"Israel is a Jewish, Judaic and Judaistic nation-state whose purpose is to enable the Jewish nation to Judaize itself in a nation manner and to nationalize itself in a Jewish manner, in order to fulfill its nationalism and its Judaism." That, more or less, is the essence of the private member's bill submitted by MK Avi Dichter for a new Basic Law defining Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
Even a person to whom the Jewish state is as tasty as a cream cake would struggle to swallow buckets of pure cream. But beyond the obsessive manner with which the Jewish character of the state is emphasized, suggesting a lack of self-confidence, the draft law's content is highly problematic. The text does a huge disservice to the Jewish state. Were there a secret anti-Zionist headquarters whose purpose was to make as many Israelis as possible disgusted with the Jewish state, it would be difficult to come up with a better idea, from its perspective, than introducing this bill, stressing ad nauseam and with infinite reiteration the Jewish character of the state while downplaying its definition as a democratic state, violating the rights of its Arab minority and providing ideological justification for religious coercion. And all this comes not from a representative of the extreme right but rather from a senior member of Kadima, with support from a few of his colleagues.
The bill revokes the status of Arabic as a second official language. Why? Just because.
Why not revoke with the wave of a hand a right that was extended to the Arab minority when the state was founded? When a bull walks into a china shop, it doesn't ask how long a particular piece of china has been on the shelf. "Jewish law shall be a source of inspiration to legislators," states the bill. The entirety of Jewish law? In every sphere? There are matters in which it may be appropriate, or in any event legitimate, for Jewish law to serve as inspiration to legislators; for other matters it is completely inappropriate. Is Kadima saying that it stands behind the wholesale adoption of Jewish law as a source of inspiration for legislation (a formulation that was itself inspired by the constitutions of Arab states, most of which specify sharia as "a main source of legislation" )? Is that Kadima's position with regard to the rights of women, of Israel's non-Jewish citizens and of nonobservant Jews? Indeed, is there any position on these issues that can be said to be binding on a party that purports to represent the centrist, democratic and pragmatic stream of the Israeli public?
As long as the term "Jewish state" seeks to express the right of the Jewish people to a state, its supporters are on solid ground. To deny that right is to undermine and trample the principle of equality, even if it is purportedly done in the name of equality.
There are those who argue that there is no need to explicitly state that Israel is a Jewish nation-state on the grounds that this is "self-evident." The truth is that the Jewish people's right to a state is among the least self-evident things in the Middle East. There is no lack of people, within and without the state, who deny that right, which deserves to be defended in the same way as any other just principle under attack should be defended - explicitly and unequivocally. It is also obvious that many injustices have been and continue to be committed in the name of the Jewish state. This is of no consequence: Injustices have and are being done in the name of the right of Arab nations to national independence, too. In both cases the right must be defended and the injustice must be denounced. Dichter's draft law is an injustice in the name of the Jewish state, not protection of that state.
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