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As the ideological and political battle rages in the headlines over the “Jewishness” of the Holy Land, I found myself walking on a street known as Kaf-Tet B’November, translated “November 29,” in Jerusalem last week. Streets with this name exist in most cities across Israel, as the date marks one of the most significant events on the road to establishing the Jewish state.
On this date, sixty-three years ago at Lake Success in New York, the United Nations decided to terminate the British Mandate and partition the land into two independent states; Jewish and Arab. The Jewish leadership in Israel accepted the partition plan, and the UN decision was met with joy and celebration by Jewish people around the world. In Rome, the Jewish community held a special prayer at the Arch of Titus, named after the Roman leader Titus, who, with his legions, exiled the Jewish people from the land of Israel 2,000 years earlier.
In the Middle East, the response was different. The partition plan or Resolution 181 was rejected by both the Arab states and the Arab leadership in then-Palestine. Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Yemen and Saudi Arabia as well as Pakistan and India all voted against the resolution during the UN General Assembly. Thirty-three countries, including the United States, Norway, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, all voted for the plan.
This past week, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina declared their recognition of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, the territory captured by Israel in the Six Day War during its battles with Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, and Syrian troops.
It is not the first time that such a declaration has been made. In June 2009, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed a Palestinian state alongside Israel on two conditions—that the state would be demilitarized and that the Palestinian people recognize Israel as a state of the Jewish people.
But this is precisely the problem–the recognition and acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state in the Arab world is the underlying reason why the Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be instantaneously solved through peace negotiations and land deals. As long as the state of Israel is Jewish in its identity, most Arab countries will continue to refuse to accept it. This reality hasn’t changed since November 29, 1947.
Last week on November 27, the Fatah Revolutionary Council concluded its fifth convention with a declaration refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “The council affirms its rejection of the so-called Jewish state or any other formula that could achieve this goal,” said a statement issued by the council, which also praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who helped found Fatah, considered to be the moderate party in Palestinian politics today.
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