Boston artist Steve Mills - realistic painting

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

NEW BOOK:'Blood and Religion: The unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State'

Jonathan Cook
Blood and Religion: The unmasking
of the Jewish and Democratic State

Published by Pluto Press in Britain in April
and in the United States in July 2006

For details about how to buy the book
in the UK:  from Pluto Press,  click here or Amazon click here
in the US:  from Palgrave Macmillan,  click here or Amazon click here
To purchase an e-book copy, click here

Praise for Blood and Religion:
‘Jonathan Cook’s timely and important book on the Palestinians in Israel is by far the most penetrating and comprehensive on the subject to date ... [He] builds, through exhaustive reference to the Hebrew press, a convincing picture of ethnocratic Zionism constantly preoccupied with a central dilemma: how to rid the land of its indigenous people. This work should be required reading.’
Nur Masalha, Director of Holy Land Studies, St Mary’s College, University of Surrey, and author of The Politics of Denial (2003)

‘An original and powerful book.’
Ilan Pappe, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Haifa University, and author of A Modern History of Palestine (2004)

‘Very impressive … Some of his findings will astound even the knowledgeable reader.’
Salim Tamari, Director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies


Extracts from the book:
To look at the contents page and index click here

On the problems of defining a state as Jewish (in PDF) click here HERE DOWN THE PAGE

On demography and the Gaza disengagement (in PDF) click here

From the back cover:
What does Israel hope to achieve with its recent withdrawal from Gaza and the building of a 700km wall around the West Bank?
Jonathan Cook, who has reported on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the Second Intifada, presents a lucid account of the Jewish state's motives.  The heart of the issue, he argues, is demography.  Israel fears the moment when a region's Palestinians - Israel's own Palestinian citizens and those in the Occupied Territories - become a majority.  Inevitable comparisons with apartheid in South Africa will be drawn.
This book charts Israel's increasingly desperate responses to its predicament:
  • military repression of Palestinian dissent on both sides of the Green Line
  • accusations that Israel's Palestinian citizens and the Palestinian Authority are secretly conspiring to subvert the Jewish state from within
  • a ban on marriages between Palestinians living under occupation and Israel's own Palestinian population to prevent the right of return 'through the back door'
  • the redrawing of the Green Line to create an expanded, fortress state, where only Jewish blood and Jewish religion count
Ultimately, concludes the author, these abuses will lead to a third, far deadlier intifada.

About the author:
Jonathan Cook, a former staff journalist of the Guardian and Observer newspapers, has also written for The Times, Le Monde diplomatique, international Herald Tribune, Al-Ahram Weekly and
He is based in Nazareth, Israel.

Introduction: The Glass Wall 
Instead on another deception: that the establishment of Israel allowed 
the Jews to normalise, to become “a nation like other nations”. But 
what exactly is the nation of Israel? In other countries, the answer 
is relatively simple: the French nation, for example, is the collection 
of people who hold French citizenship; it is, in other words, the 
sum of French citizens. But the Israeli nation is something different. 
According to Israel’s founding laws, the state belongs not just to 
the people who live in Israel, to its citizens (one in fi ve of whom is 
ethnically Arab), but to the Jewish people wherever they live around 
the world and whatever other nationalities – American, French, 
British, Argentinian – they consider themselves to be. As the Israeli 
sociologist Baruch Kimmerling points out: “The state is not defi ned 
as belonging to its citizens, but to the entire Jewish people.”


