewish state ideal is not unique), you will never convince the left of the righteousness of your cause, or stop such criticism, until the Palestinians are much better off than they are now. It is as simple as this: the Palestinians are now perceived as the underdogs and many on the left think their current plight is unfair to them.
8.24.2006 5:37pm
israeli guy:

I suppose you are right -- they are different questions. But I don't think there are many people who are against ethnic states with a right of return per se. Those who are against Israel's right of return are just against the way Israel was established. In other words, they consider the original Zionism the real problem, not the right of return.

But of course, I don't really know what they think, so I can't speak for them. My own view is that all land is up for grabs -- the strongest get it. Who will have the land in a 100 years is an interesting question. Time will tell.
8.24.2006 5:51pm
SANE (mail):
Mr. Bernstein's response to his correspondent boils down to this:

Israel has the moral justification to be a Jewishly ethnic state (a) because it is not solely Jewish -- it allows others to earn citizenship and has made provisions for Arabs who remained in their homes during the independence war of '48; and (b) other countries do it (i.e., Japan).

He immediately recognizes though that even with (a) and (b), Israel suffers soemthing other ethnic states do not: the Palestinian Arabs were there first and now claim it as their own. Moreover, to the thorny problem of the very undemocratic policy to allow Jews to return and not the Palestinians -- precisely because that would literally challenge the majority status of Jews in Israel -- Mr. Bernstein's sole argument is worldwide Jewish persecution -- something he claims these other ethnic states did not suffer.

But Mr. Bernstein fails to take up the Arab and now Persian argument: the Palestinians never historically persecuted Jews; why should they be forced to give up their homeland for the sins of the Europeans, the Slavs, or even the Arabs of Andalusia or the Turks of Ottoman?

Mr. Bernstein focuses on a red herring in his response and does so by artificially separating out the question whether it is "legitimate" for liberal democracies to discriminate racially or ethnically from Israel's right to exist simply. His answer: others do it.

Aside from the shallowness of that answer, unless he adheres to a kind of real politik, the question he should confront, and he runs from it, is what makes a nation and what is the basis for its claim to any piece of land? Bruce Wilder above suggests one answer. The only truth is the one you're willing to fight over and win. I believe Nietzsche's Übermensch might agree.

As a "democrat" and "libertarian" though Mr. Bernstein cannot address this most fundamental issue for his democratic and libertarian answer leads him quite quickly to a World State. And by the by, this is not an "opinion"; it can be demonstrated.

At the risk of irritating this comment thread, I might suggest "Zionism, Hamas, and Self-Destruction" found at SANE Works for US as a starting point.
8.24.2006 5:58pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I.G., I think there are actually many Americans, at least, who are troubled when they hear that Israel discriminates in favor of Jews, because this is very much against the American ethos across a wide swath of the political spectrum. But if you explain that Japan, Ireland, et al. have similar policies, that doesn't make them like the policies, but it takes away, as Greedy Clerk said, a particular unfair charge leveled at Israel.
8.24.2006 5:58pm
wm. tyroler (mail):
... some Japanese fisherman were recently killed by Russians in disputed waters. ... Does this give Japan the right to start firing missiles into Russia?

Killed by racist, genocidal Russians as part of an announced and religiously-inspired program to destroy Japan? If not, then what's the point of your non-analogy?
8.24.2006 6:12pm
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
Prof. Bernstein:

The objection to this post is the same as it was the first time. "Does Japan have the right to exist as a 'Japanese' state" isn't a question that's never asked. It's just one that you've not heard before.

You're a 'specialist' in Israel, so you're aware of the issue as it pertains to Israel. But to a specialist in Japan, no only has the question been asked, it's been answered several time throughout our lifetimes. Often eloquently.

Israel's "exceptionalism" comes from the level of violence that attaches to the question. If ethnic Koreans had (as Palestinians did) taken to hijacking airplanes from third countries in order to enforce their demands for rights, the question would be asked much more broadly as well.
8.24.2006 6:19pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
SANE, the argument for not letting (all, Israel agreed to readmit some) Palestinians back to Israel is that they actively or tacitly engaged in war against the state, and having 1/3 or so of the population be a fifth column would lead to perpetual civil war. Besides which Israel was busy resettling 500K refugees thrown out of various Arab countries. BTW, the Palestinians did oppress the Jews, not only through riots and murders against peaceable civilians throughout the pre-state period, but also in that their most significant leader, the Haj Amin Al-Husseini, was allied with Hitler during WWII and helped foment the Holocaust. But that's not the justificaiton for Israel's existence, the justification is that Jews immigrated there in sufficient numbers to claim their own state, their claim was recognized internationally, and they defended their claim in war. The justification for the Pals not having a state where Israel is, is that they started a civil war instead of accepting their own internationally recognized country, and lost. But none of this has to do with the specific criticism that Israel is a uniquely racist state because it has an ethnic basis and a law of return, which is simply false.
8.24.2006 6:23pm
Taeyoung (mail):
I seem to recall an article where there was a specific name for someone who, though native-born, was outside Japan for part of his/her primary education.
Kikokushijo (帰国子女).
8.24.2006 6:30pm
te (mail):

Killed by racist, genocidal Russians as part of an announced and religiously-inspired program to destroy Japan? If not, then what's the point of your non-analogy

Once you have a dispute over territory, you can pretty much guarantee that all of the stuff you mention will eventually get thrown into the mix.

Anyway, are you saying that that if Hezbollah cast their attack and kidnapping of the IDF soldiers as merely a result of a territorial dispute, that the killing and kidnapping would be any more acceptable. Sounds like a weirdo international version of hate-crimes legislation.
8.24.2006 6:39pm
Mark F. (mail):
Wouldn't the libertarian answer be that no state which infringes on the rights of its citizens has a "right" to exist? An anarcho-capitalist would say that NO state can fail to infringe on people's rights, so no state has a "right" to exist.

Israel and Japan are both countries which, like all countries, maintain their territorial monopolies by force of arms.
8.24.2006 6:52pm
Japan does get it pretty bad. Ask the Korean minorities with the sprinklings of Brazillians. I don't want to call say that you're playing Israel as the poor little victim in this rights to sovereignty issue. But, your assumptions and validations rely on your front line visibility on the issue. I'm sure if you were active on the Chinese, Korean, and russian blogs, you'll like see the same type of reaction and fierce debates. But then again, who cares about the world views of those darn ornamentals (note the sarcasm).
8.24.2006 6:53pm
M (mail):
To second Tony Ricky above (not something I do that often!) the basic premis of this post is, frankly, false. Many, many people, both inside and out, have questioned Japan's right to exist "as a Japanese state". And, there is and has been for many years debate about German citizenship laws that are very similar. I'm sure there are other example. (For one, see the chapter on membership in Michael Walzer's _Spheres of Justice_.) So long as it's seen as a remedial right I don't have too much trouble with the law of return. But the idea that only this case has been questioned is not true, and so far as your argument depends on the false claim you should change it.
8.24.2006 6:55pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Being critical of a country's policies is quite different than saying it has "no right to exist." To say that Israel shouldn't have a "discriminatory" law of return is quite different from saying that Israel is an illegitimate state so long as it has a right of return. I don't know of anyone who has said this of Germany, Japan, Armenia, etc, but I'm happy to be corrected if you can provide examples.
8.24.2006 7:09pm
Taeyoung (mail):
RE: leftleaningvolokhreader
I'm sure if you were active on the Chinese, Korean, and russian blogs, you'll like see the same type of reaction and fierce debates.
I'm sure you would. I think, at least with Korean blogs, you might see another dimension though, at least with respect to Koreans in Japan. Under Korean law, my understanding is that those Koreans in Japan, as ethnic Koreans whose lineages were severed from Korea prior to the establishment of the ROK, are eligible for citizenship in Korea. Given the tenor of Korean nationalism and Korean mistrust of Japan, I wonder whether a significant number of Korean bloggers wouldn't actually think that the proper course for these Koreans is to return to Korea (to the Fatherland! - hah), and take up citizenship under the ROK (unlikely, given that a sizeable proportion of Koreans in Japan are apparently affiliated with or actually work for the DPRK). I speculate this in a vacuum, since my Korean is not good enough to frequent Korean blogs, but it strikes me as entirely plausible, given that Korea and Japan are genuine "nation-states."

