INTO THE FRAY: The Nationality Law brouhaha – The failing of Jewish national will?

For your perusal, my latest INTO THE FRAY column:

INTO THE FRAY: The Nationality Law brouhaha – The failing of Jewish national will?

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Israel will only be democratic if it is Jewish—and it will only be Jewish if it is Zionist. Therefore, it will only be democratic if it is Zionist i.e. if it is the nation state of the Jewish people

It appears this week on the following sites (in alphabetical order):

ISRAEL RISING: (To be posted) `
JERUSALEM HERALD:—The-Failing-Of-Jewish-National-Will

Several short excerpts:

[A] nation is the culmination of a long past of endeavors, sacrifice, and devotion…The nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things…constitute this soul or spiritual principle. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received. – Ernest Renan, “What is a Nation?” 1882.

After a stormy passage of well over half a decade, the Nationality Bill, defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, was finally passed into law by the Knesset as a Basic Law of the land—by a vote of 62 against 55… should be a matter of deep concern to the citizens of this country that almost half the members of the nation’s parliament voted AGAINST (!) the bill…

Puerile, preposterous and pernicious objections

Of course, among the 55 opponents were the 13 members of the anti-Zionist Joint List, composed of a motley assortment of smaller, mainly Arab factions …who openly reject the existence of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews. This, of course, is to be expected of them…But what was far more inexplicable, unacceptable and inexcusable is the fact that over 40 self-professed “Zionist” MK’s voted against the bill…

Providing grist for the mills of vehement Judeophobes

M.K. Tamar Zandberg
M.K. Tamar Zandberg

…M.K. Tamar Zandberg, head of the radical Meretz faction went even further in her scandalous anti-bill vitriol, lamenting: “ According to this law, Zionism is no longer a national movement that built a home for a persecuted people, but coercive and belligerent jingoism, based on a sense of racial superiority”…Sadly however, no matter how misleadingly mendacious M.K. Zandberg’s mischaracterization of the bill is, it will doubtlessly be seized upon, with grateful glee, by the most vehement detractors of Israel, as grist to grind in their Judeophobic mills.

Bill reflects clear intent of Declaration of Independence

… by and large, the Nationality Bill mirrors the substance and certainly, the spirit of, the Declaration of Independence which is a robust assertion of Jewish national rights with a brief reference to the civic rights of non-Jewish minorities…Thus, in the Declaration of Independence, the word “right(s)” is mentioned ten times – nine of which refer to the collective right of the Jews/ Jewish people. Only once does it refer to the individual civic rights of “all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”.

The question of Arabic

…[the Bill] stipulates that Hebrew alone will be the official language of the land. True, in so doing, it annuls the1939 British mandatory decree making Arabic an official language. (English was removed as an official language in 1948.) However, the Bill does clearly stipulate that Arabic will have special status in the country and that no steps will be taken to undermine its current practical standing…Geez! How xenophobic can you get!

Arab rejection of Zionism

Of course, what those clamoring to exploit this question of Arabic as proof of the coercive jingoistic nature of the Nationality Bill overlook or ignore, is that the Arab sector in Israel is not merely another non-Jewish ethnic minority…Indeed, not only does it have strong cultural and religious affinity to Israel’s enemies, but several of its elected officials openly identify with them and have even collaborated with them.

A nation is not an accident of geography

Ernest Renan (L) & John Stuart Mill
Ernest Renan (L) & John Stuart Mill

What the critics of the Nationality Bill appear unable to acknowledge is that a nation is more than a random amalgam of individuals, bound by no more than the accident of their current geographical location….Indeed…the most essential element of nationhood is a spiritual bond and sense of fellow-feeling.

The sine-qua-non of democracy

…After all, the recent history of this region has shown, even in countries where the ethnic diversity is far less than that between Jew and Arab in Israel, only the iron fist of tyranny can maintain law and order and prevent the country descending into the horrors of Hobbesian chaos.

If Israel is not Jewish…

So, what the critics of the Nationality Bill should recall is that across the Mid-East—from Casablanca to Kuwait — there is no semblance of any liberal democratic state. Accordingly, for Israel to be democratic, it must be Jewish; but to be Jewish it must be Zionist. Thus, inevitably, to be democratic it must be Zionist —i.e. the undisputed nation-state of the Jewish people.

Hopefully, the brouhaha over the Nationality Bill does not signal a growing lack of awareness of this crucial political truth –and the weakening of Jewish national will.

As usual your talkbacks/comments/critiques welcome,
Best wishes,

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