Israel's right to exist

Wandering somewhat off the specific subject of the OP (but keeping in the general spirit of the debate) this idea wouldn’t work either. “Native Americans” are no more a homogenous ethnic group than “Europeans” or “Asians” or “Africans” are. The Americans were fighting each other and stealing each others’ land long before Columbus showed up.

Consider the land where I live. We (the Americans) stole it from the British. They stole it from the French and the Dutch. They stole it from the Iroquois. So should we give it back to the Iroquois? If we did, the Mahicans would be pissed - the Iroquois stole it from them. Of course, the Mahicans did the obvious thing - they headed east and stole some new land from the Pennacooks (who I believe had stolen it previously from the Micmacs).

Cynical, shminical. That’s true of any nation on Earth. If its military collapses, eliminating its ability to defend itself, and no other nation is willing come to its defense, it’ll be overrun by the first invader to cross the border.

Disregarding all religious issues, Israel has as much “right” to exist as any nation that draws arbitrary borders and declares “we’ll defend this land with military might. If you want it, come and take it.” And it’s been tried, several times.

The problem with this is that it can be used to both justify AND dispute the claims of Israel. In the first instance, Israel can justify it claims to legitimate nation-statehood by the fact that the international community recognizes their sovereignity.

However, the problem is is that not every nation-state does recognize this legitimacy (most are those that are predominantly Arab). Which brings up a tricky problem - if even one other nation-state (or group) does not recognize the sovereignity of another, does that negate it’s claims to sovereignity? This touches on your second instance.

The rights argument is used to bolster one’s case in soliciting support for one’s claims of soveriegnity vis-a-vis other nation-states. It may be a specious argument, but one that is necessary (but not sufficient by itself) in convincing others the legitimacy of the claim.

I think a more interesting question is…does Palestine have the right to exist? If so, why exactly? If not…why not?

As to Israel’s ‘right to exist’…of course it does. They have the right of any nation who is able to successfully defend themselves from outside aggression while at the same time being a good international citizen and keeping the majority of their people happy. Its silly to get into who stole the land from who (reminds me of something from Quest for the Holy Grail :stuck_out_tongue: ). The ‘right’ of any nation to exist ultimately comes down to their ability to defend themselves…which Israel has certainly proven it can do. Repeatedly.

Sorry if this seems harsh but we seem to be a harsh species. We seem to be doing better and moving away from this however so maybe in the future things will change…


The Arab states can attempt to take over Israel or ignore Israel but it doesn’t matter as far as Israel’s existance as long as they can hold their chosen borders.

A large part of this is their own very advance military and intelligence agencies.
The other large part is that the Arab world fears that the EU & USA would support Israel in a long war and possibly bring about the end of all the current Arab regimes.

Our opinions on Israels right to exist just don’t really matter. Now if the USA decided that we should no longer support Israel this would have a very negative effect on it long range health as a nation. If they lost the European powers also, I would say they couldn’t hold. So their diplomacy with the “West” is the biggest issue in Israeli government. I think most Israelis would recognize this as basically true.


It’s useful to draw a distinction between “right to exist” period, and “right to exist as presently constituted.” I would argue that a lot of Palestinians, in spite of what Hamas says, are okay with the former, and not so okay with the latter. This represents my own viewpoint as well. As plenty of people have pointed out, there are limits to the rectification that can be done to address past grievances, but this is not to say that we shouldn’t make any efforts in that direction. As a starting point, both sides should admit, in full measure, the other side’s right to exist in security and equality, without artificial distinctions based on ethnicity. I don’t see that wishing the other side would simply disappear is a useful approach, though judging by appearances, it’s one that holds some appeal for both sides.

Should we ever accept anything without question? I certainly don’t… but that is me…

If there is no attempt at justifying racism (not here, but at least in general) then why does this particular converstation seem to have an ebb and flow around Isreal?

There are many much ‘newer’ countries, with no less amount of turmoil and contention (some examples… the current countries from the former Yugoslovia, the Hutu and Tutu in Rwandan… and on and on)…

There are 2 things that give a ‘country’ the right to exist… the first is history… if something has been there for living memory, there is less contention (though not fully discontented) over its existance… and the second is their ability to keep it… either through military might and/or alliances with others, if a state (country) can keep from being swallowed up, or broken apart, that state will continue to exist…

There is no ethical right for the existance of states (countries) anymore than you have an ethical right to your current home… you can stay there as long as you can do what is required to keep it… and you live there now due to a history … there is no difference ‘rights’ of nations

Meaning that while there’s no difference de facto, the right to exist argument is useful in persuading 3rd parties to support the state in question? In which case diplomatic obligation takes the place of force in maintaining your borders, and instead of becoming powerful yourself you just borrow someone else’s stick. In any event, the right to exist argument is so silly that it can’t carry weight with many people of consequence; Israel’s support is no doubt procured through diplomatic means other than so dubious a moral high ground as “we have the right to be here because we used to be and the Bible says so.”

