Israel: Only a Nation State for Jewish People?

The Israel Palestine issue has been a long drawn out one. It covers aspects such as land rights, borders, recognition of the different factions, control of Jerusalem among others. “Discriminatory laws” that are being put in place further troubles the situation. A recent basic law is the recent addition to the list. This article will summarize the aspects of the new law and also look into other existing laws that may have discriminatory implications.

Israel Palestine Map - from 1946 to 2016
Israel Palestine Map – from 1946 to 2016 | Source: If Americans Knew

Recent Israeli State Law

Nestled among the complex history of Israel and Palestine are certain acts which work towards separating the two factions. Recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government enacted a basic law. This law protects the Jewish people while also simultaneously distancing the Arab people.

The legislation is a basic law, meaning that it is equivalent to a constitutional amendment. The law passed by the Israeli Knesset is known as “Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People”.

Under the recent law, it recognizes Israel as the historical homeland of the Jewish people in which the state of Israel was established. It recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Hebrew is recognised only as a state language and demoted Arabic language as a special status. It also mentions that the use of Arab language in state institutions or when facing them would be regulated.

The law seems to be openly biased towards the Jewish people. It opens it borders to only Jewish immigration and also mentions that it will ensure the safety of the sons of the Jewish people. This means that the Israel state is discriminating on the basis of religion when it comes to immigration.

You can find the entire legislation here.

Criticism of the Law

The law is conspicuously unequal towards the Arabs in Israel. The NY Times states as follows:

If the new law was meant to give expression to Israel’s national identity, it exposed and further divided an already deeply fractured society. It passed in the 120-seat Parliament by a vote of 62 to 55 with two abstentions. One member was absent.

Adalah, a legal center that campaigns for Arab rights in Israel, warned that the law “entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality.”

Some supporters lamented that many of the law’s more polarizing clauses had been diluted to assure passage. Critics decried it as a populist measure that largely sprang from the perennial competition for votes between Mr. Netanyahu’s conservative party, Likud, and political rivals to its right.

In fact, Susan Abulhawa of The Nation has likened the law in Israel to that of Nazi-era legislations. I strongly recommend reading this piece for a clause-by-clause comparison of the two legislations, both aimed at suppressing life of those they consider to be “others”. Here is an extract:

Israel’s “nation-state law” stipulates in its first clause that “actualisation of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”. In other words, the 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, the native inhabitants who managed to remain in their homes when European Jews conquered parts of historical Palestine in 1948, shall be without sovereignty or agency, forever living at the mercy of Israeli Jews.

In similar fashion, the first of the Nuremberg Laws, the Reich Citizenship Law, deemed citizenship a privilege exclusive to people of “German or kindred blood”. The remainder were classed as state subjects, without citizenship rights.

Other Discriminatory Laws

But this is not the first time that ISrael has enacted discrimminatory laws. According to Al Jazeera, several other laws have also been discriminating against Palestinians.

For instance, land rights are mostly controlled by Jewish authorities which only allows leasing lands to Jews. If any Palestinian refugees are expelled, they are denied any rights. This basically means that their property is confiscated by the Israeli government authorities. In fact, even their right to live in Jerusalem is also revocable; thus pushing them into living with constant fear about their residency status.

Conclusion

Thus, it is very clear that the situation in Israel is deteriorating day-by-day. The actions by US in these situations have only added fuel to an already existing fire of instability. What the media calls controversial is actually equivalent to the kind of suppressing laws that were present during the time of Hitler. One can only hope that the long history of conflict does not end in a war.

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