Hey Israel, Palestinian Rights Shouldn’t be a Threat

Sana Wazwaz, staff writer

There are some states that are apparently more like people than the people they rule over. If you criticize them, their feelings get hurt. And if you call them illegitimate, you’re a bigot. And if you propose that any of their actions get prosecuted in a reputable court, you’re attacking its existence — and the law is too. And these states have more rights than the people they massacre; chief among them all is their “right to exist.” 

You guessed it — I’m talking about Israel. You’ve likely guessed it because we seldom hear of this mythical right being invoked in the context of China, Iran or any other state that’s under fire. But in the context of Israel, this claim has become a prime deflecting mechanism — a broken record. It’s become such a broken record that when I walked up to Republican House candidate Cicely Davis at the State Fair and asked if Israel has a right to demolish over 8,747 Palestinian homes, she didn’t bother to respond to my point. She just robotically spewed, “Israel has a right to exist,” and all the surrounding Republican hat-wearers erupted in applause like she gave the slam dunk of the century. 

Hey Cicely, here’s a crash course on law — no state actually has a right to exist. Not Israel, not the U.S., not the Soviet Union, not Yugoslavia and certainly not Kurdistan or a Hmong State or a Zulu state — not any state that has come or gone or never came into being in the first place. States don’t have rights — people do.

People have the right to self-determination. People certainly have a right to protection within their own homes in the absence of a clear military threat (see: the Fourth Geneva Convention). But states? States are abstract, arbitrary constructs. People’s rights to self-determination can sometimes be realized through statehood. But do states have an inherent right to come into existence? Are each of the thousands of ethnic groups entitled to carve out a nation-state on any piece of land without regard to the people there? 

I challenge those who answer in the affirmative to put forth the legal statute which grants that right. Is it on the basis of historical oppression? Well if that’s the case, I guess the freed Black slaves had a right to colonize Liberia in 1822. Or is it an ancestral claim to a land? If so, in a land like historic Palestine or Israel or whatever you want to call it — a land where multiple Semitic ethnicities have existed for millenia — which of these groups with “ancestral claims” has a right to carve out an exclusive nation-state? Descendants of the Jebuzites? The Samaritans? The Caananites? Who? 

I could entertain this arbitrary “right to exist,” but what’s most telling is that this mythical right is only invoked when Palestinians assert their actual rights — the right to not have their homes bulldozed, for example. It’s almost like Palestinian rights are an existential threat to Israel and that Israel could not exist as a Jewish-majority state without their subjugation. 

Wait, that’s exactly it. In 2018, when the Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset put forth a bill to define Israel as a “state of all its citizens,” the Israeli Supreme Court disqualified the bill, stating that it “seeks to deny Israel’s existence as the state of the Jewish people.” Instead, the Knesset passed the Nation-State Law, which states that “self-determination is unique to the Jewish people.” This discrimination is the foundation of Israel’s settlement enterprise, with Israeli settlement leader Yonatan Yosef stating in a viral video that settlers “take house after house…is it at the Arabs’ expense? Yes. But so was the whole state itself.” 

Ms. Davis, I guess you’re right that me asserting Palestinian freedom is threatening Israel’s existence — but I suppose that’s only because its leaders have opted for ethno-nationalism rather than inclusion. I only wonder if the rights of this state trump the rights of those with the houses being taken. I’d like to think that if you said so out loud, nobody would clap.