“I pledge allegiance to the State of Israel and its laws and to honestly and faithfully fulfill each and every one of my duties as a civil servant of the state.” That is the pledge of allegiance that each civil servant makes in accordance with the Israeli Civil Service Law (Appointments).
As part of its campaign to delegitimize Arab-Israeli society, the Knesset has just passed a preliminary resolution in support of a law, initiated by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, which would require the head of every diplomatic or consular embassy to make an additional pledge of allegiance, this time to the state of Israel “as a Jewish and democratic state.”
It is not a concern for the integrity of Israel’s foreign service that is paramount for Cohen, the promoter of this law, but rather his desire to see non-Jewish Israeli citizens, who chose to tie their fate with that of the country and to represent it abroad, required one more time to prove their loyalty, which Cohen proclaims he doubts.
The message of this “loyalty law” is directed not only to non-Jews who serve and represent Israel abroad, but also to every Israeli diplomat. It does not matter that you have chosen a demanding career that pays little just so you could enjoy the privilege of representing your country, as far as the present government is concerned you are all immediate suspects.
Just as with the despicable custom of closely watching the lips of Arab players on the Israeli national team when “Hatikvah” is sung, and condemning them for not enthusiastically shouting out “the Jewish soul yearns,” so also in this case we see an attempt to put in question the loyalty of non-Jewish diplomats, and of all members of the foreign service.
We must not forget that these days, Israeli diplomats are contending with an almost impossible mission of explaining a government that seeks to undermine the basic democratic values of the state. Despite that difficulty, the members of the foreign service continue to represent the country and explain the complexities of Israeli society. They continue to protect Israel’s international status, even as its government does all it can to destroy it.
It is at such a challenging time that the foreign minister and the Knesset, rather than encourage and support them, choose to legislate a law whose sole purpose is to denigrate them and to question their loyalty to the country they chose to serve and represent.
Israeli Arabs are just the first casualty in the destruction of Israeli democracy
This law is part of a larger plan to delegitimize Arab-Israeli society. The fact that it passed with a majority of 19 against only six is yet another proof that members of the opposition have yet to realize that Israel’s Arab citizens are just the first and most vulnerable casualty on the way to the destruction of Israel’s democracy.
Law after law, decision after decision, the government and the coalition are trying to delegitimize the Arab community in Israel, to lay the groundwork for excluding them from the political arena, so as to secure their grip on power.
Those who failed to vote down this proposed law, which seeks to tarnish the image of none other than those who are spearheading the integration of the Arab community into Israeli society, have thereby encouraged more legislation, more loyalty tests, and further delegitimization that will ultimately harm them as well.
We must do all we can to stop the passage of this harmful law – for the sake of the integration of the Arab community, the health resilience of the Israeli foreign service, and for the sake of Israeli democracy. This law serves only to question the loyalty of senior members of the Israeli foreign service.
The writer is CEO of J Street Israel and a former consul of Israel in Boston.