This would be distinct from the issue of discrimination against and mistreatment of Koreans resident in Japan, of course. That gets criticised all the time, by pretty much everyone.
8.24.2006 7:27pm
Taeyoung (mail):
I do, actually, have a legal question on this topic, which possibly someone here can answer. In the Korean and Chinese immigration/citizenship/nationality laws, there are terms that get translated as citizenship and terms that get translated as nationality, and the two do not seem to be 100% interchangeable. At least, my recollection is that the Korean statutory provisions governing eligibility for citizenship for orphans/abandoned children suggested this to me.

Am I correct in reading "nationality" as a proxy for ethnicity, i.e. that Koreans in Japan born to lineages that have not returned to Korea since the establishment of the ROK or the DPRK, are "stateless," technically, in that they have citizenship in no state, but are of a known "nationality," in that they are ethnic Koreans, who, under the Korean laws governing nationality, are nationals eligible for citizenship?

Have I got that entirely confused? I've never studied immigration law, so I have no idea how this works, or how the translations are being managed. I expect that between Japan, China, and Korea, they are all using the same term, in cognate forms, but not knowing what that term is, I cannot go and check up on it.
8.24.2006 7:35pm
SANE (mail):
Professor, forgive me but your answer is no answer. You write in response to my earlier comment:

SANE, the argument for not letting (all, Israel agreed to readmit some) Palestinians back to Israel is that they actively or tacitly engaged in war against the state, and having 1/3 or so of the population be a fifth column would lead to perpetual civil war. Besides which Israel was busy resettling 500K refugees thrown out of various Arab countries. BTW, the Palestinians did oppress the Jews, not only through riots and murders against peaceable civilians throughout the pre-state period, but also in that their most significant leader, the Haj Amin Al-Husseini, was allied with Hitler during WWII and helped foment the Holocaust. But that's not the justificaiton for Israel's existence, the justification is that Jews immigrated there in sufficient numbers to claim their own state, their claim was recognized internationally, and they defended their claim in war. The justification for the Pals not having a state where Israel is, is that they started a civil war instead of accepting their own internationally recognized country, and lost. But none of this has to do with the specific criticism that Israel is a uniquely racist state because it has an ethnic basis and a law of return, which is simply false.

As to your pressing question, is Israel "uniquely" racist or discriminatory, that's a give away in the way you wish to argue it. Of course not. But as several comments have suggested to you, and you ignore them or sidestep them, it becomes an issue in Israel's case because of the violence and even more importantly from a philosophic and moral vantage, the Palestinian's claim to the same land is fairly good.

You seem to suggest that the answer to this claim is that (a) Jew's needed a sanctuary; (b) the Brits and the League of Nations gave them one; (c) the Arab nations along with many of the Palestinian Arabs rejected that "democratic" international decision; and (d) Israel won the war.

So, what is your argument based upon? Some misery index for the European Jews that entitled them to take land that had been Moslem for 1400 years and claimed as part of the dar al-Islam by the entire Umma? Or, a kind of "international democracy" claim? If that is so, what would you say if the UN voted to establish a "One State Solution". Would you be as enthusiasitic? Or, is it simply that the Jews won the war, going back to Mr. Wilder's tongue-in-cheek realpolitik?

My 10-year old son, who has never learned anything outside of the Talmud, knows that other countries discriminate based upon all kinds of factors against "others". If they didn't, they wouldn't be a nation. And, you've listed the obvious examples of ethnic nations.

But again, Israel's case is important precisely because there is a real challenge to the Jewish-Zionist claim. And, as to your historical claims about the Palestinians fighting against the Jews, you must know this has been challenged by several respected Zionist historians. Also, you don't really suggest that because the Mufti of Jerusalem sided with the Nazi's that somehow the Palestinian Arabs lost their claim to their ancestral homeland do you? Was the Mufti a representative of the Palestinian Arabs? Do you know how he was appointed? Such a claim would be, from a political theory vantage, far-fetched.
8.24.2006 7:52pm
Fred Hill (mail):
Well, I understand Spain has a Law of Return... for Sephardic Jews. If you can prove that you are a descendant of a specific Jew that lived in Spain at the time of the 1492 expulsion, you are granted Spanish citizenship.

I don't know what this means to Spain's right to exist.
8.24.2006 8:03pm
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
Being critical of a country's policies is quite different than saying it has "no right to exist."

Now your argument is changing. Are we questioning whether a state has a "right to exist" or whether it has a "right to exist as a Japanese state"? Certainly many people have criticized Japan's immigration policies, which for a very long time were predicated upon the idea that Japan should remain "Japanese" (and that this, as you pointed out, was determined by blood).

You're right: the right of return is echoed in the laws of many other countries. Those laws come under frequent attack. And to the degree that your argument above makes a distinction, it's a distinction that has a perfectly reasonable basis. If Japan were to admit every Korean, Brazilian or indeed immigrant trying to make its way in the borders, there's little doubt that it would remain "Japanese." The numbers are simply not large enough. Even the Israelis worry, on the other hand, that if Palestinians were allowed to return on equal terms, the country's ethnic (and political) makeup would shift drastically.

I'm quite certain that if a plurality--or even significant minority--of non-ethnic Japanese were being kept out of the Japanese polity, its "legitimacy" as a state would be called into question. As it is, the immigration issue simply isn't large enough to draw a question of legitimacy.

So again, your point is either simply ill-informed (people do criticize other countries for discriminatory immigration policies) or ignores an important distinction (that the issue of immigration is not so central to the identity of those nations as to raise questions of legitimate existence).
8.24.2006 8:24pm
M (mail):
I think you're shifting the goal posts a bit in an unfair way. We can, I hope, distinguish between the claim that "Israel has no right to exit" and "Israel has no right to exist _as a Jewish State_", that is, one where Jewish identity is an essential part of the state. I'm not 100% sure what it means to say a state has a right to exist, full stop. Obviously Isreal does exit and making it not exist would involve great injustice so this should not be done. If that's all that's mean that's fine and clear. But, it's begging the question to say that Israel must exist as a Jewish state or else it doesn't exist. Suppose that, for whatever reason, Jews in Israel started having very few children and also emigrating. But, at the same time, Israli Arabs had more kids and didn't emigrate. After some time the Arabs would be a majority. The character of Israel would have changed but it would not have ceased to exist, so it can't be by definition that Israel must be a Jewish state if it's to exit at all. And, if this sort of thing happend surely the Jews in Israel would have no right to, say, expel the Israel arabs or limit their births or anything. So, in that sense obviously Israel doesn't have an _unlimited_ right to be a Jewish state any more than Serbia did to be a Serbian state.

Next, to the further claims. When people criticize the German and Japanese immigration policies what they are doing is saying, quite obviously if you read them, that Germany and Japan do not have the right to limit citizenship or full membership to ethnic Germans or Japanese, and that, for example, when they give special preference to Ethnic Germans over the children of Turkish "guest" workers, they are being unjust. Why so? Because Germany doesn't have the right to use its immigration laws to maintain its ethnic character, that is, to be a "German" state, taken as a statement about ethnicity. Such claims are quite commonly made and not hard to find. Here's two exmaples, taken because they happen to be within arm leanght of my computer on my book shelf. "We can therefore say with assurance that, in the world as it now is, and as it will doubtless be for many centuries yet, no state ought to take race, religion, or language as essential to its identity." (Michael Dummett, _On Immigration and Refugees_, p. 6. Dummett here is addressing German, Japanese, and Isrelli law as three examples of the same sort of thing.) "Criteria of selection that discriminate againt potential immigrants on the basis of race, ethnicity, reltion, sex, or sexual orientation are particularly objectionable from a liberal egalitarian perspective.... The German law is troubling for two related reason. First, the explicit link between ethnicity and citizenship raises questions about whether those German citizens who are not ethnic Germans are really regarded as equal citizens. Second, the easy grant of citizenship to people who have never lived in Germany before and some of whom do not even speak the language contracts sharply with the reluctance to grant citizenship automatically to the children of Turkish 'guest' workers' even when the children were born and brought up in Germany (and sometimes speak no other language.)... Racim and other forms of discriminatory explusion are worth than policies that exclude but do not distinguish in objectionable ways among those excluded." (Joseph Carens, "A Liberal Egalitarian Perspective" in Barry and Goodin, ed. _Free Movement_. Carens thinks the German system is unjust and that Germany has no right to exclude non-Germans, even if this means it would not be a ethnically German state. He is somewhat more sympathetic to the case of Israel for much the reason I am, that its laws are perhaps best seen as a remedial measure which were necessary due to the horrors of the holocaust.) In the immigration literature there are many other examples. So, I think it's pretty clear that on any reasonable interpritation of the pharse "Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state" there are clearly cases (many, in fact) in which people have made similar claims about Japan, German, and others.
8.24.2006 8:32pm
Michael B (mail):
In stark contrast to some of the other examples rendered in the post and in this thread, a goodly many of those who forward the argument that Israel has no right to exist (as a state) also are interested in forwarding the idea that Jews have no right to live. This is not notably true of the other situations cited (exceptions citing various fringe elements notwithstanding). This historical, contemporary and decidedly existential fact itself serves to support the need for Israel as a formal state.

