Palestinians and other Arabs are furious because Mansour Abbas -- an Arab member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, and head of the United List Party -- announced that he recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. Abbas is being denounced as a "traitor" and "Zionist" by many Palestinians and Arabs who define their countries and political systems as "Arab" or "Islamic." Pictured: Abbas in the Knesset on September 2, 2021. (Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinians and other Arabs are furious because Mansour Abbas -- an Arab member of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, and head of the United List Party -- announced that he recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.
Abbas is being denounced as a "traitor" and "Zionist" by many Palestinians and Arabs who define their countries and political systems as "Arab" or "Islamic." They claim that the idea of a Jewish state is "racist" but seem not to feel the same way about openly Islamic states: The Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania
If the Palestinians, as well as Arab and Islamic countries, are labelling Israel as racist because it wants to define itself as a Jewish state, then they too are racists because they insist on defining themselves as "Arabs" and "Muslims."
Mansour Abbas should receive commendation for his public recognition of Israel as a Jewish state; instead, he has received threats. These are coming from the many Palestinians and Arabs who will never accept Israel's existence or its classification as a Jewish state.
"Israel was born as a Jewish state, that was the decision of the people, and it will remain a Jewish state," Abbas said.
The Palestinians argue that one of the reasons they are opposed to the idea of Israel being a Jewish state is because it would deprive millions of Palestinian refugees from achieving a "right of return."
A Palestinian "right of return" means flooding Israel with millions of Palestinians, turning it into a Palestinian state in which Jews would live as a minority under "Arab" and "Islamic" rule.
This result would mean that the Palestinians would end up with two states: one in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, and another that would replace Israel. The Palestinians, however, already have two separate mini-states: one in the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority (PA) and a second in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The PA was among the first to come out against the idea of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. Notably, this is the same PA whose leaders signed the Oslo Accords with Israel beginning in 1993, and continue to argue that they already have recognized Israel's right to exist. This is also the same PA whose leaders continue to talk about their desire to establish a Palestinian state next to Israel.
"The Palestinian [Authority] Presidency expressed its strong rejection and indignation at the statements of the head of the United List, Mansour Abbas, in which he calls on the Palestinian people to recognize the Jewish state," the PA said in a statement.
"These irresponsible statements are consistent with the calls of extremists in Israel to displace the Palestinians and harm the status of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque and the history of the Palestinian people. Mansour Abbas, with such statements, represents only himself, and does not represent the Palestinian people. Such statements contradict religion, history and Palestinian heritage."
The Palestinian leadership's statement is misleading and contains a number of inaccuracies and falsehoods.
First, Mansour Abbas did not "call" on the Palestinian people to recognize Israel. He simply stated the fact that Israel was "born as a Jewish state" and that "it will remain a Jewish state."
Second, there is no connection between accepting Israel's Jewish identity and the Islamic holy sites, including the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Since 1967, in fact, Israel has allowed the Islamic religious authorities to have exclusive control over the mosque and other Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.
Remarkably, since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, the city has become a haven for coexistence and revitalized religious and cultural expression for all faiths. Freedom of worship at all holy sites is guaranteed for the faithful of all three monotheistic religions.
According to the Palestinians themselves, 50,000 Muslim worshippers attended the Friday prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque on December 31. How, one might ask, does that fit with their claim that accepting Israel as a Jewish state would "harm the status of the blessed mosque?" No one in Israel has ever said that he or she wants Arabs and Muslims to recognize Israel as a Jewish state because such a step would deny them access to the mosque.
Ironically, the Palestinian leadership's false claim that Israel is seeking to "harm" the al-Aqsa Mosque came as Palestinians made two attempts to set fire to Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, only because it is frequented by Jewish worshippers. The attempts, according to reports in the Palestinian media, were foiled at the last minute by the Palestinian security forces.
Third, the Palestinian leadership's claim that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state "contradicts religion and history" should be seen in the context of the Palestinians' denial of any traces of Judaism in Jerusalem. Just recently, this claim was again parroted by Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who said:
"We are on the outskirts of the eternal capital [Jerusalem], the jewel in the crown, the point where heaven and earth meet. Jerusalem has Canaanite, Roman, Islamic, and Christian antiquities and is theirs alone, and no one else has any traces in it."
Interestingly, while the PA says that it is strongly opposed to the idea of Israel being a Jewish state, it has no problem defining itself as "Arab" and "Islamic."
Article 1 of the Palestinian Basic Law (constitution) states: "Palestine is part of the larger Arab world, and the Palestinian people are part of the Arab nation."
Article 4 of the law states: "Islam is the official religion in Palestine. The principles of Islamic Shari'a shall be a principal source of legislation."
The Palestinians, in short, are saying that while Israel has no right to call itself a Jewish state, they have every right to label the Palestinian Authority as "Arab" and "Islamic."
Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that does not recognize Israel's right to exist, has also denounced Mansour Abbas for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state:
"The statements of the Israeli Knesset member [Mansour Abbas], in which he expressed his recognition of the so-called Jewish state, is nothing but a flagrant bias to the Zionist narrative, and a clear violation of the position of the Palestinian national consensus rejecting and denouncing it."
This is the same Hamas whose covenant is rife with overt antisemitism and a commitment to the destruction of Israel through jihad (holy war). Like the Palestinian Authority, Hamas too wants to establish a Palestinian state where Shari'a law is the source of legislation.
Article 11 of the Hamas charter states:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered; it, or any part of it, should not be given up... this is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Shari'a and the same goes for any land the Muslims have conquered by force, because during the times of [Islamic] conquests, the Muslims consecrated these lands to Muslim generations until the Day of Judgement."
Article 36 of the Hamas charter states:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement adopts Islam as its way of life. Islam is at its creed and religion. Whoever takes Islam as his way of life, be it an organization, a grouping, a country or any other body, the Islamic Resistance movement considers itself as their soldiers and nothing more."
It is not only the Palestinians who consider Islam to be their "way of life." There are 56 countries in which Islam plays a significant role. Many of them are countries with Islam as the state religion.
Yet this has not prevented the 22 members of the Arab League from endorsing the Palestinians' rejection of Israel as a Jewish state.
It is worth considering the extreme hypocrisy of this situation: the Arabs (and the Palestinians) continue their long-held policy of defining their countries as "Arab" and "Islamic," while they deny Israel the right to refer to itself what it always has been -- the Jewish state.
This does not bode well for any peace process that the Biden administration is hoping to revive between the Palestinians and Israel.
Those who refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state are actually admitting that they do not believe in Israel's right to exist.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.