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Instead of Defending Minorities, Israel's Top Court Opted for an Alternative Reality

Haaretz Editorial
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The Supreme Court last year.
The Supreme Court last year.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz Editorial

Honorable Justice George Kara: Israel is not entirely completely your state. That is the message of your fellow Supreme Court justices. Of the 10 Jewish justices who heard the petitions against the nation-state law, none joined the pained and persuasive opinion of Kara, which expressed the obvious: that a Basic Law that stipulates that Israel is exclusively the state of the Jewish people, that Hebrew is the only official state language, that the development of Jewish settlement is a national value that the state is committed to fostering and strengthening, is a law that enshrines Jewish superiority and Arab inferiority and harms equality.

Kara based his opinion not only on what the nation-state law says but also on what is missing from it and from all of Israel’s Basic Laws – which, in the absence of a constitution, have quasi-constitutional statutes – namely, a commitment to the principle of equality and the obligation to uphold the rights of the national minority. These two lacunae were joined in Kara’s opinion by the fact, known to anyone who does not shut their eyes against it, that the Palestinian minority in Israel suffers from systematic discrimination in all areas of life: in regard to rights and resources as well as treatment and policy of government authorities.

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The entrenched discrimination did not begin with the nation-state law; rather, it is a result of the ethnocratic approach of all of Israel’s governments. But the nation-state law gives this attitude the normative status of a constitutional principle and turned it into a frontal assault on the Palestinian minority.

It is very regrettable that instead of coming to the defense of a minority, all of the Jewish justices chose to invent an alternative reality, finding shelter under its imaginary wings. Anyone reading their ruling might be led to believe that Israel is a state in which the principle of equality is an unshakable component, one of its foundation pillars, and that there is relief in the courts for any act of discrimination, with a court that defends the minority.

The justices need to be reminded that the legal reality they describe was not evident in petitions against the so-called Nakba law and the so-called admission committee law, two laws passed in recent years that were designed to harm the Palestinian minority in Israel and that were not rejected by the Supreme Court. The truth about the status of the principle of equality can be found in the opinion of Justice David Mintz: In his effort to fend off arguments against the law, he wrote: “Equality is not a magic word. This concept does not have the power to reshuffle the entire deck of cards.” Indeed, in the Israel of 2021, equality is not a magic word. It is closer to a slur.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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