Israel’s Knesset Passes Controversial Nation State Bill
Last week Caracal Reports published an article detailing the controversial ‘Nation State’ bill. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged a vote in the Knesset prior to the July 22nd recess. From our reporting:
A portion of the new controversial Israeli law would give legal backing to Jewish-only communities, excluding Palestinians. The law could create a legal precedent for discriminating against individuals based on their ethnic background. Critics state the proposed ‘Nation-State’ draft law would create a two-tier ethnic system in Israeli law, where Palestinians are prevented from obtaining equal human rights.
On Thursday Netanyahu was granted his wish when the ‘Nation State’ bill passed in the Knesset by a narrow 62-55 margin. Two members abstained from voting. The result led to several Palestinian MPs to be removed from chambers by security after shouting, “You are racist,” towards Parliment Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein.
Hassan Jabareen, general director of Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, was quoted by Middle East Eye:
The new law constitutionally enshrines the identity of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people only – despite the 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of the state and residents of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights – and guarantees the exclusive ethnic-religious character of Israel as Jewish.
“By defining sovereignty and democratic self-rule as belonging solely to the Jewish people – wherever they live around the world – Israel has made discrimination a constitutional value and has professed its commitment to favoring Jewish supremacy as the bedrock of its institutions,” he continued.
Critics state the law does not guarantee Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens of Israel are protected to equal rights under the law, demotes non-Hebrew languages to being ‘special status.” Liberal to Social Democratic Jewish Isralies, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Israel’s president and civil rights groups have all stated the law could amount to apartheid.
The Anti-Defamation League and The American Jewish Committee immediately critique the passing of legislation stating that it is ‘disappointing’ and could lead to discrimination. Jeremy Ben-Ami of the progressive J Street organization did not hold back his disdain for the bill going as far as to say Netanyahu’s government “was born in sin,” as quoted by Haaretz, he continued:
Its only purpose is to send a message to the Arab community, the LGBT community and other minorities in Israel, that they are not and never will be equal citizens,” said Ben-Ami. “Two months ago we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, where it was written that the State of Israel ‘will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or gender.’ Today Netanyahu’s government is trying to ignore those words and the values that they represent.
The National Council of Young Israel praised the bill, “While the democratic State of Israel facilitates freedom of religion and affords people of various backgrounds the right to visit and reside there, the reality is that Israel is inherently a Jewish state and affirming that fact does not contravene the liberties that it benevolently bestows to individuals of other faiths.”
The passing of the bill will undoubtedly raise Israeli-Palestinian tension and push the conflict back into the international spotlight. The full text of the law is below, provided by J Post:
1. The State of Israel
a) Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people in which the state of Israel was established.
b) The state of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, in which it actualizes its natural, religious, and historical right for self-determination.
c) The actualization of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
2. National symbols of the State of Israel
a) The name of the state is Israel.
b) The flag of the state is white, two blue stripes near the edges, and a blue Star of David in the center.
c) The symbol of the state is the Menorah with seven branches, olive leaves on each side, and the word Israel at the bottom.
d) The national anthem of the state is “Hatikvah”
e) [Further] details concerning the issue of state symbols will be determined by law.
3. [The] unified and complete [city of] Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
4. The Language of the State of Israel
a) Hebrew is the language of the state.
b) The Arabic language has a special status in the state; the regulation of the Arab language in state institutions or when facing them will be regulated by law.
c) This clause does not change the status given to the Arabic language before the basic law was created.
5. The state will be open to Jewish immigration and to the gathering of the exiled.
6. The Diaspora
a) The state will labor to ensure the safety of sons of the Jewish people and its citizens who are in trouble and captivity due to their Jewishness or their citizenship.
b) The state will act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious legacy of the Jewish people among the Jewish diaspora.
7. The state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.
8. The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside it the secular calendar will serve as an official calendar. The usage of the Hebrew calendar and of the secular calendar will be determined by law.
9. National Holidays
a) Independence Day is the official holiday of the state.
b) The Memorial Day for those who fell in the wars of Israel and the Memorial Day for the Holocaust and heroism are official memorial days of the state.
10. Saturday and the Jewish Holidays are the official days of rest in the state. Those who are not Jewish have the right to honor their days of rest and their holidays. Details concerning these matters will be determined by law.
11. This Basic Law may not be altered except by a Basic Law that gained the approval of the majority of the Knesset members.