Shelah: 'Jewish and democratic state' an oxymoron

Yesh Atid MK speaks out against "nationality bills," says such legislation is harmful for "shared lives in this land".

Ofer Shelach 370 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Ofer Shelach 370
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah continued making public statements in opposition of his party on Friday, coming out against “nationality bills” like the one proposed by MK Ruth Calderon.
“Even in its best version, so-called ‘nationality bills’ are unnecessary, and unnecessary legislation should not be passed. In its worst versions, its a harmful bill for our shared lives in this land and for our image abroad,” Shelah wrote on Facebook regarding the proposals to legally define Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Shelah’s Facebook post came days after Justice Minister Tzipi Livni appointed Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison to write a “constitutional provision” on Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not approve of the appointment.
Earlier this year, Livni vetoed Calderon’s bill and another proposal on the topic by coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.
She did not clarify if the “constitutional provision” Gavison is meant to work on will be a bill or not.
Shelah, however, is against any type of legislation dealing with the balance between Jewish and democratic.
The first nationality bill was proposed by Kadima MK Avi Dichter in the last Knesset and while mentioning that Israel is a democratic state it mainly emphasized its Jewish aspect.
The intention of the bill, similarly to Levin and Shaked’s proposal, is to give the courts a point of reference when making judicial decisions, basing the law on its fulfillment of its Jewish components before its democratic ones.
Calderon’s bill, however, places the Independence Scroll as the anchor from which the law is to be based.
Therefore, in a legal question of race or gender issues, “it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex,” as written in the scroll would bind the hands of the courts.
“Any such proposal, which creates levels of legitimacy and importance of languages, religions and cultures in Israel is disgraceful,” the Yesh Atid faction chairman wrote. “It opposes the vision of the Independence Scroll. It embodies the most harmful thing in the current Israeli discourse – the feeling of victimization, which turns our justice from something natural into a pathetic farce of false patriotism.”
Shelah singled out Calderon’s bill, which turns the Independence Scroll into law, as problematic, saying that he doesn’t understand why its necessary.
According to Shelah, the words “Jewish and democratic state” are an oxymoron and any attempt to sharpen and define them only show how self-contradictory they are.
“To some extent, Israel’s 65 years were walking on a tightrope, which amazing democratic strength that was possible only because we never tried to define it,” he added. “Our justice system, freedom of expression and the political sphere are alive, kicking and impressive to anyone who looks at us from the outside because we live this dialectic every day, without a law that claims to define the big mixture of identities living here.”
Shelah concluded by saying that any film that breaks the balance between the majority and minorities in Israel must be fought.