‘Zionism is not racism,’ cry anti-oath protesters in J’lem

Netanyahu wants to expand oath to Jews who become citizens through Law of Return but does not have a majority for an amended proposal.

Oath Protest 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Oath Protest 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Hundreds of youngsters gathered in Jerusalem’s Zion Square on Wednesday evening to protest the proposed loyalty oath, chanting “Zionism is not racism!”
In its current form, as approved by the cabinet, the oath – requiring new citizens to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state – would only apply to non-Jews who become citizens via the Law of Entry. But Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu now says he wants to expand it to Jews who become citizens via the Law of Return.
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Netanyahu is trying to galvanize support in the Knesset for the change.
But due to the opposition of as many as 29 coalition MKs from Labor, Shas and United Torah Judaism, he does not have a majority for an amended proposal.
If the loyalty oath is applied only to non-Jews, however, Shas, United Torah Judaism and the opposition National Union faction would back it, giving it the support of 65 MKs, a comfortable majority.
The rally was deliberately held in downtown Jerusalem as a reminder of a heated right-wing Zion Square rally that took place just before Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, when extreme right-wing protesters carried flyers depicting Rabin in an SS uniform and chanted “Rabin is a murderer!”
“It’s very exciting to come back to Zion Square, the place which documented one of the lowest points in our history, where the incitement came to murder Rabin,” MK Nahman Shai (Kadima) told The Jerusalem Post.
“I’m very thankful to the youth who chose to come here on this day to say something different, to fight to use our rights and say this country will be Jewish and democratic.
We don’t need any loyalty oath to do this, but we need to fight for this.”
Three youths dressed as Theodor Herzl circulated throughout the crowd, gathering signatures for a petition protesting the loyalty oath.
Social Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog (Labor) and MK Nitzan Horovitz (Meretz) also attended the rally.
“The most important thing we want to show at the demonstration is that it’s not the two specific words ‘Jewish and democratic’ that bothers us,” said Ziv Rozenberg, the spokesperson for Hashomer Hatzair, and one of the rally’s organizers. “What bothers us is that it’s part of a trend led by (Foreign Minister Avigdor) Lieberman.”
Rozenberg cited potential provisions that could require everyone getting an identity card at age 16 to sign a loyalty oath.
“This is a very positive moment of light in the darkness of the political system in Israel,” Peace Now Director Yariv Oppenheimer told the Post. “The message is very clear, it’s a real threat to Israeli democracy – this time not from right-wing extremists, but from members of Knesset.”
The rally was organized by Hashomer Hatzair, Labor, Meretz, Peace Now and antiracism organizations.
A small counter-demonstration of right-wing protesters stood to the side and carried signs that said “Leftists are traitors! Kahane was right” and yelled “Rabin destroyed the country!”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.