Ayesha Siddiqa in her June 6 column in The Express Tribune made a very interesting comparison between Pakistan and Israel: both were supposedly formed on the basis of religion, both are national security states with illegal nukes and are internationally isolated. The comparison is favourable to neither. There are minor differences, however.
Pakistan has a constitution which says it is a religious state. Israel doesn’t have a constitution, so its legal status is undecided. But were the two demanded in the name of religion? It is not certain.
The only document that lays out the nature of the Israeli state is proclamation of Madinat Yisrael of 1948. (State in Hebrew is madina!) This is the proclamation about the foundation of the state. It speaks of Israel as a homeland of all Jews. It says the values of the state of Israel will be based on the teachings of the Hebrew Prophets.
The Proclamation of Independence, read over the radio by Prime Minister Ben Gurion in 1948, is controversial in Israel. But the truth is that secular Israelis would not sign it if it contained the name of God. Prime Minister Ben Gurion, whose secularism and left-leaning thinking prevented the rightwing “observing” Jews from coming to power till 1977, did not allow the word ‘God’ in the Proclamation.
“Non-observing” Jews founded Israel while the orthodox Jews opposed it. A constitution would have clearly defined the ideology of Israel, but no agreement exists so far on such a constitution.
In the case of Pakistan, partially “observing” but non-clerical Muslims founded the state. A majority of the clerical parties rejected Pakistan just as most orthodox Jews were to reject the Herzl-Gurion enterprise called Israel.
Like Ben Gurion, Jinnah did not want a religious state. When he spoke about the nature of the state on 11 Aug 1948 three days before its actual coming into being, he described it as a secular state. After his death in 1948, his successors thought of defining the state in Islamic terms.
In the case of Israel, this did not happen. The Labour “socialists” dominated Israel till 1977. Ben Gurion hated Menachim Begin, the founder of right-wing Likud. If he had had his way, Israel would not have continued to occupy the lands it conquered in 1967.
One can say that Israel is still secular because of its 40 per cent Ashkenazi European-Jewish population. Judaism has a sharia abandoned by the European Jews in the 17th century. When it came, Islam did not follow the Pauline-Christian rejection of the Sharia. The Mishnaic-Talmudic “parallel” authority is comparable to the authority of Hadith.
Pakistan wrote up its Objectives Resolution in 1949 after Jinnah’s death. It mentioned God in it, which later became Allah. It allowed the non-Muslim minorities to practise their religion “freely”, but when the resolution appeared inside the constitution in 1985, “freely” disappeared from the text without due notification. (It has been reinstated by the 18th amendment in 2010.)
Like Pakistan, Israel also treats its minorities badly. Mullahs in Pakistan and rabbis in Israel wield power, because of ideology in the case of Pakistan, and proportional representation in the case of Israel. Unlike Pakistan, Israel invited “all Jews of the world” to Israel.
Quite brainlessly, it was proclaimed that Pakistan was made up of letters indicating the regions contained in it. It contained Kashmir but not East Bengal. The first it never got and the second it lost in 1971.
Israel too was named all wrong. The name of the Jewish state under the prophet-king David was Judea. Israel in the Bible was in fact a renegade state destroyed for its evil in 722 BC. In rabbinic translation, the name Israel means wrestling with God. In Arabic too if you write “sara’” with “suad” instead of “seen”, it means wrestling.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 13th, 2010.