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Photo: Knesset Channel
Arab MKs protest Nationality Bill at the Knesset, last week
Photo: Knesset Channel
Ben-Dror Yemini
Why a ‘nationality law’ is unnecessary
Op-ed: There is a broad agreement among Zionist parties about Israel’s definition as a Jewish state; when controversial clauses are added, strife becomes inevitable.

Israel is the Jewish people’s nation state which sustains, although not perfectly, equality of rights for all its citizens. It is a Jewish state just like Armenia is Armenian and Croatia is Croatian. The enforcement of a Jewish state can be found in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1920 Sam Remo Conference’s resolution, the 1922 League of Nations resolution, the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan, the 1948 Proclamation of Independence, the right to self-determination, which is one of the international community’s basic rights, and basic laws which include Israel’s definition as a Jewish and democratic state. There is no need for additions, patches or new laws.

 

 

My colleague, Yoaz Hendel, presented a series of excellent arguments justifying the Nationality Bill. Nevertheless, this is an unnecessary law. Yes, there are those who undermine and criticize Israel’s definition as a “Jewish state.” Will a “nationality law” convince them? After all, there is a broad agreement—from Bayit Yehudi to Meretz—about Israel’s definition as a Jewish state.

 

But when controversial clauses are added, like on exclusive residential areas for Jews, it guarantees in advance that the law will only engender strife. That’s also unnecessary. The kibbutzim and the Arab communities never needed any law. Unnecessary legislation only strengthens the claims that a “Jewish state” is necessarily racist.

 

Will a ‘nationality law’ convince those who undermine and criticize Israel’s definition as a ‘Jewish state’? (Archive photo: Reuters)
Will a ‘nationality law’ convince those who undermine and criticize Israel’s definition as a ‘Jewish state’? (Archive photo: Reuters)

 

When it comes to such a fundamental basic law, a constitutional law, the most harmful thing that can be done is to take advantage of the coalition majority to pass it. The Right has complained, and rightfully so, that the High Court’s acrobatic interpretation turned the first basic laws into a sacred constitution which changes government and legal order, although they were adopted by a simple majority without a broad agreement.

 

That’s exactly what the Right is doing now—underhanded opportunism. That’s not the way to strengthen the national agreement on a Jewish state. That’s the way to harm it.

 

Breaking the Silence’s lie

Breaking the Silence Spokesman Dean Issacharoff recently shared a difficult incident from his military service: His company commander called him, ordered him to bind a young Palestinian with handcuffs, and he—being the obedient soldier that he was—was forced to abuse the poor guy, beat him up, cause him to bleed and eventually faint: and all that in from of his fellow soldiers.

 

The company commander, Omri Seiner, denied the story. Perhaps it was a different company commander? Well, the unit’s soldiers broke their silence in light of what they saw as a blood libel against them, and with the help of Amit Deri from Reservists on Duty, they posted a video on Facebook filled with evidence refuting the story.

 

Issacharoff himself offered the following response to my question: “The events happened as they were described in the testimony. Those who deny the daily violence in the territories are the same people who claim that there is no occupation.”

 

Breaking the Silence members. Creating the impression that the IDF is an army of brutal and sadistic soldiers (Photo: Amit Magal)  (Photo: Amit Magal)
Breaking the Silence members. Creating the impression that the IDF is an army of brutal and sadistic soldiers (Photo: Amit Magal)

 

Following the response, I asked Deri if any of the unit’s soldiers supported Issacharoff. On the contrary, Deri replied. Even more soldiers asked to add their testimony.

 

The organization’s supporters burst into a series of claims that even if Issacharoff did exaggerate, and even if he did make the story up, it doesn’t really matter, because there have been many other cases in which similar things did happen.

 

There is something in these claims. It would be foolish to claim that the tens of thousands of soldiers who served in the IDF never committed any abnormal acts. There have been unnecessary humiliations. There has been abuse too. Innocent people have been hurt. Breaking the silence likely has accurate testimonies. Among 10,000 soldiers, there has to be one who is a sadist or disturbed. And it’s very possible that one in 100 soldiers deviates from procedures.

 

The problem is that Breaking the Silence activists are creating the impression that this is Israel’s face and that this is the IDF’s face: An army of brutal and sadistic soldiers. The main lie is in the generalization and exaggeration. The lie is in taking unusual events, and there are such events, blowing them out of proportions and then running to the UN to talk about “plunder” and telling foreign journalists that “IDF soldiers use machine guns to fire at civilian populations” as a routine practice.

 

A special way of advancing reconciliation

On Tuesday, I visited the city of Ra’anana for a lecture. On the stairs, I was greeted by an elderly woman, a Holocaust survivor, who told me she had come there to hand me one of the latest issues of German weekly Der Spiegel. It included an anti-Israel article by an Austrian writer, Eva Menasse, who shared her experiences from the territories following a tour sponsored by Breaking the Silence. “How can people publish such horrible things?” the woman asked, her voice trembling.

 

I had a hard time answering her, but I wasn’t surprised. According to a poll conducted about three years ago, 48% of Germans believe that Israel is waging a war of annihilation against the Palestinians. A new poll, which was submitted to the Bundestag only two weeks ago, reveals that 40% of the Germans (compared to only 26% in 2014) hold anti-Semitic views “because of Israel’s actions.” And we have Breaking the silence—which uncovers “Israel’s actions,” with German funding—to thank for that. There is no doubt that they have a special way of advancing a reconciliation and an end to the occupation. Hit the Jews, pay the abusers, add more and more anti-Semites, and that’s the way to promote harmony between the nations.

 

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