Whether by their army or ours, Israel has turf it can defend. By operation of the only law that ever really counts between nations, that makes them a sovereign state. ‘Rights’ just don’t exist at the level of play, where the very concept of what is or isn’t moral may be determined more often than not by which side is victorious in the dispute.

Israel has as much right to exist as any national entity to whom the British ceded sovoreignty over some portion of their post-WWI mandate. This includes Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, to name a few others.

Do you question the right of these nations to exist?

I don’t really think the creation of Israel was a good idea in the first place. I would not have been sympathetic to the Zionist cause at any time before 1948. As it stands, however, Israel does exist, therefore has as much right as any nation-state to go on existing.

It appears you did not read to the end of the OP.

Also, I clearly was not calling for the end of Israel, but more of an explanation of the argument often made that it has the “right” to exist.

Well, you’re probably right about that.

I honestly don’t know how that follows.

Well, that’s certainly the pragmatic approach. But that doesn’t seem to be what people mean when they say it, like in “Munich”, the movie.

Self-determination could be seen as participating in their own governing, couldn’t it? How does that defend the right of a political state to exist? Millions of Jews were pretty happy participating in dozens of countries’ cultures and politics. Were they not self-determining? I might be confused on the point, but explain.

That might be the closest thing to my personal view at the moment. It’s somewhat telling, though, that Israel seems to be the only state that gets attacked for the act of existing, and defends itself philosophically with its “right to exist”. What does that say about the issues at hand, and the outlook of the more Zionist Jews?

A question I feel silly for not having thought of myself.

A decent point. I wonder if that could be verified.

First, AFAIK, the Rwandan problem isn’t a battle over the simple existence of the political state, or the case with the Bosnian situation. I may be corrected. But to say that there’s no less amount of turmoil and contention I think is pretty short sighted. These countries provoke riots thousands of miles from their borders? They draw vicious statements from wanna-be nuclear powers?

And for God’s sake, stop trying to paint everyone who asks about Israel as a racist. It degrades everything you say. Now I have to wonder if you’re jumping to similar wacky conclusions with other things.

That’s a decent point, but AFAIK, these countries consisted of the people who had been living there at the time. Is that right?

I guess what made me write this OP is that Israel essentially complains that the bombings and other terrorist activity is unjust because the state has a right to exist. But what so many people are saying here is that it has the right to exist as long as it can defend itself and manage to stay afloat. The problem is that if it doesn’t have an inherent right to exist, then its continued existence is only a matter of practicality that we are prepared to abandon whenever we feel like, and the attacks are some sort of legitimate test of the state’s ability to survive, put to it by people who don’t buy either existence argument to begin with.

Yes, and so did Israel. Moreover, when the British created those other countries, they set up their own friendly Arabs as the kings of those countries (reward for support against the Ottomans during WWI), although they did not, in the main, represent the tribes who mainly lived there. Jordan (originally called Transjordan) is a particularly egregious example. The British took two-thirds of Palestine and installed a Saudi prince as ruler over a few million Palestinians as a consolation prize for his not actually ruling Saudi Arabia itself.

Most of the current third world borders and regimes are the result of a ham-handed attempt by European colonial powers to divest themselves of the burdens of colonialism. For better or for worse, these countries exist as self-governing entities, and no one asks them to justify their own right to exist. Only Israel is ever asked that.

What cmkeller said.

Look at the situation of the Kurds. Kurds occupied those land since 500 BC. As late as the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, they were promised a homeland. Instead, their homeland was carved into pieces, such that the Kurds were minorities in each of these countries and therefore treated poorly and sometimes brutally.


No - diplomatic obligation, often in conjunction with force. The two aren’t mutally exclusive. Besides, there have been numerous instances where groups have achieved nation-statehood by aligning themselves with powerful supporters (I’m thinking Europe after WWI). Irrepsective of their being able to defend their territory initially. Even then, they may be so relatively weak that they still require the support of powerful allies to defend themselves.

Well, that’s a different argument, one used in order to justify one’s right to exist (that is, Israel right to exist is based on the fact that Jews used to live in the area and the Bible says so). That could be construed as a specious argument for justifying the right to exist. But a better argument could be made without relying on that type of justification. One based on the right of self-determination would probably be better.

