If Canada has a “right to exist”, why shouldn’t Israel? – wonders Canadian Israeli

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Chana Rosenfelder is a wife, mother, and writer who moved from Toronto to Israel 31 years ago. She regularly blogs for Israel Hayom, a right wing Israeli daily owned by Sheldon Adelson. In a recent blog post, she asked a simple question: “If Canada has the right to exist, why doesn’t Israel?” If you want to know my answer, read on.

“No one questions the Canadian right to exist nor the Canadian-of-European-descent’s right to independence and security,” complained Ms. Rosenfelder. “Only Israel merits international attention in the form of scholarly articles, street demonstrations and media writeups.”

“As a religious Jew, I see the commonplace rejection of Israel’s right to exist, as well as the rejection of its national symbols, as a unique challenge posed to the Jewish people. We, unlike everyone else on earth, have to justify our existence.”

Rosenfelder understands that Canada, like Israel, has a settler colonial past as she explains clearly in her article entitled “On Canada’s right to exist, and ours”.  So why should Israel, a settler colonial state, be challenged when Canada, another settler colonial state is not.

What state has an assured existence?

The answer is simple – no state, including Canada, has a permanent “right to exist”.

Canada and Israel do exist, of course. They are both members of the UN. They sign international treaties and are members of international fora.

States are born out of specific historical circumstances.  Canada came into being 152 years ago, when 5 former British colonies joined together to form a Dominion. Israel came into existence 72 years ago.

But states also pass out of existence in changed circumstances.

canada us merger

In the 1990’s some Canadians argued we would be better off if we joined the USA. It didn’t happen, but it could have. Canada does not have a permanent “right to exist”. Nor does any state.

The decrepit Russian Empire was overthrown in 1917,  replaced by Lenin’s revolutionary Soviet Union. The Soviet Union in turn dissolved in 1990 with the collapse of communism.  Yugoslavia was created in 1918 in the wake of WWI, but it dissolved 1992 into 8 smaller states.

The existence of any state is always conditional. States exist as long as they have sufficient internal and external support. When that support disappears (e.g. USSR, Yugoslavia, Rhodesia, Czechoslovakia), the state collapses to be replaced by another regime.

Ms. Rosenfelder, there is no guarantee that Canada will exist forever. Quebec might separate. Or Alberta. Or perhaps we will end up joining the USA. It will depend on a lot of things. Nobody knows.

Nor is there any guarantee that the State of Israel, which was born 71 years ago in highly contested circumstances, will exist forever. Today, it has great support among its Jewish citizens. But she knows it has very little among the 20% of its Palestinian citizens who are not Jewish, and none at all from the millions of Palestinians under Israeli military occupation or the refugees who are prevented from returning because Israel wants to preserve its nature as a “Jewish” state.

Of course, Israel continues to benefit from very strong support from the USA. But that cannot be taken for granted in the face of growing evidence that young American Jews don’t feel the same attachment to Israel as their parents did. And as repeated votes at the United Nations make clear, continued international support for Israel is also far from guaranteed.

Ms. Rosenfeld obviously hopes that the State of Israel will remain a Jewish State for a long time.  As a proud Canadian, I hope Canada lasts a long time.

But neither Canada nor Israel have a permanent “right to exist”. If internal resistance to the State of Israel increases, and if external support from the USA and elsewhere decreases, it might well be replaced by a different regime.

But if the State of Israel disappears, what would become of Ms. Rosenfeld? Would SHE disappear? No – she would be come a citizen of whatever new state takes its place. (Unless, of course, she decides to return to Canada – if it still exists.)

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Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) encourages and promotes a thoughtful discussion among Canadians on the Israel/Palestine issue, including a well informed and sensitive discussion about solutions. CTIP encourages serious people who disagree with any column to make comment. Disagreements respectfully offered are welcome. To learn more about what CTIP does, contact us at chair.ctip@gmail.com.

29 comments

  1. Peter is right. No state has a “right “ to exist. All our states exist due to a set of historic and geo political facts. Israel and Canada exist not because they have a right-which implies that they have a right based on morality- but just because they do exist. Which can change, as Peter points out. I recognize that Israel is a state because it does exist and is strong and stable (somewhat) and viable. Not because it has a right to do so.

