Shtrasler's piece was then attacked by an Israeli journalist, Gideon Levy, who believes that any discussion of a "demographic threat" within Israel is illegitimate. Levy found a supporter in the Australian Jewish writer Antony Loewenstein, who wrote the following at his website:
Talking to a moderate Jew today, it struck me yet again that the concept of a Jewish state that equally treats all its citizens is still a challenging concept for many Zionists. "But why can't Jews have just one state that's for them?" I was asked. It's a simple answer. No state can be allowed to discriminate against one race/religion/group over another.
Loewenstein is putting the liberal non-discrimination principle into effect here, but in doing so he is showing a defect in the principle. It doesn't seem reasonable that Jews cannot discriminate in favour of the survival of a distinctively Jewish state. First, it is natural for Jews to regard the existence of their own nation as a significant good, and so they will reasonably act for its benefit and preservation, rather than from a neutralist, non-discriminatory stance. Second, the Jewish state is a means of security for Jews in a region generally ill-disposed toward them. Therefore, to relinquish control over the state, in the name of non-discrimination, seems especially ill-advised.
To uphold a blanket ban on state discrimination, Levy is forced to adopt a number of "follow-on" beliefs. First, he identifies Israel itself not with any particular people or tradition, but with a set of liberal values. He writes that anyone who views the loss of a Jewish majority in Israel as a danger is:
endangering the character of society far more than the tectonic demographic shifts.
So in his view it is not the Jews or the Jewish tradition which give the Israeli nation its character but a liberal principle of non-discrimination. Similarly, Levy writes,
There is no "demographic threat". There is a threat to society's values, which will be determined not by statistics but by the amount of social justice.
By identifying the nation with a set of political values, Levy can then imagine that the non-discrimination principle won't change the essence of the nation. Even if there is a "tectonic" change in the population, the non-discrimination principle will endure, and therefore so will the "nation".
I doubt if I were a Jew that I would find this comforting. My people and tradition would be lost, but an abstract political principle would still carry on. Again, it's not a reasonable view to expect people to adopt.
And anyway, it's not even plausible that a Palestinian dominated Israel would preserve the liberal political principles which Levy identifies with the national essence.
Which leads on to a second issue. Levy needs to explain how the Jews would remain secure if they lost control of the state. His answer is that:
Both the left and right are afflicted with this lethal racism, which stems from arrogance and fear of the other. The right wing is trying to scare us with dire predictions about the natural increase of the country's Arabs ...
Which seems to suggest that there is no objective basis for security concerns; that such concerns are simply an irrational manifestation of racism and fear of the other. Is this, though, a realistic view? Isn't it reasonable for Jews, given the history and politics of the Middle East, to be concerned about their security in an Arab dominated state?
So is it always wrong, as Levy and Loewenstein assert, to discriminate? I can understand that it's appealing to the modern mind to find a moral principle which operates as simply and unswervingly as a law of nature. However, in practice applying the principle of non-discrimination universally as a key value of society leads to an unreasonable and unrealistic politics.
When, though, is it right to discriminate? I won't suggest a complete answer. It's possible however that there are two considerations which we normally apply when determining an answer to this question.
The first is that the discrimination should serve a real good. It's possible to think of a purely arbitrary form of discrimination as unjust, but not so when it is designed to uphold a significant good. For instance, in the case of the argument about Israel, the maintenance of the national tradition might be identified as such a good.
However, what then has to be balanced against this first consideration is the actual form of the discrimination to be applied. If the discrimination serves a trivial good but involves a serious loss to those discriminated against, we are likely to consider it unjust.
So the issue of discrimination requires a more sophisticated treatment than simply asserting non-discrimination as a universal principle. We need to judge the balance between the significance of the good being protected and the severity of the form of discrimination.