“Jewish State” Law promotes Discrimination of Minorities
Two weeks before the official visit of US President Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government uncovered on Sunday a bill that defines Israel as a “Jewish nation-state”, in a move that threatens to discriminate against minorities.
The legal text that will be submitted to the vote of Parliament foresees that Arabic ceases to be considered an official language, despite being the language of a fifth of the citizens, and only recognises the right to self-determination of the people Jewish.
The Israeli prime minister seems to be compensating his more nationalist coalition partners ahead of the foreseeable concessions that President Trump will demand for the resumption of dialogue with the Palestinians, paralyzed three years ago.
Netanyahu has been trying to force the country’s religious hegemonic identity into a fundamental law since 2011, even though the declaration of independence already defined Israel as a Jewish state 69 years ago.
The political differences over the adoption of the norm triggered the end of the coalition that supported his Executive and the call for early elections.
After having formed the most right-wing Cabinet in Israel’s history, Netanyahu now resurrects the controversial legal text. It has, however, been revised from the original wording that placed religious values before democratic ones by giving priority to Jewish law over other sources of law.
“The State of Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people,” says the bill approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, the body that sends the texts to the Knesset for discussion.
The Arab-Israeli citizens, the Palestinians who remained in the Hebrew state after partition of the territory by the British mandate, agreed by the UN in 1947, will have their co-official language revoked, as the bill declares Hebrew as “official language” and limits Arab-Israeli people access to “state services with a language that is accessible to them.”
Netanyahu has been demanding in recent months that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state before accepting the resumption of negotiations.
The Palestinians flatly reject this condition as it would imply the renunciation of the rights of millions of refugees who were forced to leave their homes and lands after the founding of Israel.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that the imposition “represents an obstacle on the road to peace.”
Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List of Arab parties in the Knesset, has described the “Jewish nation-state” bill as “the tyranny of the majority over a minority of second-class citizens.”
Justice Minister, religious nationalist Ayelet Shaked, called the legislation a “necessary step for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state.”
In a report submitted to the Government and quoted by Haaretz, the Institute for Democracy in Israel has warned that the bill undermines the rights of minorities.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami said that “Netanyahu is pushing back the democratic quality of a country that has a vital link with the West.”
“After half a century occupying Palestinian territory,” argued the Sefard Labor politician, “Israel is succumbing to its deepest ethnocentric impulses.”
Indeed, Israel is becoming what Nazi Germany used to be for European Jews.