IV. WHO QUALIFIES?
Such an evaluation must begin with the determination of who is included in this alleged nationality entity. It is self-evident that THE crucial qualification is identification as a "Jew". The criteria for detemining this identification are imprecise. For most of its history as a political/terrlitorial movement Zionism has been tormented by this question of , "Who is a Jew?". In 1947, the JA representative, testifying to the UN Special Committee on Palestine said,
Technically and in terms of Palestine legislation the Jewish religion is essential (11)
"Palestine Legislation" at the time, of course was Mandate law. The JA's own definition was broader. According to the same report, the spokesman said,
Generally we accept as Jews all who say they are Jews...all who come and say they are conscious of being Jews are accepted.
Zionist authorities, both political and legal, left no doubt that Jews, however defined, WERE TO POSSESS RIGHTS WHICH WERE NOT POSSESSED BY OTHERS. So for example Dr. Ernst Frankenstein argued,
The mandate admits only one collective right, viz., that of the JEWISH PEOPLE to its National Home, while such rights are provided in the Mandate in favour of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine are INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS. Under the Mandate, a non-Jew who is not an inhabitant of Plestine has no right to be admitted to the country. It is true that Article 2 of the Mandate speaks of the National Home "as laid down in the preamble"; it then upholds the reservation of the "civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities of Palestine" contained in the Balfour Declaration.
But the right of a people to a land is, without any doubt, not a CIVIL or RELIGIOUS, but a POLITICAL right. (12)
Zionist ambiguity in defining "Jew" however, did not long survive the termination of the Mandate. Once the state was established, the authority of government was no longer divided between the Mandatory and the WZO.
ISRAELI law then clarified the Zionist definition of "Jew" Raphael Patai is not unfriendly to either Zionism or its Middle East State. In THE JEWISH MIND, published in 1977, Patai reviewed the historic confusion of the term "Jew". He says: "All that,however is a thing of the past. At the present, the most important legal context in which the question of who is a Jew must be answered is the Law of Return enacted by the Knesset of the State of Israel on 7/5/50. The main provision of this law states, "Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an immigrant". The term "Jew" in the law is vague' it is not clair whether it is used in a strictly religious or an ethnic sense.
Patai continues: "The halakhic (rabbinical law-Orthodox) definition of a Jew as a person who either was born of a Jewish mother or has converted to Judaism was adopted by the Knesset in 1970...
Patai then acknowledges that the dispute narrowed to what constituted PROPER CONVERSION. But he notes that the disputants all agree the common feature [was] the requirement that a formal conversion take place which could be effected only by a rabbi.(13)
In the Juridical system of the Zionist state, therefore, RELIGION, either actively practised or assumed as an inheritance through the mother, is the SINE QUA NON of membership in "The Jewish People". The Knesset action of 1970 was actually anticipated in 1963 in the widely publicized, so-called BROTHER DANIEL case. Oswald Rufeisen had been born a Jew and converted to Catholicism. He was deied the RIGHT of immigration to Israel as a Jew with the consequent AUTOMATIC A QUISITION OF CITIZENSHIP. The decision was made by the Supreme Court. Subsequently , Rufeisen acquired citizenship by naturalization. Whether he, or his offspring, qualify as members of "the Jewish people" or as non-"Jewish people" nationals of Israel is uncertain.
Notes: (11) The Jewish Yearbook of International Law, 1948, Rubin Mass, Jerusalem, 1949, p. 18 (12) ibid., p.40 (13) Raphael Patai, THE JEWISH MIND, Scribner's NY 1977, p. 22-33