The degree to which that is true can be variously debated, but it's a salient fact nonetheless, one variously echoed and trumpeted, at times overtly (e.g., Ahmadinejad) and at other times in far more cloaked and duplicitous terms. For example, think of the Ramallah lynchings of October, 2000 as reflecting the levels of unbridled hate which are not at all anomalous but rather are ideologically, systematically, culturally, socially and politically cultivated in Arafatistan (i.e., "Palestine") and elsewhere.

h/t Augean Stables for the Ramallah lynching video
8.24.2006 8:58pm
wm. tyroler (mail):
Once you have a dispute over territory, you can pretty much guarantee that all of the stuff you mention will eventually get thrown into the mix.

You're way off-topic -- which has to do with the (relatively) mundane nature of Israel's Law of return -- and in that sense I still wonder what your point is. But the analogy is no less inapt for that quibble: Hez's "dispute over territory" is nothing less than a quarrel over Israel's existence. If you can't grasp that much, then there's no point discussing whether Israel has a "right" to respond to Hez's act of war, or indeed whether its response in the event was "proportionate" to the threat.
8.24.2006 9:04pm
Some writers seem to be unaware that the term palestinian refers to all palestinian jews, palestinian arabs and palestinian christians. Palestinian is not an ethnic grouping.
Jews have always lived in "palestine". They were not as depicted mostly sudden arrivals but arrived over time.
The general public assumes that many/most arab states
have always existed but that is false since most are more recent creations like Jordan, Saudi Arabia etc. Remember that Jordan was supposed to be the "palestinian homeland". It is about 99% palestinian arab.
8.24.2006 9:27pm
Ron (mail):
"Palestine" was nothing but a backwater of distant Arab/Turkish empires.

There was never a distinct, independent *non-Jewish* entity in this land.

There was never an ethnic group called "Palestinians".
8.24.2006 9:48pm
The citation from Wikipedia about Japanese citizenship is incomplete; people naturalize. The Nationality Law does not discriminate between countries of origin for naturalization. The Alien Registration Law and the Law on Exit and Entry of Individuals Who Lost Japanese Nationality by the Treaty of Peace with Japan and Similar Individuals discriminate in favor of Koreans and ROC citizens (Taiwanese) who lived in Japan in 1945 and their descendants. Legally, Japan is a state of all citizens. Japanese liberals and leftists file lawsuits on this basis. (NE Asian languages do not distinguish nationality and citizenship, but they distinguish both from ethnicity.)

Regarding the citizenship of Korean permanent residents in Japan... From 1910, subjects of the former Korean Empire were of Japanese nationality with Korean household registration. In 1947, the Japanese government (and MacArthur) provisionally registered those residents of Japan as aliens. Their country was registered as Chosen (Jp. geographic name of Korea) because there was no state in Korea. In 1948, ROK persuaded the Japanese government and MacArthur to allow them to change their nationality to ROK. In 1952, the Treaty of Peace with Japan entered in force, and all Korean residents of Japan formally lost their Japanese citizenship. A (stateless) permanent resident of Chosen nationality may become a citizen of either ROK or Japan, subject to the respective country's laws. A permanent resident of ROK citizenship may also naturalize as Japanese. Japan does not recognize acquisition of DPRK citizenship by either resident aliens or Japanese, because Japan does not recognize DPRK diplomatically. Although virtually all the permanent residents who are loyal to DPRK are of Chosen nationality, the converse is not true, esp. since 2002.
8.24.2006 10:37pm
SANE (mail):
If the good professor or anyone else is interested, a slightly edited version of my commnents on this thread appear here at SANE Works for US.
8.24.2006 10:39pm
Michael B (mail):
Concerning various nations' laws of return per se, The Head Heeb has an informative post, covering formal constitutional and statutory bases in instances ranging from Armenia to Italy, Kiribati, Ireland and on through to the Ukraine and many nations in between. He has other posts on the issue as well, covering well known instances on through to such places as the Chagos Islands.
8.24.2006 10:43pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
SANE, 600,000 Jews lived in Mandatory Palestine in 1947, with hundreds of thousands more wanting to live there, but barred by the British. On what basis do we say that the local Arab population, some (disputed) fraction of whom moved there during the British mandate themselves, and who, as noted in a comment above, had no distinct ethnic or cultural identity beyond being Arabs in South Syria, had the perpetual right to veto any new residents, and consign at best to dhimmitude anyone else who lived there? And given that the local Arab population was unwilling to live in peace with the local Jewish population, on what basis do we decide that the Jews had no right to sovereignty where they were the majority? And even if you thought so as of 1947, by what standard do you say that 6th generation residents of Israel have less right to the land than 4th generation residents of Lebanon? Finally, winning a war to establish your state is kind of a big deal. How many nation-states can trace their origins to something other than winning a military conflict against other claimants to the same land? It's not that might makes right, but that states have no inherent right to exist, and get their existence from some combination of international legitimacy and military force, more the latter, and there's no particular reason Israel should be held to a higher standard than every other country on earth.

But I also reiterate that this is separate from the issue of the Law of Return. The person who sent the question that inspired my post was not troubled by the "displacement" of the Palestinians, he was troubled by Israel's exitence as an ethnically (and, he thought, religioujsly) based state, completely independent of any concern for Palestinians, whom he mentioned not at all. In my experience, this is not unique.

Indeed, as a libertarin, I'm somewhat uncomfortable myself with ethnically based states, but I'm also troubled that there are many ethnically based states, and only one comes in for much criticism.

As for the comments that I'm changing the basis of my argument, I am not. There is a big difference between saying, "I think Japan (Germany, Armenia) is wrong in its citizenship policies and should change them" or even "I think Japan etc. policies are evil racist and immoral" and saying "these policies make Japan (etc.) such an instrinsically evil state that it should not be considered a legitimate member of the international community, as it has no right to exist in its present form." Again, if you can give me actual examples of this phenomenon, which is quite common with regard to Israel, for any other country, I'd be happy to modify my argument, but I don't think you can. The other oddity, which I didn't get into in my piece, is that many of these same critics turn around and support the Palestinians, whose draft Constitution specifies that Palestine is to be a Muslim, Arab state. So it's intrinsicallly immoral for Israel to be an ethnically based state, but not for "Palestine" to be one. As I mentioned, the argument is merely a stalking horse for anti-Israel sentiment, and it tries to take advantage of the lack of knowledge that most people have that Israel is hardly unique.
8.24.2006 11:24pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
P.S. to my last comment: in the original post, I wrote, "Wikipedia provides a several other examples, none of which seem to ever raise the same questions about the legitimacy of the states involved as the Law of Return does for Israel." So again, the issue is not whether anyone ever criticizes citizenship policies elsewhere, but whether there criticism is of the sort that calls the legitimacy of the state into question.
8.24.2006 11:33pm
M (mail):
I suppose we read these criticism differently. Do people make unreasonable critcisms of Israel? Surely they do. But there are also criticisms that are applied to the laws you mention, ones that are applied as well to Israel. So, I think you're left either pointing out the obvious point that people make unreasonable criticisms of Israel sometimes or else having to abandon your position. I don't see how, say, the quotes from Dummett or Carens above don't imply that Germany (among others) don't have the right to exist in their current form. Both Dummett and Carens claim Germany is (or has), via its policies on citizenship, naturalization, and immigration, acted wrongfully, in a way it has no right to do. It has no right to identify itself via ethnicity, they say. So, it has no right to exit in its current form. Isn't that the plain reading? Sometimes I can't help but feel that the form of argument you're using is, "If there were such criticisms made of states other than Israel that might show that some criticisms of Israel were not inherently anti-semitic. But I know that criticism of Israel is anti-semitic, so the criticisms of other states must not be the same." It's not a very good argument, though.
8.25.2006 12:24am
DavidBernstein (mail):
M, I don't take seriously anyone who says that I've claimed something is anti-Semitic when I haven't. Accusing me of doing so is a way of trying to silence the debate by saying it's all about dubious charges of anti-Semitism, when anti-Semitism has never been charged.
8.25.2006 12:39am
Michael B (mail):
"Sometimes I can't help but feel that the form of argument you're using is, 'If there were such criticisms made of states other than Israel that might show that some criticisms of Israel were not inherently anti-semitic. But I know that criticism of Israel is anti-semitic, so the criticisms of other states must not be the same.'" M

A form of blanket dismissiveness, not a serious argument that can stand up to much of anything. Too, concerning what you "feel" and what you "know," now there's a subject for some amusing, comparative review. Further still, beyond passing over a host of other concerns which are existentially meaningful, it isn't simply that "criticisms made of states other than Israel" are far less frequently, critically and volubly made, they additionally don't receive the concerted, demanding, ongoing and repeated attentions of tranzi and other actors (e.g., potentates in the M.E., some MSM types, sundry ideologically committed academics) on the world's stage.