  2. Why shouldn’t Palestine exist then..Israel is on STOLEN LAND!!!

    On Sun, May 26, 2019 at 5:52 PM Canada Talks Israel/Palestine wrote:

    > Peter Larson posted: ” Chana Rosenfelder is a wife, mother, and writer who > moved from Toronto to Israel 31 years ago. She regularly blogs for Israel > Hayom, a right wing Israeli daily owned by Sheldon Adelson. In a recent > blog post, she asked a simple question: “If Canada has ” >

  3. In regard to “Does Israel has the right to exist”, which another smoke screen used to gather sympathy, as you Peter pointed out, no country has the right to exist or not. No polls conducted every few years to determine which countries have no right to exist. Israel is there and that’s it, but it has no right to exist if it tries to expel the 20% of the Palestinian who are so called Israeli citizens. Which all the signs are that it’s on the way.
    Now the real question is what about the rights of Palestinians. What about their right to exist. According to Israeli Jews, the Zionists abroad, the millions of Christian Zionists and some governments, no they should not exist.

  4. Those who raise the question of “Israel’s Right to Exist?” are using it as a red herring; they are trying to distract us from the real questions.

    When people called for an end to apartheid in South Africa, they were not denying that country’s “Right to Exist”. They were demanding that it change its laws. Today apartheid is gone but South Africa continues to exist. Those who could live and vote there before the end of racial discrimination can continue doing so; the country has not changed its name and is still a member of the UN. Those who feared that an end to apartheid would mean the destruction of South Africa now know that their fear of that was unjustified.

    Those of us who are critical of Israel are not trying to destroy it – on the contrary we are trying to improve it. We want it to become a modern state that does not discriminate on the basis of religion of ethnicity.

    Many do not even object to the name. There are many countries that have more than one name depending on the language being used. For example, the small country we call Belgium in English is called België, Belgique,or Belgien in the three languages spoken there.

    Few would demand that all Jews leave; most want to end ethnic discrimination and cleansing, not merely replace one version with another.

    There are, of course, people who are so angry about the unfair way that they, and their ancestors, were treated that they say unreasonable things but I think that if Israel were willing to give equal rights to all, accept that all refugees and their descendants have a right to return and compensate those who lost their rights and property, a just peace would be possible. There were angry people in South Africa too but most eventually realized that expelling Whites would lead to disaster.

    Chana Rosenfelder, and those who think like her, should stop assuming that those who want Israel to change want to destroy her adopted country; they should start discussing how she and her fellow citizens can undo the harm that has been done by creating an ethnically biased state. It won’t be simple; it will require that they all think about how to best to do it.

  5. Agree Israel has the same right to exist as Canada and the other members of the UN and nothing shld or can be done under international law to extinguish their existence. But no state necessarily will exist forever. Israel does not have the right in international law to permanent control and occupation of 5 million Arab Palestinians and its existence could be challenged by its 20% Palestinian minority that suffers discrimination. The best way for Israel to have its existence as a Jewish democratic and civilized state in human rights terms continue is to ensure the emergence of the,state of Palestine under the international legal parameters of UN resolutions ie along pre 1967 lines with land swaps and W and E Jerusalem their respective capitals. Ideally, both states would guarantee minority rights for Jews and Arab Palestinians and be in a position to control their immigration policies to ensure a homeland state for both Jews and Palestinians. If these conditions are not fulfilled Israel will not enjoy the right to exist as a Jewish state and continuing conflict and demographic forces will ensure its demise in one way or another.

  6. Israel is a bogus, illegally occupied area that is taken away from Palestinians. It does not exist nor will it exist in the future as long as it remains a brutal regime. Canada exists because it practices democracy and gives every citizens, almost everyone the equal rights and treat them as humans while Israel has miserably failed to so do and continues injustice to Palestinians. For sure, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians will exist in peoples minds forever.

    1. Hey Muazzam, thanks for your passionate comment.

      However, I think that the reality is that Israel DOES exist. And whether we like it or not, the partition of Palestine, which was totally unjust, WAS VOTED by the United Nations which was the most legitimate international body at the time.

