Amid nation-state law controversy, PM urges lawmakers to ‘fight for the truth’

T. Belman. I agree with Netanyahu’s position. Bennett was wrong to back away from it and Glick was wrong to argue it was meaningless. As for the reaction of the Druze citizens, I don’t empathize with them at all. They must accept the fact that they are living in a Jewish state. But I do empathize with them because 250 Syrian Druzer were killed due to the coordinated Islamic State attacks in Syria’s Sweida on Thursday.

PM Netanyahu defends controversial law defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, saying debate is “one-sided” and demanding that Likud ministers express “unreserved and unapologetic” support • PM calls Left’s criticism “hypocritical.”

By  Mati Tuchfeld, ISRAEL HAYOM

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday told Likud ministers he expected them to express “unreserved and unapologetic” support for the controversial nation-state law.

“The Jewish nation-state is the basis of our existence,” Netanyahu said.  “There is constant defiance against the nation-state law and the discourse is very one-sided. Discussions in media panels are shallow. Don’t be apologetic – fight for the truth,” he urged.

Though largely symbolic, the contentious legislation, which states that “Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination in it,” has been lambasted by Arab lawmakers as “racist,” and discriminatory against Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, which make up a substantial percentage of the population.

The Druze, a unique religious and ethnic minority among Israeli Arabs, were particularly outraged by the legislation, as most Druze men serve in the Israel Defense Forces and members of the community serve in top positions in Israeli politics and public service.

Several Druze leaders, including three Knesset members, petitioned the High Court of Justice against the law, saying it was an “extreme act of discrimination” against the country’s minorities.

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Druze leaders on Sunday to hear their grievances and allay their concerns.

“We are talking with Druze leaders and today I will meet with their mayors,” he said, adding that in a meeting last week it was agreed to promote legislation that would further ease Druze integration into Israeli society, especially in the workforce.

“Israeli citizens’ individual rights have been cemented in a number of laws, including Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. These laws guarantee full equality before the law, from the right to vote and be elected to the Knesset to any other individual right in the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said ahead of the cabinet’s weekly meeting on Sunday.

“On the other hand, we have never enshrined the national rights of the Jewish people in our land in a basic law until now that we’ve enacted the nation-state law. What do ‘national rights’ mean They define the nature of the flag, the anthem, the language and, of course, the fact one of the fundamental objectives of the state is the ingathering of the exiles here, in the land of Israel, which is the essence of the Zionist vision.”

Criticizing the law’s detractors, Netanyahu said, “Does the determination that our flag bears the Star of David somehow invalidates the individual rights of any Israeli citizen Nonsense. This statement does, however, ensure that there will be no other flag. Does the statement that ‘Hatikvah’ is our national anthem detract from the individual rights of anyone in Israel Nonsense, it simply cements the fact that there will be no other anthem.

“There is already a proposal to replace the flag and the anthem in the name of so-called equality. Many countries are dealing with defiance against the concept of nationality, but in Israel, this undermines our very existence. For this reason, the attacks by the Left, which calls itself Zionist, are absurd and reveal the lows to which the Left has sunk,” Netanyahu said.

“For decades, the opposition has been preaching to us that we should withdraw to the 1967 lines in order to ensure that Israel will be the nation-state of the Jewish people, with a Jewish majority in the country. Now, when we legislate the nation-state law, a basic law that ensures exactly this, the Left decries it What hypocrisy,” he said.

“The Israeli Left has some soul-searching to do,” he continued. “It must ask itself why the basic concept of Zionism – a Jewish nation-state in the [Jewish] homeland – has become something to be ashamed of. We are proud of our country being the national home of the Jewish people, a country that meticulously observe the individual rights of all its citizens.”

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev also called on the Druze community to support the law.

Taking to Facebook, she wrote, “You, of all people – you who have been deeply loyal to the State of Israel for decades – should not be fooled by the radical Left. Don’t buy their media spin. Read the actual law.”

“This law doesn’t discriminate against you. You remain equal citizens in the Jewish state, which, as you well know, has nothing but respect for its citizens and especially for its loyal Druze minority,” Regev wrote.

The nation-state law, she continued, “doesn’t violate your civil rights or anyone else’s rights – Christian, Muslim, Bedouin or Circassian. These rights are also enshrined in Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.”

“All this basic law seeks to do is complement other basic laws and clarify – to us and to the judiciary, which seems to have forgotten, and to the entire world – that from a national level there is no equality,” she wrote. “Israel has and always will be a Jewish state, whose flag bears the Star of David, whose language is Hebrew, and whose capital is and will forever be the united city of Jerusalem. You are equal and respected citizens in this country.”