And while, rightly, no claims of anti-Semitism per se were claimed, either tacitly or otherwise, the sensibility forwarded by scoffingly making the charge (that criticism of Israel equals anti-Semitism) is that, eo ipso, the charge is foreclosed in toto vis-a-vis this and related subjects. Nothing could be further from the truth, some criticisms of Israel are tantamount to forms of anti-Semitism or are little or nothing more than cloaked forms of anti-Semitism.

Not all forms of anti-Semitism are undisguised or Hitlerian in nature any more than all forms of murder are undisguised acts of blunt force trauma to the head or a hollow point, 9mm round to some vital organ while the perpetrator yells "I'm going to kill you and have been planning on doing so for some time now" in a crowded room. Judging motive can be dicey stuff, but it can be done and often enough is necessary before the law. Too, the end effect, regardless of specific motive (someone is dead as a result of someone else's actions) is much the same: existentially meaningful to the dead guy, as to Israel and Israelis.
8.25.2006 1:47am
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
Again, if you can give me actual examples of [countries being considered illegitimate because of a right of return], which is quite common with regard to Israel, for any other country, I'd be happy to modify my argument, but I don't think you can.

If this is indeed your argument, and it certainly wasn't specified very well in your original post, it's a bit silly, indeed trivial. You're ignoring the question of scale. In none of the other situations you mention is there an ethnic minority actively claiming citizenship or seeking status within the relevant polity large enough to call the legitimacy of the state into question.

If Tokyo all of a sudden decided that anyone to the southwest of Nagoya wasn't actually "Japanese," drove all Kansai citizens onto Kyushu (which it then ceded from its territory) and no longer considered its former residents "citizens" for purposes of sanguinity and return, then yes, watchers of Japan would question the legitimacy of that Japanese state (and its right to exist). Not that this is exactly analogous to the Israel/Palestine situation, but it would at least create a group of potential claimants for citizenship against whom the Japanese state was discriminating sufficient to call the legitimacy of the country as a whole into question.

I guess the reason M and I interpreted your post the way we did is that your new argument makes the entire posting obvious and meaningless. If you want to complain that no one questions the legitimacy of Ireland or Japan for doing what Israel does, the answer is simply that Israel has a set of claimants large enough to challenge its legitimacy. Japan (or any other country you mention) may have problems, but not enough to make a challenge to legitimacy an even laughably open question.
8.25.2006 2:32am
Donald Kahn (mail):
I don't know if anyone here is old enough to remember the 30's. Those of us who did, remember the horrors that Germany perpetrated on a group of loyal citizens, and later the revelation of the "Final Solution".

The United Nations approved and supported the formation of a Jewish state, and that is the end of that. Jews who moved there on the strength of that commitment have an absoute right to be there.

It was considered a refuge for Jews escaping persecution even after the close of WW2 (see any history of Jews in Poland) who believe (perhaps rightly) that Jew-hatred would have a renaissance. A single-ethnic state (not racial if you don't mind), sure. Who else would be nuts enough to want to live there?

As to the motives of the Palestinians: it is not in my view grievance about displacement but instead, the ideo-religious principle (in Islamic lands the same thing) that no proper Islamic macho man will tolerate the nearby presence of an alien enemy. If there is any racism involved, it is from that side.

It echoes the attitude of our Southerners who, despite the result of the Civil War and the 13th 14th and 15th
Amendments, were determined that the black man should not have the same rights as themselves. And the "Nigras" did not, for 100 years more!

It was recently written that Israel is the canary in the coal mine. Its destruction, by demonstrating that the Arabs and Irani are irresistable, will mean immense trouble for the rest of us. Then the large population of pettfoggers represented above, will understand what has been at stake.
8.25.2006 5:09am
Donald Kahn (mail):
I forgot to add: the reason the Jews went to Palestine is because nobody else would have them. See the steamship St. Louis affair (1939) as an expression of this attitude.
8.25.2006 6:18am
Michael B (mail):
"You're ignoring the question of scale. In none of the other situations you mention is there an ethnic minority actively claiming citizenship or seeking status within the relevant polity large enough to call the legitimacy of the state into question." A. Rickey

That's not at all obvious, why does scale vis-a-vis the right of return issue, in and of itself, bring legitimacy into question? Israel exists in the real world, i.e. within a nexus or network of other highly charged and highly critical factors, not in some clinically sterile or utopian environment wherein scale vis-a-vis the right of return issue is the one, unbalancing anomaly. Other critical realities need to be brought within the purview of the overall dialectic and analysis.

"If Tokyo all of a sudden decided that anyone to the southwest of Nagoya wasn't actually "Japanese," drove all Kansai citizens onto Kyushu (which it then ceded from its territory) and no longer considered its former residents "citizens" for purposes of sanguinity and return, then yes, watchers of Japan would question the legitimacy of that Japanese state (and its right to exist). Not that this is exactly analogous to the Israel/Palestine situation ..." A. Rickey, emphasis added

Well yes, it's far indeed from "exactly analogous," v. Big Lies: Demolishing the Myths of the Propaganda War Against Israel (small pdf), with three brief but illuminating chapters, each well documented, entitled:

1) The Origins of the Refugee Problem
2) The Eight Stages of the Creation of the Problem
3) The Question of 'Occupation' and the Settlements

Excerpt from the opening of Chpt. 1, emphasis added:

"The Arab version of the tragic fate of Arab refugees who fled from the Palestine Mandate before and during the 1948 war and from Israel immediately after the war, has so thoroughly dominated the thinking of even well-educated historians, commentators, journalists and politicians, that it is almost a given that the creation of the State of Israel caused the flight of almost a million hapless, helpless and hopeless Arab refugees. Israel caused the problem and thus Israel must solve the problem.

"This assertion, although viscerally engaging and all but canonized by the anti-Israel propaganda which makes it the core of its narratives of the Middle East conflict, is unequivocally and totally false."

The Arab refugees in question (putative "Palestinians") have in point of historical fact been used as pawns to serve a broader strategy. Some excerpts from the appendix of Chpt. 2 follow, with introductory remarks:

In the words of senior Fatah central committee member Sakher Habash, "To us, the refugee issue is the winning card which means the end of the Israeli state." Or, as UNRWA director Ralph Galloway put it, "... the Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders do not give a damn whether Arab refugees live or die. The only thing that has changed since [1949] is the number of Palestinians cooped up in these prison camps."

Additionally, most of the refugees which resulted from the creation of Israel became so as a result of their own choosing. "It must not be forgotten that the Arab Higher Committee encouraged the refugees' flight from their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem." Near East Arabic Broadcasting Station, Cyprus, April 3, 1949. Also, "The most potent factor [in the flight of Palestinians] was the announcements made over the air by the Arab-Palestinian Higher Executive, urging all Haifa Arabs to quit ... It was clearly intimated that Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades [by their fellow Arabs]." London Economist October 2, 1948. Further still, "The fact that there are these refugees is the direct consequence of the act of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state. The Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously and they must share in the solution of the problem." Emile Ghoury, secretary of the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee, in an interview with the Beirut Telegraph September 6, 1948. Or, "Since 1948, the Arab leaders have approached the Palestinian problem in an irresponsible manner. They have used [the] Palestinian people for political purposes; this is ridiculous, I might even say criminal..." King Hussein, Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, 1996.
8.25.2006 7:06am
SANE (mail):

As to the basic argument you have set up, I can only ask again, Why is all of this not silly? Of course the Palestinians discriminate. The very Palestine Mandate calls for a "Jewish State" and an "Arab State" that "respected" the rights etc. of others. Respect does not necessarily mean equality. And, not just the Palestinians but all Arab/Muslim countries have such de jure or de facto discriminatory practices. So this requires an entry in the WSJ which attracted my attention?

But it is silly, and this gets to the heart of the "issue" because a nation to be one discriminates. That is the essence of nationhood. A child born into a People within some "social-political construct" we call borders becomes a citizen without care or concern. The "other" child on the other side does not. This is, as I say, the essence of discrimination.

But discrimination, distinguishing, ordering, is the essence of being human, is it not? In addition to the natural discrimination that takes place between Selves, families, citizens and non-citizens, the immigration laws of a nation would be foolhardy if they did not discriminate based upon wealth, education, skills, mercy, what have you.

I just cannot understand why an adult would "debate" this issue and why you would deny by omission this most definitional argument for a "they do it so we can do it" reply.

And, of course it gets back to your libertarian "issues": You write, "Indeed, as a libertarian, I'm somewhat uncomfortable myself with ethnically based states, but I'm also troubled that there are many ethnically based states, and only one comes in for much criticism." As to your libertarian cognitive dissonance over your support of Israel based on what appears to me little more than "it isn't fair" to criticize Israel with all of the other discrimination in the world among nations, we all understand. You are a Jew and presumably a Zionist. Fine. For you, its personal. Your "ethnicity" outweighs your fidelity to libertarianism.

But this once again, beyond your fixation on the silly aspect (why criticize Israel and not the others), brings us to the real issue of "ethnic" (your word) discrimination. The very problem with libertarianism is its failure to recognize man's existence in nations as an act of ultimate discrimination. Indeed, because of this failure, libertarianism as a "philosophic" or logical whole leads to a world state.

So, in the end, you justify Israel's existence because it has some international justification and won a war. The Palestinians are attempting to do the same thing. Fair enough. Your whole argument is that if you are going to criticize Israel for discrimination, do the same with the rest of the world. Fine. As I mentioned earlier, this wouldn't even rise to the level of challenging my 10-year old.

What is a challenge to you is your incessant failure to confront the real issue standing before your libertarian world view. As a libertarian, you would not allow me a Jewish Nation-State for any reason. And, of course, that is a clue as to why you regress to a kind of infinite regress in your realpolitik definition of national legitimacy (abyssal diplomatic cover, abyssal war). (By the by, before the threaders thread, of course this is what practically results in nations; the question is what forms their legitimacy in speech – that is to say in thought.)

As a note for consistency, all of your historical and demographic "data" about pre-state Israel is just besides the point when trying to confront the Palestinian claim. Even assuming the facts as Joan Peters laid out in her book many years ago to be true, and in the main I have determined them to be, the Muslims make a claim via the Palestinians to this land. You might not like it or accept it but it is at the very least as "legitimate" as the one you have chosen to hang your hat on (i.e., Zionism).
8.25.2006 9:54am
SANE (mail):
NB: I sometimes lose sight of the fact that in a comment thread on such popular blogs, there are many readers who come without the "cultural" baggage. "Abyssal" in my last post means, in Yiddish, "a little."
8.25.2006 10:00am
Taeyoung (mail):
If Tokyo all of a sudden decided that anyone to the southwest of Nagoya wasn't actually "Japanese," drove all Kansai citizens onto Kyushu (which it then ceded from its territory) and no longer considered its former residents "citizens" for purposes of sanguinity and return, then yes, watchers of Japan would question the legitimacy of that Japanese state (and its right to exist).
Hey, that sounds like exactly what happened in Poland after WWII! Or, for that matter, what I understand to have happened to the Japanese colonists who had been living in Korea (and probably China/Manchuria) up until the end of WWII. That kind of thing was going on all over the world at that time, legally or otherwise (e.g. with the massive cross-border movement following Partition in the former Raj).

Re: belleneige, thank you for the clarification. Is the term used across those countries 国籍, then, and nothing else?
8.25.2006 10:26am
DavidBernstein (mail):
So we get back to the point, which is not at all trivial: the underlying issue is not the Israel is an ethnically based state that has a "discriminatory" immigration policy, but that it has a conflict with the Palestinians, who claim the land. Fine. But I've gotten lots of emails and blog comments over the years who think that the ethnic isssue is special Israeli problem quite apart from the Palestinian issue, that Israel is a state that uniquely favors one ethnicity over others, and that this itself makes Israel illegitimate. I've shown that this is false. If this doesn't effect your opinion of Israel, because you never thought this was the underlying issue, that's fine. But there are many others who don't give a fig about the Palestinians, and between them and Israel are quite favorable to Israel, but are troubled that Israel is an ethno-cultural based state quite different fromthe universalist state we have in the U.S. It's fine to be troubled by that, but only to the extent that one is equally troubled by other states that have similar policies, with far less historical or practical justification for them.
8.25.2006 11:40am
SANE (mail):
By the by, why is is that you are so gun shy from the "religious" aspect of the discrimination. You most certainly are aware of the whole debate in Israel over the "status quo" and "Mi hu yehudi" issues. My teudat zehut is for the "Religion: Jewish". The very basis upon effecting one's citizenship under the Law of Return is either being Jewish or within the approved consanguinity (incl. by marriage). But as the law itself makes clear, the definition is fundamentally derived from the Jewish religion (ergo those who have accepted another faith publicly fail the test). Israel discriminates based upon what you might call religio-ethnic grounds. That other countries do so could have been established by a link to Wiki's articles on the Law of Return and citizenship/nationalism. But I see you don't wish to take up the libertarian's side of nationalism, at least not now. You should know, however, that the failure of Israel to embrace nationalism as a nation is the only real threat Israel faces. (If Israel faced this issue it would itself resolve the Arab threats.) But this is the threat to the West. Liberal democracies, or in your world -- libertarian democracies -- have no basis for national existence simply. You might find this article enlightening: Israel: the Advanced Case of Western Affliction.
8.25.2006 1:00pm
One big difference: with one arm, Israel controls a large population of non-citizen Arabs who by law cannot become citizens, with the other arm Israel welcomes non-resident Jews into all the rights and privileges of citizenship.

I've seen above that you're fairly intent on addressing claims of illegitimacy based only on Israeli law's disparate treatment of ethnicity in its immigration law. To the extent that people make the narrow claim your argument addresses, I doubt they're separating Israel's right of return law from the issue of the occupation.
8.25.2006 2:27pm
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
But I've gotten lots of emails and blog comments over the years who think that the ethnic isssue is special Israeli problem quite apart from the Palestinian issue, that Israel is a state that uniquely favors one ethnicity over others, and that this itself makes Israel illegitimate. I've shown that this is false.

I suppose you can say, either "My emailers are very silly, and I've shown a trivial point to be false" or "There's an implied portion of their question that I'm ignoring."

Imagine (for argument's sake) that all facts stated by either side below are in fact true. A: "Yesterday there was an election in the Ukraine. There was voter fraud. Hence, the government is illegitimate." B: "We know there was voter fraud in the New York elections back in 2004. Yet we don't say that the 2004 Presidential elections are invalid! People are picking on the Ukraine!"

B may be technically correct, but he's simply ignoring the facts. By implication, A is considering the voter fraud in the Ukraine to be massive enough that it might effect the outcome, and the New York fraud (New York being blue) to be so small as to not call the election into question. Sure, he's not said as much, but for the vote fraud to raise a question of legitimacy, size is a necessary element.

Similarly, no one questions Japan's right to exist "as Japanese" (which seems to mean something different to you than to those who do in fact question their "right to exist as Japanese"), simply because if you credit every accusation raised by those who object to their immigration policies as true, Japan would still be a very Japanese state. The numbers are there.

Israel is simply not in the same position. Even defenders of Israel* complain of Palestinian "ticking time bombs" of population, and claim that a right of return for Palestinians would vastly change Israeli demography. Hence, Israel's "right to exist" as a Jewish state is called into question because there is a plausible argument that, under a differing set of immigration rules, it wouldn't be.

The point is that, under your now much narrower view of "right to exist as an X state", the question becomes trivial. In your original article, you say:
Why does Japan have the right to exist as a Japanese state? Has this question ever been asked?

If the answer is, "Well, no, but only because there is no plausible scenario, under any set of immigration laws, in which it will fail to remain so, and Japan specialists are no more given to wasting their time than any other folks," then what's the point?

*Of which I'm one. I'm generally very pro-Israeli. I also object to Japanese immigration laws (and some of ours and Europes, for differing reasons). But it's a bit of a slur on Japan specialists to complain that we never asked why Japan shouldn't exist because of the immigration laws. Why would you expect us to ask a question that has an obvious counterargument not applicable to Israel's situation? Why would we be expected to make ourselves look like idiots?
8.25.2006 2:30pm
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
Actually, for extra points after the last question, Professor, answer me this:

Suppose that a Japan specialist did question Japan's right to exist as a state because of its immigration policies. When an opponent points out that whatever the right of return, Japan's demographics won't shift that much in the near or medium term, what should such a commentator propose as an appropriate remedy for Japan's "existence"? Forced immigration of non-Japanese? Expulsion of ethnically Japanese citizens until the country is more diverse? I suppose we could suggest Japan go conquer a country or two to gain some more diverse citizens, but we frowned on that fifty years ago.

Doesn't this rather obvious second-step problem go a long way to explaining why no one raises these questions with regard to Japan, rather than the fact that critics are being uniquely hard on Israel?
8.25.2006 2:41pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
The last two posters are giving far too much credit to how most people, including most well-educated people, arrive at their political and ideological views, which I think explains why I think the point I make is a very important one, and they think it's trivial.
8.25.2006 3:14pm
David in DC:
Just an FYI. I think David B. is referring to statements like these. I've never seen things like this written about Japan, for instance.

One doesn't have to look very far. From today's Ha'aretz:

Israel should pack up and go

By Nadim Shehadi

What is the logic that will emerge from this war? If Israel can exist only by destroying the neighborhood, then it's time to declare it a failed state. The Zionist dream has turned into a nightmare and is not viable. If the future holds more of the same, then the time has come to reconsider the whole project...

From earlier this month from Jostein Gaarder, "perhaps Norway’s most well known writer abroad" (although I've never heard of him), in a paper published in Norway:

"ISRAEL IS HISTORY. We no longer recognize the State of Israel. There is no way back. The State of Israel has raped the world’s recognition and will not receive peace before it lays down its weapons… ...

NO WAY BACK. ... We don’t believe in the concept of God’s chosen people. We laugh at this people’s fancies and weep over their misdeeds. To present themselves as God’s chosen people is not just stupid and arrogant, but a crime against humanity. We call it racism. …

see here
8.25.2006 3:34pm
Andy (mail):
Israel's law of "return" is totally distinct from the laws of return that you cite in your article. An appropriate corollary to the laws cited in your article would be something like "Any person of Israeli origin or heritage shall be made a citizen of Israel by an expedited procedure." By contrast, the Israeli law applies to an entirely different category of people -- Jews, not Israelis. It's an extra-national category, and affords instant citizenship rights to people of non-Israeli origin but who are simply Jewish. That's an immigration policy that is clearly geared towards maintaining the highest possible Jewish demographic. Furthermore, while the other policies may be guilty of racism in attempting to preserve the "native character" of their nation/state/whatever, the Israeli law is distinct in that it is used to import a particular character which is not "native" in the sense of the other laws (except maybe 2000 years ago). You may not see much of a difference between two obviously racist types of laws, but you should admit that the Israeli law is unique and may be vulnerable to a different set of criticisms.

"Jewishness" is not a racial identity, but complaints about Israel being a "Jewish state" are often put in terms of the Law of Return being "racist." The Law of Return is based on ethnic (not racial) heritage and grants anyone with a Jewish grandparent automatic citizenship

I think this is quibbling a bit, we just don't have a good word for "ethnist." For that matter, the law isn't even "ethnist" - it is religious. If your Japanese grandmother converted to Judaism, you're in, but you're sure not ethnically Jewish.
8.25.2006 4:26pm
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
Oh, come now, Professor. I don't think your argument can be won by stating that I have a Panglossian view of human nature. My friends will choke when they read that.

It would help if you clarify exactly what the comparison you're making is. You are still all over the map.

One option: "Has the question ever been asked 'Does Japan have the right to exist as a Japanese state, similar to how Israel existing as a Jewish state?"

In which case, the answer is pretty clearly "yes," and you just didn't look very hard. Commentators on Japan have questioned the right of Japan to remain that way by critiquing Japan's sanguinity rules with regards to citizenship. The zainichi-chosenjin are a hot-button issue (among other immigration topics), and Japan is criticized for them roundly by commentators that say they have no right to remain a Japanese state.

The fact remains that, right or no, Japan will remain a Japanese state, at least in the medium term. There are no demographic forces, unlike those in Israel, which are undoing this majority. Nevertheless, many commentators have frequently asserted that Japan has no "right" to an ethnic identity, nor should it use preferential policies to promote any such "right." (And as Japan ages and admits more immigrants, the question shall become more important.)

The second option is that you meant, "Has anyone ever asked, 'Does Japan's use of immigration to preserve its ethnic identity bring the legitimacy and existence of Japan into question, as Israel's policies have brought the existence and legitimacy of Israel (not its Jewishness) into question?"

And in that case, you're right. No one has ever asked the question. But given that the "right of return" rules for Japanese blood make so little difference in the overall ethnic makeup of the nation, what Don Quixote is going to call Japan's legitimacy into account? Particularly given that nothing short of a forced movement of peoples is going to make a difference? No one has ever asked a very stupid question. So what?

Further, the second answer moves the goalposts: the question isn't the existence of Japan "as a Japanese state," but the existence of Japan as a nation/government at all. If that's what you meant, you should have said so, because the answer is indeed the trivial one related above: the problem isn't big enough.

Now, it may be true that the big "important point" of your post is that there are some folks out there--particularly ill-informed--who think that Israel's use of sanguinity in immigration is unique. This isn't surprising: lacking a decades-long hot-and-cold running war with potential claimants for citizenship, Japan's immigration policies aren't front-page issues outside the Mainichi Shinbun. (If Koreans started hijacking third-party planes, this would change.) But presuming you told such an ill-informed person about Japan's immigration laws, it would be pretty simple to condemn them too, but then to point out that the matter doesn't rise to a question of Japan's national legitimacy.

In any event, that's not the question in your article that leads your article:
"Can you point me to any case in any example where you would say '[Country A] has the right to exist as a [Race B] or [Religion C] state?' I can think of numerous claims like this by societies in the past, which are now widely condemned."

And of course, Japan would be one. Or

"Why does Japan have the right to exist as a Japanese state? Has this question ever been asked?"

(emphasis, in both cases, mine) Japan's attempts to claim a right to this have been condemned. If you didn't want to discuss rights instead of realities, you really shouldn't have asked the question repeatedly.
8.25.2006 4:37pm
David in DC:

"Jewish" is an ethnicity and a religion. Israel's Law of Return differs from those others in a way other than you describe: anyone can join the group. It is not as 'exclusive' as the other groups, in that anyone can make a choice (or not make a choice, as it were) about whether they want to belong or not.

To correct something you said and to confuse the issue a bit more: if your Japanese grandmother converted, you would be considered Jewish only if she came from your mother's side. Judaism is matrilineal. What is confusing about it is -- if you didn't consider yourself Jewish and didn't practice you would not be ethnically or religiously Jewish, yet you would be Jewish under Jewish law.

You would also have been persecuted as a Jew under some of the regimes that were prone to do so and would have been able to take refuge in Israel if you so desired, which is why the Law of Return was written.
8.25.2006 4:50pm
David in DC:
A. Rickey,

I think what David has not said but that is a subtext here is the following:

The majority of people questioning Israel's right to exist (either absolutely, or 'as is') based on their immigration policy are actually against Israel existing (either abolutely, or 'as is') at all and are casting about for ways to attack the state. This is one of the big reasons why the unfairness and imbalance in type and amount of criticism exists.

You will note that many pro-Palestinian partisans make this argument while ignoring the fact that the Palestinian National Charter is not all that different.

For the record, I think that it is fine for countries to give preferential immigration status to a diaspora community and the UN agrees. To the UN, it is not racist to give preferential treatment in this manner, but is if you are exclusionary.
8.25.2006 5:07pm
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
David in DC:

The majority of people questioning Israel's right to exist (either absolutely, or 'as is') based on their immigration policy are actually against Israel existing (either abolutely, or 'as is') at all and are casting about for ways to attack the state.

If so, perhaps the good Professor can do it without inflicting calumny upon those who (a) have studied Japanese immigration law, and (b) have raised exactly the question he's claiming has never seen the light of day?