The murkiness of Israel’s self-definition is underscored by the 
privileged status various international Zionist organisations, including 
the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund, enjoy in Israeli 
law. They have a semi-governmental status, including owning vast 
tracts of Israeli land, even though their charters require them to act 
exclusively in the interests of world Jewry. 
As a consequence, Arab citizens’ exclusion from the Israeli 
and Jewish nation has very concrete effects both on their social 
position in Israel and the possibility of developing a civic identity. 
For example, there are some 137 possible nationalities that can be 
recorded on Israeli identity cards: from Jew, Georgian, Russian and 
Hebrew through to Arab, Druze, Abkhazi, Assyrian and Samaritan. 
Everything, in fact, apart from Israeli.41 This is because the state 
refuses to acknowledge that the Israeli nation can be separated from 
the Jewish nation. The two are seen as identical, meaning that non- 
Jews in Israel, including the population of more than one million 
Palestinians, are effectively citizens without a nationality; they are 
more akin to permanent residents. The state’s approach suggests 
that it regards the nation of Israel as including potentially millions 
of Jews who do not live in Israel and do not have Israeli citizenship 
and as excluding the more than one million Palestinians who do live 
in Israel and do have Israeli citizenship. 

Blood and Religion 
The courts have consistently upheld this position. In 1971, for 
example, when an Israeli Jew petitioned the Supreme Court to have 
his nationality changed from Jewish to Israeli in public records, Chief 
Justice Shimon Agranat rejected the application, arguing: 
If there is in the country today – just 23 years after the establishment of the 
state – a bunch of people, or even more, who ask to separate themselves from 
the Jewish people and to achieve for themselves the status of a distinct Israeli 
nation, then such a separatist approach should not be seen as a legitimate 
Agranat’s ruling was confi rmed by the courts again in early 2004. 
The diffi culty facing the Israeli legal system is that to recognise a 
common Israeli nationality – to recognise in effect a shared bond of 
citizenship between Jews and Arabs inside Israel – would negate the 
intentions of the country’s founding fathers, who premised their state 
on the principle that it was a haven-in-waiting for the whole Jewish 
people, wherever they lived. In this sense the legal concept of Israeli 
nationality is unlike that found on the statute books anywhere else 
in the world. Jews and Arabs may share the same label of “Israeli” 
but they are different kinds of nationals and citizens: the former are 
included in the notion of a common national good, while the latter 
are excluded. 
Consider just one example of the racist implications of this view 
of Israeli nationality, sanctioned by both the state and the courts. 
Although almost all land in Israel is nationalised, the state publicly 
admits that it does not hold it for the benefi t of the country’s citizens. 
It is held, in trust, on behalf of Jewish people around the world. 
The land of Israel is the property not of the Israeli people but of the 
Jewish nation, of Jews everywhere and for all time. As a result, Arab 
citizens have no rights to most of the country’s territory, and legally 
can be excluded from the communities built on that territory. A Jew 
from Brooklyn and his or her children and unborn children enjoy 
absolute and eternal rights in Israel (even if they choose not to realise 
those rights), while a Palestinian citizen living in Nazareth or Haifa, 
whose family has lived on the land now called Israel for many gen- 
erations, does not. In 2002 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon explained 
the difference during a Knesset debate when he observed that while 
Arab citizens enjoyed “rights in the land” – they had tenants’ rights 
– “all rights over the Land of Israel are Jewish rights”.43 In short, the 
state considers the Jewish people as the landlords of Israel. 
The difference in the nature of the nationality enjoyed by Jews 
and Arabs is embodied at the most basic level in an early piece of 

immigration legislation called the Law of Return. Passed in 1950, 
two years after the establishment of the state, the Law of Return 
was designed to ensure that the demographic ghost of the Pales- 
tinian homeland on which the Jewish state was built never return 
to haunt it. It gives a right to every Jew in the world to migrate to 
Israel and receive automatic citizenship while barring the return of 
Palestinians exiled by the 1948 war. The legislation skews the demo- 
graphic realities in Israel so that Jewish numerical dominance can 
be maintained in perpetuity. It has eased the passage of some three 
million Jews to Israel, and disinherited the 750,000 Palestinians who 
were either expelled or terrorised out of the country under cover of 
war, and millions of their descendants. The consequence of the Law 
of Return – if not its purpose – has been to ensure that inside Israel 
the Jewish population maintains an unassailable numerical majority 
over what remains of the Palestinian population.

