‘Jewish state’ bill approved for Knesset vote

An Israeli cabinet committee approved a contested bill on May 7 seeking to enshrine Israel's status as a Jewish state into the country's central legislation, sparking concern the heightened discrimination Palestinians would face should it become law. The Ministerial Committee for Legislation voted unanimously to move the "Jewish State" bill—which is also being referred to as the "Nationality" or "Nation State" bill—to a preliminary vote in the Knesset, Israel's parliament. The bill declares that Israel is "the national home of the Jewish people," and that "the right to realize self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people," Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

It would also revoke Arabic’s status as an official state language, despite 20% of Israeli citizens being Palestinians, downgrading it to "special status in the state," while stating that "its speakers have the right to language-accessible state services."

Israeli news outlet Ynet reported that other sections of the bill addressed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, illegal Jewish settlements, the status of holy sites, and non-Israeli Jews' right to obtain Israeli nationality.

The bill states that "every resident of Israel, without distinction of religion or national origin, is entitled to work to preserve his culture, heritage, language and identity," while affirming that "the state may allow a community, including members of the same religion or national origin, to have separate communal settlements."

Proponents of the bill aim to have it pass into Israel's Basic Law—the body of legislation which effectively stands as Israel's constitution. Bills need to go through three rounds of votes in the Knesset before they can become law.

Knesset member Avi Dichter, who first proposed the legislation, hailed the bill as "critical" given Palestinian and international opposition to Israel for its violations of international law, framing such condemnations of Israel as anti-Jewish sentiment.

"The Palestinian aspiration to eliminate the Jewish people's nation-state is no longer secret," Ynet quoted him as saying. "The State of Israel, which demands of its enemies to recognize it as the nation-state of the Jewish people and justifiably asks its supporters in the world to back this demand, needs to be able to declare in its highest legislative level that it proudly maintains this identity."

Ayman Odeh, the head of the Arab Joint List, a coalition of political parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, denounced the bill on social media as "crushing the rights of minorities."

"This Nationality bill is the tyranny of the majority, turning us into second-class citizens, and this time making it legal," Odeh said.

Haaretz quoted Zehava Galon, the chairwoman of the left-wing Zionist Meretz party, as saying that the bill amounted to "a declaration of war against Israel's Arab citizens and against Israel as a democratic and properly governed society," using the Israeli term for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Israel and its supporters have long claimed that Israel's insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state was not different from other countries' national identities, without elaborating on how the enactment of policies to maintain and privilege a Jewish national religious identity was compatible with equal rights for all people under Israeli civilian and military rule regardless of religion.

Rights organization Adalah has tallied at least 76 Israeli laws that already discriminate between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Palestinian communities in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem have long been targeted by discriminatory Israeli policies, whether through "divide and conquer" tactics, attempts at forcibly displacing Bedouin communities, zoning policies at the expense of Palestinian-Israeli communities, and what has been denounced as a policy of "Judaization" of Jerusalem at the expense of other religious communities.

From Ma'an News Agency, May 7.

Note: Related legislation mandating changes to Israel's Citizenship Law to demand fealty to a "Jewish State" has also been advancing. The policy of "Judaization" in Jerusalem toponymy has recently drawn criticism from UNESCO.

  1. Israel unveils ‘transfer’ plan… again

    Haartez reports that a conference of the National Union faction, which has MKs in the Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) party, approved a plan for essentially annexing the territories while either facilitating the exit of Palestinian residents or allowing them to remain but without voting rights.

    The plan was unanimously approved by the delegates present, who included Habayit Hayehudi MKs Smotrich, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, and MK Moti Yogev. Party chairman Naftali Bennett, however, did not attend the conference, nor did he send a recorded message, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did.

    The "Decision Plan," promoted by Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, aims to "alter the discourse and present a true alternative to any plan based on dividing the land."

    The Smotrich plan presents a kind of surrender-or-transfer ultimatum to the Palestinians in which “two alternatives will be offered to the Arabs of the Land of Israel:

    1. Anyone who is willing and able to relinquish the fulfillment of his national aspirations will be able to stay here and live as an individual in the Jewish state.

    2. Anyone who is unwilling or unable to relinquish his national aspirations will receive assistance from us to emigrate to one of the Arab countries.

    There is also a third option.

    Anyone who insists on choosing the third "option"—to continue to resort to violence against the Israel Defense Forces, the State of Israel and the Jewish population will be determinedly handled by the security forces with greater force than at present and under more comfortable conditions for us."

    The so-called "transfer" option is being mainstreamed with terrifying rapidity in Israel, speaking to the approach of a genocidal thresshold and a kind of Zionist fascism.

  2. Knesset kills bill to define Israel as state for all citizens

    In an unprecedented action, a bill submitted by three Joint List MKs calling for Israel to be defined as a state of all its citizens was disqualified by the Knesset presidium before it even reached the Knesset floor for deliberation. (Haaretz)

  3. Knesset passes ‘Jewish state’ bill

    After hours of furious debate, the Knesset narrowly approved changes to Israel's Basic Law,for the first time declaring the country as "the national home of the Jewish people." One clause of the bill downgrades the Arabic language from official to "special" standing, while also vaguely stipulating that "this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect." (Times of Israel, July 19)