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Birth Right

A Jewish democratic state by definition must have a Jewish majority. Political scientist Rebecca Steinfeld studies how Israel has from its earliest days sought to establish and maintain that majority.

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Jewish immigrants and their infants in Mandate Palestine, one year before the establishment of Israel.(Zoltan Kluger/GPO via Getty Images)

Oxford doctoral candidate Rebecca Steinfeld argues in Tablet Magazine today that granting Yigal Amir, the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the right to conjugal visits and by extension the right to father a child is consistent with the state’s pro-natalist policies. Steinfeld is writing a dissertation on the topic, War of the Wombs: The History and Politics of Fertility Policies in Israel, 1948-2010. She spoke to Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about the evolution of these policies, from cash “birth prizes” awarded to mothers on the birth of their 10th child in the early days of the state to today’s heavily subsidized fertility procedures for women who wish to conceive, and about accusations that these policies have favored Jewish citizens over others. [Running time: 17:29.] 

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Bennett Muraskin says:

So what happens if the non-Jewish population increases to the point where the Jewish majority is threatened? What then? What happens to the non-Jews?

Personally, I would much rather see a majority of decent, humane, caring people in Israel, regardless of ethnicity/religion, who respect human rights, than a majority that includes Jewish religious and nationalist fanatics.

Mike says:

Believe it or not…

Israel’s Legal Right to Samaria is enshrined in International Law!

A cold, hard look at the law reveals an undeniable if inconvenient (for some) truth: Israel and the Jewish People have full sovereign rights to Judea and Samaria. A fair and objective analysis of the various post-WWI agreements, decisions, conferences, treaties, declarations, covenants and conventions regarding the Question of Palestine (not to be confused with today’s “Palestine” that the “Palestinians” claim as theirs) can only lead to this conclusion.

The most significant of these decisions was the San Remo Resolution of 1920, which recognized the exclusive national Jewish rights to the Land of Israel under international law, on the strength of the historical connection of the Jewish people to the territory previously known as Palestine. The outcome of this declaration gave birth to the “Mandate for Palestine,” an historical League of Nations document that laid down the Jewish legal right to settle anywhere in western Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This plainly means that today’s Israeli settlements are in fact 100% legal and that the accusation of “occupation” is completely false.

Again – 91 years ago, in San Remo, Italy, the nations of the world had formally obligated themselves not only to establish a Jewish state on the historic Jewish homeland, but to facilitate its development as well (see Article 6 of the still-binding Mandate for Palestine). Back then, the concept of a “Palestinian People” was unheard of and “Palestine” referred only to a Levantine region and never to an Arab nation or state. Believe it or not.


Mike says:

So if the world ratified into international law that a Jewish state be established within the boundries of Mandatory Palestine, how is it we hear nothing about this today? Why has this truth completely disappeared from today’s narrative? By what right do the nations of the world shirk their obligations and deny the State of Israel and the Jewish people their due? Suffice to say that if the truth, any truth, is not actively preserved and if the facts are forgotten, falsity and misinformation fill the vacuum. That is why “Palestinian rights”, “Israeli occupation” and “1967 borders” dominate the headlines today.

The Legal Right: Following the WWI defeat of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations (precursor to the U.N.) decided to divide up the huge landmass of the vanquished Ottomans as follows: a mandate, or trusteeship, for France (Lebanon and Syria) and a mandate for Britain (Iraq and Palestine [comprised of what is today Israel, Gaza, Judea, Samaria and Jordan]). The legal position of the whole of Palestine was clearly defined in several international agreements, the most important of which was the one adopted in April 1920 at the San Remo Conference, attended by the Principal Allied Powers (Council of Four). It decided to assign the Mandate for Palestine under the League of Nations to Britain. Two years later an agreed text was confirmed by the League and came into operation in September 1923. In Article 2 of that document, the League of Nations declared that

“The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble.”


Mike says:

The preamble clearly stated that

“recognition has hereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.”

