“If we had a Jewish majority in Israel, we would first of all create a situation of complete, absolute and perfect equality, with no exceptions: Jew, Arab, Armenian, or German – there would be no difference in their legal standing; all options would be open to each of them.” – Ze’ev Jabotinsky
The bill to include the right to equality in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, which was passed in a preliminary reading in the Knesset a few weeks ago, is a much-needed and obvious amendment; a legal provision included in the constitution of all democratic countries, with the exception of the State of Israel.
The concise wording of the bill states that: “All are equal before the law: There shall be no discrimination between people, directly or indirectly, in theory or in practice.” Some readers may be surprised by this, but there is no law in Israel that guarantees the basic right to equality before the law, neither in Israel’s Basic Laws nor in its regular legislation (with the exception of very specific contexts, such as equal rights for women or equal employment rights). It is true that over the years, even before the Basic Laws were passed, the courts ruled that the right to equality is one of the fundamental principles of the democratic system, and that following the introduction of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, the courts interpreted “human dignity” as including elements of the right to equality and outlawing discrimination. But this right has never been explicitly stated in legislation.