On Thursday, Israel’s parliament passed a piece of legislation that declares that the country is now officially the “nation-state of the Jewish People.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has demanded in the past that Palestinians acknowledge Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.
Netanyahu called the passing of the bill a “historic moment in the history of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel.”
“Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, which honors the individual rights of all its citizens. I repeat this is our state. The Jewish state,” said Netanyahu. “Lately, there are people who are trying to destabilize this and therefore destabilize the foundations of our existence and our rights. So today we have made a law in stone. This is our country. This is our language. This is our anthem and this is our flag. Long live the state of Israel.”
“The legislation, a “basic law” — giving it the weight of a constitutional amendment — omits any mention of democracy or the principle of equality, in what critics called a betrayal of Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, which ensured “complete equality of social and political rights” for “all its inhabitants” no matter their religion, race or sex,” writes New York Times. “The new law promotes the development of Jewish communities, possibly aiding those who would seek to advance discriminatory land-allocation policies. And it downgrades Arabic from an official language to one with a “special status.”
The bill passed in the 120-seat Parliament by a close 62-55 vote.
However, this was a controversial move and has been condemned by centrists and leftists because not all the population is Jewish.
At least 21 percent of the population is Arab, specifically, there are nine million Arabs in Israel.
Individuals who aren’t Jewish now no longer feel welcome in their home.
“Today, I will have to tell my children, along with all the children of Palestinian Arab towns … that the state has declared that it does not want us here,” said Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List. “It has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.”
Jeremy Ben Ami, president of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, expressed similar sentiments and said the bill only sends “a message to the Arab community, the LGBT community and other minorities in Israel, that they are not and never will be equal citizens.”
He argues the legislation only weakens Israel’s democracy.
“Strong connection between Israel and Jews worldwide is based on these values that Israel is both a Jewish and democratic state,” said Ben Ami.
Critics also claim that the Israeli government can now be more hostile to Palestinians with this law in place.
“This bill is not about law or justice, it is all about normalizing the Israeli occupation and blurring the difference between Israel and the occupied territories that are under military rule,” said Roni Pelli of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “The explicit aim of the bill is to make things easier for Israeli authorities that harm Palestinians and to make it more difficult for them to achieve justice.”
Author’s note: I understand why Arabs would be upset over this. This law basically says another religion is the law of the land. This just reaffirms that religious freedom isn’t protected everywhere, even in countries with “democracies.”
Editor’s note: This is an interesting move by the Israeli’s but not necessarily the most diplomatic. It is possibly a mistake, but time will tell.