It’s not a law and not nationality

National pride is the natural expression of a clear and determined identity.

August 9, 2018 22:48
3 minute read.
It’s not a law and not nationality

The Knesset votes on the nation-state bill, July 19, 2018. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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There has always been a separation between national pride and national fanaticism. National pride is the natural expression of a clear and determined identity. National fanaticism is the expression of a lack of security, of safety in one’s identity. The authors of the Nation-State Law, on one hand, and those that have set out in a vicious war against it, on the other, can be both be counted as fanatics, including those who are supposedly speaking in my name, as an Arab, against the law.

Three things must be said:

1. Whether it was intended or not, I simply cannot free myself from the feeling that this nationalities law comes to declare that in the State of Israel the Jews are preferred over the non-Jews, aka the Arabs.

And that’s enough to scare those – like myself – who have connected emotionally to the suffering of the Jewish people in Europe over the past several centuries.

Those who suffered from the declared superiority of the so-called “Aryan race” are deciding now, in a Basic Law, that they are the superior ones, and I, the Arab – the citizen, the culture and the language – have a lesser status.

At the time, I learned, the leaders of that Aryan race did this because of their racism, and because they felt threatened by the numerous successes of the Jewish people and their insistence on gaining full and equal rights in the countries in which they then lived. But they also did so because of a deep lack of self-confidence. And I was happy that the Jews, despite the high price that they paid for that Aryan ethos, are the ones who won. Because evil not only knows no God, but also no future.

That’s what will happen here. If the advocates for Jewish superiority do not come to their senses and overcome their deep-seeded emotional issues, they too will pay – and not just we Arabs. The Nation-State Law is not legal and not national. Not legal because it conflicts completely with the basic values of human rights and the idea of equality. Not national because this law just doesn’t fit with the ethos of the Jewish people. Moreover, national identity cannot be codified in a law. National identity is a holy principle, created by forces of reality, of history and of culture.

2. Simultaneously, the characteristic defining much of the opposition to the law among the Arab leadership is not significantly different from the principles of those who created the law. Here too, there is a nationalistic fanaticism based on self-satisfaction and parallel superiority.

Here too, there is a hunkering down into the Arab-nationalist ghetto. Both camps balance each other in a frightening manner, to the point where this lame law simply couldn’t have been legislated without Arab assistance, and the Arab resistance against the law wouldn’t have been possible without the messages and explanations of the legislators behind the law.

Chutzpah and audacity celebrated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published posts on his Facebook page in which he acknowledged that because of the statements of Balad MKs Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi, he advanced the law. And they posted proudly on their website (Arab 48) the messages of the prime minister and the very statements that he quoted.

3. This very same Arab leadership ignores the fact that there were 55 MKs, most of whom are Jewish and Zionists, who voted against this law, and three more MKs from the Right who abstained or didn’t vote. They don’t acknowledge the petitions that hundreds of influential Jewish Israelis signed against the law, including former IDF chiefs of staff, former heads of the security services, generals, police commanders, professors, writers, poets and many others from a wide political spectrum.

These people hold significant power and serve as an essential basis for cooperation in efforts to strengthen the democratic nature of the state and its principles of equality. These people – both Jews and Arabs – can be proud of their national identity while feeling secure in it. They are members of a common cause that can, both with and without a dedicated law, define the very basis of Israel a being a civilized state, recognized as the expression of the self-determination of the Jewish people, within which lives a large minority with equal and democratic rights.

The writer is a senior fellow at Shaharit.

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