Nation State for Thee But Not for Jews

It is sad, though unfortunately not terribly surprising, that Israel’s recently passed Nation-State Basic Law has caused such consternation and accusations of discrimination, racism and apartheid. But perhaps the Nation-State law would not even have been necessary if Israel’s very existence and legitimacy as a state and as a state for the Jewish People were not perpetually being questioned in international forums, the UN, non-governmental organizations, and in the media.

But there is less here than meets the eye per the critics. See: 1) https://zoa.org/2018/07/10378333-zoa-strongly-praises-israel-for-passing-law-declaring-israel-is-a-jewish-state/

2) https://www.wsj.com/articles/get-over-itisrael-is-the-jewish-state-1532039000

3) https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/07/israel-jewish-state-law-formalizing-common-understanding/

4) https://forward.com/opinion/406355/everything-youve-heard-about-israels-nation-state-bill-is-wrong/?utm_content=opinion_Newsletter_MainList_Title_Position-1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Opinion%20-%20automated%20-%20monday%202018-07-23&utm_term=Opinion

While it seems to be perfectly natural for other countries to have their own identity, and even their own religious identity, apparently it is not so for the Jews. For instance, Islamic symbols are found on the flags of 21 countries and Christian symbols on an additional 31.

Why can’t the planet’s lone Jewish State proclaim that it is the nation-state of the Jewish People?

Here are some of the basics of this new law, which will become part of Israel’s Basic Law- essentially its constitution (https://www.timesofisrael.com/final-text-of-jewish-nation-state-bill-set-to-become-law/) :

  1. a) The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.
  2. b) The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.
  3. c) The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
  4. d) The name of the state is “Israel.”
  5. e) The state flag is white with two blue stripes near the edges and a blue Star of David in the center.
  6. f) The state emblem is a seven-branched menorah with olive leaves on both sides and the word “Israel” beneath it.
  7. g) The state anthem is “Hatikvah.”
  8. h)  Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.
  9. i) The state’s language is Hebrew.
  10. j) The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.
  11. k) This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.
  12. l) The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside it the Gregorian calendar will be used as an official calendar.
  13. m) Independence Day is the official national holiday of the state.
  14. n) Memorial Day for the Fallen in Israel’s Wars and Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day are official memorial days of the State.
  15. o) The Sabbath and the festivals of Israel are the established days of rest in the state; Non-Jews have a right to maintain days of rest on their Sabbaths and festivals;

Is this really racist, or discriminatory?

There is nothing in this law that infringes on the rights of Israeli citizens, be they Arab, Jew, Christian or Muslim. National self-determination for the Jews in the State of Israel does not interfere with nor diminish the democratic or human rights of any of its citizens. In fact, the full civil rights of all the country’s citizens are already enshrined in a series of Knesset laws, including Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.  Quite simply, there is no country in the world that offers national self-determination to its minorities, for to do so would in effect make those minorities themselves a nation.

It is instructive to look at the Palestinian Basic Law, which was promulgated in 2002 and amended in 2003, and whose function is “to act as a temporary constitution for the Palestinian Authority until the establishment of an independent state and a permanent constitution for Palestine can be achieved.”

Article (3): Jerusalem is the Capital of Palestine.

 Article (4):

  1. Islam is the official religion in Palestine. Respect and sanctity of all other heavenly religions shall be maintained.
  2. The principles of Islamic Shari’a shall be the main source of legislation.
  3. Arabic shall be the official language.

Article (8): The flag of Palestine shall be in four colors, and in accordance with the dimensions and measurement approved by the Palestinian Liberation Organization. It shall be the official flag of the country.

This is the expression and aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs, whose leaders consistently state is to be judenrein (Jew-free).

So, why again shouldn’t the Jewish People express their aspirations and promulgate their own law delineating what their state’s very constitution is?

Face it: Jews are a nation, and Israel is their nation-state. The Nationality law is not unique to Israel. In fact, it places Israel amongst a host of other multi-ethnic and multi-lingual European and Middle East nations.  The only unique difference is the hypocrisy when dealing with the Jewish State.

The naysayers and others who have condemned Israel’s new law once again are singling out the Jewish State and holding it to a different and higher standard than they do with other nations the world over. When the Jews alone are targeted – even by other Jews — we call this anti-Semitism.

About the Author
Lee S. Bender co-authored a book, “Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed From A-Z” (Pavilion Press) with Jerome Verlin, and has been speaking about anti-Israel bias and activities to numerous schools, synagogues, churches and civic groups, and written dozens of articles published in local and national media. He is Co-President of the Zionist Organization of America-Greater Philadelphia District, a board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia, Israel Advocacy Committee of Jewish Federation among other organizations. A former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney, he has been in private practice as a trial attorney in Pennsylvania and New Jersey since 1995.
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