Friday, December 5, 2014

Israeli academics call upon members of the Knesset: Oppose the Jewish Nation Law

Israelis protest against the Jewish Nation Law
Guest contributor, Dr. Yoav Peled, of Tel Aviv University's Department of Political Science, is one of the world's leading experts on democracy in ethnically divided nation-states, a topic on which he has published extensively.  Dr. Peled is part of a large group of Israeli academics who oppose the proposed Jewish Nation Law as undermining equal rights for all of Israel's citizens.  Following his contribution, I enclose a Nov. 25, 2014, editorial from Haaretz, Israel's most prominent newspaper, that calls from the proposed law to be rejected by the Israeli Knesset (parliament)

Basic Law: Israel – the Nation-State of the Jewish People (the "Jewish Nation Law"), if legislated, will seriously violate the principle of equality, a fundamental constitutional principle in any democratic state, and will contradict Israel's Declaration of Independence.

The bills currently on the agenda (including those described as "moderate") seek to ground in a basic law the discrimination and inequality that currently afflict national and religious minorities in Israel and will legitimate further discriminatory legislation. Such a law does not exist in any democratic country in the world.

We, faculty members in Israel's universities and colleges, support the President of the State of Israel in opposing this proposed basic law and call on the citizens of Israel and on our representatives in the Knesset not to lend their hand to turning inequality into a fundamental value and a basic law in Israel.

Organizing Committee:
Prof. Dani Filc, Ben-Gurion University
Dr. Snait Gissis, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Aeyal Gross, Tel Aviv University
Prof. Yoav Peled, Tel Aviv University

Signed by more than 700 faculty members in Israeli universities and colleges (15% of the total number), including 9 Israel Prize laureates.

The Jewish nation-state bill only weakens Israel's democratic foundations

The State of Israel’s identity is liable to be held hostage to the desire of ministers and their parties to favor their political ambitions over democratic principles.
Haaretz Editorial, November 25, 2014 

After heavy political pressure exerted by coalition leaders, it was decided on Monday to postpone by a week a vote on the proposed basic law on the Jewish nation-state. But despite this delay, one cannot avoid stating that if these proposals in their current wording pass into law, they will remove the State of Israel from the community of democratic nations, and give it a place of honor instead beside those dark regimes in which minorities are persecuted.

The bill stipulates, among other things, that Arabic – the language of 20 percent of the country’s population – will lose its historic status as an official language; that the equal rights of minorities to live anywhere in the country will be compromised; that Jewish law, which is assimilated into Israeli law, will be given preferred status; and, most of all, that Israel’s definition as a Jewish state will prevail over its definition as a democracy.

The explanatory notes accompanying the bill state that it is required, “At a time when there are those who seek to do away with the right of the Jewish people to a national home in its land, and with the recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.” But this bill will not strengthen recognition of Israel as the Jewish people’s nation-state. It will only weaken its democratic foundations.

Beyond the dispute over whether such a law is necessary – let alone how it should be worded – it appears that Israel’s future identity has become part of a political game, in which settling personal accounts between the prime minister and some of his ministers is much more important than the threat to the status of Israel, its citizens and, particularly, its minorities.

The much-needed debate on the dangerous ramifications of this law has been replaced by speculation on whether the government can survive after it is voted on. The question of whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu means to use the law as a way of catapulting his partners/rivals out of the ring so he can establish a new coalition, or to force a new election, is overshadowing any discussion of its foolish clauses.

Thus, the State of Israel’s identity – which was never subject to dispute since its founding – is liable to be held hostage to the desire of ministers and their parties to favor their political ambitions over the principles on which a democracy should rest.

In this context, the positions of Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni are particularly important, because their votes will determine the future of this bill and this government. Lapid and Livni made clear that they do not plan to support any versions of the bill drawn up by Zeev Elkin and Ayelet Shaked. They must be encouraged to stick to this position, even if it means dissolving the government, going to an election, and losing their places in the next cabinet. [Since this editorial was published, both Finance Minster Lapid and Justice Minster Livni were dismissed by PM Netanyahu from his government - ED]

1 comment:

haiyagulf said...

I am a supporter of principle of equality.Great article and cause.