The Israeli law enacted last Thursday declaring Israel the “nation-state of the Jewish people” has, not unexpectedly, created an uproar amongst Arab Israelis and liberal left- leaning Jewish Israelis. Naturally, media giants like The New York Times have led the charge against it. For The Times, the new law was “anti-democratic,” “incendiary,” “divisive,” “racist,” and the like.
However, it appears to us that the real problem is that some people cannot bring themselves to accept the fact that Jews have the power, and would have the temerity, to officially declare what was Divinely-ordained thousands of years ago.
A careful reading of the new law suggests that the rights of non-Jews are not harmed by it. While this is not the place for parsing the text of the new law, the comments of its critics make the case for our view that the objections are not substantive but symbolic.
No less a personage than the chief legal counsel of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Dan Yakir, a leading champion of Arab-Israeli rights, said rather tentatively that the law was largely only declaratory but “will give rise to arguments that Jews should enjoy privileges and subsidies and rights, because of the special status that this law purports to give the Jewish people in Israel…. In that regard this is a racist law” (emphasis added).
Similarly, Amir Fuchs of The Israel Democracy Institute, an independent research group in Jerusalem, said, “It does not form two separate legal norms applying to Jews or non-Jews.” “[But] even if it is only declarative and won’t change anything in the near future, I am 100 percent sure it will worsen the feeling of non-Jews and especially the Arab minority in Israel.”
Moments after the law was adopted, Arab members of the Knesset ripped up copies and yelled in unison, “Apartheid!” Ahmad Tibi, a veteran Arab member of the Knesset, said the law “marked the end of democracy and the official beginning of fascism and apartheid.” Yael German, an MK from the opposition party Yesh Atid, said the law is “a poison pill for democracy.”
We find it intriguing, of course, that these individuals seem to imply they believe that before the advent of the new law, Israel was indeed a democratic state!
At all events, we welcome the new law as leveling the playing field for the Jews of Israel as Israeli courts have notoriously bent over backwards to credit unsupported Arab claims in order to demonstrate their own liberal bona fides to the detriment of Jewish litigants.
This does not mean, as the aforementioned experts have indicated, any diminution of Arab rights. What it does mean is that Jewish claims will be given a fair shake. And that is a good thing.