New Israeli nationality law defies Jewish values: it will deepen divides and cripple democracy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2018, 11:01pm

On July 19, the Israeli Knesset passed a new “basic law” which in the main enshrines “Israel [as] the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established”. It also says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people … [and] Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”

On the surface, there is not much that is new in this law. Israel has been practising its provisions for years. Nevertheless, the law betrays Israel’s foundational document, its declaration of independence. It will severely cripple Israel’s democracy, and the argument that the new law does not tamper with Israel’s democracy and equality among all of its citizens – regardless of their cultural, racial or religious orientation – is fake, misleading and ultimately self-defeating.

The new law limits immigration to Israel to Jews only, indirectly relegates the Israeli Arabs to second-class citizens, and allows discrimination against non-Jews in allocating resources for housing and segregated communities. It will serve as a recipe for the continuing conflict with the Palestinians at large while further diminishing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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Furthermore, this law officially embraces revisionist Zionism that focuses exclusively on the right of the Jews to the land of Palestine with a Jewish state, and discards mainstream Israeli Jews who are appalled by the scenes of Palestinian oppression and gross human rights violation.

This new law will not only discriminate against non-Jews, but further deepen the divide between the liberally enlightened Jews who believe in equality and human rights for all citizens, and those who want to preserve the Jewish exclusiveness of the country. They ignore the fact that such division will be at the expense of destroying the Jews’ bond with one another, both among Israelis and between Israelis and their counterparts in the Jewish diaspora.

Dr Alon Ben-Meir, New York