      You and I may not like Israel’s policies, but it doesn’t help to pretend it doesn’t exist. Donald Trump exists, too, whether we like it or not.

      Canada fares pretty well when compared to other countries on the democracy scale. But as you know Canada still has many shortcomings, in particular with respect to its treatment of indigenous Canadians. Lets not be too proud…

      1. Peter,

        It has never been clear to me that the UN had the right (not power) to give away part of the land belonging to one group of people. It is supposed to settle disputes between nations, not to create new ones. Do you see anything in the UN’s charter that gave it the right to partition Palestine??

  7. It is quite astounding that she even has the audacity to ask this question. I assume she was born in Canada and went to the zionist entity and received preferential status and treatment because she is Jewish. Non-Jews are not welcome. It’s claimed to be the homeland of all Jews ! It’s an exclusive club. European settlers in Canada may have claimed they were doing god’s work when they settled in Canada but I doubt they ever claimed to have a god given right (“the deed for our land is the torah”) to settle here. The zionist colonization of Palestine and the genocide of Palestinians i.e. non-Jews is an ongoing project.

  8. No state in human history had so many – majority of otherwise – of its citizens who are obsessed with their state’s “right to exist” except the state of Israel. To truly understand that phenomenon, one must also consider the fact that a significant segment of Jews outside the state of Israel, perhaps a majority, also persist on demanding from the world the right of the state of Israel to exist.

    The force behind that demand is antisemitism that produced Jewish Fear that in turn instilled in the psyche of most Jews that they cannot be safe – from the dangers of antisemitism – except in a state of their own. Many Jews in Europe and North America look at the state of Israel as the safe haven to which they can take refuge in the event that antisemitism vigorously spreads and shows its ugly face wherever they might be.

    Jews who succeeded in liberating themselves from Jewish Fear do not value that “safe haven” as much as other Jews who cannot help but continue to harbour Jewish Fear. Among those liberated Jews are the many young Jewish Americans whom you mentioned in your post.

    Monzer

  9. You don’t have to justify Israel’s right to exist. You have to justify Israel’s right to kill Palestinian children. They grew up under your oppression. You made them what they are today. The world is watching.

  10. The Israeli writer Yuval Hariri believes that there are some existential challenges, such as nuclear weapons and climate change, that humanity will not be able to survive unless we have a better global collaboration in the future. Although it is too early to predict, but the time may come when national states do not exist the way we know them today. We may have a form of a global political government.

    Peter is absolutely right that states are historical phenomena and not eternal natural entities like planets and sun (even those will explode one day. Sorry). The only thing that should be constant, as political systems change, is individual dignity, freedom and safety. This can be protected under various political structures.

    For example, one can argue that Jews are more free, safe and prosperous in countries like Canada or UK than they are in Israel. It is reasonable to believe that diverse, democratic and liberal systems are much better than ultra-national and ideologically motivated systems which Israel represents today, unfortunately.

    The international human rights movement demand that Israel should change its political system, to become like the one we enjoy in Canada, is not strange or exceptional as Chana seems to think. In fact, it is Israel, especially under the current right wing extremist agenda, the exceptional system. It is moving against the natural progress of human history.

  11. Peter, you are ignoring the realities of the Middle East, this is not Canada where Quebec can separate tomorrow with no real impact on it’s citizens, and without any bloodshed

    the existence of Israel as a state Is tightly coupled to the physical existence of its citizens.

    Israel is part of the Levant, it used to be part of greater Syria until 1917 and it can become Syria 2.0 tomorrow if it’ll gran the right of return to the Palestinians

    You want Israel to open its borders to several million Syrians, Lebanese Jordanians and Gazans who spent the last 71 years fighting against Israel, many of whom are fiercely hostile to Jews.

    Israelis, jews and Arabs, are prosperous happy and secure. they will not want to become Syria 2.0

    If a different model of prosperous, happy, peaceful society will become available somewhere else in the Levant, sometimes in the near (or far) future I’m sure that Israelis will consider it as an alternative.

    currently the only models are the murderous Theocracies of Hamas and Hizballah, the corrupt Fatah Lebanese and Jordanians Governments, the Islamic State and the Assad regime

    1. Hey Ahik, I think you have put your finger on a real problem. Of course many Palestinians hate the settlers and resent the IDF and Israel’s other repressive apparatus. It’s going to be a real challenge to work out a reconciliation even after Israel apologizes for what it did to the Palestinians and offers to make amends.

