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Attempts to formulate an Israeli constitution are fast approaching the status of a national sport. Different proposals, with diverse emphases on the Jewishness and inherent democracy of the state, proliferate. Now a wholly new element has been tossed into this vibrant debate - one that would erase the Jewish character of the state altogether.
The latest draft constitution was produced by Adalah, the 10-year-old organization purportedly seeking to uphold the rights of Israel's Arab citizens. It redefines the state not as Jewish but as "democratic, bilingual and multicultural" - all objectives much beloved by enlightened world opinion and legitimately resonant, but in this case both enticing and deceptive.
The Adalah outline remarkably resembles what the dubiously cancelled PLO Charter touted for decades - replacing Israel with a supposedly democratic state. The PLO Charter too employed seemingly "democratic" allures to mislead overseas observers, while in effect demanding Israel's destruction. The only difference is that the PLO professed an intent to spread its "democracy" throughout "western Palestine," while Adalah takes the establishment of a Palestinian state for granted (it limits Israeli jurisdiction strictly to pre-1967 borders) but then demands that the within-the-Green-Line residue no longer constitute a Jewish state.
It wants the Law of Return abolished; Israel's national anthem, flag and emblem changed; all land claimed to have been confiscated from Arabs "returned in full;" ratification of refugees' "Right of Return;" returning "uprooted" Israeli-Arabs to their villages; and recognition of Beduin property rights over all they assert to own and "reverse discrimination" to compensate Israeli-Arabs "for the systematic discrimination against them." Moreover, Adalah's constitution obliges Israel to officially apologize "for the injustice which Israel's creation had caused the Palestinian nation."
The most worrying aspect is that this isn't an Adalah foible. As the authors of the document note, it represents "the broad mainstream Arab-Israeli position." Views such as it enunciates have been vocalized by the radical Islamic Movement, as well as by the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee. In recent position papers the latter two demanded a return to villages abandoned in 1948, administrative Arab-sector autonomy, separate representation for Israeli-Arabs in international organizations, veto power on major legislative/executive decisions, the elimination of Jewish state symbols and an overhaul of immigration policy.
There are barely any discernible differences between Adalah's proposed constitution and the "Future Vision for Palestinian Arabs in Israel," prepared by the National Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel and the soon-to-be-released "Haifa Covenant," mostly composed by the Mada el-Carmel Arab Center for Applied Social Research. As Adalah acknowledges, many of its members participated in compiling the above two documents, which Adalah endorses as "expressions of the political and social empowerment of Arabs in Israel." Prof. Shlomo Avineri, a respected centrist and diplomat, perceives Adalah's draft as nothing less than "an extreme nationalist Arab plan for Israel's annihilation as a Jewish state, while coating these aims in the outward trappings of human rights and justice."
Fortunately that isn't exclusively a Jewish viewpoint. The Forum of Druse and Circassian Authorities in Israel also outrightly rejects Adalah's paper, reaffirming Israel's standing as "a Jewish and a democratic state that champions equality and free elections. We refuse to support the eradication of the state to which we had tied our fate in a bond forged in blood."
It should be obvious that a community that pledges itself to Israel's destruction - however elegantly termed - cannot at the same time effectively battle real manifestations of discrimination and advance the positive agenda to which it has historically been committed. The equality and destruction agendas don't mix. Israeli Arab leaders and organizations need to choose between them, and the Adalah constitution is part of the wrong choice.