The bill introduced by 40 MKs headed by Kadima's Avi Dichter for a new Basic Law establishing Israel as the "national home of the Jewish people" effectively shatters Israel's fragile definition as a Jewish, democratic state. The bill replaces it with a definition that is nationalist and religious; the term "national home" stands in opposition to rationalist Zionism. Theodor Herzl said in Basel that the Zionists sought to create a "home for the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael, secured by public law." The "home for the Jewish people," according to Dichter and company, is the opposite of this aim. It is all withdrawal in the name of extreme, nationalist "Judaism."
The bill defines in great detail the Jewish essence of the state. The definition of democracy, however, is reduced to one short clause and leaves much room for interpretation as a dictatorship of the majority rather than a regime committed to civil rights and the protection of minorities. The goal of rescinding the Arabic language's official status, also included in the bill, is to erase the Arab citizens' language, culture and heritage from the Israeli identity.
The bill's preamble states that many people are trying "to eliminate recognition of the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people." But the things endangering the support of the nations of the world for Israel - and among marginal elements also the recognition of Israel as the national home for the Jewish people - are the occupation and the many blows to Israeli democracy.
This bill, which violates the promise of equality contained in the Declaration of Independence and tells Arabs they are unwanted, second-class citizens whose taxes will be used to preserve Jewish heritage, coincides with high-flown talk about the importance of integrating the country's Arab citizens into the state and its economy. The bill also specifies the superiority of the principles of Judaism over the principles of freedom. Legislating a preference for Jewish law opens the door to the destruction of the judicial system and its subordination to religious political power.
A few MKs have already withdrawn their support for the bill, while others are hesitating. We can only hope that before the bill is submitted to a vote, everyone will realize that the entire proposal is dangerous to democracy and would turn Israel into a place that is difficult to live in, not only for its Arab citizens but also for free, enlightened Jews.
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