Bill Might Force High Court Rulings to Favor Israel’s Jewish Character Over Democracy

T. Belman. This is very complex stuff. Calling Israel a democratic state handcuff’s the state and empowers the court. Instead the Knesset should craft a Bill of rights where they could specify what rights go only so far or what rights trump other rights.

The compromise in the current draft would allow the court to favour Israel’s Jewish character but would not force them to. It needs to say explicitly that when Democratic values are in conflict with Jewish values, the latter shall take precident.

I changed the title in Haaretz from “would” to “might”.

Draft is the latest proposal from Netanyahu’s governing coalition of the so-called nation-state bill that critics say would stifle democracy

A new version of a bill defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people would force the High Court of Justice to favor Israel’s Jewish character over its democratic character should the two conflict.

The draft bill, which was crafted in recent days, defines the country as “a Jewish and democratic state” but requires the court to interpret the law based on Israel being the Jewish nation-state.

Last week a ministerial committee drafting the bill considered deleting a reference to a democratic form of government. The governing coalition is having problems bridging differences over the draft of the bill, one source told Haaretz.

“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu is pressing to have the bill approved on its first reading within two weeks,” said the source, referring to the first of three Knesset votes the bill must pass to became law. “So they will vote on a version that there is no full agreement on, and they will only try to resolve the differences in advance of a second and third reading, after the [Knesset] recess.”

Coalition Chairman David Bitan said this week he expected a preliminary vote on the bill to be held in the last week of July, before the recess.

The first section of the current draft states: “The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, where it is exercising its aspiration for self-determination based on its cultural and historical heritage.”

The draft adds: “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people. The Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, and where the State of Israel has been established.”

As the final provision puts it, “The provisions of this Basic Law or any other legislation will be interpreted in light of what is provided in this section.”

Only after this provision is there is a clause referring to Israel’s democratic form of government. “This Basic Law is aimed at protecting Israel’s status as the nation-state of the Jewish people, to enshrine the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in a Basic Law, in the spirit of the principles in the Declaration of Independence.”

The revised version was largely taken from the original, controversial nation-state bill sponsored by MK Avi Dichter (Likud). It would let judges give priority to Israel’s character as a Jewish state in cases when Israel’s Jewish values conflicted with its democratic form of government.

Last week the ministerial committee deliberated between two other versions. It considered whether to have the bill state that Israel is “a Jewish state with a democratic form of government” or to eliminate any mention of democracy and suffice with a vague clause stating that Israel is “a Jewish state in the spirit of the principles of the Declaration of Independence.”

Meanwhile, no agreement has been reached on the status of the Arabic language. The draft of the bill is expected to distinguish between the status of Hebrew and Arabic, but two versions of the provision have been drafted. While Hebrew would receive the status of “state language,” one version would give Arabic “special status in the country, [with] its speakers having the right to language access to the state’s services.”

Another version would add a provision stating: “Nothing stated in this provision shall infringe on the status awarded in practice to the Arabic language before the commencement of this Basic Law.”

“We are not committed to any of the proposed versions,” said MK Amir Ohana (Likud). “But we will absolutely hear everyone and try to arrive at a version that best expresses, without apologizing or quibbling, that in the State of Israel every individual has full human rights, while national rights are possessed by only one people, the Jewish people.”

This week, Netanyahu announced that the coalition parties had agreed to set up a Knesset committee to prepare the bill for the later Knesset votes. The panel will have 16 members drawn from the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and the Knesset House Committee. Ten will be members of the coalition, with six from the opposition. Ohana is expected to serve as chairman.

Netanyahu has insisted that the committee be chaired by a member of his Likud party, as a sign that the legislation is a direct initiative of the party. Still, members from other parties signed on as cosponsors of Dichter’s bill.


JPOST reports on it differently.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday for the controversial bill “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People” to be legislated faster than planned.

Last week, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the bill proposed by MK Avi Dichter (Likud) and the Knesset voted for it in a preliminary reading. At that point, the bill was supposed to be put on hold for 60 days, while the government came up with its own version to merge with Dichter’s.

However, in Sunday’s meeting of coalition party leaders, Netanyahu called to accelerate the process and waive the waiting period.

The prime minister said the Jewish nation-state bill will continue on the private legislation path, so that it can be passed into law faster, without the government bill.

Last week, Netanyahu threw strong support behind the bill, calling for “all Zionist parties” to support it.

The legislation states that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People and includes details like the national anthem, the flag, and that Jerusalem is the capital. It also includes a controversial article stating that Hebrew is “the state’s language” and Arabic has a special status.

