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Morton A. Klein, National President

Dr. Daniel Mandel, Director, Center for Middle East Policy

Zionist Organization of America

Israel 's government recently approved an amendment to its citizenship law by which those seeking to become naturalized citizens will take an oath of allegiance to Israel "as a Jewish and democratic state."

Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas' and Arab regimes profess to be outraged. Abbas said explicitly that he would never accept Israel as a Jewish state. This rejection is not new. To an Arab audience last year, Abbas said, "I say this clearly: I do not accept the Jewish State, call it what you will." Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, for example, describes the new oath as a "fascist" act that "proves" that Israel is a "racist country."

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Why this rejection? The PLO official news agency, WAFA, explains, "A Jewish state endangers not only Palestinians, but also the Arab World, and the global security. It is a call for legitimizing a racist entity, built on pure ethnic and theocratic criteria."

This is nonsense. One fifth of Israeli citizens are non-Jews, almost all Arab and Muslim, who vote, attend the same universities, use the same buses and eat in the same restaurants services as other Israelis, though few perform military service, from which they are exempted. Israel has had Arab ministers, Knesset members, supreme court justices and diplomatic representatives something yet to be seen in respect of Jews (or any non-Arabs) living in Arab majority states. Iraq, with a Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, is the sole exception, courtesy of the American removal of Saddam's regime.

Moreover, what substance is there to the claim that it is racist to demand that the general identity of the state conform to that of the history and aspirations of those who founded it? Would that assertion leave Arab and Muslim states untarnished?

The answer is no: the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Great Jamahiriya and the Islamic Republic of Iran are the official names of just a few of Israel's neighbors, near and distant. Assad's own Syrian constitution's Article 1 declares that "the Syrian Arab region is a part of the Arab homeland" and its citizens are "part of the Arab nation."

Even more to the point is the way Palestinians define themselves. Fatah and Hamas in combination speak for the majority of Palestinians. The Fatah-controlled PA has promulgated a Palestinian Basic Law, Article 4 of which proclaims, "Islam is the official religion in Palestine" and "the principles of Islamic Sharia shall be the main source of legislation." Article 116 states, "laws shall be promulgated in the name of the Palestinian Arab people."

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Note: not Palestinians, irrespective of ethnic or religious identity, but Palestinian Arabs. No comparable clause is to be found in Israel's Basic Laws.

Abbas has stated clearly that a Palestinian state is to be Jew-free: "I will not accept one Israeli to remain on Palestinian territory." PA law imposes a death penalty for the sale of land to a Jew. Rejecting Jewish sovereignty and murdering those who sold land to Jews was precisely the situation when Palestinians rejected a Jewish state as part of the 1947 UN partition plan, which proposed the creation of an Arab state and a Jewish state in the British Mandate of Palestine.

Hamas, in its Charter (which not so incidentally calls in Article 7 for the global murder of Jews) states, "Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Koran its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief."

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Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Dr. Daniel Mandel is director of ZOA's Center for Middle East Policy and fellow in history at Melbourne University.

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