Slamming the law’s opponents, Regev wrote that “those who participate in the well-publicized campaign against this law have never read it in full or are part of the attempts to undermine Israel’s Jewish character. This will fail and it only proves how much this law was necessary.”

July 29, 2018 | 1 Comment »

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  1. Israel needs a Nation-State Law.

    It could consider writing another basic law which does NOT supersede the Nation State Law but says something the affect that, the Nation-State Law does not diminish individual rights of any Israeli whether Jewish, Druze, Arab or other citizen. The Druze and the other minorities in the country who have shown their loyalty over the years by their IDF and national service to the Country have a special partnership with the Jewish majority of the country and are fully appreciated. Human Rights guarantees afforded to all citizens elsewhere in the Basic Laws are not diminished by the Nation-State Clause.

    Reasons to afirm Israel’s Jewish character

    To fully understand creation of Israel’s new nation-state law, you have go back to 2006-2007

    Last week saw the passing of the nation-state law in Israel. The law formally establishes Israel as a Jewish state, and it has been dubbed racist, apartheid and undemocratic. Why? Some see spelling out the Jewish character of the state of Israel, with its Star of David flag, Hatikvah national anthem, and menorah as its symbol, as ignoring the Arab population, making them second-class citizens.

    But, to fully understand its creation, one must go back to 2006-2007, when major Arab-Israeli NGOs released three significant publications — The Future Vision of the Arab Palestinians in Israel, the Democratic Constitution, and the Haifa Declaration. Each called for economic and social equality for Israeli Arabs. They also sought veto power on national issues, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and, critically, the annulment of Israel’s Jewish character. They recommended two states —not one Jewish and one Palestinian, but one, a secular bi-national state of Jews and Arabs and one exclusively Palestinian.

    These publications caused a stir, and for many Jewish Israelis, fear. When taken in conjunction with new powers afforded the Supreme Court, under Justice Aharon Barak’s “constitutional revolution” demonstrating that the nature of the Jewish state had no legal definition, they put Israel’s Jewish character at risk.

    Israel does not have a constitution, but it does have 12 Basic Laws, ten of which deal with its democratic nature and civil liberties. Not one affirms Israel’s Jewish character. Until last week.

    Adi Arbel, former project manager at the Institute for Zionist Strategies (IZS) who was heavily involved in the nation-state bill from the beginning told me in a phone interview: “The idea behind the nation-state law was to ensure the Jewish character of the state in any constitution that would be written.”

    Yoaz Hendel, chairman of the IZS and well-known Israeli social commentator, supports the law as natural Zionism. “For the first decades of the state, there was no need to define who we were. When you’re under constant threat, words are pointless. Now, we are no longer under existential threat, the country is flourishing and prosperous but the demography is changing. The danger is in the future: if we do not define who we are now, the generations to come will fight one another.”

    One aspect of the law that has Arab citizens (and many Jewish citizens, including this one) upset is the removal of Arabic from its de-facto status as an official language of the state. In the new law, Arabic is given special status explicitly protected in its current use.

    For many, this is not enough, and in fact, on Wednesday, Education minister Naftali Bennet announced his desire to change this decision after numerous meetings with members of the Druze community who “stand side by side with us and have been caused pain.”

    The other controversial clause refers to Jewish settlement of the land. But much of the controversy is the fault of language. In English, the word “settlement” refers to settlements beyond the Green Line, or hitnachalut in Hebrew. In the law, the term used is hityashvut, which means to dwell in the land.

    Hendel unabashedly defends this ideal: “The essence of the Zionist vision is Jewish living in the land. Yes, this is a national statement, not a democratic one. The Judaisation of the Negev and the Galilee is a national goal. It is okay to say that out loud.”

    With Israel under attack physically and in world forums, and with many calling it an apartheid state despite guaranteed full rights for all of its citizens, some felt it was urgent to make Israel’s Jewish character official.

    In doing so, the Israeli government has established one benefit for Jews that Arabs do not have: the right to move to Israel, by virtue of being at least 25 per cent Jewish. Of course, that is Israel’s raison d’etre in the world: a refuge and homeland for the Jewish people after 2,000 years of exile.

    The question, then, is whether a democratic Jewish state is a legitimate thing, or whether a homeland for Jews where all Jews are welcome and all citizens are guaranteed rights, yet where Jewish tradition, holidays and symbols are celebrated nationally, and Jews are in charge of their destiny, should be replaced by a state of all her citizens devoid of Jewish majority, symbolism and authority and where Jewish people are not automatically welcome home. I leave that for you to ponder.