The Insecurity That Lies Beneath Israel's 'Jewish Nation' Bill – Forward.com:
by J.J. Goldberg
****What do we learn from all this? Two things: First, there’s nothing remarkable by international standards about Israel being a Jewish state. Second, Israel doesn’t need to pass a special law to make itself a Jewish state.
So what’s all the fuss about? To answer that, you need to understand what the bill is, and more important, what it isn’t. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, says a law is needed as a reply to the growing international mood of hostility toward Israel’s Jewish character. It’s supposed to be a bulwark against the delegitimization of Jewish statehood.
But it’s nothing of the sort. Israel’s opponents aren’t complaining that Israel isn’t Jewish enough. They’re complaining that it isn’t democratic enough. The Israel-as-the-Jewish-nation-state bill doesn’t fix that. It makes it worse.
The initial versions of the law adopted by the cabinet November 23 give Israel’s Jewish character legal precedence over its democratic character. That will only intensify international opposition. If enacting Israeli legislation is supposed to be a way to slow the the country’s international slide, this does the opposite.
Nor does the bill add any new content to Israel’s Jewishness. Its contribution is not to define what Jewish statehood includes, but what it excludes: Arabic language, Palestinian national pride, a religion-neutral legal culture.
It’s no accident that the legislation’s sponsors and main backers are the same right-wing factions, in the Likud and Jewish Home parties, that are fighting hardest against territorial compromise and Palestinian statehood. They’re not worried about international opinion. Their problem is the built-in flaw in their own blueprint for the future.
Holding onto the territories, maintaining a single state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, means creating a binational state. The advocates face growing pressure — and anger — from the military, academic, arts and legal communities and other sectors, all demanding to know how Israel can absorb two million-plus West Bank Palestinians without losing the Zionist vision of a Jewish state.
Their answer is to ground the state’s Jewish character — its language, calendar, legal culture, national anthem — in a quasi-constitutional basic law that can’t be amended except by a Knesset super-majority. That’s how they intend to defend Jewish statehood: by relegating the culture and values of today’s non-Jewish minority to the sidelines and ensuring they stay there, even if and when they become a majority.
Read more: http://forward.com/articles/209939/the-insecurity-that-lies-beneath-israels-jewish-na/#ixzz3KgmLRMNn
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