Well, it depends on what you mean by rights. I agree, to some extent. At the level of nation-statehood, the only rights that could be argued to exist are those that are agreed upon by nation-states. I think a distinction needs to be made between one set of rights (as expressed in the interactions and agreements made between nation-states) and another set of rights (as expressed in the interactions and agreements made between individuals and/or the nation-state).

But problems occur because while one can make a distinction between the two, the two can’t be neatly seperated. After all, nation-states are made up of individuals. Which brings us down to arguing over whether rights are inherent or whether they are mere creations of the human intellect (or something else).

Mind you, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your statements. I just wanted to point out that it isn’t an easy matter of dismissing the “right to exist” argument as silly.

Well, I would have to disagree, but only in the sense that one should understand the issue in international relations terms. It’s true, our opinion of Israel qua Israel’s right to exist doesn’t really matter. But in the sense of Israel qua international relations, then it matters a great deal (which you’ve summerized). Nation-states exist (or rather are allowed to exist) due to either tacit or explicit agreement that a given nation-state is sovereign (and self-determining). Without that agreement, then issues of sovereignity and self determination get thrown into doubt.

I don’t think we are disagreeing, please see my first post.
The one you replied to was a followup reply.


You heard no comment about the Rwandan genocide from either protestors thousands of miles away, nor nuclear powers commenting (about how either it WAS or WAS NOT our business to be involved)? Rwanda is made up of 2 groups (put at odds by the Dutch, as a means of control)… one side has had ‘power’ and killed the other for decades… the otherside decided it was their turn… neither ‘tribe’ existed 100 years ago, and the people were seperated by a arbitray disguising physical appearence… that is the Dutch wanted the ‘controlling’ tribe to be more european in appearence (lighter skin, less broad nosed… etc)… You see NO comonality here? It is exactly about control of a political state, and change in control would mean the defacto change of country (Isreal wouldn’t go away either… it might change names, but the current ‘solution’ that some want is to take Isreal and give it to Palistinians)…

Yugoslovia sparked a WORLD WIDE protest scene… those who believed that different peoples deserved their own home lands (sound familiar?) and those who did not… we also had Nuclear powers ON hand… and some contesting the rights of others (such as the US ‘accidently’ destroying the Chinese embasy)… again… no correlation?

Ok… then let’s move on… let’s talk Chechnia and Russia… OR Kurds in Turkey and/or Iraq… and/or Iran…

These are not only ‘similiar’ in flavor, but exactly the same issues… yet MOST PEOPLE pick the Isreal situation to look at… why is that?

Why is this ONE group made to be the poster children? … I am NOT accusing YOU of Racism… I AM accusing the Arab states against Isreal as being racist… (by their own admission) … and I think it i INTERESTING that this is the poster child for discussion, esp when the ‘problems’ there pale in comparison…

You will notice in my first comment that I was not claiming anyone HERE was racist… I don’t know ANY of you… and a few blurbs on the net will not help that situation either… HOWEVER, the call for utter descruction of the ‘zionist state’ IS racist… otherwise there is no need to use the term ‘zionist’…

To believe that race AND religion have nothing to do with the animoisty and the attention given to this ONE example (esp when there are so many others), would be silly… Race AS WELL AS Religion have EVERYTHING to do with THIS situation…

Actual Israelis rarely bother to “defend our right to exist.” To us, it’s a non-issue. It’s angels dancing on the end of a pin.


You’re serious?

One can say a lot about Jewish life over the past two millenia, but “happy” is not a word that comes up all that often.

I think it says a lot about Israel’s enemies and absolutely zilch about Israel.

Nationhood is not a popularity contest. In fact, as some famous American once said, the fact that people don’t like us must mean we’re doing SOMETHING right.

OK, I made that up, but it sure sounds like something a famous American would say, doesn’t it?

As we speak, Denmark seems to be provoking exactly that. Does Denmark have a right to exist?

What Chaim said. The house I’m sitting in right now was built in 1932, by Jews. By 1948 This country had a sizeable Jewish population, much of which was native-born.

By that logic, 9/11 was a legitimate test of America’s right to exist by people who disagree with it. Do you concurr?

I don’t even understand this statement… not only is it untrue… but what the heck does it matter?

There are lots of ‘reasons’ given for attacks against Isreal… though yes you can boil it down to ‘them existing’ and the issues it has caused, but how is that any different than the US… or the UK… or Holland… or Germany… or China… or North Korea… or Russia…

All of those countries have faced the same kind of attacks (albeit not for the entirety of their existance, from the same groups… but then Isreal is a young nation), and their counter measures are ALL based on their right to exist (AND protect themselves, their interests, and people)

You’re right - my apologies.