Opinion

The Criminals Who Passed the Nation-state Law Must Be Tried at the ICC

Arabs and democratic-minded Jews in Israel have the right to turn to the United Nations and request support against the abusive parties

Netanyahu's face on a poster in a rally to protest the Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 4, 2018.
CORINNA KERN/Reuters

If a mohel, a practitioner of Jewish ritual circumcision, were to post a sign with a picture of male genitalia on the door of his office, in order to promote business, we can reasonably assume that his place of business would be closed that same day, and the residents would be considered very tolerant if they didn’t expel him from the city. There are professions and deeds and thoughts that one doesn’t declare, except in code.

Have you ever received the business card of a thief: “John Doe and Sons – We steal all types of vehicles and electrical appliances?” Could we expect a racist to proudly introduce himself as: “Joe Doe the racist?” On the contrary, he’ll introduce himself as a proud patriot, who is working to purify the race.

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But in Israel, the right has decided, contrary to all logic, to break this iron rule. After all, what was wrong with the existing situation? For the past 70 years the government has been doing whatever it likes to the Arabs, and at the same time, anyone who enters Israel is welcomed with blinding slogans about a country that loves humanity; a true light unto the nations. No longer. Now, after passing the nation-state law, the State of Israel is by definition an apartheid state, and veteran diplomat Alon Liel writes on Twitter that South African apartheid fell not because there was racism, but because it was enshrined in law.

The truth is that there is no need for the example of the mohel to understand how to act. Israel’s founding fathers will suffice. In the past, whenever I was exposed to the Israeli Declaration of Independence, I was filled with amazement. How is it possible that in the bloody whirlwind of 1948 the leaders of the yishuv, the area of pre-state Jewish settlement, were imbued with a spirit of conciliation, that they composed a document dripping with such love of mankind, and promised “to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions” (a promise that of course evaporated a moment after the declaration’s signing).

I once naively thought that David Ben-Gurion, in a moment of spiritual elevation, had suddenly acquired the gene of humaneness. But then I happened to obtain a text by legal scholar Ehud Eliav, who demonstrates the close connection between the civil rights clause in the Declaration of Independence and Part C (“Declaration”) of the United Nations 1947 Partition Plan. Ben Gurion understood what the world wanted, did what was expected of him, and the world, in its great goodness, ticked off the item and went on to discuss the next bloody conflict.

The UN partition plan also states, “The stipulations contained in the declaration are recognized as fundamental laws of the State nor shall any law, regulation or official action prevail over them.”

And: “The provisions of chapters 1 and 2 of the declaration shall be under the guarantee of the United Nations, and no modifications shall be made in them without the assent of the General Assembly of the United Nations.” And: “Any dispute relating to the application or the interpretation of this declaration shall be referred, at the request of either party, to the International Court of Justice.”

The nation-state law therefore comes to replace a fundamental law that the United Nations prohibited playing around with. In my opinion, those who passed the nation-state law are criminals. And not just ordinary criminals, but international criminals who must be held to account in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. A country that has retreated from its declaration of independence, which is based on the UN resolution, destroys its international legitimacy, and the Arabs and democratic-minded Jews in Israel have the right to turn to the United Nations and request support against the abusive parties.

And one more thing: At the moment, Netanyahu cannot ask the world to recognize Israel as the Jewish nation state. After this law, who will recognize a declared apartheid state?