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Arabic was an official language in Israel for 70 years, 2 months, and 5 days

You can look at the new Jewish Nation-State Law from two angles: the message it sends to Jews, and the message it sends to Palestinians — you don’t belong here.

Israeli Border Police officers guard the entrance to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, September 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israeli Border Police officers guard the entrance to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, September 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Arabic was an official language of the State of Israel for 70 years, two months, and five days. As of July 19, 2018, it is no longer.

There is no practical reason for the change, and, in fact, the “Jewish Nation-State Law,” which abolished Arabic as an official language, basically guarantees that Arabic will retain all the benefits of being an official language despite being stripped of the title.

So why upend the status quo of the past 70-plus years? Sometimes what a law says is more important than what it does.

You can look at the Jewish Nation-State law from two perspectives. There is the message it was intended to send to Jews: a positive affirmation of Israel as the Jewish nation-state; as the Jewish homeland; as the state of the Jews; a reassuring and nationalist message that says ‘this country is yours and yours alone.’

The other message, the inverse, meant for Palestinians, is: this is not your land; this country does not belong to you, irrespective of whether you are an Israeli citizen living in the home of your great-grandparents or a refugee yearning to return to the land of your grandparents; your culture, language, and history are at best tolerated — this is not their home, this is not your homeland.

The Jewish Nation-State Law states, implicitly and explicitly, that Israel belongs not to all of its citizens, over 20 percent of whom are not Jewish. Instead, it declares that Israel belongs to the Jewish people, some half of whom are not Israeli citizens.



The law, therefore, constitutionalizes a twisted and exclusionary social contract. Whereas most democratic states draw their legitimacy to govern from the consent of their citizens, Israel has excluded one out of every five Israeli citizens from that contract. For the one in five Israeli citizens who are Arab-Palestinian, consent has effectively been removed from their governance.

Of course, governing without consent has been the rule, not the exception, for most Palestinians living under the Israeli regime for the past 70 years. From 1948 until 1966 Israel put its Arab citizens under a military regime that tightly controlled everything from movement to education to politics to newspapers.

In the 51 years since then, millions of Palestinian non-citizens in the occupied territories have been forced to live under an undemocratic military dictatorship. Likewise, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in “unified Jerusalem” have no voting rights. Consent has never been a part of the equation for Palestinians living under Israeli rule. Nobody has even bothered to give the idea lip service.

For all of those reasons nobody should be able to feign surprise at the Jewish Nation-State law. The principles it elevates to constitutional status have been around as long as the country it defines. That it sits squarely on a predictable trajectory, however, does not minimize its danger.

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    1. Lewis from Afula

      The so-called “fakestinyans” do not exist.
      Never have.
      Never will.
      That is why Israeli Law does not mention this phony, phantom non-people.
      Lets not forget. There is NO SUCH THING AS:
      Fakestinyan Language
      Fakestinyan Religon
      Fakestinyan King (or Queen)
      Fakestinyan Capital City
      Fakestinyan native Currency

      Even the most famous “Fakestinyan” of all, Arafat, was born in Cairo 1929, served in the Egyptian Army, attended Cairo University and spoke with an Egyptian accent,

      Reply to Comment
      • betz55

        There was no ‘Israel’ until 1948. Palestine has been around a lot longer. You better go back and re-read the Balfour Declaration honey. Then you will need to eradicate the word ‘Palestine’ from a zillion sources. Then try watching the original Indiana Jones, the little plane flies over Palestine dearie.

        Your willful ignorance on this subject is astounding. You keep repeating completely debunked myths that smart Zionists don’t dare repeat any more. Palestine was one of the most developed and cultivated countries in the Middle East when Zionists decided to “return” and started spinning their mythology about “a land without people for a people without land”.

        Also, for the record, when the Muslim Arabs arrived in Palestine in the 7th century CE (and liberated its Jewish population from Byzantine oppression), they retained the administrative organization of the territory of Palestine as it had been under the Romans and later, the Byzantines. They referred to the territory as Filastin (no “P” in Arabic.)

        To quote the opening sentence of the section entitled “Filastin” that appears in the book “Dictionary of the Lands,” written by geographer Yaqut ibn Abdullah al-Hamawi in 1225: “Filastin: It is the last one of the regions of Syria in the direction of Egypt. Its most famous cities are Ashkelon, Ramle, Gaza, Arsuf, Caesaria, Nablus, Jericho, Jaffa and Beit Guvrin.”

        In 1603, Shakespeare wrote in his play Othello: “Emilia: I know a lady in Venice would have walked barefoot to Palestine for a touch of his nether lip.” (Act IV, Scene iii.)

        In 1863, The Religious Tract Society of London published its “Pictorial Journey Through the Holy Land; or Scenes of Palestine.” In this work Beersheba is described as the southern limit of Palestine. Beersheba lies south-east of Gaza on the northern edge of the Negev desert. Palestine is described as “south of Lebanon.”

