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Israelis Challenge Nation-State Law

By TTN Blog

In discussing the new Jewish Nation-State Law, Third Narrative participants have generally expressed strong sympathy for 180 prominent Israeli artists, writers and intellectuals who have signed a letter calling for the cancellation of the recently passed basic law.  (Novelists David Grossman and Amos Oz, pictured above, are among them.)  In a substantive sense, the law may not be taking away rights from its non-Jewish citizens, but this largely symbolic measure (this TTN post includes the law’s text) is deliberately provocative in failing to reiterate Israel’s commitment to democracy and equal citizenship, values enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. The impact of this law is to insult Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, officially telling them that the state is not really theirs.  

One of our TTN colleagues, Yonathan Shapir, a physics professor at the University of Rochester, is originally from Israel.  He monitored reactions closely on Israeli television. As he put it: 

Following what was going on in Israel since the Knesset voted the above law has been an emotional rollercoaster.  By purposely excluding the word “EQUAL” from the Nation-State Law the ruling coalition weaponized it to be used in fighting against the opposition in the forthcoming elections campaign. 

However, the majority coalition members were blind to the collateral much greater pain they inflicted on the Israeli ethnic minorities. You cannot judge the Nation-State law by the reactions within the Jewish population.  It is the situation of the minorities which counts. And the reaction of the Druze community in particular, but that of the [Palestinian-Israeli] Arabs and Bedouins too, has been one of deep emotional feeling of being rejected and/or relegated to second class citizens. To encapsulate these reactions there were three particular ones played on Israeli TV. 

Prof. Shapir went on to relate that the interview of Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel  by Lucy Aharish, an Israeli-Arab news anchor, was “so strong that the Minister looked lame in her effort to back the law.” On the next day Riad Ali, a Druze TV reporter on the public channel’s Friday night news magazine, “captivated the audience with a very authentic emotional story of how the Druze (who serve in the IDF) feel.” And on the following day, Labor Party Arab MK Zouheir Bahloul resigned.  (Shapir remembered the man from his youth in Israel, when Bahloul was a popular Hebrew-language play-by-play soccer announcer.) What made these episodes “poignant” was that these three “are among the most successful non-Jews integrating in Israeli society. They are household names in every Israeli family.”

Tablet’s Liel Leibovitz, in his usual role as a caustic defender of Israeli actions that should not be defended, correctly points out that Israel’s been the “Jewish state” from its inception. Which is why it’s totally unnecessary (which Leibovitz does NOT address); it’s a naked political gambit for Netanyahu and Bennett to pander to their supporters. But as the loud protests from the Druze indicate (including Members of Knesset in the government coalition demanding that the High Court strike it down), denigrating Arabic (even though written ambiguously) was seen as especially galling. A Jewish state law that doesn’t reassure all minorities that they too are valued and protected as citizens — at least as an aspirational ideal — is just asking for trouble. In practice, Israeli Arab communities are underfunded and Arab citizens are discriminated against in housing.  And the ongoing removals of “unrecognized” Bedouin villages in the Negev has alienated a traditionally loyal population that often volunteered for the IDF.

Druze protests have even shaken Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party and a prime-mover for the law; he’s publicly stated that this law harms “our Druze brothers.” It is reported that “Bennett would likely ask for an amendment to the law when the Knesset returns from its recess in October that would protect the rights of the Druze, who serve in the IDF.” But if an amended law includes Druze as a favored minority, this would be a further slap to those citizens of Israel who are not recognized. 

Shulamit S. Magnus, a Jewish history scholar who made aliyah from the US four years ago, published this eloquent protest at the Jerusalem Post: “THE NATION-STATE LAW’S GIFT TO THE NINTH OF AV.” It includes this poignant sentence: “It was excruciating to hear the protest of Druze, Bedouin, and Muslim officers serving in Israel’s Foreign Service about being marginalized and alienated by this gratuitous, insulting, law.” She also cites the sacrifices of Druze and Bedouin serving in the IDF; and she further mentions that well-known politicians brought up in the Revisionist (rightwing) Zionist tradition — such as Pres. Reuven Rivlin, Likud MK Benny Begin (yes, Menachem Begin’s son) and former Likudnik Tzipi Livni — oppose this measure.    

P.S. This links to the statement of Ameinu (the liberal/Labor- Zionist organization that initiated The Third Narrative): “Ameinu Decries Provocative Israel Nation State Law.”

In The Forward, Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat identify their concerns as Zionists committed to Israel’s future: “We’re Staunch Zionists. And We Are Worried About Israel’s Democracy.

One Response to “Israelis Challenge Nation-State Law”

  1. Adela
    September 25, 2018 at 11:27 pm #

    All I can say at this time is Israel, as well as America, have enemies WITHIN: TREASONOUS GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES – JEWS, ISRAELIS AND MUSLIMS!

    Yes! Muslims employed in the Knesset use their positions to incite Muslims (and treasonous Jews/Israelis) to riot demanding more power!

    Fine artists or not those “Jews” and their non-Jewish friends always look for ways to crush Israel within or outside, strongly influenced by the Muslims who are incapable of understanding Israel’s victory due to their superior brains, courage and industriousness, while the Muslims are totally immersed in finding more and better sadistic ways to spew hate about, and murder Jews, so, IF they have any good brains…they are incapable to use them to improve their own societies as Israel has done from Day One of the Creation of their Jewish Nation! (Actually, Jews always improved societies wherever they lived!!!)



    Let’s pray Israel won’t allow it to be changed!!!

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