Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Jewish Nation-State Bill:
Israel's Precarious Identity is
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, May
The Israeli Knesset (parliament) has hurriedly passed a new
bill that defines Israel as the "national home of the Jewish people."
Although the association between Jewishness and Israel goes back to the
foundation of the state, the new law also carries clear discriminatory
elements that target the country's Arab communities, numbering nearly
two million people.
The 'Jewish Nation-State Bill' is the latest
concoction of Israel's rightwing Zionist Jewish parties, which have
dominated Israeli politics for years. With the Israeli 'Left' rendered
irrelevant, or has itself moved to the right, the rightwing elements of
Israel are now the supreme rulers of that country.
definition, Israel is, at best, an inadequate ‘democracy’ or a
democracy for Jews only, although it has promoted itself for decades as
the ‘Middle East’s only democracy’. Like other Middle Eastern
governments, Israel uses all the right sounding words and phrases, but
its political system is neither fair nor representative of all citizens
regardless of race, ethnicity or religion.
In some way, Israel
behaves as if Palestinian Arabs - Christian or Muslim – do not exist.
Whether citizens of Israel or the occupied Palestinians in East
Jerusalem, the West Bank or besieged Gaza, they are all, to varied
degrees, invisible to Israel’s political system.
Israeli Arabs enjoy a semblance of rights - a fact that is often
underscored by Israel as a proof of its democratic credentials -
millions of occupied Palestinians exist completely outside the system.
The only rules that applies to them are the rules of war and guidelines
set by military courts and carried out by occupation soldiers.
But nearly a fifth of Israel's own population - native Palestinians -
are subjected to an array of discriminatory laws that collectively
render their fundamental human and political rights devoid of substance.
‘Adalah’, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, has
established a database of
new and proposed bills at the Knesset that discriminate against
Palestinians and privilege the Jewish citizens of Israel. They are many.
Reporting in ‘Al Jazeera’, Jonathan
Cook explained the nature of discrimination that will be
introduced once the Jewish Nation-State Bill becomes law. "Among its
provisions, the legislation revokes the status of Arabic as an official
language," he wrote.
Once the bill is enacted into law, which
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed to achieve in the
course of 60 days, the legislation will increase "the powers of
so-called 'admissions committees' that block Palestinian citizens from
living in hundreds of communities that control most of Israel’s land."
In fact, none of this is entirely new. Israel was established as a
state for the Jews, regardless of their birthplace and current
residence, following the destruction of Palestine and the ethnic
cleansing of its population.
Palestinians are still reeling
under that very Nakba – or ‘Catastrophe’ - that had befallen their
ancestors in 1948. When Israel was established, over 500 Palestinian
towns and villages were destroyed, and the Arab, Muslim and Christian
identity of that country was violently gutted out, to be replaced by a
The proposed law is but one of numerous such
attempts, using 'democracy' as a vehicle to perfect the marginalization
Israel never had a constitution, but a set of
Basic Laws. It opted not to have a constitution because such a document
requires a clear definition of the country's borders. An expansionist
state since birth, Israel has postponed the question of borders to a
The Basic Laws have also defined Israel as a Jewish
state. For 70 years, various Israeli governments from the Right, Left
and Center, used such definitions to discriminate against Palestinian
Arabs, denying them access to most of the country’s land, to live in
certain communities or politically organize in any way that may be
deemed perilous to the Jewish identity of Israel. Those who refused to
comply were treated as fifth column and traitors. In fact, Palestinian
Arab citizens have always been treated as third class citizens.
However, the clustering of Israel's Right in recent years, the rise of
the ultranationalist parties and the further religionization of the
country's identity has pushed the scale of discrimination against the
Palestinian community in Israel to an all-time high.
a majority in the Knesset voted in favor of a bill that, in principle,
could expel members
of Knesset whose views are judged as contrary to those of the
"This law presents a most grave danger to one of the
most basic civil rights in a democratic society – the right to vote and
the right to be elected," ‘Adalah’ said in a
statement at the time.
Like previous laws, the 'expulsion
law' is "intended to expel Arab Knesset members who 'dare' to stray
beyond the boundaries dictated to them by the Israeli Jewish majority,
thus silencing the voice of the Palestinian Arab public."
Although a religious matter to some, the emphasis on the Jewish identity
of Israel was hardly a question of religion, but a matter pertaining to
race and ethnicity.
It is a known fact that Theodor
Herzel, founding father of Zionism - the ideology upon which Israel
was founded - and David Ben-Gurion, Israel's 'founding father' were both
For them, and other leaders of the early
Zionist Movement, Judaism was a vehicle that helped galvanize the
collective energy of Jewish communities around the world to 'return' to
the ‘mother homeland’.
Referring to Ben-Gurion, David
Hulme wrote in Vision.org "even in his later years he demonstrated
no great sympathy for the elements of traditional Judaism, though he
quoted the Bible extensively in his speeches and writings - more than
any other Jewish politician then or since."
Such ethnic and
religious jingoism continue to define Israel's attitude towards
Palestinians. However, a new breed of purely religious Zionists has
morphed in recent years to replace Ben-Gurion's national Zionism which
used religion to merely achieve its political aims.
Zionist is determined to achieve complete dominance over Palestinian
The Jewish Nation-State Bill is particularly dangerous
for it crosses all previous lines. Masked as a renewed emphasis on
Israel's Jewishness, the law will push the country's minorities further
into a corner.
The law will further officiate racism in Israel
and cement a growing Apartheid system.
Yet Netanyahu insists
that "there is no contradiction at all between this bill and equal
rights for all citizens of Israel."
Israel's odd definition of
democracy and relentless attempts to reconcile between democracy and
racial discrimination, however, is rarely challenged among its American
and European allies.
Palestinians, on the other hand, are
bearing the brunt of racism more than ever before, for Israel’s Jewish
dream has become their never-ending nightmare.
- Dr. Ramzy
Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is
an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author
of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books
include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his
latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His
website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
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