MEC Analytical Group
13 October 2010
A Jewish state
An Israeli Cabinet decision on 10 October to require non-Jews seeking
Israeli citizenship to pledge allegiance to a Jewish state has produced
strong reactions within Israel. We are grateful to John Whitbeck for
bringing to our attention the Ha’aretz article below by the columnist Gideon
Levy, and we also circulate below another Ha’aretz article reporting
condemnation of the decision by the leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni and
An offer on 11 October by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze
settlement construction if the Palestinians will recognize Israel as a
Jewish state was immediately rejected.
*The Jewish Republic of Israel* *Swearing an oath to a Jewish state will
decide its fate. It is liable to turn the country into a theocracy like
By Gideon Levy, 10.10.10
Remember this day. It’s the day Israel changes its character. As a result,
it can also change its name to the Jewish Republic of Israel, like the
Islamic Republic of Iran. Granted, the loyalty oath bill that Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to have passed purportedly only deals with new
citizens who are not Jewish, but it affects the fate of all of us.
From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic,
theocratic, nationalistic and racist country. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t
affect him is mistaken. There is a silent majority that is accepting this
with worrying apathy, as if to say: “I don’t care what country I live in.”
Also anyone who thinks the world will continue to relate to Israel as a
democracy after this law doesn’t understand what it is about. It’s another
step that seriously harms Israel’s image.
Prime Minister Netanyahu will prove today that he is actually Yisrael
Beinteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman will
prove he is really a loyal member of Yisrael Beiteinu. The Labor party will
prove it is nothing more than a doormat. And Israel today will prove that it
doesn’t care about anything. Today the loyalty oath bill, soon the loyalty
oath law. The dam will overflow today, threatening to drown the remnants of
democracy until we are left perhaps with a Jewish state of a character that
no one really understands, but it certainly won’t be a democracy. Those
demanding this loyalty oath are the ones misappropriating loyalty to the
At its next session, the Knesset is to debate close to 20 other
anti-democratic bills. Over the weekend, the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel issued a blacklist of legislation: a loyalty law for Knesset members;
a loyalty law for film production; a loyalty law for non-profits; putting
the Palestinian catastrophe, the Nakba, beyond the scope of the law; a ban
on calls for a boycott; and a bill for the revocation of citizenship. It’s a
dangerous McCarthyist dance on the part of ignorant legislators who haven’t
begun to understand what democracy is all about. It’s dangerous even if only
a portion of the bills become law, because our fate and our essence will
It’s not hard to understand the Netanyahu-Lieberman duo. As sworn
nationalists, they are not expected to understand that democracy doesn’t
only mean the rule of the majority, but rather first and foremost that
minorities have rights. It’s much harder to comprehend the complacency of
the masses. Town squares should have been filled today with citizens who do
not wish to live in a country where the minority is oppressed by draconian
laws such as the one that forces them to swear a false oath to a Jewish
state, but amazingly almost no one seems to feel affected.
For decades, we have futilely dealt with the question of who is a Jew. Now
the question of what is Jewish will not go away. What is the “state of the
Jewish nation”? Does it belong more to Jews in the Diaspora than to its Arab
citizens? Will they decide its fate and will this be called a democracy?
Will the ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta sect, which opposes the state’s
existence, along with hundreds of thousands of Jews who have avoided coming
do whatever they want with it? What is Jewish? Jewish holidays? Kosher
dietary laws? The increased grip of the religious establishment, as if there
is not enough of it now to distort democracy? Swearing an oath to a Jewish
state will decide its fate. It is liable to turn the country into a
theocracy like Saudi Arabia.
True, for the time being, it’s a matter of an empty, ridiculous slogan.
There aren’t three Jews who could agree what a Jewish state looks like, but
history has taught us that empty slogans, too, can pave the path to hell. In
the meantime, the new proposed legislation will only increase Israeli Arabs’
alienation and ultimately result in the alienation of much wider segments of
That’s what happens when the fire is still smoldering under the rug, the
fire of the basic lack of faith in the justice of our path. Only such a lack
of confidence can produce such distorted proposed legislation as that which
will be approved today, and clearly approval will be forthcoming. Canada
doesn’t need its citizens to swear an oath to the Canadian state, nor do
other countries require similar acts. Only Israel. And it is being done
either to provoke the Arab minority more and push them into a greater lack
of loyalty so one day the time will come to finally get rid of them, or it
is designed to scuttle the prospect of a peace agreement with the
Palestinians. One way or another, in Basel at the First Zionist Congress in
1897, the Jewish state was founded, as Theodor Herzl said, and today the
unenlightened Jewish Republic of Israel will be founded.
