On 19 July, 2018, the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) passed a quasi-constitutional law, which has come to be known as the “Nation-State Law”. This legislation has been cheered by many and objected to by many more. It has been the center of controversy at home and abroad since its enactment. It has generated public protests attended by tens of thousands. At least seven petitions have been filed with Israel’s Supreme Court in an attempt to have the law declared “unconstitutional”. And, as with most matters of controversy in Israel, it has taken on political overtones. Proponents hail the legislation as a breath of fresh air, claiming, among other things, that it puts Jewish values and democratic values on an equal footing. Opponents condemn it, asserting that law discriminates against Israel’s minority communities. Some of the comments will be mentioned below.
When dealing with legislation, two primary questions need to be asked, namely: (1) What does it say? and (2) What does it mean?
The law itself is relatively short, only 11 provisions. So in answer to the first question – What does it say? – I decided to include here a full translation of it, so that it can be seen as a whole:
Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People
1 – Basic principles
A. The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.
B. The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.
C. The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
2 – The symbols of the state
A. The name of the state is “Israel.”
B. The state flag is white with two blue stripes near the edges and a blue Star of David in the center.
C. The state emblem is a seven-branched menorah with olive leaves on both sides and the word “Israel” beneath it.
D. The state anthem is “Hatikvah.”
E. Details regarding state symbols will be determined by the law.
3 – The capital of the state
Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.
4 – Language
A. The state’s language is Hebrew.
B. The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.
C. This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.
5 – Ingathering of the exiles
The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles.
6 – Connection to the Jewish people
A. The state will strive to ensure the safety of the members of the Jewish people in trouble or in captivity due to the fact of their Jewishness or their citizenship.
B. The state shall act within the Diaspora to strengthen the affinity between the state and members of the Jewish people.
C. The state shall act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people among Jews in the Diaspora.
7 – Jewish settlement
A. The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.
8 – Official calendar
The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside it the Gregorian calendar will be used as an official calendar. Use of the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar will be determined by law.
9 – Independence Day and memorial days
A. Independence Day is the official national holiday of the state.
B. Memorial Day for the Fallen in Israel’s Wars and Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day are official memorial days of the State.
10 – Days of rest and sabbath
The Sabbath and the festivals of Israel are the established days of rest in the state; Non-Jews have a right to maintain days of rest on their Sabbaths and festivals; Details of this issue will be determined by law.
11 – Immutability
This Basic Law shall not be amended, unless by another Basic Law passed by a majority of Knesset members.
That’s it. Relatively short and to the point. After it had been debated and revised for over a year, it was passed by a vote of 62 in favor, 55 against, with two abstentions. Commenting upon the legislation immediately after its passage, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated this was “a pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel…We enshrined in law the basic principle of our existence. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, that respects the individual rights of all its citizens. This is our state — the Jewish state. In recent years there have been some who have attempted to put this in doubt, to undercut the core of our being. Today we made it law: This is our nation, language and flag.”
As for the second question – What does it mean? – this is the part that has sparked such ongoing opposition and antagonism. The primary argument of critics of the law is that it is discriminates against minorities in Israel. This claim is expanded upon and embellished, and is filled with accusations of wrong-doing, including the enshrinement into law of racial superiority, relegation of minorities to being second-class citizens and insensitivity to their feelings.
In a nutshell, the language of the nation-state law is designed to make sure that Israel does not succumb to multi-culturalism that would destroy its national identity, its historical and Biblical right to the land and its unique culture, that was generated primarily by Jews who returned to their ancestral homeland, bringing with them both diversity with identity. What Israel wants to achieve with this law is exactly what its opponents want to prevent – an attempt to make the obvious explicit: Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, with all that such a statement entails. That means it can have an official language, a flag, national holidays and that it possesses the sole right to expand its tent pegs to settle the land, from “Dan to Beer Sheva”. It is this latter aspect which is the crux of the opposition to it. Just as a brief aside: The law refers to the “development of Jewish settlement”, not the setting up of “settlements”. There is a significant difference between the two.
If the “exercise [of] national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”, that precludes non-Jews from being able to claim the right to self-determination as a nation within the borders of Israel. The need for such a provision is abundantly evident in light of the unrelenting efforts of the so-called “Palestinians” to claim a non-existent right of return to the land to set up a “Palestinian” state. As has been mentioned time and time again, the Islamic perspective is that Judaism, along with Christianity, are false religions and that Islam has replaced Judaism. From that perspective, Islamists assert that there can no basis for the establishment of a Jewish state. But, Jews can continue to live, along with Christians, under Islamic law and rules. So, if there is no “right” to a Jewish state, the argument naturally follows that Jews also have no right to defend it, i.e., Israel should have no army or other defenders of the nation, but Jews and others should live at the mercy of Islam.
But, there is more. Israel’s Arab neighbors reject Israel’s very existence as the “nation-state” of the Jewish people. Their constant claim is that Judaism is a religion and not a nationality and that “Islamic history” negates any Jewish connection with “Palestine”. This denial of genuine historical fact regarding the ties between the Jews and the land known as Israel is an essential part of Islamic theology, which asserts that any land that was ever under the control of Islam remains holy to Islam, even if Islam’s rule is temporarily removed from the land. Viewed from this perspective, all of Israel is considered as “occupied territory”, as it was once controlled by the Ottoman Empire, which was Islamic.
Thus, the enshrining into this new law the factual existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people runs contrary to everything that is claimed by the “Palestinians” and Islam and is a difficult pill to swallow.
In this regard, the real underlying opposition to the law became abundantly clear during one of the rallies that took place a few weeks ago, during the course of which “Palestinian” nationalist symbols, like flags, were displayed. Stated differently, the outcry against the new law is that it fails to treat all Israeli citizens equally. And the intention behind the argument of inequality is that it denies “Palestinians” the right to “national self-determination”, i.e., to set up a state of their own “in the State of Israel”. And so it is as it should be! The calls for “Palestinian” national rights at the protest gathering were what the opposition is really all about. Those calls were interspersed with calls in support of a “Palestinian” state and against Israel, even including the oft-repeated cries of Hamas terrorists, “With blood and fire, we will redeem ‘Palestine'”, as well as “Millions of martyrs are marching to Jerusalem.”
The new law is not intended to be legislation in the normal course, designed to guide the daily affairs of the country’s populace. It is intended to be a formal “declaration” of what Israel is, historically, nationally and Biblically – the place where God has called the Jewish people, the place where He wants to bless them and, as a consequence, to bless the world through them. The desired equality that opponents of this law desire could well eventually result in the same multi-culturalism that Islamists have successfully used to bring about the cultural suicide that Europe is experiencing in our day.
All the issues raised by the Nation-State law are not dealt with here. Some things in the law will still need to be ironed out. For the time being, the controversy will continue.
Then the LORD said to him [Moses], “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants’.” (Deut. 34:4)
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: Save [us], LORD, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues. (Psalm 120:2)
Bless, be blessed and be a blessing.