Yom Ha-Atsma’ut Is Not Just about Israeli Independence, but about Jewish Liberation

Israel’s Independence Day, which began Wednesday evening and ended yesterday, is celebrated by countless Jews in the Diaspora with school events, special synagogue services, and the mere recognition of the date’s significance. While the creation of the state of Israel is surely sufficient cause for joy in itself, writes Michael Koplow, it also has additional meaning for Jews living outside its borders:

Jewish liberation and self-determination extend past Israel as the Jewish state, even as I would argue that Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland is a necessary component of that liberation and self-determination. Jewish independence and liberation are also about our right to define ourselves, our right to live free of anti-Semitism, and our right to express our Jewishness as we see fit.

In the past couple of weeks alone, there are disturbing signs that these aspects of Jewish independence and liberation—ones that we have taken for granted—are under erosion. Much has been made of the editorial board of the Harvard Crimson endorsing BDS, [the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel], and rejecting its past stance opposing it, but the BDS endorsement itself is not what should worry American Jews. . . . What should worry us is that the same editorial unambiguously asserted that nothing about the Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee’s “Wall of Resistance”—including the first panel that read “Zionism is racism, settler colonialism, white supremacy, apartheid”—was deserving of the “delegitimizing label” of anti-Semitism.

Note that the Wall of Resistance did not accuse Israel, the Israeli government, or Israeli policies and actions of white supremacy, but rather labeled the idea of Jewish self-determination as white supremacy.

Most [American Jews] are Zionists and some of us are not, and Jews ourselves vigorously debate whether anti-Zionism is inherently or automatically anti-Semitic, but we get to decide whether Zionism is a legitimate or necessary component of Judaism rather than having someone else tell us.

That too, Koplow argues, is part of what Jewish liberation entails.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Israel Policy Forum

More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Israel and the Diaspora, Israeli Independence Day

What Israel Can Learn from Its Declaration of Independence

March 22 2023

Contributing to the Jewish state’s current controversy over efforts to reform its judicial system, observes Peter Berkowitz, is its lack of a written constitution. Berkowitz encourages Israelis to seek a way out of the present crisis by looking to the founding document they do have: the Declaration of Independence.

The document does not explicitly mention “democracy.” But it commits Israel to democratic institutions not only by insisting on the equality of rights for all citizens and the establishment of representative government but also by stressing that Arab inhabitants would enjoy “full and equal citizenship.”

The Israeli Declaration of Independence no more provides a constitution for Israel than does the U.S. Declaration of Independence furnish a constitution for America. Both documents, however, announced a universal standard. In 1859, as civil war loomed, Abraham Lincoln wrote in a letter, “All honor to Jefferson—to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.”

Something similar could be said about Ben Gurion’s . . . affirmation that Israel would be based on, ensure, and guarantee basic rights and fundamental freedoms because they are inseparable from our humanity.

Perhaps reconsideration of the precious inheritance enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence could assist both sides in assuaging the rage roiling the country. Bold and conciliatory, the nation’s founding document promises not merely a Jewish state, or a free state, or a democratic state, but that Israel will combine and reconcile its diverse elements to form a Jewish and free and democratic state.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Israel's Basic Law, Israeli Declaration of Independence, Israeli politics