This article was co-authored with Roger Froikin
During a Knesset hearing, Prime Minister Netanyahu described the much debated, and what some consider as the “controversial”, Jewish State Law as:
“The Jewish State Law, as I have given it over, establishes that the state of Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, where the principle of one is not larger than the other,” he said. “Israel guarantees equal rights for individuals regardless of religion, race or gender.”
Do you see anything wrong with this Law? We don’t.
Indeed, Israel’s proclamation of Independence defines the essence of the State of Israel’s very similarly. It clearly states that it is a Jewish State. It does refer to its’ core as democratic and, likewise, it guarantees equal rights to all regardless of color creed or gender.
So, why again, and why now? You may ask.
The Declaration of Independence is just that, a statement of intent that many feel does not have the force of law, or that has a lesser role than law in a democratic system. Enacting a law to state officially that the State of Israel is a Jewish State, a state that establishes Jewish standards and culture as a basis of its being, with full rights for people of other religions and cultures who legally reside within it, is not only a necessity but also a neglected legal act in a State without a constitution.
Israel as the Jewish State of today is not the same Israel of the Declaration of its Independence. The State of Israel is a strong, economically thriving, state, today. During years of economic struggle and hardship the enormous problem of building a unified people from the refugees of so many areas of the world, and the continuing need for an able and alert national defense, clarification of national goals and identity was deferred for the most part. Today, in a changed world political climate, the State unequivocally has a need to define itself, in law, in preparation for its future.
Israel is under a existential and cultural threat. Foreign elements, many of which are hostile to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, have chosen the weapon of delegitimization, denying Jews, as a nation, the rights and prerogatives that are automatically granted to all other peoples. Some of them are financed and supported by outside interests whose agenda is to strip Israel of its Jewish soul. They have infiltrated, into almost every aspect of our political, judicial and executive branches of our system threatening to devour our Jewish identity. Domestic elements as well, motivated by political expediency or cultural ignorance make everything a cultural war.
Sixty six years ago, we created a Jewish state and in the words of Ronen Tzfrir, we have lost our identity in the process of building it. This Jewish State Law is a needed tie in, a needed connection, to remind ourselves who we are, where we are coming from and where we are heading. That is the purpose of the Jewish State law.
Laws are created not only to rectify that which is unjust but also to prevent that which is bad from becoming worse. The State Jewish law is one such example. Nothing more, nothing less.
And the controversy surrounding it is, in the words of the Bard, “Much Ado About Nothing.”
But, there is a question for those who oppose this Law. Why? What are they afraid of? If the law makes no difference, as many of them say, why oppose it so heatedly?
To those in Europe and the West who have so loudly opposed the proposed law, please explain to us why it is OK for European states to enact laws celebrating their cultures and protecting them, and elevation one religion over others as “state religions”, why Israel should not be allowed to do the same thing?
To those in Israel who oppose this law, now is the time to make a choice. Is Israel to be a Jewish State, reflecting Jewish values, history, and culture, or is it to be a Levantine Poland or France?
Time for honesty — not double standards.