      You are right to be worried about it. Some Palestinians will never be able to get over the tragedy of the loss of their houses, or death of a family member, or , or, or. I know serious forward looking Palestinian leaders who are also concerned about how to move forward in a “post Zionist” society.

      But Israel keeps making a reconciliation harder and harder as it continues to bomb Gaza, imprison young children, take land from farmers in the West Bank, demolish Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem, etc. etc. Was it Yogi Bear who said “f you are in a hole, the first thing to do is STOP DIGGING”?

      Of course no Israelis – neither Jews nor Palestinian citizens of Israel want to become like Syria. Its a mess. Israel is more secure and has a better standard of living than Syria or Jordan, for example. But few Palestinian citizens of Israel would say they are “prosperous, happy and secure”. I think you need to widen your circle of contacts.

      Ahik, Israel COULD become a model country and a very powerful one, if it were to reconcile with its Arab citizens, make amends for past injustices, and set out on a new road to partnership. Its your choice.

    2. Hey Ahik, another point

      You say “You want Israel to open its borders to several million Syrians, Lebanese Jordanians and Gazans who spent the last 71 years fighting against Israel, many of whom are fiercely hostile to Jews.”

      I am sorry to say that I think you are being deliberately deceptive here. Every state needs to control its borders. I AM NOT suggesting that Israel open its borders to millions of “Syrians, Jordanians, and Lebanese”.

      But I do agree with the UN that the Palestinians living in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon etc. should have the right to RETURN to the country they are from. This is not the same thing. And I think you know it.

      1. For your point: if a person lived in pre 1948 Palestine, Israel should let him come back
        If someone lost his property Israel should figure out a way to compensate him for the value of his property.

        In some humanitarian cases I expect Israel to absorb immigration of descendants of Palestinians refugees if we prove that they pose no risk to Israeli citizens, and are not hostile to Israel

        But just because a Syrian has a Palestinian grandfather he shouldn’t be automatically granted an Israeli citizenship

      2. Ahik, an interesting perspective. Lets take the easiest case. Would you have any objection to ALL the refugees in Gaza (and their descendants) returning to Israel? I assume you would be OK with that? If not, why not?

      3. ALL the refugees from Gaza should have the right to return

        But not their descendants

        Back in 2005 Israel forcibly removed all the Jews from Gaza, I don’t think Jews who lived in the Gaza Strip should go back to Gaza either

      4. Hey Ahik, interesting. Why don’t you think that the descendants of refugees in Gaza – who are still stateless – should be allowed to return? I understand why you don’t WANT them to return of course. If a significant number were to return, Jews would become a minority in Israel, and would lose their privileged status in a Jewish State.

        But what is the ethical or moral reason? You agree their families were driven out. You agree that their kids are stuck stateless. So why not take them back? Why do you think your rights are more important than theirs?

      5. Hey Ahik – ” I don’t think Jews who lived in the Gaza Strip should go back to Gaza either”

        Hooray. We agree on that. As does the UN, the EU, the USA, and everybody else. I don’t even think the Israeli government argues that settlers should return to Gaza.

        And you know as well as I do that the “forcible” removal of the settlers from Gaza was pure theatre. No military intervention was necessary. All Sharon had to do was tell the settlers that in 30 days Israel would withdraw their protection and subsidies. They would have left quickly. But it was good theatre for him to show the West what a sacrifice he was ready to make for “peace”.

      6. I don’t want to sacrifice the lives of my daughter, my nieces and nephews for something you argue is “just”

        The forcible removal of Jews from Gaza was not a theatre, I know, I was on active reserve duty during that month

        Gazans are not stateless, they have Gaza, I strongly believe that Israel should lift the blockade and stop opposing Palestinian statehood at the UN

      7. Oh dear Ahik, so many issues to discuss…

        Of course you don’t want to sacrifice the lives of your family members. I don’t want that for you either. Nor do I support sacrificing the lives of millions of Palestinians stuck in crowded refugee camps. They “live” but they have no life. I want a solution which will give them AND your family the right to live decent lives. At the moment, that is a luxury only your family enjoys.

