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What Sort of Equality Do You Mean?

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Tzipi Livni, the recently appointed Leader of the Opposition, gives a speech.
Tzipi Livni, the recently appointed Leader of the Opposition, gives a speech.Credit: Chandler West, IRL Productions

Opponents of the nation-state law, who hang onto the word “equality” as a solution to the public dispute, are either naïve or prejudiced because they know that true, absolute equality, which included national rights, is impossible. They lie to Israel’s minorities, who are fighting the law. They think they can fool the public that supports the law and lead us to at least the idea of a state for all its citizens. Forget the radical left. The ones in trouble here are the Zionist left.

Such is the case because equal civil rights, like the ones that Yuval Diskin called for in the march of the Saturday before last, already exist. No one is trying to say that there is nothing to improve, and let it be said to Israel’s credit that when it discriminates it does so without distinguishing between religion, race or sex, and Jews are often the main ones suffering discrimination. But Zionism aside, Israel is well-positioned on the scale between the rights and obligations of citizens in a democratic state.

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Yet what will happen when those minorities seek from Tzipi Livni, Avi Gabbay or Yuval Diskin, people of the Zionist left, national rights and national expression? How far will they go to fight for “equality” then? Will they agree to change the anthem or the flag? Will they decide on one language for all? It is terribly convenient to join with the Druze community, many of whom have really tied their fate to ours. They don’t seek to change the character or identity of the state. They feel an inalienable part of it, and they deserve the same treatment as all citizens. However, there are other minorities, and some of them identify with our enemies. Therefore, if those people who are suddenly fighting like this for “equality” want to remain Zionists, it isn’t clear how they will do that.

It is very easy to choose a word so loaded with enlightened and liberal connotations for public speeches. It is harder to implement it. You can test the level of seriousness with one small request by Jewish opponents of the law: Please draw the borders of your equality. How far will you go on behalf of Israel’s minorities? Then we will know if they mean what they say. And better, as mentioned, not to ask the radical left; here are the people who want to even things out for all members of the “Israeli nation,” who will live in full equality in a state for all its citizens.

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But what will members of the party known as the Zionist Union do, and how will they explain their refusal to fall into line with this request? On the Saturday before last, Livni and Gabbay proposed choosing Israel’s Declaration of Independence as the document that will provide equality for all Israel’s citizens. However, it is unclear how this will jibe with their shouts for equality because the declaration speaks openly of the justice and rights of the Jewish nation. The impression is that if Livni and Gabbay weren’t in the opposition against Benjamin Netanyahu, they would accept the law without any problem. Livni also said on Army Radio, and rightly so, that she would not attend a protest by Israeli Arabs. Because they don’t share her view of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. She also gets it that equality is a complicated concept.

The civil equality that opponents of the law are calling for is already here. If there is another type of equality that they mean, such as national equality for example, they better declare it and decide whether or not they belong to the Zionist Union. And not only does the sane majority deserve an answer, so does the radical left. For perhaps it is this lack of clarity that is meant to allow the unclear opponents of the law to be the first to be helped by it.

Nave Dromi is head of the Blue & White human rights organization, an arm of the Institute for Zionist Strategies.

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