Sayed Kashua’s hypocrisy regarding Israel’s Nationality Law

Kashua 311 (photo credit: Yanay Yechiel)
Kashua 311
(photo credit: Yanay Yechiel)
On July 30, Sayed Kashua, an Israeli-Arab author, published an opinion piece in the New York Times about his family’s reaction to Israel’s new nationality law. It is a conversation between him and his family while driving in Israel. Marshaling the traditional litany of Palestinian grievances, the discourse almost marks the new law as something out of the long dark night of Nuremberg, where the basic notion of juridical man and its protections were removed from the Jews.
The Nationality Law confirms the obvious – that Israel is a Jewish state. Mr. Kashua asks what the law has changed. In a display of cynicism he answers, “In essence, perhaps not that much. It has turned de facto racism into de jure racism.”
There are there always subtle and not-so-subtle rights and privileges that a majority has in any society, and being a minority, even in America or Western Europe, is not without its difficulties. Human nature can be tribal, and in any decent nation-state the minority has rights, but the majority has insurmountable interests. De jure or de facto, those interests cannot be ignored. Try keeping the American government open on Christmas and you’ll quickly discover the inherent limits of separation of church and state.
Why is Israel’s Nationality Law even controversial? Nearly all majority Muslim countries proclaim Islam as a state religion and proselytizing against Islam in those countries will frequently leave you with your head severed from your body.
The European Union was quick to criticize Israel, but many European countries have a state religion. Denmark, Iceland, and Norway have the Lutheran Church as a state religion. England has the Anglican Church as a state church. Roman Catholicism is recognized as a state religion or the primary religion in many nation-states. The same is true of Hinduism. Why is it that when Jews do what so many other states do, there is outrage?
Israel has de facto always been a Jewish state. Why are the Muslim states upset? They have treated Israel as a pariah state because it is Jewish. When Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria and ethnically cleansed them of Jews, the Muslim world was silent. If Jordan returned to Judea and Samaria, the Muslim world would once again be silent. The issue is not occupation but the religion of the occupiers.
A Jew cannot live in Jordan or even visit Saudi Arabia. A Palestinian who sells land to a Jew faces the death penalty. Jews lived in the Arab world long before Islam stormed out of the Arabian Desert and decided in the 20th century to ethnically cleanse their land. The once culturally flourishing Jewish communities of the Middle East no longer exist.
As part of its nationality law, Israel needs a right of return for Jews because when it was clear they were going to be slaughtered, most of the world preferred their slaughter to giving them shelter. And the Arabs of the British Mandate of Palestine not only prevented their rescue, but the grand mufti of Jerusalem sat in Berlin as the personal guest of Adolph Hitler and planned to make the Middle East Judenrein with the help of his Nazi hosts.
Mr. Kashua and his family are still Israeli citizens. They will still be free to practice their religion, obtain higher education and medical care at state expense, run for office, and criticize Israel in the New York Times and Haaretz without fear of retribution. As Arabs in Israel, they will have more freedom here than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christianity thrives and where the Bahai feel safe. Israel permits many religious denominations to have their own courts to deal with personal matters.
In Israel, Muslims have Sharia courts; in most Muslim nations, Jews no longer exist.
Of course, Mr. Kashua can emigrate to any number of Arab countries, but he will not do that because he knows that nowhere in that world will he have the freedom to express himself as he does in Israel. He also knows that despite what he writes, the Nationality Law has not changed his life one iota. Not because Israel is a racist state as he freely alleges, but because the Nationality Law has not changed Israel’s democratic institutions or his freedoms. His foray into the New York Times confirms that.
The writer is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati and a distinguished fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him @salomoncenter