Netanyahu Talmud meeting. Photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO

New attempts to define Israel as “the Jewish state”


INTENTIONAL CONFLATION CREATES CONUNDRUM
We’re always scolded that it’s ‘anti-semitic’ to conflate “Israel” with Jews, though it was created for Jews alone and Jews have automatically more privileges and opportunities than Gentiles who happen to be “polluting” their land. But “Israel,” we are told, is the nation-state of “the Jewish people” so the scolding doesn’t really make any sense whatsoever, it’s merely a way to shield Jews in “Israel” and its government from their many crimes. However, the conflation is reasonable: if “Israel” is the state of all Jewish people, then those Jewish people aren’t really Australian, Turkish, or Canadian, they’re “Israeli.”

4 September, 2014 AIC

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to renew efforts at legislating a basic law that will legally anchor Israel’s status as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”.  The law was initiated last winter and as Netanyahu stated then, it aims to allow legal status to a “basic ingredient in our national lives”.

Basic laws are a key component of Israel’s constitutional law. These laws deal with the formation and role of the principal state institutions, and relations amongst the various state authorities. Some of these laws also protect civil rights.

Although basic laws were originally meant to be draft chapters of a future Israeli constitution, there is no clear rule determining the precedence of basic laws over regular legislation; this issue is left to the interpretation of the judicial system. Nonetheless, basic laws are already used on a daily basis by the courts as a de jure formal constitution.

The prime minister announced his intentions of renewing this legislative effort during a meeting Wednesday night with an association of national religious rabbis, Rabanei Tzohar.

At the meeting Netanyahu repeated that “there is an attempt to undermine the national identity of the Jewish people and the legitimacy of the State of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people”.

The meeting with Rabanei Tzohar was initiated and organized by MK Ze’ev Alkin (Likud) in support of the prime minister after the offensive on Gaza. Attending the meeting were twenty influential rabbis, who told Netanyahu it is important to preserve the spirit of national unity unveiled recently during the Gaza attack.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said in May, when the basic law was originally proposed, that it aims to set the national rights of the Jewish people in the State of Israel without harming individual rights.

“The law will solidify the position of the Law of Return, and will anchor the status of national symbols: the flag, the anthem, the language and other elements of our national being. They are constantly under attack from the outside and even from home”.

The opposition and liberal members of the government opposed the proposed  law.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni stated she will “not allow the damaging, weakening or subjugating of Israel’s democratic values to its Jewish values.”

Labor Party head Isaac Herzog said: “With all its being, the Labor Party supports Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Labor built the state and its leaders formulated the Declaration of Independence, the foundational document that anchors Israel as a Jewish state. Unfortunately, the diplomatic destruction Netanyahu is causing will lead Israel to lose its Jewish majority and become a bi-national state. This unfortunate fact is something no law can hide”.

Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On said: “The State of Israel also has non-Jewish citizens living in it, so it must define itself as the state of the Jewish people and of all its citizens. Whoever supports the two-state solution supports Palestinian sovereignty and asks the Palestinians to recognize Israeli sovereignty but not the character of the state”.

Netanyahu responded by stating the law will make clear that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people. He also attacked his critics as opposing the Jewish character of Israel.

“There are of course those who do not want the State of Israel to be the national homeland of the Jewish people. They want to establish a national state for the Palestinian people on our side, and that Israel will gradually become a bi-national Arab-Jewish state within its shrunken borders”.

Earlier in the year a controversial version of such legislation was introduced by coalition whip MK Yariv Levin (Likud) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi ). Their proposal defines Israel as the national home of the Jewish people, where the Jewish people have the exclusive right to national self-determination. The bill calls the “land of Israel” the historic homeland of the Jewish nation and none other. The law further states that Israel’s democratic responsibility is to recognize the rights of all individuals.

In recent years the extreme right wing organized a campaign to pass a “Jewish state law” and to force the Supreme Court to give Israel’s Jewish identity priority over its democratic one.

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