The Jewish identity of the state, and the permanent marginalisa- 
tion of the Palestinian citizens it was forced to inherit in 1948, was 
enshrined in the country’s founding document, the Declaration 
of Independence, which mentions only the history, culture and 
collective memory of the Jewish people.44 It speaks not on behalf 
of the country’s citizens but on behalf of the representatives of the 
Jewish people, as well as the Zionist movements, including the Jewish 
Agency and the Jewish National Fund.45 These organisations, which 
enjoy a legal right to discriminate in favour of Jews, control social, 
political and economic benefi ts for Jews only. 
Despite a pledge in the Declaration of Independence to produce a 
constitution within six months of the establishment of the state, no 
document has yet been drawn up. One of the insuperable obstacles 
facing the drafters has been how to embody the ethnic and religious 
values of a Jewish state without resorting to clearly discriminatory 
language.46 A fl avour, however, of what values the courts think a 
“Jewish state” embodies have been provided by the current chief 
justice, Aharon Barak, considered one of the most progressive and 
secular voices in Israel: 
[The] Jewish state is the state of the Jewish people ... it is a state in which 
every Jew has the right to return ... it is a state where the language is Hebrew 
and most of its holidays represent its national rebirth ... a Jewish state is 
a state which developed a Jewish culture, Jewish education and a loving 
Jewish people ... a Jewish state derives its values from its religious heritage, 
the Bible is the basic of its books and Israel’s prophets are the basis of its 
morality. A Jewish state is also a state where the Jewish Law fulfi lls a sig- 
nifi cant role ... a Jewish state is a state in which the values of Israel, Torah, 
Jewish heritage and the values of the Jewish halacha [religious law] are the 
bases of its values.47 
Instead of a constitution, Israel has 11 Basic Laws, none of which 
guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of religion or, most impor- 
tantly, equality. The Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, passed 
in 1992 and the nearest thing Israel has to a Bill of Rights, fails to 
include equality among the rights it enumerates, instead emphasis- 
ing the values of the state as “Jewish and democratic”. As a result, 
state-organised discrimination cannot easily be challenged in the 
courts. Repeated attempts by Arab Knesset members to introduce 
an amendment to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty 
incorporating the principle of equality have been rejected by an 
overwhelming majority of Jewish MKs.48 (In any case, since the 1948 
war Israel has never revoked a state of emergency that allows gross 
violations of human rights inside Israel).


