Photo: Amit Shabi
Coalition celebrates passing of Nationality Law with a selfie
Photo: Amit Shabi
Ben-Dror Yemini

The Right against Israel

Op-ed: International condemnation for the Nationality Law didn't come just from Israel's haters, but also from some of its biggest supporters among Diaspora Jewry. It also offends Israel's Druze citizens, with whom we have such a strong bond. So why did we need this law?

I was going to write a piece titled "Not so terrible" or "Not the end of democracy" in the wake of the downpour of legislation last week. That is also what I told the editors of the opinion pages.



After all, these laws are really not a disaster. The Nationality Law underwent changes in the wake of public criticism. The most poisonous of its articles was removed. This is proof of the effect democratic discourse could have.


So was the law to regulate surrogacy, which is under contention in most democratic nations. There is not general consensus that this is even an appropriate procedure—because of the exploitation of women—and there is no basic right for gays to be able to use a surrogate mother to become parents.


Coalition celebrates passing of Nationality Law with a selfie (Photo: Amit Shaabi)
Coalition celebrates passing of Nationality Law with a selfie (Photo: Amit Shaabi)

The same is true for the Breaking the Silence Law. Is there a right granted to every organization to enter schools? After all, the Education Ministry revoked the budget of a yeshiva after one of its heads expressed ignorant views. It is allowed to set red lines. Not everything that is allowed to be said should also be said to schoolchildren.


However, I must admit, that the more I delved into the condemnations from the international community, particularly with regards to the Nationality Law, the more my views changed.


Israel is a Jewish state. It appears 29 times, no less, in the UN Partition Plan. When US President Obama visited Ramallah, he included in his speech—to the shock and outrage of Abbas and his aides—the demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. In those very words.


Arab MKs protest Nationality Law in the Knesset (צילום: עמית שאבי)
Arab MKs protest Nationality Law in the Knesset (צילום: עמית שאבי)


It's true that there's a loud post-Zionist and anti-Zionist minority that rejects the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. But there are already Basic Laws that include Israel's character as "a Jewish and democratic state." So why exactly did we need this law?


Well, we didn't. And the more days that pass, the more it appears the damage is much bigger than first believed. Hundreds of media bodies around the world have published condemnation articles in recent days. Many times, these articles included the words "racist legislation." It's true, many of the condemnations are coming from Israel's regular haters; they take advantage of any opportunity to denounce Israel. Israel's Knesset, in a foolish move, gave them another opportunity, as well as more fuel to their propaganda fire, according to which a state cannot be both Jewish and democratic.



The damage is greater, far greater, to Israel's relations with its friends in the world. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a statement expressing concern. The most representative body for British Jews also released a statement saying the law constitutes a withdrawal from Israel's democratic commitments.


US Jews are mostly Reform and Conservative. The heads of these bodies released statements critical of the law. The American Jewish Committee (AJC), one of the most important Jewish and pro-Israeli bodies there is, also released a condemnation.


These bodies are strong supporters of the Zionist idea and the definition of Israel as a Jewish state. But the Nationality Law, even in its amended version, is making Israel—in their eyes—less democratic.


There's no need to agree with every word in the different statements. But it appears Israel's parliament scored an own goal.



The Nationality Law has one more dubious achievement: it undermines the very important relationship between the Jewish majority and the Druze in Israel. Brig. Gen. (res.) Amal Asad sent a letter to the prime minister four years ago, stressing that the legislation offends all members of the Druze community. There is no one who represents the close bond between the Druze and the Jewish state like Asad. But Netanyahu never bothered answering.


The Druze never disputed the determination that Israel is a Jewish state. But not just Jewish, it's also a state that grants full rights to its non-Jewish citizens. Now, Asad and many other Druze like him feel like Israel is rejecting them. They already announced their intentions to petition the High Court of Justice against the law.


It's not simple. After all, this is a Basic Law. It has no discrimination, but it does have a defiant tone, unnecessarily so. Why did we need this?


The Nationality Law is a Basic Law, and there is no chance of changing it under the current coalition. The High Court won't rush to pull the chestnuts out of the fire, either.


And only one thing is clear beyond any doubt. A week ago, there was consensus about Israel being a Jewish and democratic state. This week, this consensus is far less stable.


פרסום ראשון: 07.23.18, 23:43
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