Six countries including America’s good friend Saudi Arabia claim Islam as the ideological foundation of state and constitution. Fourteen other countries and the Palestinian Territories have legally set Islam as their state religion. But legally create one Jewish State; it becomes the biggest affront to human rights since…well the last trumped up charge against Israel
The Israeli cabinet approved on Sunday a basic law “Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” legislation that cements Israel’s status as a Jewish state
Set to be voted on by the Knesset by the end of the week is a new law that Israel, among other things, as “a democratic state, founded on the principles of liberty, justice and peace, in accordance with the vision of Israel’s prophets, which upholds the individual rights of all of its citizens according to the law.”
The bill also says ”Jewish law will serve as an inspiration for the Knesset,” When a particular judicial quandary cannot be derived directly from Jewish law, bill continues that the Knesset may decide on the matter based on “the principals of liberty, justice, integrity and peace, in light of the heritage of Israel.”
It also asserts “national rights” of the Jewish people, such as the flag and anthem and right to immigrate. The legislation determines that Israel will establish the Sabbath as a national day of rest, and states that the government will work to strengthen its connection with Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
Just as important by the time it reaches the Knesset it will include promises to allow each and every citizen of Israel, “regardless of religion, race or nationality, to act to preserve his or her culture, legacy, language and identity.”
Israel has no constitution per se; instead its constitutional character is made up of basic laws, judgments and the Declaration of Independence of 1948, which enshrines the right of the Jewish people to their own sovereign state and also pledges to “uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens.” If passed this so called Jewish law will become a “basic law.”
This new law implements the original vision of UN Resolution 181, the original partition resolution passed by the UN in November 1947. It did not call for the establishment of a state of Israel. UN Resolution 181 calls for dividing Palestine into Independent Arab and Jewish States.
There has been strong opposition to the bill within and outside Israel.
According a report in Haaretz, the attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, has expressed concern, shared by some ministers, that the new law would effectively give greater emphasis to Israel’s Jewish character at the expense of its democratic nature. A number of Israeli basic laws use the term “Jewish and democratic”, giving equal weight to both. They worry the new law would enshrine only the Jewish character of the state.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) stressed that under no circumstances would they or members of their parties, both secular in nature, vote in favor of the law in its current form, despite the possibility that Netanyahu could fire them. Livni believes the law could even break apart the Netanyahu coalition and force new elections.
“People ask who needs this bill; we have managed 66 years without it,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said ahead of the meeting. “And I ask, who needs the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, we managed 45 years without it. We need both,” he said. “Israel is a Jewish democratic state. There are those who want democracy to take precedence over Judaism, and those who want Judaism to take precedence over democracy. In the law that I am bringing, both principles are equal and must be given equal consideration.”
Netanyahu said Israel is the national home of the Jewish people where there are equal rights for every citizen. “But there are national rights only for the Jewish people; a flag, anthem, the right of every Jew to immigrate to Israel, and other national symbols,” he said. He promised to amend the draft before any final Knesset vote in Parliament to ensure, the principle of “equal individual rights for every citizen.”
The media was quick to trash the law as something that will inflame tensions. The “Associated Press “led its report with, “The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday moved to legally define the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people a decision that will likely inflame already-raw tensions.”
“The NY Times” began by calling it “a move that critics said could undermine the fragile relationship with the country’s Arab minority at a time of heightened tensions.”
Sydney Australia’s “The Age” led by calling it a “move that critics said could undermine the fragile relationship with the country's Arab minority at a time of heightened tensions.”
“The Guardian” in the UK said the bill “defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character.”
Nowhere in any of the reports does it compare Israel’s intended laws to that of its Muslim neighbors. The Israel law will guarantee freedom of religious practice; in Saudi Arabia for example you can be arrested for setting up a Christmas tree. The Egyptian constitution is closer to what Israel is proposing, it supposedly guarantees absolute freedom of belief, but Islam is the state religion. American ally Kuwait does not recognize religious groups not sanctioned in the Quran (Jews and Christians although there are no Jews left in the country). Other religions cannot operate their own official places of worship or obtain visas for their clergy. The Palestinian territories does not want Jews living within its borders.
The critics of the “Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People,” bills coming from two places, liberal in observance and secular Jews who believe it is possible to separate Jewishness from the religion, and media sources that will criticize Israel for anything she does.
Truth be told, Israel cannot demand that the Palestinians recognize her as the “Jewish State,” if Israel herself doesn’t recognize it as a Jewish State.
As long as the bill recognizes individual rights and freedom and continues to allow everyone equal voting rights, Israel will remain what it always has been a Democratic and Jewish State.