        European tourist books of the nineteenth century refer to “Palestine,” as did Theodor Herzl in his correspondence and the 1917 Balfour Declaration as well as the 1922 Class A League of Nations British Mandate.

        Your hasbaric ignorance is well, let me wipe the tears from my eyes from laughing so hard. The Palestinians are from Palestine, the territory. The terrorist israeli groups the Haganah, Palmach, and Irgun forced the Palestinians off their land.

        European tourist books of the nineteenth century refer to “Palestine,” as did Theodor Herzl in his correspondence and the 1917 Balfour Declaration as well as the 1922 Class A League of Nations British Mandate.

        Enough said. All you’ve done is trotted out long since debunked Hasbara nonsense. I suggest you do some serious research using duly documented sources written by internationally recognized scholars.

        Get some education; here is a link to images from Palestine in the late 1880s onward. The link uses photos from the famous Matson Collection with running text from the writings of the Zionist writer Ahad Ha’Am to highlight the contrast between propaganda and reality:


        And more pictures of Palestine –

        For more pictures and explanation, check out this book by Walid Khalidi:

        Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History of the Palestinians 1876-1948


        Finally, Haaretz, perhaps you should be reading more about this topic, though I don’t expect you to change your mind:


        Put this in your toolbox:

        Reply to Comment
        • Tony Riley

          So, you’ll be able to list all the Palestinian kings who ruled this paradise on Earth?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Riley: This is the 21st century “right of kings” scope of history and method of according the right of self determination? In what hasbara workshop did you concoct this bit of nonsense?

            Reply to Comment
        • Lüko Willms

          Vladimir Jabotinsky, yes the one of the “Iron wall” of British or “Jewish” bayonets, referred to himself as “Palestinian” in his comment at the Zionist World Congress of 1921, when he explained the “difficult situation” the European colonizers where in, because they are a minority, as they ever have been and still are.

          Jabotinsky pointed to the colonization of North America and Australia, which also could not have been colonized if the White people there had asked the natives for permission.

          Besides the early European settlers in Palestine referring to themselves as “Palestinians”, the term “Palestinian” is of course the product of the military conquest of the Arab East by British colonialism at the end of World War 1, and the balkanization of it in collusion with French imperialism.

          This was the outcome of the war between German and British imperalism over control of what they saw as the land bridge between Africa and Asia, and which for the British Empire the protection of the Suez Canal as the life line of the empire by establishing a buffer state with a loyal White population, and for German imperialism the direct access to the Indian Ocean.

          Under the heading “Palestine as a buffer state”, the London weekly “Jewish Chronicle” published in its Friday November 23, 1917, edition on page 24 this

          Letter to the editor by J. Finn; 15, Woodgrange Road, Forest Gate, E1

          —-quote —

          The advocates of a Jewish State in Palestine give prominence to the argument that it would be in the interests of Great Britain to have sort of a State as a “buffer” against attack on the Suez Canal and Egypt or an invasion of India.

          Granted that such a “Buffer State” would be to England’s interests, I beg leave to ask, Whether it would be to the interests of the Jews to be a “buffer”?

          Is not Belgium’s misfortune due to her having been a buffer state?

          I claim that the geographical position of Palestine, which is a bridge between Asia and Africa, is an unsafe place for a small nation to hold. History shows that Palestine has always been a bone of contention between the great powers of the world and looking at Jewish history through secular spectacles, one must come to the conclusion that we have lost Palestine twice for the very reason just mentioned. Even when we held it, we never had peace for a any length of time. How much less peace can we expect in the future with the modern Christian and Mohammedan rival interests centred in Palestine?

          Palestine can never be that haven of rest and peace for which the Jew is longing, as long as the nations of the world have rival interests in it.

          ——— end of quote —-

          How true in its foresight!

          Reply to Comment
      • duh

        Lewis, I don’t plan to repeat the same arguments I’ve used against you a million times (like you do with this post) but it’s funny how you note Arafat had an Egyptian accent, almost as if there’s a different one for Arabs from Palestine. Tripped yourself up a little methinks.

