Democracy and justice for all

The recent passage of the Nation-State law has made a tsunami of voices here and especially abroad in protest of the new law.

One of our leading legal scholars, Yedidia Stern, Professor of Law at Bar-Ilan University, in a recent opinion piece, questioned like so many thousands of others why the law was needed.

He affirmed that our Declaration of Independence and our original Basic Laws covered clearly the nature of Israel as a Jewish State. To create a new law for that recognition is redundant and unnecessary.

With regard to the change of Arabic from one of our three official languages to a “special status”, Professor Stern wrote that it was deliberately done “to aggravate our Arab minority”. He further goes into detail concerning our so-called “democracy” which he believes died on the day the new law was passed.

What he demands is both moral and ethical and Jewish… democracy and justice for ALL.

But as several diaspora rabbis, heads of Jewish institutions and universities, scholars and legal authorities have said and have written, sadly, is that Israel is no longer a country for all Jews.

If Conservative, Reform and non-believing Jews cannot be recognized as Jews by a corrupt system of the Chief Rabbinate and upheld by a poor example of legislators beholden to the religious political parties, then Israel officially cannot be defined as a Jewish country. It becomes only a country for some Jews, not all.

When David Ben-Gurion, a non-religious Jew, put his hand to the pen to sign our historic Declaration of Independence in Tel-Aviv on 14 May 1948, this law in its present form is certainly not what he had in mind for the newborn State of Israel.

Specifically, the Declaration states that there will be equality for all citizens regardless of religion, sex, color and all other indications of discrimination. Our hand was held out to the Arabs for peace and for friendship, regrettably refused by them.

A modern Orthodox rabbi told me that he did not understand the new law nor the reason for it to become Basic Law. All of our documents of the past 70 years have clearly stated that in the Jewish state there will be equality for all of its citizens. Why did we need to create a new law which is causing so much divisiveness and disdain among Jews in Israel and in countries of the Jewish diaspora?

American Jewish leaders, political and religious, have largely denounced the new law as a violation of the meaning of democracy.

Perhaps Dr. Ahmad Tibi of the Joint Arab bloc in the Knesset was correct when he stood up in the plenum and shouted out “democracy in Israel has died”. Many Jews and non-Jews agree with him.

This new law, unlike all other laws, is more difficult to repeal. Petitions have been submitted to the High Court of Justice urging the court to order the law to be repealed. The Knesset will declare a “war” against the court.

Is it too much to ask that the law be amended to include the words “democracy for every citizen of Israel regardless of religion or creed or ethnic background”?

Was the word “democracy”, which is omitted in the new law, done on purpose or was it perhaps because our legislators could not spell the word?

Traditional Judaism professes to believe in “techiyat ha maitim”… the resurrection of the dead.

Maybe this controversial and horrendous law could be brought back from the dead and be given a new life… a life of Jewish democracy and justice for all!

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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