There has been much recent debate about what has been described as an amendment
to the country’s Oath or Pledge of Allegiance for those who seek naturalization,
which was passed in the cabinet on Sunday. The furor has been over the addition
of the words “Jewish and democratic state”; currently the law states that one
need only pledge allegiance to “the State of Israel.”
appears to center around the use of the word “Jewish,” with critics throwing
every epithet at the amendment, from “unconstitutional” to
Cabinet passes addendum to Citizenship Law
Tibi: Israel is democratic for Jews but Jewish for Arabs
These labels have sought to polarize the debate about an
amendment which is completely consistent with our national
Since the inception of modern Zionism, which stood on the
shoulders of thousands of years of historical and biblical Zionism, the “Jewish
state” ahas been the rallying call for the return to political sovereignty in
our ancestral land.
The father of modern political Zionism, Theodor
Herzl, wrote Der Judenstaat, “The Jewish State,” during 1896, mistakenly
translated into Hebrew as “The State of the Jews.”
Almost a decade
earlier, Naphtali Herz Imber wrote the words to our national anthem, unashamedly
reflecting the Jewish yearning for a return to Zion that fills me with emotion
and pride every time it is sung.
On November 29, 1947, the international
community overwhelmingly recognized the establishment of a Jewish state. Less
than one year later, the Jewish state was realized as David Ben-Gurion read the
immortal words of the Declaration of Independence, which contained the term
“Jewish state” no less than five times. Only minutes later, US president Harry
Truman recognized Israel as the Jewish state.
CURRENTLY, ISRAEL faces the
greatest delegitimization campaign of any nation. One of the main targets is its
national character. Unfortunately, too many Israeli Jews have internalized this
assault and have either forgotten, misunderstood or are actively working against
the raison d’être of the reestablishment of Israel.
to delegitimize Israel’s national character have reached the mainstream even
within our own country. It is simply astonishing to hear all the criticism of
what should be an uncontroversial amendment. Would these same people have
branded Herzl, Inbar, Ben-Gurion, Truman and even the UN General Assembly racist
or discriminatory for the words they wrote? Much of the uproar derives from the
simple misconception as to the meaning of the term “Jewish.”
like to constrict the term as merely referring to a religious belief, its
meaning is far greater. To be Jewish is to be part of a nation, civilization,
culture and people. I frequently tell visiting dignitaries who are similarly
uncertain that Jews are to Israel as the Chinese are to China and the French are
When we ask prospective citizens to emphasize Israel’s status
as both a “Jewish and democratic state” we call on them to embrace the true
meaning and substance of the State of Israel, without compromising their civil
rights. Without these terms, Israel’s unique significance is rendered
There is a reason that the American Pledge of Allegiance
evolved from the original, “I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic
for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for
The additions, “of the United States of America” and “under God”
addressed supplementary facets of the American national character and served as
a guide for prospective immigrants.
Those who refuse to acknowledge
Israel’s national character wish to strip it of any defining features, to make
it a “Hebrew-speaking republic” which leaves us little to be proud of. The
unparalleled assault on our legitimacy is both from without and within, and we
need strong and certain leadership to stand our ground.
MKs like Haneen
Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka and Ahmed Tibi, the fiercest opponents of the amendment,
regularly seek to undermine our national existence.
Beiteinu is committed to stand against the constant post-Zionist assault,
whether it is from Israeli academics who seek a boycott, local NGOs that attempt
to censure or MKs who seek to dismantle the nation I so proudly serve. There
needs to be a recalibration of civic responsibility and the duties and
obligations of a citizen, as in every other democracy. The tumult surrounding
the amendment amply proves that a reaffirmation of Zionist ideals is
THERE ARE also those who criticize the fact that the amendment
relates only to those prospective citizens unable to make aliya through the Law
This again demonstrates a grave misunderstanding of
The Law of Return, built on the internationally accepted
principle of jus sanguins, is the ultimate expression of the reestablishment of
Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Thus, the pledge becomes unnecessary
for those who join us by virtue of their national and historic ties to our land
and people. The Jewish state was created to deal specifically with the issue of
the Jewish people, and the return of any Jew to his or her land is the
fulfillment of this principle.
The Basic Law: Human Liberty and Dignity –
one of the key components of our constitutional law passed by the Knesset in
1992 – states as its purpose “to protect human dignity and liberty in order to
establish in a basic law the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and
Those non-Jews who become citizens need to fully
appreciate that the State of Israel is the national expression of the
self-determination of the Jewish people.
Those who object to the new
formula are doing untold damage to the sincerity of the Zionist mission, and
make our case harder to explain.
Only by adhering to and proudly
reinforcing our national character, not only to those who wish to join our
people, but also to the nations of the world, will we validate our presence.
Many nations actively promote their national mission, whether it is “American
exceptionalism” or France’s “liberté, égalité, fraternité.”
has its national ethos, and Israel’s “light unto the nations” can only be
expressed through its Jewish character, which we must state clearly and
Those who disparage clearly describing Israel as the
eternal aspiration of the Jewish people provide ample ammunition to those who
seek the end of our national existence.The writer is deputy foreign
minister and an Israel Beiteinu MK.