At a pro-BDS conference at the University of Pennsylvania yesterday, the founder of Electronic Intifiada (a word which most Israelis and many Americans associate with terrorism) Ali Abunimah had a whole lecture about what it means for Israel to be a Jewish State. "Let's ask that question", he said. Well, it isn't his question to ask.
The biggest problem I have with Israeli demands that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state is that it invites the Palestinians into the debate over what a Jewish state, or Jewish and democratic state, means. They have a point when they say that they need to know the definition of the term before agreeing to it. But the thing is that this is an internal Israeli issue, an issue only Israelis - Jews, Arabs and others - can debate. The Jewish State is a very general concept, in constant flux. Some Israelis see it as a state for the Jewish people, others see it as a state based on Jewish law - and those are just two of the various possible definitions. It is a vital discussion for Israeli citizens to have, but it isn't the business of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora.
Of course, Abunimah might have discussed the Jewish State concept anyway, even without the wrongheaded Israeli demands. After all, he is a one-stater, right of return activist who would like to see Israel vanish in favor of a State of Palestine with a Jewish minority. He has also defended terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. But then again, Israel's demand to be recognized as Jewish legitimizes his intervention in this domestic issue.