Israeli Nation-State Bill: Much Ado About Nothing

By: Russell Stern

For the past week, there has been a heated controversy surrounding the Israeli Nation-State bill, which the Israeli parliament passed into law on July 19, 2018. Almost immediately after the bill was passed, Israel’s sworn enemies loudly denounced it as discriminatory against the country’s minorities. But all of this commotion is just another attempt to revive the slanderous accusation that Zionism is racism, a long discredited anti-Israel smear.

The criticism came from the usual suspects: the New York Times, whose political articles are very hostile toward Israeli policy, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, which seeks the elimination of the Jewish state, and Arab members of the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body.

Arab Knesset member Ahmed Tibi, a former aide to Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, harshly declared that the bill will cause, “the death of democracy,” in Israel. Other opposition members instantly joined Tibi in his condemnation of the bill, screaming, “Apartheid!” They blatantly accused the law of being discriminatory and racist.

But the bill does not discriminate against Israeli Arabs or other minorities in any way, shape or form. It does not revoke civil rights enjoyed by minority groups in Israel. It does not prevent them from practicing their own religion, running for political office, voting in Israeli elections, or having access to Israeli universities. Furthermore, the Nation-State law does not supersede the Israeli Declaration of Independence of 1948, which ensures, “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” In fact, it was only meant to reaffirm Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and declare it the historical homeland of Jews worldwide.

The bill also reinforced Jerusalem being the official capital of Israel, and “Hatikvah” being the state’s national anthem. Not only this, but the law stressed the importance of certain Jewish holidays in Israel, such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Holocaust Remembrance Day. In short, this bill was not meant to have any practical impact; it was only passed into law to send a message to Israel’s foes that the Jewish state is here to stay.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the bill as, “a defining moment in the history of Zionism.” Zionism is defined as the movement for the re-establishment, development, and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel. Considering the horrifying fact that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and that anti-semitism has existed for nearly 2,000 years, the Israeli government certainly had a right to pass this bill, and their reason for doing so is clear. The Jewish people originated in the land of Israel. And they have been there since the 10th century B.C.E. They were there before anyone else.

Critics, however, argue that the bill treats Arabs in Israel as second-class citizens. Specifically, they object to the clause of the bill which states, “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” However, this argument is deeply flawed because Israel was specifically created and recognized as a Jewish state by the United Nations in 1948. Of course Jews have the exclusive right to self-determination in Israel, because Israel is a Jewish state.

Critics also oppose parts of the bill which state that Hebrew is the official language of Israel and that Jerusalem is the official capital of Israel. However, the Palestinian Authority’s basic law and draft constitution includes clauses and articles that are very similar, and there has been no criticism of that document. Specifically, according to Chapter One of the 1995 Basic Law draft by the PLO, “The Palestinian people are the source of all authority which shall be exercised, through the legislative, executive, and judicial branches.” Also, Chapter Three of the draft states, “The Arabic language shall be the official language of Palestine.”

And not only that, but according to Article Two of The Constitution of Jordan, “Islam is the religion of the State and Arabic is its official language.” Article One of the constitution states, “The people of Jordan form a part of the Arab nation, and its system of government is parliamentary with a hereditary monarchy.” Egypt’s constitution proclaims that it is “an Arab republic” and “part of the Muslim world.” And the formal name for Iran is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It is interesting that similar laws in the dozens of Muslim-ruled countries have not received any criticism whatsoever. But when the world’s only Jewish country attempts to define itself as a Jewish nation, it is viciously attacked for doing so. The inescapable conclusion to be drawn from this double-standard is that much of the world is opposed to the existence of a Jewish state, no matter how tiny.

Leave a Reply