Does Israel have a 'right to exist'?
- Israel is the world’s first and only Jewish state since it settled in ancient Canaan in the 1200s BCE. Despite the Jewish Diaspora between 70-132 CE, thousands of Jews remained in the land up until the United Nations re-established the Jewish state (via resolution 181) in 1948 after the WWII Holocaust.
- The word ‘Jew’ is derived from the name Judah, a descendent of Abraham who became one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Judah became the name associated with Israel’s territory, later called Judea. Around 132 CE, the Romans renamed the region ‘Palaestina,’ after Israel’s ancient enemy–the Philistines.
- ‘Zionism’ is an idea coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum, generally referring to “the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.”
- There are 22 official Arab countries, with Islam being the majority religion. The Arab world has approximately 464.68 million inhabitants. Israel’s population is just under 10 million, with Arabs making up 21%, or nearly 2 million.
Though it has been invoking the right to exist since 1948, the Israeli government can't build a Jewish state on this declaration alone. Firstly, many deny the legitimacy of the UN forcing universal recognition of Israel's statehood through its adoption of Resolution 181. International law recognizes countries as existing de facto, but it doesn't mention a country has a right to exist, let alone mandate that other countries recognize such a right. The right to exist is different from self-determination and diplomatic recognition. Unlike self-determination, this so-called right is an attribute of nations rather than people. Meanwhile, diplomatic recognition is related to political and legal aspects of international society.
Some groups argue that Israel's right to exist is a 'myth.' After forcefully displacing Palestinians, the country maintains its self-determination by marginalizing Arab citizens, oppressing non-Jewish immigrants, and disenfranchising the Palestinians in the West Bank. So, it can't claim rights when it's based on ethnic cleansing and at the expense of others' self-determination.
Another thing to consider is how this right is limited to Israel and not granted to Palestine as well. In addition to being ethnically cleansed and scattered as refugees, Palestinians are believed to be defined out of existence. Not only are refugees treated differently, but also Palestinian descendants have no claim to Palestine.
Palestinians' rights are also in contrast with Israel's non-internationally sanctioned rights. Palestinians invoke many internationally recognized rights, such as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grants them the right to live on the land they were expelled from. So, Israel shouldn't invoke a right that's recognized at the national level by the Israeli state itself, especially when it refuses to extend the same courtesy to others.
All nations have the right to exist, and Israel is no exception. Israel possesses historical ties to the land that date back thousands of years, containing deep cultural and religious significance. Israel’s Holy Land far predates its Roman occupation, which renamed the area to Syria Palestina (Palestine), or the emergence of Islam in the 7th century.
Israel’s rightful re-establishment by the UN as a nation-state in 1948 garnered US and international recognition. After a history full of expulsions from various countries, Israel's existence as a country allows Jews to live in a protected Jewish state, able to exercise their right to self-determination, a principle enshrined by international law.
Israel is the only Jewish state in the world—amounting to only the small size of New Jersey—and includes Arabs as 20% of its population. Virtually no significant Jewish population lives outside Israel in the Middle East for fear of safety, where killers of Jews/Israelis are considered 'martyrs.' Moreover, no other country in the Middle East allows an ethnic/religious minority to be elected to public office, even serving on Israel's highest Court. While Israel's opponents call for its destruction and genocide, Israel treats its minority citizens with dignity, being the only functioning democracy in the Middle East.
Israel is also the region's most developed nation regarding human rights and social issues—including freedom of religion and expression, LGBTQ rights, and equal rights for women—whereas women are restricted and hidden under Burqas, and gay men are publicly brutally executed in much of the Islamic world. Israel has done great good for the world, pioneering technical innovations and medical advancements since its re-establishment as a nation-state. No matter one's political ideology or political belief, Israel's statehood shouldn't be up for discussion.