Supreme Court Asked to Rethink Ruling That Nationality May Not Be Changed From 'Jewish' to 'Israeli'

Petitioners argue that upholding of Israel's current ethnicity-based definition unduly hurts its non-Jewish citizens.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

A nonprofit organization has appealed to the Supreme Court to readdress its decision that the existence of an Israeli nationality has not been proved.

The group I Am an Israeli, comprised of Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens, argues that the official nationality “Israeli” should be allowed, not the current definition under which one has Israeli citizenship but nationality based on one’s ethnicity.

In their request made Thursday, the petitioners stress the ramifications of October’s court decision, which was widely reported in the foreign media. They say it should be reconsidered because of its implications for non-Jewish Israelis.

Israeli law on the courts provides for requests for further hearings before a panel of five or more judges if the issue is deemed sufficiently important.

The petitioners say the Supreme Court decision that Israel will no longer be a Jewish state if Israeli nationality is recognized “empties the definition of Israel as a democratic state.”

They also attack the court’s decision that “a person cannot belong to two nations. If Israeli nationality is recognized, members of the Jewish nation in Israel will have to choose between the two. Are they Israelis? Then they will not be Jews. Or are they Jews? Then they cannot be Israelis. This also applies to the minority populations.”

The appellants say the Supreme Court took upon itself the responsibility of defining the Jewish nation, to which belong Diaspora Jews, who have different nationalities by free choice. They say Diaspora Jews are still Jews, and the fact that they possess French nationality or any other does not put their Jewishness in doubt.

The petitioners say the court decision effectively negates the possibility of a non-Jew having equal standing in Israel. In this way, “An Arab could never belong to the Israeli nation, like every person in the world who has the nationality of his country – just as American Jews are Americans, Belgian Jews are Belgians and similarly in every Western democratic state.”

The petitioners add that they are not asking the judges to recognize the existence of Israeli nationhood, they just want the court to instruct the Interior Ministry to register citizens’ nationality in a way that reflects their beliefs. They also say that if many Israelis ask to be registered as Israeli nationals, this will prove that such a nationality exists.

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