Five foundations of Israel's 'right to exist'

Published: 12 February 2006
Briefing Number 167

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Summary: Israel has a ‘right to exist’ as a country. But what does this mean? This Briefing describes five foundations of this right – a national right, a moral right, a humanitarian right, a territorial right and a legal right.

Many religious Jews and Christians view Israel’s existence in religious terms. But Israel’s right to exist does not need to be based on a religious framework. Its rights are as valid for non-believers as they are for people of religious faith.

Israel’s national ‘right to exist’

• The Jews are a nation, comprising many races and ethnic groups. The nation is bound together by history, going back thousands of years.

• The Jews have a single identity as Jews, but many ways of expressing that identity – as religious or non-religious Jews, as secular or cultural Jews, and so forth.

• Nations have a right of self-determination – to express their identity by existing as a country. Today, over 200 nations exist in the world.

• The Jews also have that right – to live as a nation. The movement to sustain Jewish nationhood is called ‘Zionism’. And the nation is Israel. Israel fulfils the Jewish people’s national ‘right to exist’.

Israel’s moral right to exist

• The Jews are morally entitled to be treated equally to other nations.

• Some Jews – anti-Zionists – deny that the Jews have a national right to exist. However, the vast majority of the Jewish people support the Zionist idea, and the right of the Jewish people to exist as a nation.

• To deny the Jews the right to exist as a nation, while hundreds of other nations enjoy that right, is immoral and unjust. It treats Jews unequally and is discriminatory.

• As is the case with any other country, Israel’s leaders and its people have strengths and weaknesses. But those who criticise its policies do not have the moral right to deny its right to exist.

Israel’s humanitarian right to exist

• Through its national existence, Israel has achieved many humanitarian purposes.

• Israel has served as a sanctuary for millions of Jewish refugees and Jews experiencing persecution. And it continues to do so.

• Israel also helps to make the world a better place through its medicine, its science and technology, and its disaster relief efforts.

• These humanitarian achievements provide a further foundation for Israel’s right to exist.

Israel’s territorial ‘right to exist’

• Why exist in the land of Israel? Why not exist somewhere else?

• The Jewish people have maintained an unbroken physical presence and connection with the land of Israel for over 3000 years.

• The Jews have never existed as a nation anywhere else in the world.

• A Jewish nation has thrived on two previous occasions in the land of Israel. The Jewish nation’s deep roots in the land are expressed through Jewish culture and have been demonstrated overwhelmingly by archaeological evidence.

• Upon declaring independence in 1948, Israel declared its wish to live in peace with the Arabs, not at their expense.

• And in recent years Israeli leaders have again highlighted their desire for territorial coexistence with the Palestinians.

• Israel has a right to exist as a nation in the land of Israel, not elsewhere.

Israel’s legal ‘right to exist’

• The UN voted in favour of the creation of Israel by adopting the UN partition plan in November 1947.

• Israel is a member of the United Nations, recognised by over 200 nations in the world.

• Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan recognise Israel’s legal right to exist as a nation, in peace and in security.

• Israel’s ‘right to exist’ is thus recognised under international law.

Related Briefings (available on the Beyond Images homepage)

Israel and the Jews: the 3500 year connection
Ten Essential points about Israel