The veiling of the religious and ethnic discrimination at the heart of 
Israel has been partly achieved through the seemingly unimportant 
decision of its founding fathers to remove the state from all matters 
of personal status. Each religious community has been left to regulate 
issues relating to its members’ births, deaths and marriages. In these 
core matters in each citizen’s life there are no civil institutions or 
courts to which he or she can turn. It is neither possible to register 
as an atheist or agnostic, nor formally to bring up one’s children 
as secular citizens. Instead, the leaderships of each of the main 
religious communities – Jew, Muslim, Christian and Druze – have 
been given exclusive powers to deal with their own members. Anyone 
belonging to the Arab Christian community of the Greek Orthodox 
faith, for example, must seek a divorce in a Greek Orthodox religious 
court before a panel of clergy in proceedings possibly carried out in 
Greek, with translation for the Arab participants, and according to 
Byzantine laws dating back to the fourteenth century.50 Similarly, 
no civil marriage is possible in Israel, forcing citizens from different 
religious communities to marry abroad. 
Rather than encouraging diversity, Israel has used the “subcon- 
tracting out” of personal status matters as a way to create a series of 
ethnic and communal partitions. There is no room for civil society 
to fl ourish when the state has abandoned its citizen to their religious 
ghettos, and the arbitrary decisions of their religious leaders. Instead 
individual citizens have been left to fi ght lonely battles to establish 
their rights in the most private areas of their lives, without the help 
or protection of civil institutions and laws. By refusing to offer an 
alternative, secular identity to its citizens in addition to that offered 
by the religious authorities, or to arbitrate in disputes between indi- 
viduals and their confessional group, the state leaves citizens prey 
to anachronistic traditions and the whims of bigots. In Israel, the 
most lively public debates concentrate on arcane personal status 
issues, such as the battles to ease marriage restrictions, allow public 
venues to open on the Sabbath, and end the Jewish Orthodox’s iron 
grip on conversion. There is no room to adopt a more critical civil 
discourse, one that questions the huge budgetary requirements of 
Israel’s military or the economic policies that have opened up huge 
disparities in wealth and employment. 
The authority wielded by the various religious leaderships, rather 
than equalising the status of the different religions before the law, 
has served to entrench an especially privileged place for Judaism in 
Israel, as the religion of the majority. The Hebrew calendar and the 
Jewish religious holidays are the only ones recognised; offi ces, banks, 
institutions and public transport shut down for the Jewish Sabbath 
only; restaurants, factories and public institutions are obligated to 
follow only the hygiene practices of Jews; only Jewish holy sites are 
recognised and protected by law; almost the entire budget of the 
Religious Affairs Ministry is reserved for Jewish places of worship, 
cemeteries, seminaries and religious institutions;51 and Jewish 
religious schools receive resources far outstripping those given to 
state-run Jewish and Arab education.52 
Conversion, which would at least offer a route, if a problematic 
one, to inter-confessional marriage inside Israel and lower the barriers 
between religious communities, has been made all but impossible 
in the case of Judaism. In an agreement forged in the earliest days 
of the Jewish state, control over personal status matters was passed 
exclusively to rabbis representing Orthodoxy, a fundamentalist 
stream of Judaism and the least progressive of its major movements. 
As well as insisting on a purist defi nition of who is registered as a 
Jew (only those born to a Jewish mother), the Orthodox rabbinate in 
Israel approves only a handful of conversions to the Jewish faith each 
year, requiring that converts accept a fundamentalist interpretation 
of Judaism, including observance of halacha (Judaism’s equivalent 
of sharia law). Conversions performed in Israel by rabbis belonging 
to other streams, such as the Conservative and Reform movements, 
are not recognised by the state. 
This pact between the state and Orthodoxy has averted any threat, 
however improbable, of Palestinian citizens converting en masse 
to Judaism and thereby ending their exclusion from the centres 
of power. But it has also caused collateral damage, making life 
extremely diffi cult for Jews living in Israel who are not considered 
Jewish by the Orthodox rabbinate, including more than a quarter 
of a million immigrants who arrived in the last 15 years following 
the collapse of the Soviet Union.53 Because they are the non-Jewish 
spouses of returning Jews, or the offspring of such marriages, they 
fi nd themselves unable to wed in Israel,54 to be buried in Jewish 
cemeteries, or to be registered as a Jew on their identity cards. Their 
children inherit this fl aw. 
Religious control over personal status matters has erected impene- 
trable barriers between Jews and Arabs in both the communal and the 
individual sphere. The policy has undermined any awareness of shared 
interests between Israel’s different confessions; instead, communal 
groups must battle for resources that benefi t their members alone 
rather than forging alliances that might unite groups on other bases. 
The arrangements put in place by the state have forced citizens to 
remain in a sectarian, tribal formation – as Jews, Muslims, Christians 
and Druze – vying for resources and privileges. 
In this hierarchy of citizenship, given the state’s defi nition as a 
Jewish state, the Jewish majority is always the winner by some con- 
siderable margin;55 lagging a great distance behind are the Christian 
Arab denominations, which, because of their historic links to the 
global Churches, have enjoyed better opportunities for education 
and travel;56 next comes the small Druze community, treated by the 
state as a national minority separate from the Arab population whose 
members are obligated in law to perform military service alongside 
Jews; and in last place is to be found the large Muslim population, 
comprising 80 per cent of the country’s Palestinian minority, which 
has been entirely marginalised. 

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