In its troubled peace talks with the Palestinians, Israel has demanded that it should be recognised as a Jewish state, but there is deep domestic division on what that means. Yoram Kaniuk, a rambunctious 81-year-old author, was hailed by Israeli secularists this week for winning a court victory that compelled the state to stop listing Judaism as his “religion” while keeping “Jewish” as his “ethnicity.” He is the first Israeli Jew to have done so. Israel defines itself as a “Jewish and democratic” state. Kaniuk’s legal triumph comes at a time when society is increasingly polarised between those who say the state’s Jewish character must be strengthened and opponents who say this comes at the expense of civil rights and liberties.
About 75 per cent of Israel’s 7.7 million population are classified as Jewish, almost 17 per cent are Muslim, about two per cent Christian, a little fewer Druze and about 4 per cent classified “without religion.”
Palestinians say Israeli demands to recognise the country as a Jewish state would compromise the Arab minority and would effectively remove the right of return of Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced from their homes in Arab-Israeli wars