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Op-eds

Israel has the right to define and protect its own democracy

  • DanDiker1
Israel’s recent legislation of the Nation-State Law provided another relished opportunity by Israel’s adversaries and enemies to delegitimise the country’s Jewish-majority democracy’s character.
by DAN DIKER | Jul 26, 2018

The Jewish State legislation has been fundamentally misunderstood. It has been slandered by some in South Africa, Europe and the United States, whose own majority characters include similar official languages, symbols and holidays which, when applied to Israel, are branded as “apartheid”.

As in any viable democracy, Israel’s national state law protects the civil, religious and human rights of its non-Jewish minorities. However, after 70 years of statehood, it belatedly enshrines in law its democratic majority’s national character as the nation state of the Jewish people.

Here are the facts of the Nation-State Law. It does nothing to compromise, prejudice or diminish the legally protected and equal civil and religious rights of Israel’s minority populations. The law merely enshrines what was clearly stated in Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence. This was affirmed some 36 months after the German Nazi regime had completed its massacre of more than six million Jews. It was only months after the British government refused to allow tens of thousands of Jewish survivors to take refuge in Israel.

Israel’s national state law does nothing to change or amend its Declaration of Independence, which states that: “…(Israel) will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions…

“We appeal – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the building of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

The Jewish State Law supplements Israel’s Declaration of Independence that did not enshrine Israel’s Jewish character – the Menorah – as its national symbol, the Jewish holidays as official state holidays, and Hebrew as Israel’s 3 800-year-old national language.

Israel’s Jewish State bill legally codifies the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination, which it deserves as any unique people do, and which the US and European states embrace as the basis of their liberal democracies. Some European countries which have official churches, such as the Church of England, have not aroused the human rights activists.

Eugene Kontorovich, professor of International Law at Northwestern University, pointed out recently in the Wall Street Journal that: “The Slovak constitution opens with the words, ‘We the Slovak nation’, and lays claim to ‘the natural right of nations to self-determination’. The Latvian constitution opens by invoking the ‘unwavering will of the Latvian nation to have its own state and its inalienable right of self-determination in order to guarantee the existence and development of the Latvian nation, its language and culture throughout the centuries’. It is notable that Latvia has a 25% Russian population.

Charges that the Jewish State Law discriminates and downgrades the Arabic language from an official language to a special status language lack merit. Nothing has changed in the special protected status of the Arabic language. It is included on all Israeli products and instructional booklets, and it is spoken as a lingua franca in Israeli public institutions, hospitals, schools, government offices – not to mention hotels, restaurants and commercial agencies, many of which are managed and staffed by Arabic-speaking Israelis.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Jewish State Law is its determination that “the state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation”.

Let’s be clear. The Jewish people have lived in the land of Israel for some 3 800 years. Jews were murdered, tortured and exiled from virtually every country in the Arab lands of the Middle East and Europe in which they were loyal citizens. The land of Israel is the only small corner of the world where Jews can live and defend themselves.

The thousands of Jews killed and maimed by Islamic and Arab terror in the land of Israel bolsters the need for Jewish settlement and self-defence.

Ironically, the Jewish State Law might never have come into being save for two threats to Israel’s existence as a democratic national state of the Jewish people.

Many of Israel’s 18 elected Arab representatives in parliament have actively worked to subvert, demonise and delegitimise any Jewish connection or right of the 80% Jewish majority to self-determination. For decades Arab members of Knesset, very well and as equally compensated in line with their Jewish parliamentary colleagues, publicly encourage and justify radical Islamic and Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and Tanzim to act against Israel. Arab legislators have publically pushed for Israel to be disbanded as a Jewish majority state and reconfigured as a 23rd Arab Muslim majority state.

Palestinian Leaders in the West Bank have done the same. Palestinian Authority (PA) and PLO founder Yasser Arafat, and current PA leader Mahmoud Abbas never accepted a Jewish sovereign entity anywhere in the Middle East in any borders. Period. Both Palestinian heads of the PA have paid hundreds of millions of international donor dollars to Palestinian terrorists and their families to incentivise them to kill Israelis.

The Jewish State Law, therefore, sends an important message that these ongoing efforts to cause Israel’s implosion from within, and its destruction by external enemies, will fail. Israel’s majority character as the nation state of the Jewish people, together with protected minorites, will continue to succeed.

Sometimes it requires putting it into law to make the point.

  • Dan Diker is a Fellow and Project Director of the Program to counter BDS and Political Warfare at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has lived and worked in Israel since 1990.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Devora Even-Tov 27 Jul
    I am fully behind that law being put in place. I am just surprised that it took so long. The land of Israel belongs to the Jews of the world. It will forever belong to them. 
    The Jewish State Law should send this important message to all, and if those members of parliment in Israel cannot abide and accept these laws, then maybe they should not be in the Kenesset.

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