By Dror Eydar, Israel Hayom, 11-24-14
Two kinds of people oppose the Jewish state bill (which, if passed, would become a constitutional Basic Law defining Israel as the national home of the Jewish people):
*Naive people, who pretend to be familiar with the content of the bill but don’t really know what it is about, and *people who actually oppose the idea of a Jewish state but try to disguise their opposition with generalizations.
There are several versions of this bill, and on Sunday the cabinet voted in favor of the prime minister’s bill, a revised version of the bill initially penned by Likud MK Zeev Elkin. I spoke with some of the bill’s opponents in the cabinet and learned that they were willing to support the prime minister’s version, but not Elkin’s or the version penned by Habayit Hayehudi MK Ayelet Shaked. Fine. Let’s see what they do down the line.
Contrary to the vicious propaganda surrounding the bill, none of the versions poses a threat to the individual civil rights of any of Israel’s citizens. On the contrary, the bill reiterates the principles already legislated in the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.
The idea that Israel is a Jewish state, and that every law and every government action should be interpreted through the prism of the state’s Jewish character, is a concept first espoused by former Chief Justice Aharon Barak. But actions speak louder than words, and so far no one has really translated Barak’s words into action. That is why this idea must be anchored in constitutional legislation.
The claim that this bill seeks to “place the Jewish character of the state above its democratic character” is a flat-out lie. Israel is a democracy in the broad sense of the word, which includes minority rights, full equality and protection. The only thing this bill seeks to do is to add Israel’s unique identity to its existing laws.
As this bill evolved, its most vocal critics have been the same lawmakers who regularly advocate the establishment of a Palestinian state. But when it comes to anchoring Israel’s Jewish identity in law, they object. That is the crux of the issue, not peace nor democracy.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, one of the bill’s biggest opponents, has accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the authors of the various bills that they are “destroying the state.” On Sunday, after the cabinet approved the bill, she leveled additional criticism, saying that “if this was an effort to get back at me — you have won.” Not since King Louis XIV, who famously said “L’Etat, c’est moi” (I am the state), has such a ludicrous remark been made by someone whose popularity was so rapidly plummeting. She thinks that she is the state; she thinks that the very bill defining Israel as the national home of the Jewish people is meant not to secure the identity of the state, but to personally get back at her for whatever offense.
Incidentally, Livni, the self proclaimed defender of democracy, voted in favor of the anti-Israel Hayom bill because, according to her, this newspaper represents “a worldview that, in my opinion, runs contrary to Israel’s best interests.” The state is she; she is the state. Unbelievable.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid wrote Sunday that David Ben-Gurion, Zeev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin would never have voted in favor of this bill. Professor Avraham Diskin, one of the people who formulated the bill, told me: “I met with Benny Begin [Menachem Begin’s son] on this bill. He opposed the absence of the word ‘equality.’ I told him that there is absolutely no disagreement about the need for personal equality, and that it is worth mentioning in the bill. And then, in the presence of several witnesses in the room, Begin said: ‘That is really an acceptable solution.'” As for his father, to say that Menachem Begin would have opposed the idea of a Jewish nation state on the basis of full equal rights for all its citizens is nothing more than a brazen lie.
Let me present you with the following remarks, written by Ben-Gurion in his journals about the 1929 massacres: “The Arabs of Hebron — Muslims, zealots, infamous for their hot-headedness. … The religious sages gave them permission to take women and property [from the Jews]. The rioters went from home to home, unhindered, murdering and slaughtering without discrimination, the elderly and the young, man and woman.” His description ends with the words: “Hebron was made Judenrein.” Would the man who wrote these words oppose the idea of a Jewish nation state on the basis of full equal rights for all its citizens?
As for Jabotinsky, those who use his name to make arguments would be wise to re-read his excellent essay, “The Iron Wall”: “As long as the Arabs feel that there is the least hope of getting rid of us, they will refuse to give up this hope in return for either kind words or for bread and butter. … When a living people yields in matters of such a vital character it is only when there is no longer any hope of getting rid of us, because they can make no breach in the iron wall. … Then we may expect them to discuss honestly practical questions. But the only way to obtain such an agreement is the iron wall, which is to say a strong power in Palestine that is not amenable to any Arab pressure.”
That is exactly what this bill is going for: strengthening the conceptual iron wall of our existence here, in our ancestral homeland.