As I said, I'm pro-Israeli. I'm just not so pro-Israeli that I think a clumsy, poor argument should be given a pass just because it's pro-Israeli. Israel has a host of good arguments in its defense.
8.25.2006 5:12pm
Irfan Khawaja:
David Bernstein exaggerates considerably in saying that only Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state is ever contested. This article of mine is a pretty clear counterexample to that:

You have to scroll down to get to my claim that no Islamic state has the right to exist. I was for a while the Executive Director of the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society (ISIS) and (when ISIS was functioning, which it no longer is) our very raison d'etre was to argue against the legitimacy of all Islamic states.

It was an argument I repeatedly made on my (now defunct) blog at the History News Network. It's also an argument made repeatedly by Ibn Warraq, one of the founders of ISIS and author of Why I Am Not a Muslim.

As it happens, my wife, Carrie-Ann Biondi, wrote a doctoral dissertation for the philosophy department at Bowling Green State University in 2001 taking issue with all ethno-religious conceptions of citizenship, Israel's among them, and including many if not all of the other countries on Bernstein's list. I highly doubt that my wife and I are the only counter-examples to Bernstein's generalization.
8.25.2006 5:16pm
David in DC:
Point taken, A. Rickey. I also want to correct something I posted. Andy was right. The Law of Return is looser than Jewish law. Not only are you considered eligible if you had one Jewish grandparent (from either side), you are considered eligible if your spouse had one Jewish grandparent.
8.25.2006 5:18pm
Irfan Khawaja:
Sorry, the link for the article didn't come out:


--Irfan Khawaja
8.25.2006 5:19pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
To take the most egregious example, Germany's law of return applies to those of German descent who speak no German, and have no connection to German other than a German last name, and whose ancestors last lived in German-speaking lands before "Germany" existed, even as a concept. Compared to that, Jews, who always maintained themselves as a diaspora, and until rather recently, generally as an autonomous "foreign" community wherever they lived, and who moved in and out of Eretz Yisrael as economic and political conditions permitted (thus most Jews likely have ancestors who lived there much more recently than 2000 years ago), and you have a much better case. Not to mention that Germany has engaged in behavior that calls its nationalism into question more than just about anywhere else. But while Germany's policies are sometimes criticized, they are hardly subject to the obloquy leveled at Israel.

As for Irfan, I have no particular quarrel with anyone who claims that all ethnic or religious based governments are illegitimate, but someone who focuses their sole or primary attention on Israel in this regard, when Jews surely have more historical reason to want their own country than most, either don't fall into this category or are just pretending they do.
8.25.2006 5:55pm
M (mail):
Do you agree, at least, that the position you're now defending is quite a different one from what you started with, or defended above? I must say that I can't see how it's not.
8.25.2006 6:12pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I don't see how it is.
8.25.2006 7:49pm
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
Prof. B:

Really? Because the conversation reads like this:

DB: The question has never been asked!

M &AR: Well, yes, actually it has. (Quotations)

DB: But it's not asked as much of other countries, and the question of whether there is a "right" isn't what I meant. I meant "does taking action X mean that a state is illegitimate?"

AR: Well, why didn't you say so? But the quick answer to the second question is, "Well, it might if action X reaches a certain level of significance. But you can't point to any other example where X gets anywhere close to Israel's situation, so if that's your question, then you're right, but unsurprisingly so. This really doesn't get you very far.

How, exactly, are you still making the same argument?
8.25.2006 7:59pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Mr. Khawaja, in your HNN piece, you write:
Let me be more explicit. What would Lappin say to someone who loudly and explicitly asserted that Islamic states like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should go out of existence as Islamic states—that they have no right to exist as Islamic states, that they are in the relevant respects much worse than Israel? In short, what would he say to an anti-Zionist whose anti-Zionism was rooted not in bigotry, but in a consistent commitment to secularism—not focused on Israel, but applicable to it?
I don't doubt your sincerity -- and nothing in your article or your comments makes me think of anti-semitism. You may have some valid points, but that comparison still doesn't make sense. Israel is secular. Oh, I don't claim that there's pure separation of church-state the way there is in the U.S. (but not in most of Europe!), but Halacha does not form the basis for Israeli law, the way Sharia does for Islamic states.
8.25.2006 10:03pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Asking "has the question ever been asked?", in a rhetorical way that suggests that if it has been, it's not much, is not the same as asserting "the question has never been asked."
8.25.2006 10:24pm
PDXLawyer (mail):

I agree that Israel's Law of Return isn't really all that exceptional among nation states, or in practical terms all that troubling (however troubling it might be in pure theory). But, is this all there is to the "right to exist as an [ethnic] state"?

One of the problems/constraints that has plagued the Israel/Palestinian conflict from the beginning is the Israeli desire to have a territory in which Jews are a majority of the population. This would seem inherent in the idea of "a Jewish state" (or, at least, a democratic Jewish state). In addition to inviting Jews in, this seems to require keeping (if not driving) Arabs out at some level, which presents an intensely practical problem. If it is OK to be a "Jewish state," presumably some level of Arab ethnic displacement is OK too, so long as the means used are not too awful.

Jews have often been on the receiving end of this sort of ethnic purification. I know many American Jews who would say that every time it happened to Jews it was wrong in principle, even when the means utilized were not excessively awful, and I agree with them. If, for example, Virginia were to expel all Jews, providing just compensation, this would be *morally* wrong, quite apart from technical Constitutional issues. I'm still having a hard reconciling this position with the idea of "a Jewish state." It seems to just be putting the boot on the other leg.

The only answer I saw that made sense in the last blog is that Jews are uniquely vulnerable among all of the ethnic groups in the world, so that policies which would not be allowable for Arabs or Germans or Americans are OK for Israelis. I think this is true, but one of the implications is that Israel *as a Jewish state* is not a theoretical right, but rather an excusable wrong, and ought to be more careful about wreaking havoc on its neighbors, or making expansive territorial claims in support of this identity.

I know you believe that nothing that Israel has done has had the purpose or effect of driving non-Jewish residents out per se. My reading is that it has, but this is a factual question on which I might be ill-informed, and answering it requires making some judgment calls which are arguable. One problem is that judgment is heavily influenced by the starting perception of "right." If you argue that Israel didn't in fact wrongfully drive out Arabs in a particular case because driving out Arabs in that case was rightful in pursuit of a Jewish state, and therefore a Jewish state is not per se wrongful, you argue in a circle.

If you argue that an otherwise rightful territorial settlement to the conflict is inadmissible because it would result in a non-Jewish majority, you seem to run into a similar logical problem.

Of course, seeing the idea of "a Jewish state" as being a second-best solution rather than a positive good presents a serious practical problem. Its hard to get an army to fight and citizens to brave terrorism in support of a second-best solution, however necessary. Reducing it to "you're all anti-Semites" isn't much of a long-term diplomatic solution either, though.
8.25.2006 11:41pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
No, I think the essential problem is that the Arab population of the land did not want to coexist peacefully with the Jewish population. There were many advocates within the Jewish community of a binatinal state, and many others who would have been content with an autonomous Jewish zone within a larger Arab state. But since local Arabs consistently attacked local Jews, the only practical alternatives once the British were leaving was to have a Jewish state, or except Dhimmi status and the deportation of many recent immigrants. No one has the obligation to commmit suicide, as the latter course would have required. A third option would have been for the Jews to pack up and go, but where? No country allowed even Holocaust survivors in freely, much less refugees from British Palestine.
8.26.2006 12:08am
A. Rickey (mail) (www):
Asking "has the question ever been asked?", in a rhetorical way that suggests that if it has been, it's not much, is not the same as asserting "the question has never been asked."

That's a pretty bizarre assertion. It's mentioned frequently among those who care about it. Here's another way of looking at it: the question has been asked, and frequently, but simply at times and in places where you've not been looking. (Your article shows a particular disinclination to look. It's not like the zainichi-chosenjin issue isn't in Wikipedia, wasn't easily discoverable, and provided an answer to a lot of your questions.)

Further, when it has been answered, it's been answered more or less unequivocally. At least in my study of Japan, I never came across a professorial advocate of Japan's discriminatory immigration laws, nor can I find one now. They were sometimes put forward as a rather curious artifact of racism ("Japanese governments think that these people will be easier to assimilate, but there's no evidence"), or simply mentioned without much comment as "one of those things," but I never heard anyone actually defend them as a good idea. Certainly I never heard them defended as part of a "right" to remain Japanese. In contrast, of course, to you. Where does your argument leave you if the reason for the lack of argumentative heat is that in the Japanese case, as opposed to the Jewish, there's simply not that much debate because the issue is mostly settled?

