Israeli Academic: Loyalty Oath Resembles Racist Laws of 1935

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Israeli artists, writers and intellectuals held on Sunday a demonstration against the cabinet's approval of a controversial amendment to the citizenship bill, requiring non-Jews seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Actress Hana Maron speaks at demonstration against loyalt oath in Tel Aviv Oct. 10, 2010Credit: Moti Milrod

Over 100 people gathered in front of Independence Hall in Tel Aviv and protested against what they called 'the continuous erosion of Israeli democracy.'

Actress Hana Maron read from the Declaration of Independence: "I will read this again:' [the state of Israel] will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex'. This makes me want to cry. What has become of us?" said Maron.

The amendment to the citizenship bill is one of the promises Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made to Yisrael Beitenu in the coalition agreements. Since coming into government Yisrael Beitenu has advanced a long list of "loyalty" laws, which many consider to be discriminatory against Israel's Arab citizens.

Author Sefi Rachlevsky said that "a country that invades the sacred space of the citizen's conscience, and punishes him for opinions and beliefs that are not in line with the authorities ceases to be a democracy and becomes a fascist state."

Rachlevsky read from a document titled "the declaration of independence from fascism".

"We, citizens of Israel have gathered here to announce that we shall not be citizens of the country purporting to be the state of Israel," said Rachlevsky.

Israeli educational psychologist Prof. Gavriel Solomon said that "the idea of Judenrein (Jew free zone), or Arab-rein is not new... Some might say 'how can you compare us to Nazis'. I am not talking about the death camps, but about the year 1935. There were no camps yet but there were racist laws. And we are heading forward towards these kinds of laws. The government is clearly declaring our incapacity for democracy."

Sculptor Dani Karavan, who created a famous relief in the Knesset assembly hall, said that he was "ashamed of this wall it is a disgrace for me as an artist that a creation of mine serves as the setting for such legislation."

Netanyahu's Labor coalition partners believe that his support for the loyalty oath is a sop to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, aimed at winning his Yisrael Beiteinu party's support for an extension on a settlement construction freeze that expired late last month. The U.S. and EU have urged Israel to extend the construction freeze, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that he will quit the current round of peace talks if the moratorium on new building in the West Bank is allowed to expire.