Professor Bernstein on Israel's Existence as a "Jewish State"

Israel is not unique in basing immigration and citizenship policy at least partly on ethnic heritage, according to Professor David Bernstein's op-ed in The Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal. Bernstein points out that unlike many "progressive" nations such as Norway, Denmark, and Iceland that have official religions, Israel does not recognize Judaism as an official state religion.

Unasked Questions--Does Japan have a right to exist as a Japanese state?, OpinionJournal, August 24, 2006. By David E. Bernstein.

"One's liberal, progressive or libertarian hackles can easily be raised at Israel's citizenship policies. Why should ethnic background entitle one to citizenship? On the other hand, Israel's defenders would argue that given that the Jews have been the subject of massive state and private violence over the past few centuries, including one attempted genocide (by Hitler) and another one that was averted only by Stalin's timely death, Jews need a homeland/refuge where they can go with automatic citizenship rights.

"Whatever side you take on that debate, the more interesting question is why the question of basing citizenship (in part) of ethnic descent only calls the right of Israel to exist into question.

"My correspondent was unaware of any other countries that have an overt ethnic identity, but, judging by immigration laws, there are quite a few, and with a few exceptions (Armenia and Germany), their discriminatory immigration policies exist, unlike Israel's, without an justification resulting from persecution of that group.

"For example, according to Wikipedia: 'Japanese citizenship is conferred jus sanguinis, and monolingual Japanese-speaking minorities often reside in Japan for generations under permanent residency status without acquiring citizenship in their country of birth.' Why does Japan have the right to exist as a Japanese state? Has this question ever been asked?"

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