If this is your case, what have you proven? Israeli immigration law gets discussed more than the Japanese? Brilliant! Given that the former is involved in a shooting war and the other isn't, that's unsurprising. More people know about Israel's policies than Japan's? Ditto for the shooting war.

When it all comes down to it, your important point has been reduced from "Israel comes under unfair criticism" to "Israel sits in a particular context where its immigration policies are more important, and given that it's tied in with war and terrorism in a way that Japan isn't, it gets more attention. If Japan were in a shooting war with potential immigrants and the zainichi-chosenjin were hijacking planes, we'd hear similar arguments about them, too."

War gets attention. This was a revelation?
8.26.2006 10:11am
Andy (mail):
PDXLawyer - I think you fail to see the relation between the law of return and Israel's identification as an explicitly ethnic state. The law is designed to facilitate the maintenance of the Jewish demographic in Israel - a problem that plagues Israel even notwithstanding current hostilities - by bringing in more Jewish citizens from somewhere else. The law could certainly be more narrow and still protect Jews from persecution - for example, it could grant automatic asylum to any Jew being persecuted as such. However, non-persecuted Jews would have to go through the same citizenship procedures as everyone else who might wish to live there. The law of return is a bulwark designed to address precisely the problem you detailed in your comment - how can Israel remain a democratic, Jewish state in the face of an Israeli Arab population boom?

David Bernstein - early Zionists were more or less in favor of reconciling with the local population, depending on who you talked to. It is an oversimplification almost to the extent of a fairy tale to say "the early zionists wanted peace with the Arabs, and the Arabs wouldn't have them." Many Zionists believed, from the outset, that the pioneers were on a collision course with the local population and that there was nothing to be gained by being 'conciliatory.' Though I don't support his normative goals, I deeply respect Jabotinsky for having the clarity of vision to look at early Zionism and to acknowledge that yes, there was going to be a big problem with merging Zionism and the native population. There were competing visions of Zionism but the ascendant one was definitely Ahad Ha-am's and that vision had no room for the fair integration of a native non-Jewish population (and was already very different from Herzl's)- it was predicated on the purity and redemptiveness of Jewish labor and the creation of a purely Jewish culture. Ironically, religious Jews have coexisted with the Arab population in Israel for centuries - it was the secular Zionists, brandishing 19th century ideas about nationhood that bordered on the mystical, that started the problem (I say that is ironic because the banner of "strong" Zionism has now been passed to the religious Jews, who were originally deeply opposed to it). Is it any wonder that labor disputes (and then riots) developed early on where the pioneers purchased land from absentee landlords, displaced the current workers (who had worked there for generations) and replaced them with Jewish immigrants in the name of a larger, mystical-national philosophy of Jewish redemption? It is silly to chalk that up to anti-semitism, as any group embarking on a similar expedition would have received identical treatment from the locals.
8.26.2006 1:00pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I don't want to keep going over the same points here, but I'll close with this one: but for the Holocaust, if Israel had been founded in 1948, the Jewish population of Israel would now probably be over 9 million, not just over 5 million. The original Zionist vision became problematic because the Jewish nation was so reduced, while the Arab population soared far more than anyone would have anticipated. But if you look at things from the perspective of a Zionist in, say, 1910, you have the potential of having a state with 9 million or so people (say 1/4 to 1/3 of the Jewish population of the time, plus natural increase), and the idea that maybe half a million Arabs, mostly peasants, with no distinct national identity should stand in the way of that, when they themselves would benefit from their feudal system being overturned by more enlightened Western ideals brought by the Zionists, seems genuinely unreasonable.
8.26.2006 7:03pm
Michael B (mail):
Every nation or nation/state is individuated along some lines, the founding principles, the general, undergirding ethos, etc. are never entirely identical from one nation/state to the next. Israel is not entirely sui generis in this regard (e.g., it is a liberal democracy along classical liberal lines), but it is sui generis in some particulars, the immediate background of Hitler's holocaust being most historically obvious perhaps, but the ethnic/quasi-religious aspect (and the quasi-religious aspect need not be denied), at least in its particulars, as well. So what? Why should that be denied? There may be aspects and particulars which need a solid defense, but I don't see how that needs to be problematic and particularly difficult. The only difficulty which arises is the difficulties which are attendant when one (unnecessarily) accepts dogmas from the Left and similar precincts which simply do not need to be accepted.

Nations, as with the people who populate those nations, do not and should not be overly regimented. There are boundaries and lines which cannot be crossed, but one doesn't need to accept Leftist and similar or related dogmas unthinkingly. If Israel is in fact sui generis vis-a-vis some particulars of its ethnic/quasi-religious underpinnings, then good for Israel for coming to terms with what is and what is not important to its self-identification. The quotes above, from Joseph Carens and Michael Dummett need to be supported and defended themselves, not blindly and unthinkingly accepted, as if by rote, submissively; there is much to recommend in those quotes, but there is ample enough to be critiqued as well, not the least of which is the dogmatic intonation they use in their inveighments (e.g. race, religion and language are not co-equivalents, nor are all religions co-equal, any more than all social/political ideologies are co-equal, before the norms of civil society).
8.29.2006 12:38am
Michael B (mail):
A nation consists in a large or relatively large grouping of people around some basis which serves to supply, in however rough hewn or variously conceived a manner, some type and degree of meaningful cohesiveness. Nations come and go throughout history, they are not guaranteed permanence, but some type and degree or level of cohesiveness must apply to the grouping called a nation, otherwise, why would the label be applied? In theory, that cohesiveness may revolve around nothing more than the rule "everybody may do their own thing," which rule, if it is in fact the sole basis for this theoretical nation, may lead to dissolution far more quickly than nations formed upon something more meaningful, but at least at some time, at some moment in history, a central, unifying basis will exist, otherwise the label "nation" would be meaningless.

The notion that religion absolutely cannot supply an aspect of that overall basis is precisely that: notional only, not at all thoughtful or susceptible to much of a thoroughgoing critique and critical review. Whether it be a "civic religion" (e.g., purely materialist, multi-culti dogmas and beliefs), a cargo cult, an animist set of beliefs (e.g., Australian aborigines, southern Sudan), a formal and traditional monotheistic religion, or some other formation, the notion such cannot inform an important aspect of the basis for the cohesion of the nation is insupportable upon very much reflection at all.

People, if we are to genuinely and sincerely (shorn of pretense, guile and duplicity) allow them their own freedom of choice, without proscribing via essentially authoritarian regiments and demands against a free peoples making their own choices, are in fact (not merely in theory) to be allowed their freedom of choice, their freedom of alliances, their freedom of associations vis-a-vis their conception of a nation and nation/state, a formal state. All of this is necessarily "at play" within the dynamics and boundaries reality imposes, and necessarily some proscriptions (e.g., against murder, genocidal intent) will need to be applied if the international order is to be maintained, but the notion Dummett and Carens (as examples only) need to be taken uncritically is precisely and only that: notional, not particularly thoughtful and certainly not reflective of a profound regard for the individual qua individual.

Likewise, if a formal state is to be formed by a nation, beyond a piece of real estate other things will need to be agreed upon. A partial list only follows:

1) property considerations (private vs. statist, etc.)
2) contracts
3) general civil vs. criminal laws
4) general conceptions of the public good, safety, etc.
5) privacy concerns, enshrined in law and otherwise
6) laws pertaining to marriage and the family
7) legal hierarchies; constitutions, etc.
8) enforcement mechanisms; police powers, etc.
9) educational priorities, interests
10) formal govt.; checks and balances, hierarchies
11) conceptions of science, truth, fact, etc.
12) foreign policy interests and initiatives
13) intl. law; degree to which it's valid vs. less so, etc.
14) simply the general ethos (beyond what is formally established in the law) which receives support, encouragement, promotion

In all the above, and more, the notion a religiously inspired value (certainly not conceived theologically, but as religiously inspired moral principles and views, help to inform any or all of the above pragmatic and institutional concerns) cannot or should not do precisely that, i.e. help and serve to inform the laws of the land as well as the general ethos which is to be promoted (much as it does in the case of the U.S., at least so historically) is precisely and only that, notional, not thoughtful and not respectful of the individual qua individual.


Of course in sundry aspects of the social contrast, the Left and related precincts, in their long march throught the institutions, have succeeded in cowing some sectors of the population into submission; but that relates to 1) a lack of breadth and depth, 2) a lack of vision and 3) a lack of social and civic courage on the part of those sectors and that's a different, if also related, subject.
8.29.2006 3:46am