        Reply to Comment
    2. I strongly believe that the ultimate arrangement that would be ideal in terms of peace between the two sides, is one that is as evenly balanced as possible. Thus, regarding Israeli laws- the ONLY ones that I feel should remain explicitly favoring Jews, are those associated with the nation’s immigration policy (and for EVERYTHING else, Jews and Arabs should be treated 100% equally under the law). And the pro-Jewish bias for immigration is only to preserve Israel as a Jewish haven, for Jews worldwide seeking to leave inhospitable environments in their home countries (and so the primary impetus behind the need for Israel to continue being a majority Jewish state is not racism BY Jews, but racism AGAINST Jews). And I maintain that a solution can still be balanced, even with this one element of pro-Jewish bias, because an independent Palestinian state should likewise be free to adopt whatever immigration policies it might like (I go into this all in a bit more detail in the following essay- although please note that The Daily Kos is a site for Democrats, hence the pro-Democrat slant in this: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2018/4/22/1758556/-Envisioning-the-IsriPal-Alliance)

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Sandra Goldstein: This seems like an eminently reasonable compromise to me, I think it’s the direction to head in. But one small detail: If an Israeli marries a Palestinian there is no path to citizenship for the Palestinian, unlike every other first world country. That little bit of racist apartheid needs to be erased.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          How can one marry a nationality that does not exist ????
          Its impossible !

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I’m confused. (1) It’s Israel that insists Israeli nationality does not exist. (2) You’re married to a nationality? In a perverse sense, that makes sense for you. The rest of us marry persons and expect them to be treated like human beings, with human rights including the right to self determination. Israel’s nation state law denies people that right, based on race. It accords that right to one select group, based on race. That’s apartheid.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Everything is “apartheid” to you.
            The fact that my flag has a Star of David on it is “wacist” and “apartheidish” to you.
            You have no problem with the flags of Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Greece and Georgia (ex-Soviet) having Christian crosses on them. You have no problem with Muslim nations having Islamic symbols on their flags.
            You are a typical hypocrite.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lüko Willms

            The countries listed by Lewis from Afula are not ruled by a colonial settler population, which in the case of Palestine is, like in Apartheid South Africa or “Algerie française” a minority.

            That is the difference which L.f.A. prefers to ignore. But ignoring hard facts can be dangerous.

            On the other hand, the colonial settler populations which are ruling the North American countries or Australia have managed to become a majority, which doesnt make the necessarily nice, but which gives them at least more stability than the White minority rule over Palestine.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            So Israel represents “white minority rule” ?
            I see 2 problems with your assertion.

            1. Jews are not a minority in Israel.
            2. Jews are not necessarily “white”.

            Your analysis seems to be flawed at a fundamental level (to say the least!)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Lewis from Afula, I consider this reply of yours an evasive non-answer and an attempt at distraction. I said nothing about flags. It’s off the point, deliberately so.

            But come to think of it now that you brought it up, if Israel aggressively moves, as it has done with the new law, to explicitly encode further inequality in its laws on top of the inequality already encoded and implicitly practiced, then that Star of David on the national flag becomes an issue it did not have to be. Your choice. Actions have consequences. And it becomes a glaring issue for the aggressive two-state-solution-killing entity comprising Israel and the territories it occupies. You can’t have it both ways.

            You brought up flags. So why do you deny the Palestinians their flag? You carry on about your flag, fictitiously-aggrieved. But reserve the right to deny Palestinians their flag? How so?

            Reminds me of what I asked you the other day and you failed to answer. Americans don’t like despots like Putin. Why should they tolerate the despotism of the quadrumvirate of Netanyahu, Bennett, Shaked and Smotrich? Why should they tolerate a despot like you?

            Lüko Willms is right.

            Reply to Comment
          • Lewis from Afula

            Once the Jordanians are repatriated, they can pick any flag they want.
            There – answered it for you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            That’s not an answer its another evasion, your chief recourse these days.
            Still awaiting your answers on despotism and on the Warsaw ghetto. But don’t bother, we’ve made our point.
            Lüko is talking about Israel-Palestine, sea to river, not “Israel”–which is…where? What are its borders?
            Lüko is using “White” in a non-literal sense.

            Reply to Comment
    3. Moral Person

      This law is an insult to Jewish people worldwide. The racist apartheid state of Israel is NOT the home of Jewish people.

      It is now the home of those who reject Jewish tradition, those who elevate the false idols of bigotry, oppression, and greed over the traditions of Judaism and over the laws of Moses.

      And the goverment of “Israel” is now the primary spreader of anti-Semitism throughout the world, attacking actual Jewish people whenever they dare to stand up for the ancient moral principles of Judaism.

      It is now clear that Zionism is immoral. Those who said so back in the 1930s were right. Now the racist Zionist government of “Israel” threatens the real Jewish people.

      Reply to Comment
      • john

        zionists and antisemites agree: jews belong in israel.

        Reply to Comment
      • Lewis from Afula

        Moral Person:
        If Israel is not the home of the Jewish People, how come three quarters of all Jewish kids round the World live in Israel ???

        Reply to Comment
        • john

          according to the berman jewish databank, israel makes up less than half the world’s jewish population. you haven’t solved the diaspora yet, nowadays it’s only a problem for zionists and antisemites.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Omara

      There was no Israel 70 years ago. Occupation that will come to an end, sooner or later.

      Reply to Comment
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