Finally, Israel Reveals its True Colors: Racist to the Core
By Bishara Bahbah/Arab America Featured Columnist
In 2018, Israel celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The declaration affirmed that the State of Israel “will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or gender.”
Any so-called “Israeli Arab,” or anyone else considered a minority living in Israel, would have described the implementation by Israeli governments of this section of the Declaration of Independence over the years as, quite plainly, illusionary and non-existent. In fact, successive Israeli governments have openly and blatantly practiced discrimination against the Arab minority, a not-so-small minority given that it constitutes 20 percent of the population. Israeli governments justified their discriminatory practices on the grounds that they were necessary for “security” reasons.
For years, Israel boasted to the world (and many of its blind-folded allies repeated the same lie) that “Israel is the only bastion of democracy in the Middle East.” Those of us involved in the politics of the region countered by saying that, if Israel was a democracy, it was a democracy for its Jewish citizens ONLY. Our assertions fell on deaf ears until now.
In 2018, two months after celebrating its declaration of independence, Israel’s Knesset, controlled by hateful right-wing and pro-settler parties and led by no other than racist- and liar-in-chief Benjamin Netanyahu, passed the “Nation-State Law.” Considered a Basic Law, this means it would have constitutional-like status, since Israel has no constitution. Israel’s lack of a constitution has led to the creation of a series of “Basic Laws” which the Israeli courts are meant to recognize as articulating the underlying principles of the state.
Below is a summary of the Nation-State Law as published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Source: Mordechai Kremnitzer, “Jewish Nation-State Law Makes Discrimination in Israel Constitutional,” Haaretz, 20 July 2018.
Stated differently, here is what the Nation-State Law means:
- It legislates Israel’s ability to incorporate the country’s Jewish national and religious character into government policy.
- It chose to be “Jewish” first (national identity) over being a “democracy.”
- It legitimizes giving Jews and the Jewish religion preferential treatment while denying full and equal rights to the country’s non-Jewish citizens.
- It does not recognize other ethnic or religious groups in Israel as “minorities.” In other words, it deems that non-Jewish minorities have no status in the state.
- Clause 7 B, one of the most controversial clauses, states that the “State can allow a community composed of people of the same faith or nationality to maintain an exclusive community.” Effectively, this clause allows for “Jewish-only” communities to be established under the law. The dictionary defines apartheid as referring to a “political system where people are clearly divided based on race, gender, class or other such factors.” Thus, this law ushers Israel into the unique status, among all countries, as the only official apartheid state in the 21st century)
- It enshrines personal discrimination against a citizen based on his or her nationality.
- Hebrew is now the official language while Arabic was downgraded from an “official” language to a “special” language.
- It represents a departure from the concept of Zionism as espoused by founders such as Theodore Herzl who called for a “State for the Jews,” while now Israel is to be considered a “Jewish State.”
- It declares Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel in contravention of the agreements signed with the Palestinians at Oslo which stipulated that Jerusalem would be a “final status” issue to be negotiated between the two parties.
- It instructs judges to look for precedents from Jewish rulings when Israeli law offers no guidance.
What are the implications of Israel’s new “Nation-State Law?”
- Israel is now officially an apartheid state – The only country in the 21st century with that infamous distinction.
- The new law could harm Jews around the world. The law reads: “The state will work in the Diaspora to preserve the special connection between [Israel] and the Jewish people.” This language could call into question the loyalty of French, British, or US Jews to the countries of their birth and/or in which they live. Will their ultimate loyalty be to the countries in which they were born or reside or will it be to Israel?
- Even though there are many countries that are considered Islamic, Roman Catholic, Buddhist, or Lutheran. None of them define their religion as a national identity. Israel does.
- Today, many in the world seriously question whether Israel has the right to exist in the wake of this law.
- The law has upset a significant minority in Israel – the Druze community – who have opted to join the Israeli armed forces and fight alongside the Jewish soldiers. What is more precious than one’s life? And, how can Israel’s Druze community continue sacrificing their children when they are now being officially discriminated against?
- It further alienates the majority of Israel’s Arab population – a whopping 20 percent of Israel’s entire population. Alienation creates frustration; frustration creates resentment; resentment creates anger, and anger leads to actions that could undoubtedly harm Israel in ways that did not exist previously.
- The law could be challenged in international courts as racist thus breaching international law. Israel could become a pariah state the way apartheid South Africa was for so many years.
Benjamin Netanyahu is undoubtedly the chief architect of this racist new law. Opening in Haaretz on July 22, Bradley Burston wrote about Netanyahu’s legacy by stating that, “He [Netanyahu] has taken Israel of the Start-Up Nation and turned it into the Israel of the Shithole Nation State.”
Prof. Bishara Bahbah was editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem based “Al-Fajr” newspaper between 1983-84. He was a member of the Palestinian delegation to the Peace Talks on Arms Control and Regional Security. He taught at Harvard and was the associate director of its Kennedy School’s Institute for Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab America.