        When I said that the forcible removal of the settlers from Gaza was “theatre”, I did not mean that either the IDF or the settlers were “play acting”. What I meant is that another approach by Sharon would have been possible, but for political reasons the images of soldiers pulling settlers out of their settlements in Gaza was very appealing.

        Finally, Gaza is not a state. I know that Israel would like it to be so. But it isn’t. It is a part of historic Palestine. It could become a state, of course, but as far as I can see, only Israel proposes that.

      8. Ahik, You wrote, “Gazans are not stateless, they have Gaza,”. Gazans do not control their borders; they need foreign permission to exit or enter. Unfriendly Naval vessels arbitrarily restrict their fisher’s access to “their coastal waters” and foreign vessels are not permitted to bring goods through their ports.

        Would you be OK if Israel had the same restrictions? Under those conditions would you consider that Israel was a state? I do not think you would.

    3. Ahik,

      It is interesting how two intelligent people can look at the same situation and see quite different things

      1) As someone who has family in Quebec and others in foreign countries, I can certify that a separation would make a big difference to many citizens. However, the reason that the situation in Canada is better than the one in Palestine is that when the English defeated the French they recognized the rights of French Quebecers. Our chosen country is not perfect but it has had the wisdom to be fully bilingual and guarantee equal rights to all who live here. Canada was not declared to be an English State. Israel is doing things very differently. To paraphrase Ms. Chana Rosenfelder, if Canada can treat all of its residents equally, why can’t Israel?”

      2) Your predictions of an apocalypse if Israel allowed refugees who have a right of return to exercise that right remind me of the apocalyptic predictions I heard from relatives in South Africa. Some left and now regret it. Life goes on if the leaders are wise.

      3, You wrote, “Israelis, jews and Arabs, are prosperous happy and secure.” That’s not what I saw when I visited Israel. I experienced airport type security at shopping malls and ground transportation stations. I stood next to a Hotel “Bell Boy” as he reached for a hidden gun when a car containing an Arab friend drove up to collect me for a dinner. I listened to that friend tell me that he fears for the life of his handicapped son because armed Israeli soldiers board school buses, have no patience for the children, and might not understand his handicap. I saw plenty of people who were not prosperous (both Arabs and Jews). I talked to Jewish colleagues who seemed to be on a “hair trigger” and overreacted to small issues like hat styles and respect for the Sabbath. In other words, I did not see people who were happy and secure though many of my colleagues were prosperous.

      4) You also wrote that those people “will not want to become Syria 2.0”. I can assure you that no Syrians wanted to experience Syria as it is today. It happened without any of them wanting it to happen. Perhaps you should read the 1936 novel by Sinclair Lewis, “It can’t happen here”.

      5) You spoke of Arab governments being murderous theocracies. I am sure that many of us see a Jewish State that frequently kills unarmed civilians, has jailed Presidents for corruption and has a Prime Minister who is being prosecuted for corruption in the same way.

  12. Well, if nothing else Ms. Rosenfelder has given much validity to the questions, does Palestine not have the right to exist?

    Perhaps if Sheldon Adelson is so curious about the right of a state like Israel to exist he’ll provide his paid provocateur with enough encouragement to look beyond her nose.

    1. Hey Allan, you raise a good question. But I wonder about your calling Ms. Rosenfelder a “paid provocateur”. Is that necessary? Why not assume that she is sincere in her question? I have had Canadian Jews ask me this quite sincerely. I try to answer them as respecfully as I can.

  13. Peter, thank you for an excellent response to a troublesome question that usually ranks near the top of Zionist talking points. The point is not simply to respond but to try to make sense out of nonsense. These questions of “rights” to this or that are just indications that Zionists and/or Israelis somehow know that their “rights” are based on a fundamental “wrong” and no amount of talking points will paper it over.

  14. The above discussion and comments have been very interesting to read, I agree with Peter that Canada is not a perfect state ,especially with regard to our history re indigenous people. We, like Israel ,are a settler colonial state . However Canada has in recent years , through reconciliation and land negotiations, tried and continues to do so, rectify some of its past wrongs against the indigenous population. Is Israel moving in the same direction?

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