First, Israel is already a Jewish state, and second, from the perspective of its Arab citizens, it’s a state that’s already seen as a preferential rather than full democracy. And passage of this gratuitous and provocative new law will only widen the growing and still irreconcilable gap between the two.
But now in the highly charged world of Israel’s political right, it’s made its biggest advances to date in the effort to enshrine Israel’s Jewish identity, as one of its Basic Laws that provide the foundation for the country’s legal and political system in the absence of a formal constitution, which Israel does not have. The bill’s defenders (among them Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu) maintain that it states the obvious, is long overdue, and is also essential to making clear to the Arab world (and the Palestinians in particular) that there can be no right of return for Palestinians into Israel proper.
“The natural and best way is for the ‘national’ character of a state to be ensured by the very fact that it has a particular majority.” And, as if taking its cue from the Zionist leader, that’s just what the Israelis have done.
It’s a Jewish state not just through declarations but through deeds as well. History, tradition, law, symbols, and practice anchor Israel’s Jewish nation-state identity through its ancient biblical connections; centuries of exilotic longing; a Law of Return; a national anthem that puts a return to Jewish Zion upfront; a flag that depicts a Jewish prayer shawl and star of David; a Hebrew language unique to only one nation-state; and, above all, as Jabotinsky had hoped, a population of 8 million, 6 million-plus of whom are Jews. It’s hard to believe that despite the secular character of Israel that aliens arriving in Tel Aviv wouldn’t quickly realize that they had landed in a distinct nation-state run by Jewish Israelis.
And yet a series of laws (most notably the Law of Return and the 1952 Citizenship Law) explicitly favor Israeli Jews. Other administrative rules and regulations give preference to Jewish and Zionist organizations in matters relating to access to land and housing. Then there is systemic, institutional, and societal discrimination that simply does not ensureequal allocation of state budgets and symmetrical benefits to Arab and Jewish communities. The clear absence of a shared public square where Israeli Jews and Arabs can participate equally and take pride in the symbols of the state — national anthem, flag, state holidays — can only reinforce a sense of isolation and separation. That Israeli Arabs may well enjoy more rights than citizens of many Arab countries and would likely not choose to live elsewhere, including in a putative state of Palestine on the West Bank and Gaza, are often arguments used to rationalize their second-class status. But these arguments really don’t work. If you are a real democracy then you make a determined commitment to try to be one, and that means doing everything possible to ensure that all citizens of the stare are treated equally in a de jure and de facto manner too.
1. Either democracy is the enemy in the sense that it is, like communism, and other collective ideologies, a method of propagating fears to suppress individual innovation, self-faith, God, diversity and success out of envy and self-asceticism.
2. Perhaps the issue is gerrymandering or manufacturing of facts, by battling democracy through republican-esque funding and manufacturing consent.
3. Israel never intent on being a democracy and can’t be do to religious and exclusive foundation thus rendering it incompatible with modern institutions and international peace. Apartheid, not democracy.
4. Keep in mind total population of Palestinians in the world outnumbers the total number of Israelis: 11 million Palestinians to approximately 9 million Israelis. (If we want to count Jews then we ought to count Muslims, which would be no comparison). Obviously, the Palestinians are not in Israel and the majority have left Palestine due to the occupation; but this diaspora of refugees would not exist if Israel wasn’t there. Democracy, or apartheid?
“Israel is a relatively young country. If you looked at the United States in 1830, roughly 60 years after independence, you would have found a nation where women couldn’t vote (and many white males, too), blacks were slaves, and native Americans’ lands were seized and tribes forcibly relocated. In a way, Israel’s situation was much closer to America’s in the 1950s, when millions of African-Americans suffered de facto and de jure discrimination. So it’s critically important to give maturing democracies an opportunity to deal with inequalities and discriminatory policies. After all, it took America a full century and half, a civil war, and a bitterly contested civil rights movement to reconcile the promise contained in the Declaration of Independence with the reality that our Constitution validated chattel slavery. And by the looks of Ferguson, Missouri, we still have a ways to go before eliminating the patterns of racial discrimination in our system.”
- America Today: Mike Brown murdered; Eric Garner murdered; prison-system; jim crow…not very promising for ‘democracy’ or ‘State of Israel’.