Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Scribblings: History of the Recognition Condition

YOU ARE IN: Home Page

Tzvi Fleischer


I've written before about the fallacy of media claims alleging that Israel's requirement that a peace treaty with the Palestinians recognise Israel as a "Jewish state" or "nation-state of the Jewish people" is a "new demand". Rather than something the current Netanyahu Government just thought up - possibly to thwart progress toward peace as is sometimes alleged - the idea was pushed during 2007 negotiating sessions by Tzipi Livni, then-Foreign Minister in the Olmert Government, according to the leaked Palestinian documents called the "Palestine papers". Furthermore, under the earlier Sharon Government, Israel said that "declared references must be made to Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state" in its reservations to the 2003 "Roadmap for Peace" proposal.

Now, new evidence has emerged that this Israeli requirement for peace is actually older still, and dates back at least to the Barak Government (1999-2001). Former Middle East mediator Dennis Ross, who was present at the 2000 Camp David Summit, recently said this regarding the recognition issue:

"When I hear it said that this is the first time this issue has been raised - the people who say that think that no one knows history. Now maybe it's true that most people don't know history. But they should never say it to me. When we were at Camp David, this issue was raised. In the period after Camp David, before we did the Clinton Parameters, this issue was raised."

And of course, all of this is on top of the clear call for Israel to be a Jewish state or homeland in the various international decisions related to Israel's founding. Thus, the 1947 UN partition plan referred to the establishment of a "Jewish state" dozens of times, while the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine spoke of establishing a "national home for the Jewish people."

Ross also explained very well, in two short sentences, why such recognition is a key requirement for peace on Israel's part: 

"From the Israeli standpoint, there is a need to know that the Palestinians are committed to two states, meaning in fact that one state is Palestinian and one is the state of the Jewish people. They need to know the Palestinians are not about two states, one Palestinian and one bi-national."

This is it exactly - the peace process needs to be based on a shared understanding that the outcome being sought is two states for two peoples (without of course prejudicing the civil rights of minorities in either state). Demands which are inconsistent with this goal - such as the Palestinian claim for an unlimited "right of return" to Israel of descendants of refugees - cannot therefore be a part of it.

The fact that the Palestinian Authority has climbed so far up a tree with increasingly adamant refusals to even consider such mutual recognition does not bode well for hopes of a long-term resolution any time soon.

 

The Kindest Cut?

The ancient practice of male circumcision, practiced by Jews, Muslims and various other peoples, has come under fire recently, especially in northern Europe. In Germany and Scandinavia, political parties and medical associations denounce it as a form of child abuse and have pushed to have the practice banned. 

This is despite findings in 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that the health benefits of circumcision in terms of reducing the likelihood of sexually transmitted disease, urinary tract infections and other problems related to the foreskin decidedly outweigh any risk from the procedure. 

Now Australian researchers have added to the evidence that far from being a health risk or unnecessary medical procedure, circumcision is quite a sensible choice for parents of a male newborn. In a study published in early April by the Proceedings of the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Brian Morris of the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney, University of Sydney colleague Dr. Stefan A. Bailis, and American neonatalist Dr. Thomas E. Wiswell did a statistical meta-analysis of data from a variety of studies in an attempt to quantify the costs and benefits of the practice over a patient's lifetime - something not done in the earlier APP study. Here is their conclusion:

"This analysis shows that over the lifetime, benefits exceed risks by at least 100 to 1. If one considers the seriousness of some conditions that circumcision protects against, the benefit would actually be much greater. Based on risk-benefit considerations, neonatal circumcision might rationally be considered in the same light as childhood vaccination."

They go on to recommend that, as a public health measure, circumcision should be actually be facilitated, if not positively encouraged, writing:

"As with vaccination, circumcision of newborn boys should be part of public health policies. Campaigns should prioritise population subgroups with lower circumcision prevalence and a higher burden of diseases that can be ameliorated by circumcision."

Of course, the right of Jews, Muslims and others to circumcise their sons should not depend on the demonstration of the sorts of health benefits found in this and other studies. Regardless of the human rights rhetoric they typically employ, those who advocate outlawing male circumcision are in effect advocating outlawing the practice of Judaism and Islam, given how fundamental this practice is to both religions. This would amount to a violation of the fundamental right to religious freedom. 

But the evidence is becoming overwhelming that, contrary to the claims of circumcision opponents, this is a practice with very significant health benefits, and is thus a sensible choice for parents to make even on medical grounds alone. Those who continue to insist that the practice must be banned should increasingly therefore be seen as speaking more from prejudice than from either medical evidence or concern for human rights.