Netanyahu responded to critics of the bill who said it gives primacy to Jewish citizens, saying at two separate occasions that “there is no contradiction at all between this bill and equal rights for all citizens of Israel.”

On Wednesday, Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh came out against the bill, saying that “no apartheid law, racist and ultra-nationalist as it can be, will erase the fact that two nations live here.

“This extreme-right-wing government is trying to light a fire of nationalist hatred here, but I still believe that there is a majority here that wants to live in peace, equality and democracy, and that majority must get up now to fight determinedly against this dangerous government,” Odeh added.

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  1. Philosemites love Jews, Antisemites hate Jews. Semites disappeared from history thousands of years ago. The term, antisemitism, which came first, was coined by Wilhelm Marr in 1879

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    Known as the father of modern antisemitism, Wilhelm Marr led the fight to overturn Jewish emancipation in Germany.

    Born in 1819, Marr entered politics as a democratic revolutionary who favored the emancipation of all oppressed groups, including Jews. However, when he became embittered about the failure of the 1848-49 German Revolution to democratize Germany, and about his own rapidly declining political fortunes, he turned his venom against the Jews. His essay “Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums uber das Judenthum. (The Way to Victory of Germanicism over Judaism”) reached its 12th edition in 1879.

    Marr’s conception of antisemitism focused on the supposed racial, as opposed to religious, characteristics of the Jews. His organization, the League of Antisemites, introduced the word “antisemite” into the political lexicon and established the first popular political movement based entirely on anti-Jewish beliefs.

    Marr’s often-reprinted political tract, “The Victory of Judaism over Germandom,” warned that “the Jewish spirit and Jewish consciousness have overpowered the world.” He called for resistance against “this foreign power” before it was too late. Marr thought that before long “there will be absolutely no public office, even the highest one, which the Jews will not have usurped.” For Marr, it was a badge of honor to be called an antisemite.

    Marr and others employed the word antisemitism in the largely secular anti-Jewish political campaigns that became widespread in Europe around the turn of the century. The word derived from an 18th-century analysis of languages that differentiated between those with so-called “Aryan” roots and those with so-called “Semitic” ones. This distinction led, in turn, to the assumption–a false one–that there were corresponding racial groups. Within this framework, Jews became “Semites,” and that designation paved the way for Marr’s new vocabulary. He could have used the conventional German term Judenhass to refer to his hatred of Jews, but that way of speaking carried religious connotations that Marr wanted to de-emphasize in favor of racial ones. Apparently more “scientific,” Marr’s Antisemitismus caught on. Eventually, it became a way of speaking about all the forms of hostility toward Jews throughout history.

    Over the centuries, antisemitism has taken on different but related forms: religious, political, economic, social, and racial. Jews have been discriminated against, hated, and killed because prejudiced non-Jews believed they belonged to the wrong religion, lacked citizenship qualifications, practiced business improperly, behaved inappropriately, or possessed inferior racial characteristics. These forms of antisemitism, but especially the racial one, all played key parts in the Holocaust.

    Importantly, Hitler and his followers were not antisemites primarily because they were racists. The relation worked more the other way around: Hitler and his followers were racists because they were antisemites looking for an anti-Jewish stigma deeper than any religious, economic, or political prejudice alone could provide. For if Jews were found wanting religiously, it was possible for them to convert. If their business practices or political views were somehow inappropriate, changed behavior could, in principle, correct their shortcomings. But antisemites in the line that ran from Marr to Hitler believed that Jews were a menace no matter what they did. As Marr put the point, “the Jews are the ‘best citizens’ of this modern, Christian state,” but they were that way, he added, because it was “in perfect harmony with their interests” to be so. Undoubtedly, Marr believed–and Hitler agreed even more so–that the interests of Jews were irreconcilably at odds with Germany’s.

    For antisemites of Marr’s stripe, converted Jews were still untrustworthy Jews. Jewish behavior might change in any number of ways, but the “logic” of racist antisemitism did not consider such changes as reasons to give up antisemitism. To the contrary, this antisemitism interpreted Jewish assimilation as infiltration, Jewish conformity as duplicity, and Jewish integration into non-Jewish society as proof of Jewish cunning that intended world domination. On the other hand, if Jews insisted on retaining their distinctively Jewish ways, that insistence provided evidence of another kind to show that Jews were an alien people. Added to earlier forms of antisemitism, racial theory “explained” why the Jews, no matter what appearances might suggest to the contrary, were a threat that Germans could not afford to tolerate.

    Sources: The Holocaust Chronicle

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