*Livni: Loyalty oath amendment is ‘politics at its worst’* *Controversial
loyalty oath amendment sparks condemnation from a range of Israeli
politicians; MK Tibi: Israel is a democracy for Jews, but not for Arabs.*
By Haaretz Service 10.10.10
Leader of the opposition and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni condemned on
Sunday the cabinet’s approval of a controversial amendment to the
Citizenship Law requiring non-Jews seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance
to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
“What we have seen today is politics at its worst. The sensitive issue of
Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state has become subject to
“It is essential that we maintain Israel’s status as a Jewish state with
equal rights for all its citizens. This proposal contributes nothing to this
goal. On the contrary, it will cause internal conflict and damage [Israel’s
image in the world].”
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi attacked earlier on Sunday the cabinet’s approval
of the amendment.
“The government of Israel has become subservient to Yisrael Beiteinu and its
fascist doctrine,” said Tibi. “No other state in the world would force its
citizens or those seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to an ideology.”
“Israel has proven that it is not equal and is a democracy for Jews and not
for Arabs,” he added.
The amendment is one of the promises Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made
to Yisrael Beitenu in the coalition agreements. Since coming into government
Yisrael Beitenu has advanced a long list of “loyalty” laws, which many
consider to be discriminatory against Israel’s Arab citizens.
Yisrael Beiteinu was enthusiastic over the cabinet’s majority vote, calling
it “an important message to all those, both inside and outside, who seek to
question the State of Israel’s existence as the national state of the Jewish
Meretz chairman MK Haim Oron also condemned the amendment on Sunday, saying
that “time and again it is evident that the government has adopted
Lieberman’s agenda in its entirety.”
Oron added that the government has sunk into a “moral and political abyss.”
Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh blamed on Sunday Netanyahu and Barak for
supporting and promoting “mega-racist legislation.”
Israeli Arab MK Talab al-Sana said on Sunday that “the amendment is a
serious blow to democracy and will cause the exclusion of 20 percent of the
country’s citizens… [It] will situate Israel as the successor of
Apartheid-era South Africa.”
The cabinet voted Sunday by a majority in favor of the amendment, which was
submitted by Justice Minister Ya’akov Ne’eman. But ministers had been
divided on the issue since it was first raised.
At the last minute, Ne’eman had suggested amending the draft to require Jews
to sign a similar loyalty oath. Defense Minister Ehud Barak submitted an
amendment of his own to the draft, demanding it include mention of “Jewish
and democratic state in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence of
Barak insisted that adding a reference to the Declaration of Independence
“would be the best way to reflect the fundamental values of the State of
This slight change to include the declaration “would not harm the Arab
minority,” he said, noting that similar declarations are common in many
countries in the world.
Most Labor politicians opposed the bill, including Isaac Herzog and Avishay
Braverman, who lead the opposition, and Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who was absent
from the meeting but left a letter in which he expresses his opposition.
Minister Shalom Simhon (Labor) also skipped the meeting, as he was abroad on
a business trip.
Herzog told Haaretz late Saturday that the resounding support for such an
amendment showed that “fascism was devouring the margins of society.”
“We are on a most dangerous slippery slope,” he warned.
Likud ministers Dan Meridor and Benny Begin were expected to try and
dissuade their cabinet colleagues from supporting the amendment.
Meridor led an assault on the amendment and warned that such an amendment to
the law could severely damage relations with the Arab population in Israel.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin was also opposed to the bill, declaring: “The
students of Jabotinsky see no need for such bill. I am a fervent Zionist,
and I need no strengthening of my belief. The establishment of a Jewish
state in the Land of Israel was an ethical act that the world recognized,
and it gained great respect when we described our country as Jewish and
democratic. This description is also anchored specifically in the
Declaration of Independence and the Law on Elections, and any additions of
this type can only be harmful.”
“This law will not assist us as a society and a state. On the contrary, it
could arm our enemies and opponents in the world in an effort to emphasize
the trend for separatism or even racism within Israel,” Rivlin said.
“I am not opposed to saying each morning and evening that we are a Jewish
and democratic state, but why do we need this law?” Rivlin said.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, meanwhile, that he would propose his own
bill that strip citizenship off of anyone convicted of disloyalty to the
“Declarations are not enough in the fact against incidents such as [MKs]
Azmi Bishara and Hanin Zoabi,” Yishai said in reference to two Israeli Arab
lawmakers, one who is suspected of having contacts with enemy states and the
other who took part in a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. “Anyone who betrays the
state will lose his citizenship.”
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