The right of the Jewish people

“All men are created equal… they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” These two principles, from the American Declaration of Independence, form the very bedrock of the United States. Did Israel, in declaring its independence in May 1948, assert the same principles?

In my latest (sixth) installment on Israel’s declaration of independence, I examine its treatment of rights. The bedrock of Israel isn’t individual rights; it’s the collective right of the Jewish people to independence in its own homeland. The fact that Israel has a secure Jewish majority makes it possible for the Jewish state to function as a democracy that recognizes the equal political rights of its citizens, and the collective rights of its minorities. But that majority wasn’t self-evident in May 1948, and the language of the declaration reflects it.

The word “democracy,” present in the drafts of the declaration, was ultimately struck. But the declaration does guarantee the “full and equal citizenship” of all. So just where does the declaration come down on the question of collective versus individual rights? And what’s the one right that is totally unique to Israel?

Read the full essay at Mosaic. 

Did the UN create Israel?

Israel’s declaration of independence doesn’t invoke God’s promise of the land to the patriarchs, as I explained in the last installment of my series on Israel’s declaration of independence. But it repeatedly invokes the United Nations “partition resolution” of November 1947. So did the UN create Israel?

As I explain in my new installment, Israel’s founders, and above all David Ben-Gurion, were very selective in what they took from the UN. Indeed, if you only read Israel’s declaration of independence, you’d think that the UN had licensed the creation of only one state, a Jewish one. You wouldn’t know the UN had voted for partition, or that its plan had come with a map.

If it had been within the power of the UN to create a Jewish state, it would have created an Arab one too. But states aren’t created by decree. Absent a Jewish army, Israel wouldn’t have arisen in any borders, and certainly not in the expanded borders of 1949. To learn how the drafters of the declaration cleverly construed the UN’s decision, read my new installment, at this link.

When state met religion in Israel

Is Israel’s declaration of statehood a secular document? Or does it strike a perfect balance between secular and religious justifications for the creation of the state? And just what does this phrase mean? “Placing our trust in the Rock of Israel, we affix our signatures to this proclamation.”

In this latest (fourth) installment of my series on Israel’s declaration of independence, I go through the drafts and debates on whether to acknowledge or exclude God. In the end, David Ben-Gurion got both atheists and believers to put their signatures to the declaration. But did he really split the difference between them? I think not. Read why at this link.