The Nation-State Law: What was our original sin?

True democracy means equal rights and equal duties.

October 31, 2018 14:54
3 minute read.
 Palestinian flags flutter at a protest against the Nation-State Law in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv

Palestinian flags flutter at a protest against the Nation-State Law in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, August 11th, 2018. (photo credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)


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With all the recent commotion around the Nation-State Law, some people are wondering – why do we need it at all?

In fact, there are many people, even among supporters of the law, who believe that it merely states the obvious. Doesn't the flag of Israel have a star of David on it? Isn’t our state emblem the menorah?

But that’s not the issue. The real issue goes all the way back to Israel’s Declaration of Independence. In this remarkable document, we find the following passages:

“By virtue of our natural and historic right and on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, [we] hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel."

"The State of Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

"We appeal - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

Sounds good, right?

The problem is that this statement fails to pay due respect to the non-Jews of Israel. Yes, you got that right. We disrespected them. Allow me to explain.

Let’s say I’m a Muslim Arab resident of the newly minted State of Israel on May 15, 1948. Someone comes to me and says: “Ahmed, you’re Israeli. You've just instantly become a citizen of a country that has a star of David on its flag and a Menorah as its emblem. Got that? Now here’s your Israeli ID and your Israeli passport. See you later!”

This attitude on the part of the fledgling State of Israel was disrespectful, arguably insulting. At the very least, it was a paternalistic attitude. You see, no one asked for their consent, and, as a result, we never got their approval, or... their disapproval. And that was our original sin.

Now, 70 years down the road, what can we do?

First, we issue a formal apology to the non-Jewish citizens of Israel for having imposed Israeli citizenship on them without their permission. It’s only fair, right?

Then we tell them, “Ladies and Gentlemen, for over 70 years now, your families have lived in the State of Israel. We have apologized for imposing citizenship on you without asking your permission. Better late than never. Today, we are asking each of you a question. And after living here all this time, you can now give a fully informed answer. Do you wish to be citizens of Israel?”

If you say no, we will respect your decision, and you will be able to stay here and live with us in peace – as permanent residents, not citizens. But be aware that you will not have the right to vote. As in any proper democracy, only citizens can vote.

If you say yes, just the same, we will respect your decision. But again, there are rules to consider:

You will need to recognize Israel as it is defined by the Declaration of Independence – “a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel” – and swear allegiance to this state.

You will need to perform at least a civil service. Like any citizen.

You will need to pay taxes, including Arnona, the city tax. Like any citizen.

You will need to acquire building permits. Like any citizen.

You will not have the right to insult our soldiers. Like any citizen.

You will not have the right to cooperate with terrorist organizations. Like any citizen.

You will not have the right to incite violence and hatred. Like any citizen.

You will not have the right to promote boycotts against Israel. Like any citizen.

To quote the Declaration of Independence, you will need to “participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship.”

Because true democracy means equal rights and equal duties!

Albert Levy is an economist, a businessman and a candidate for the 21st Knesset for the Zehut party, founded by Moshe Feiglin.

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