The Nationality Law — Good with Changes in Place

A few days ago, the state of Israel was selected as the eight strongest, most important country in the world, in a survey compiled by a very prestigious American business school. A great recognition of the unbelievable success of the Zionist project. In a normal world, Israel should have received the Noble Prize in the category of a state success, a prize which does not exist, but should have been invented, as an incentive for relatively new states, and Israel is still a seventy years young state. However, the world is not normal, and one of the most dramatic symptoms of that, is the persistence, in fact the intensification of this old plague, called antisemitism. It is old antisemitism , couched in modern terms which is behind the world wide campaign against the very legitimacy and existence of one Jewish state, in a region where it is surrounded by over twenty Arab and Muslim states. So, here is at least one important justification for the new proposed Nationality Law. It is not a sign of weakness, it is not an indication of lack of self confidence,it is not an over reaction to an insignificant hostile campaign, rather it is a simple, normal, healthy human reaction of reasserting pride in face of hatred. The great Tal Brody once said it so nicely”we are on the map.” The Nationality Law is yet another reminder of that. A reminder though, but not the most important item on the national agenda of Israel and the Jewish people, but then why not?. Time for reminders for ourselves and others as to who we are and why we are. So, it is a Law which has a place in the book of laws, but has to be a source of the largest possible amount of support, not of friction. If we do it, we have to do it properly.

Yes, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and the realization of the right for national self determination in the state is reserved only to the Jewish people. Yes, the national anthem is ‘Hatikvah”,united Jerusalem is the Capital of the state, and the state of the Jewish people should, as stipulated in the Law , strive to help maintain Jewish identity in the Diaspora, as well as do what can be done to prevent troubles to Jews abroad. All these are essential,fundamental Zionist values. Those who object to all the above, are mostly those who object to the very existence of a state of the Jewish people. Simply put, A-Zionists, Post-Zionists, Anti-Zionists, whether Jews or non-Jews. Let them yell and scream, as the convoy of Zionism moves on and on. These people do not need any Law in Israel to serve as justification for their opposition for the very existence of Israel. Their objections are of no significance, barks in the wind. No need to waste any time about them.

There are however other elements in the Law which are problematic, and one does not need to be non-Zionist to raise objections to them. First, the word equality-Shivyon , must appear in the clause[7 A], which deals with the rights of non Jewish citizens of Israel to maintain and promote their identity. No need to work too hard on that, just go back to the Declaration of Independence and copy what is said there. This word Shivyon is the one word which cannot be omitted from this proposed Law. The spirit of clause 7 A is about that, so what is the stupid insistence on not using the specific word?. I am aware of the sense of anger ,even betrayal, felt by those non-Jews citizens, for example, Druze, Christians, Circassians and Arab Muslims who are loyal, devoted citizens of the state, and feel rightly left out by this clause in its current form.Let it be clear here-the yells of Hanin Zuabi , Ayman Odeh and co. make no impression on me, as they reject the very notion of a Jewish nation state, but I am tuned to so many ordinary non Jewish citizens. Their grievances should be taken into account and immediately. In this regard clause 7 B , the one referring to to the possibility to establish communal settlements reserved only to one single religious/ethnic group is open to all kinds of hostile interpretations, even with the latest revisions of the last few hours.Nor do I like clause 4 about the status of Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew should be defined in 4 A , as the national and official language of the state of the Jewish people, but Arabic can and should be recognized as an official language. The change in the status of Arabic is troubling, unnecessary and should be corrected.

Likud is the party behind this Law, so the following is addressed to its 30 Mks and, of course, the leadership. I, unlike others, cannot speak on behalf of our great leader and teacher Ze’ev Jabotinsky.I envy those who claim that they can do it, but I do remember however his immortal words, about Sham yirve lo meshefa vaosher,ben Arav, Ben Nazareth ubni[there they will live in affluence and joy, the Muslim, Christian and Jew]. So, I have a feeling , that without the corrections to the Law as suggested above, the party which still bears and cherishes the name of the great man, does not do justice to his legacy with this Law in its current form. Not too late to change.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina