Immorality in Focus: When a Jewish State Meets a Refugee Crisis


I’ve written previously about the immorality of Israel declaring itself a “Jewish State.” Before even reaching the morality issue there’s the threshold question of what exactly is a Jewish State. Presumably, it’s only majority Jewish, not exclusively Jewish. But does “Jewish” here refer to race? To religion? To culture? I’ve asked the question many times, received multiple answers, and never come away feeling the person responding had given it much thought. Often, the question is met with annoyance, similar to that felt by some lawyers when clients ask for an explanation of “boilerplate” provisions in contracts.

But I digress. In questioning the morality of the Jewish State, I’ve often borrowed the logic of Ali Abunimah, who explains that if the right to have a Jewish State is morally defensible, then there must be morally acceptable remedies if that right is threatened or violated, by inter-marriage, immigration and emigration patterns, differing fertility rates, or conversion. But what would those remedies be? Deportation of non-Jewish citizens? Forced sterilization? Genocide?

The current refugee crisis brings this into sharp focus.

Most agree that the world has a humanitarian obligation to absorb the refugees from Syria’s civil war. There is generally consensus that each country should step up and do its fair share to help, although opinions vary dramatically as to how large each country’s share should be.

Morally, then, should it be okay for a country to refuse to step-up because the absorption of refugees runs counter to its identity as a “Jewish state”? Seems to me that a country’s refusal to help in the midst of a humanitarian crisis because it interferes with its demographic purity is inhumanity by another name. Ironically, the inhumanity of the U.S. and other nations in the run-up to the Holocaust, with their collective refusal to accept Jewish refugees, caused the ancestors of many Israeli citizens to perish. Further irony: the country stepping up most generously to answer the humanitarian call this time around: Germany.

So we find ourselves in a humanitarian crisis in which Germans are the model of humanity and Jews the model of inhumanity.

Great idea, this Jewish state, huh?