On nationality: A good law

It should be abundantly clear that Israel honors those who make sacrifices for it (perhaps that will convince anyone who is unwilling to carry a stretcher on their shoulder to change their ways.)

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August 9, 2018 22:04
3 minute read.
On nationality: A good law

A Star of David on a man's kippa. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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When it becomes hard to state the obvious, apparently it needs to be said. That’s what the Nation-State Law does. So why the objections? Let’s consider its provisions briefly, one by one.

1) The State of Israel is the historical birthplace of the Jewish people, and the State of Israel is its nation-state. Does anyone have a problem with that?

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2) The country’s name, flag, symbol and anthem are specified.

3) Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.

4) Hebrew is the official language of the State of Israel. Arabic has special status, and its status prior to enactment of the law will not be harmed.

5) The State of Israel will be open to Jewish immigration as stipulated in the Law of Return.

6) The State of Israel will ensure the safety of the Jewish people and of its citizens throughout the world. This applies to any Israeli citizen in trouble abroad, including a Muslim from Sakhnin with a family member who joined ISIS.

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7) The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage it.

This is precisely what we have been doing since the late 19th century. What are Tel Aviv, Rehovot, and Gedera if not Jewish settlements? And what about Herzliya and Netanya? Development towns? Kibbutzim and moshavim? Hilltop communities in the Galilee? Settlements on the Golan Heights, in Judea, Samaria, and the Arava? Ever since the establishment of Gei Oni (today Rosh Pina) and Petah Tikva in 1878, we have been encouraging the development of Jewish settlement. This clause isn’t an attack on anyone. It merely upholds a basic principle of the country. Is that something to be ashamed of? How can we be a Jewish country without Jewish settlement?

8) The Hebrew calendar will be used along with the Gregorian calendar.

9) Independence Day is an official holiday and Memorial Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day are official memorial days. If anyone objects to this clause, they probably shouldn’t be a citizen of Israel.

10) The Sabbath and Jewish holidays are the days of rest in the State of Israel. Non-Jews have the right to maintain other days of rest.

11) This is a Basic Law that can be amended only by an absolute majority of 61 members of Knesset.

I read the law over and over, and I can’t find anything wrong with it. Together with our other Basic Laws, it articulates a fundamental principle: every individual in Israel has equal rights, while priority is given to the Jewish people.

Israel is officially defined as a “Jewish and democratic state.” Equal rights for the individual is the democratic aspect; priority to the Jewish people is the Jewish aspect.

Some protest against what isn’t mentioned in the law – equality. This is indeed a crucial value, but it belongs to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which deals with human rights, not to the Nation-State Law, which defines what makes Israel a Jewish state. The word “equality” should be added to the former law, not the latter.

We regard Druze, Circassians, and Bedouins who serve in the army and other uniformed services as our brothers. Their contribution deserves to be rewarded with substantial benefits, tax exemptions and special conditions.

It should be abundantly clear that the country honors those who make sacrifices for it (and perhaps that will also convince anyone who is unwilling to carry a stretcher on their shoulder to change their ways). We all are united in this cause. The Nation-State Law has no bearing on these individuals, and it most definitely is not meant to hurt them. Israel will never define itself as Jewish and Druze; the Law of Return will never apply to Jews and Druze. There’s no question about that. But a strong Jewish nation-state means that the Druze in Israel are strong. So I suggest we focus on the good things in the country, and there are plenty of them. We can work together on whatever needs improving.

Translated from Hebrew by Sara Kitai.

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