is it too much to ask? Anywhere in the world? I live in one, pretty much, now, and have done so before, when I lived many years ago in Japan. Although Japan does have a state religion, Shinto, in which the Emperor holds rank, and to which all prime ministers make obeisance on special days. However. France is a secular state (though Alsace is the least secular bit of it - Good Friday is a public holiday here, unlike in the rest of France, and there is religious education in schools here, you can choose Catholic or Protestant and in one or two schools even Jewish) which seems to me a Very Good Thing. I am a communicant Anglican these days, but share (I think) with the Archbishop of Canterbury a wish for the disestablishment of the Church of England. Oh, and in secular France we have a long weekend coming up - Monday 15th August is a public holiday, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin, an illustration I think that while states may try to be secular they are often not very good at it.
I was struck by an editorial by David Hearst in the Guardian (natch) to which my attention was drawn by Norm and others, in which the wish is expressed for a democratic, secular state of Israel/Palestine, in which no religious or ethnic group has pre-eminence. Who could be against that? Not me. Like many nominally on the Left (which is where I place myself, though others may not) I am not comfortable with the notion of a state based on religion or ethnicity. Iran, where people get arrested for having water pistol fights because such things are "un-Islamic", and its client Gaza, whose people are human shields against the Jew. And others. But where does that lead us? Back when I was young and foolish there used to be an organisation called the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and although I did not go in for taking positions on the Middle East when I was in my teens, on what I still think is the sensible ground that I didn't know what I was talking about, I did support that organisation. It doesn't exist any more, and there doesn't seem to be anyone who would like a democratic, secular state in the region. I have no idea what the majority Jewish people of Israel think about this. Because I am talking about one state, not two. And where does that lead us?
Well. you tell me. Is there any way for one democratic secular state to exist which does not involve the destruction of democratic Israel and the slaughter of its people? As Hamas and others have pledged to do? Norm and others take the view that what is apparently the start of a move towards one state inevitably means the removal of support for Israel in "the West", which in its turn means destruction and slaughter. Are they right? I fear so. But is there another way? I don't buy Lush products any more because of their support for Islamist racism (they've taken that off their website now), but it's hardly enough, is it?