It was on this basis that the British Mandate was established. The San Remo Agreement was the last legally binding international decision regarding the rights to the land in the West Bank of Jordan and thus, according to international law which is still binding to this day, these parts, Judea and Samaria, belong to Israel and the Jewish People, period.

The significance for Israel and the Jewish People of San Remo cannot be overestimated. None other than Chaim Weizman, the Zionist leader of that time, declared:

“The San Remo decision…is the most momentous political event in the whole history of our (Zionist) movement, and, it is perhaps, no exaggeration to say in the whole history of our people since the Exiles”

Powerful words indeed, yet regrettably so unfamiliar. One must wonder just how many of today’s “Middle East experts'” and opinion makers know the details of this and other important agreements of that era? How many have even a rudimentary understanding of San Remo’s historical and legal importance?

Binyamin in O says:

So lets get this straight, Mike. Because in 1920 an international body (predecessor to the UN) declared Palestine a “national home for the Jews”, Israel’s legitimacy cannot be questioned.

OK, great.

Now when in September, 2011, the United Nations declares that there is a Palestinian state located on the other side of Israel’s 1967 borders, the legitimacy of that state also cannot be questioned. Correct?

I thought Steinfeld came across as extremely disingenous in the interview when she claimed she had been completely brainwashed by the Zionist narrative and only learned when she got to college (I assume Oxford) that there was an alternative narrative. Is she seriously claiming that growing up in the UK in the 1990s and 2000s, she had no inkling of Palestinian or anti-Zionist viewpoints? This is not plausible or credible, but is exactly reminiscent of Allison Benedict’s insincere protestations of youthful naivete about Israel. Then I read in the link provided by another commentator that Steinfeld is anti-circumcision and sympathetic to BDS. I also sensed (maybe my own projection) that Steinfeld sounded disappointed when she could not report de jure racist Israeli natal policies but could only claim their racist de facto impact.

Maybe Sarah Ivry was being brilliant in asking Steinfeld about her motivation and letting Steinfeld’s dubious story stand for itself. I’m not sure. I would feel better if Sarah were not so subtle, but instead challenged an interviewee like Steinfeld when giving her a forum and lending her voxtablet’s credibilty.

Shalom Freedman says:

Israel was founded to be the state of the Jewish people. There is only one Jewish state in the world. There are over twenty Arab states in the world and over fifty Islamic states.
Rebecca Steinfeld and also Sarah Ivry in this interview show no awareness of the idea of a Jewish state as a value, as a historical imperative, as a Jewish religious imperative. They show no sense of context , of the conflict in which Israel finds itself because of the Arab and Islamic refusal to live in peace with the Jewish state.
They in other words show no sympathy for, no understanding of why a pro- natal policy might rightfully favor those who do serve in the Army ,who do care for the preservation of Israel as a Jewish state. They show no understanding of why preserving and increasing a Jewish majority is important for the survival of the state. Perhaps they are not aware of the negative position of most Arab Knesset members to the state. The reason Arab citizens in Israel are benefits of ‘positive discrimination’ and largely do not go to the Army is that the state recognizes their family connection with those hostile to the Jewish state. Given this context what is surprising is how generous and beneficial the policies of the state have been to the Arab minority demographically a minority which has grown several times since the State’s founding.
Again my question is how ‘Tablet’ can present an interview of this type without showing any understanding whatsoever of why a pro-natal policy favoring the Jewish majority, given the historical context and nature of the conflict, makes real sense.

Notwithstanding issues of global human overpopulation, I don’t see what the big deal is when a minority with a traditionally child-acclaiming culture encourages/supports a high birthrate among its members.

And considering recent and not-so-recent Jewish history, for many people a high birthrate is mentally/culturally linked to higher odds of national survival.

Many advantages of falling crazy about this guide. The views were nicely defined and extremely persuasive. After reading this article, I learned lots which is very useful to my near future life.


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Birth Right

A Jewish democratic state by definition must have a Jewish majority. Political scientist Rebecca Steinfeld studies how Israel has from its earliest days sought to establish and maintain that majority.

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