High Court broadens panel hearing of Nation-State Law

A full panel is reserved only for cases of constitutional significance, whereas typically decisions are made by three justices.

January 1, 2019 20:40
2 minute read.
sraelis from the Druze minority together with others take part in a rally to protest

sraelis from the Druze minority together with others take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel, August 4, 2018. (photo credit: CORINNA KERN/REUTERS)


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The High Court ordered that an 11-justice panel will hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Jewish Nation-State Law.

A full panel is reserved only for cases of constitutional significance, whereas typically decisions are made by three justices.

In addition, the court on Monday granted the state’s request to delay the court’s hearing from January 28 until March 12.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed a petition last week to strike down the Nation-State Law as unconstitutional.

In July, a prior petition was filed by Kulanu MK Akram Hasson and other top Druze officials, but the legal attack by ACRI was broader.

Both petitions said the law turns the country’s minorities into second-class citizens.

However, ACRI’s petition argued that Israel has discriminated against its minorities for decades and that the new law is unique because it states this explicitly.

In contrast, the petition by Druze officials called the law “a terrible blow to the Druze sector, a terrible blow to democracy and a terrible blow to Zionism.”

In other words, the Druze officials are seeking a midpoint where only parts of the new law are nullified, and have tried to maintain a positive view of Israel’s treatment of the Druze community.

ACRI’s petition also adds that it is unconstitutional to grant minorities full individual rights while reserving collective national-identity rights to Jews alone.

Both petitions argue that the Jewish Nation-State Law disproportionately and unreasonably harms minorities, and makes them feel like “exiled people in their own homeland.”

The petitions say that the law violates the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which is considered the country’s most foundational legal basis for how it views all other issues.

Both petitions called on the court to be ready to declare the law unconstitutional, despite its quasi-constitutional status as a Basic Law. The court can only cancel regular laws.

Moreover, the petitions say that the law does not mention the state’s democratic character or the rights and equality of all of its citizens, but focuses on strengthening the state’s Jewish aspects alone.

Moreover, the petitions argue that the law eliminates Arabic’s status as one of Israel’s official languages, and that by favoring Jewish causes it discriminates between different ethnic sectors.

Although the country’s Arab sector was highly critical of the law during the Knesset debates, the Druze sector is typically more supportive of Israeli government policies. Druze integrate into the IDF and government bodies more than the state’s Arabs do or other minorities. ACRI often stands against the state on a variety of legal issues.

In addition to criticism within Israel, the law has drawn global condemnation from some of the US Jewish community.

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