Second-class Citizens in a First-class Jewish Ghetto

It’s nothing particularly new,  nothing unheard, nothing unseen, but everything despised.

In Israel, our Chief Rabbinate has declared that Reform Jews and Conservative Jews are not recognized as Jews belonging to the Jewish people and Jewish nation despite the accepted fact that they comprise the majority of Jews in the world.

In the recently-passed Chok-Leumi, Nation-State Law, Druze, Circassians and Muslim Arabs who have been recognized as full first-class citizens of the State of Israel since our independence in 1948 have been demoted to the status of second-class citizens.

Arabic language, which since 1918 was recognized as one of the three official languages, has now been removed from an official language to one of “special status”.

These three minority groups have now officially been declared second-class citizens of the Jewish ghetto State of Israel.  Israel has now become as prejudiced and intolerant of its minority communities as was Poland in the years prior to the 1939 war.

Discrimination in Israel is now reserved officially for all non-Orthodox Jewish groups, for Muslim Arab citizens and for the most loyal and brave among our citizens…the Druze and the Circassians.

It would not surprise me if some members of our Knesset were to propose a bill requiring special Israeli passports for non-first class citizens !  A  yellow badge of shame.

Presently there are petitions in the hands of our High Court of Justice to revoke the Nation-State law before its January 15, 2019  deadline for a legal decision.

None of the discriminated groups are demanding a revoke of the entire law. Rather they are concerned only with the specific clauses describing them as ineligible for the same full rights of Jewish citizens.

A question has now arisen whether or not the High Court of Justice has the authority to make changes in the Basic Laws which are akin to a constitution  (which we do not have in Israel).

Our country has been so embroiled in the Netanyahu issues which may lead to an indictment on three counts against our Prime Minister, we have forgotten to insure and to protect the full equal rights of every Israeli citizen.

We have been accused of apartheid, the former disease of South Africa, but it is quite far from the truth. There is no discrimination against minorities in universities or colleges in Israel nor in employment in government services or diplomatic posts. Some of our leading jurists and physicians and surgeons are Arabs, held in great respect and esteem.  Apartheid never existed in Israel and never will.

It has to be difficult, however, for non-Jewish Israelis to consider themselves full and equal citizens. They cannot sing our national anthem which declares Israel as the homeland of the Jews nor salute the flag of Israel which carries the six-pointed Shield (NOT star) of David, the Magen David.

They are not entitled to a flag or an anthem of their own. And yet, the Druze and Circassian citizens have been forever devoted and loyal to the Jewish State and dedicated to serving it with honor, dignity and pride. Their blood has been shed on fields of battle in the defense of the Jewish State.

We, as Jews, have the obligation of restoring the minority communities amongst us to the conditions under which they lived as full and equal citizens prior to the Nation-State Law.

Regrettably, the greatest impediment to change is Bibi himself. I don’t know who Lola of the old song was but it has been revised to “whatever Bibi wants Bibi gets” (or the popular version “whatever Sara says Bibi does”).

Hopefully with the courage and conviction of justice, fairness and equality to every citizen of our democratic nation, the High Court of Justice will strike down the offensive version of the law and we will not have second-class citizens in the first-class Jewish Ghetto of Israel.

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.