CNN host Christiane Amanpour talked to former Israeli foreign minister Ms Tzipi Livni on August 10, 2012 on Israel going religious. Amanpour asked why she had resigned from the centrist opposition Kadima Party and left the Israeli parliament in May 2012. Ms Livni accused the ultraorthodox elements of Israel of wielding more power than they should. She thought other parties gave the monopoly on the Jewishness of the state of Israel to the rabbis. She attacked Likud chief and prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu for kowtowing to the ultraorthodox.
The ultraorthodox Jews, she said, believed that the sole source of authority was not the law or the Supreme Court but the Halakha, the Torah, the rabbi. She believed that Israel “needed a constitution and a clear definition of what the Jewish state really is”. She said: “The meaning of a Jewish state is from a national perspective, not a religious one. And we need to define this in a constitution”.
Pakistanis believe that Pakistan and Israel are the only two states which came into being in the name of religion. They imply that Israel is a religious state. Insofar as the Pakistan Movement in British India and Zionism in Europe were born in a secular environment, the comparison between Zionist founder Theodor Herzl and founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah is valid.
Herzl was rejected by the rabbis of Europe and Russia; so was Jinnah by the dominant religious parties of India. If Jinnah created Pakistan for Muslims of India, then his struggle is comparable to Herzl’s Zionist struggle for the creation of a homeland for the Jews.
Are both religious states? Today, ‘officially’, Jinnah created Pakistan for Islam. This doesn’t jibe with Herzl’s Zionism. After 1948, Israel was ruled by socialist Ben Gurion and his Mapai Party which later became the Labour Party. Jinnah announced, in September 1947, that Pakistan would be a secular state. In this, he can be compared to Ben Gurion, who declared Israel a secular liberal democracy in 1948.
But former prime minister Ben Gurion should actually be compared to prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan and here the comparison becomes invalid. In 1949, Liaquat Ali Khan tabled the Objectives Resolution and termed the Holy Quran and Sunnah the founding principles of the state. Ben Gurion stuck to the Declaration of Independence which said that Israel would be secular.
Because of the quarrel over religion, the Israeli constitution could never be made. A theocratic Israeli state could not be accommodated because of Western objection and the dominant Ashkenazim opposition.
But there are ‘negative’ similarities. Israel began by ethnically cleansing the non-Jews. Then, it failed to negotiate a social contract with the residual Palestinian Arabs in Israel. Two million people were driven out and Ben Gurion failed to negotiate his democracy with the one million Arabs left behind. Pakistan and India ethnically cleansed a mass of population from both sides.
The Objectives Resolution of 1949 gave full rights to the minorities. The Declaration of Independence of Israel promised “full rights to all citizens without distinction of race, creed or sex”.
Israel never declared martial law like Pakistan but it put the Arab territories under military rule which denied fundamental rights to the Arabs. Pakistan’s martial laws denied fundamental rights to all Pakistanis.
Pakistan’s religious parties are given extra-electoral power by the politics of sharia and jihad. The ultraorthodox rabbis in Israel have the same kind of leverage. Both Israel and Pakistan are ‘security states’. Many Israeli prime ministers have been ex-generals. Pakistani generals also rule Pakistan. Both have been protégés of the West during the Cold War.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2012.