Late last month, a bill declaring Israel a Jewish State was brought forward to Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. In the midst of the self proclaimed auto intifada, I thought it a strange time for Benjamin Netanyahu to present a potentially incendiary act of legislature. No doubt an act such as this one, one proclaiming the Jewish nature of the State of Israel, would only ignite anger within Israel’s minorities.
Critics of the bill have denounced the bill as undemocratic, theocratic and racist. Arab politicians have argued that declaring a country as a Jewish State would alienate the non-Jews in Israeli society. However, to these critics I argue, how can Israel be anything but a Jewish State?
Since the beginnings of the Zionist movement in Europe there has never been any other land. Proposals to create states for Jews in vacant areas of the world, like in a region of Uganda, where immediately refused by Zionist leaders. What became known as the British Mandate for Palestine after 1917 was always the only place Jews would ever create a State for themselves. The Jewish connection to the land of Israel predates any partition plan or any aliyah by European Jews in the 19th century. The Jewish connection to Israel is rooted in Jewish history. Israel is the land of the Jews because it is also the land in which the Jewish forefathers and mothers lived, the land that King David ruled and the land that the Maccabees fought for. To David Ben Gurion, Menachem Begin and Chayim Weitzman, there could be only one land, the land of Israel. For this reason, Israel is a Jewish State.
My first reaction to reading this bill was shock. Not because of its contents or its reception, rather I was surprised that this bill was being put forward in the first place. Contemporary Israel is already a Jewish State. Israel’s symbol, the menorah, Israel’s flag, the star of David, and Israel’s language, Hebrew, are all derived from Judaism. In fact, the place in which Israel’s Arab and Jewish politicians sit, the Knesset, is named for the Israelite kingdom’s court from 300 BC. Everything about Israel defines it as a Jewish State.
Israel must not make any excuses for what it is or for the vision that the Zionist founding fathers had for their state; a Jewish democracy. In a world of Muslim and Christian States, how many more must be established for one Jewish State to exist?
This month we have seen the dissolution of Israeli parliament, a move that will bring Israelis to the polls in March 2015. The dispute over this bill is but one of the scores of issues that create a disunion within Israeli leadership. Israeli parliamentarians should understand there is no better time than the present to go forward with this legislation and demonstrate to the world and Israel’s enemies that so long as there is an Israel, it will be a Jewish State. My hope for the 20th Knesset is that this bill will be considered and approved as a way of unifying Israel’s leadership towards a healthy future for the only Jewish State in the world.