'Abolish This Sin': Amoz Oz, David Grossman and Hundreds of Israeli Intellectuals Slam Nation-state Law

Intellectuals fire at Netanyahu: 'You have been steadily eroding the foundations of our state'

David Grossman, one of the intellectuals who signed the petition against the nation-state law, speaking at a peace rally in 2014.
Moti Milrod

Hundreds of Israeli artists, authors and intellectuals released a petition Saturday calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abolish the nation-state law, which formally defined Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and a law on surrogacy rights that excluded gay men.

The signatories, among them David Grossman, Amos Oz, A. B. Yehoshua, Eshkol Nevo, Etgar Keret and Orly Castel-Bloom, wrote: "There are transgressions that are for the court to judge. But there are sins that touch at the core of the Jewish people and its homeland, which merit the attention of intellectuals and of the judgement of history."

>> Explained: Israel's contentious nation-state law: everything you need to know ■ Analysis: Jewish nation-state law makes discrimination in Israel constitutional

The Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People approved by the Knesset on July 19 affirmed that only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel. It also downgraded Arabic to a language with “special status,” among several other controversial measures that affect the Israeli Druze.

The nation-state law is designed to alter the application of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty in court rulings, and permits judges to give priority to Israel’s Jewish character in their rulings.

The petition continued: "The nation-state law, according to which the State of Israel is the national state of the Jews only, expressly permits racial and religious discrimination, nullifies Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew, does not mention democracy as the foundation of the country and does not mention equality as a basic value. As such, the nation-state law contradicts the definition of the state as a democratic state and contradicts the Declaration of Independence on which the state was founded. These are two things that no Knesset has the right to do."

The authors wrote to Netanyahu: "During the years of your rule, you have been steadily eroding the foundations of our state. You have harmed the relations between Israel and American Jewry and you have pushed entire populations into poverty. You have dealt a severe blow to Israeli society, but the most serious blow is to the values of equality and mutual responsibility on which Israeli society is based and from which it draws its strength.

"We demand the immediate abolishment of the nation-state law, which creates a rift between Israeli society and American Jewry, discriminates against the Arabs, the Druze and the Bedouin, and undermines the coexistence of the Jewish majority in Israel with its minorities. We demand your immediate response to the demand for equality for members of the LGBT community.

"These laws violate the right to parenthood of members of the LGBT community. They join a long list of steps taken by the Israeli government under your leadership, and have harmed other sectors of Israeli society, including Reform and Conservative Judaism, the sick and the elderly, Holocaust survivors and the disabled, single mothers and Ethiopian immigrants."