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Playing with fire: on the loyalty oath

Every time you think Ehud Barak, our spineless minister of defense, cannot sink any lower, he comes out with a public statement that proves you wrong once again.

In this particular case, we are talking about the Loyalty Oath bill. The prime minister has suddenly announced that during the upcoming cabinet meeting, on Sunday, he will bring to a vote the bill designed by Yaakov Ne’eman, Avigdor Liberman’s man in the justice ministry. This bill demands that every person acquiring Israeli citizenship pledge his allegiance to “the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Did I say every new citizen? Not quite (Hebrew). Like many other iniquitous laws in the state of all its Jews, a “person who is eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return” – that’s how you put the word “Jew” into Israeli law without making the bill sound too  racist – gets a pass and does not have to pledge anything. As Na’ama Carmi points out (Hebrew), Jewish new immigrants (‘olim’) are not considered new citizens; under the Law of Return they are natives – or rather, much more confusingly, the law considers all Israeli Jews to be olim, even if they were born here.

So, this new bill has one point and one point only: to poke a finger in the eyes of Palestinian citizens of Israeli  – to remind them again that they are second-class citizens; that if one of them would like to marry someone holding Jordanian or Egyptian citizenship, the new family member will have to go through an arduous process to acquire citizenship, at the end of which he or she will have to pledge allegiance to a Jewish state. That is, not to a state in which all of the citizens are equal, but to one in which there are two distinct classes of citizens, divided by their origin –  natives and invaders. And that’s not me saying this: look it up in the Law of Return.

So what did Barak do? He stated he was not involved in the proceedings (where was he? Asleep?), and that he demands an amendment (Hebrew): “I hereby pledge myself to be a loyal citizen to the State of Israel, being a Jewish and Democratic State according to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and I pledge myself to uphold the laws of the state” (my italics).

Barak may be of the opinion that this bit about the Declaration of Independence may somehow help the Palestinian citizens, perhaps diminishing his humiliation. If so, he is – as usual – sorely mistaken. But I doubt strongly that Barak was even thinking of Palestinian-Israelis; he was aiming at the rapidly diminishing ranks of his supporters on the Zionist left, trying to seduce them by mentioning the Declaration of Independence, which the leftist Zionists view as something of a totem. This “Jewish State,” he is trying to say, is not the one the rabbis are thinking of. Maybe, if he waves the Declaration at them, they’ll think he’s not selling them out – again – to the right-wingers. To make a long story short, maybe if he puts lipstick on the pig, they’ll ignore its porcine nature and let him stay in the Liberman-Netanyahu government. A little lipstick goes a long way.

Assuming Barak still has some supporters – a questionable assumption – they must have missed the memo that the government he’s in has already hollowed out the Declaration, and has already decided (Hebrew) that a Jewish state – or, at the very least, this particular Jewish state – cannot be democratic or equal. In January, the government refused to support a bill saying simply that the assets of the state would be portioned equally among all its citizens.

The voting on this bill, long simmering on the slow burner, at this particular moment is an obvious bribe, given by Netanyahu to Liberman. In order to keep the convicted thug in his government, Netanyahu is perfectly willing to humiliate 20 percent of Israel’s citizens, which the country has long abused. Step by step, this government is pushing Israeli Palestinians into a corner, forcing them to choose between the Israeli and Palestinian components of their identity. Until the situation explodes. And when it does, the Zionist public will crawl into its favorite position, the fetal one, and whine that nobody loves him. And this, after all we did for them.

Note: I wrote yesterday about the new Terror Bill. My colleague Shalom Bugoslavsky finds another disturbing bit in the bill (pg. 64 of the Hebrew document): apparently it allows the prime minister or the defense minister to create new security units – and to keep them secret, and without any supervision. Nice touch.

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    1. David

      If non-Jewish Israelis must swear loyalty oaths to a “Jewish” state, I wonder how American Jews would like to be made to swear loyalty to a “Christian” state? I’m not hearing enough outrage from their ranks.

      Reply to Comment
    2. […] report on the drill comes hot on the heels of other disconcerting developments. The ludicrous “loyalty statement” resolution due to be passed by cabinet on Sunday is one; another is the prime minister’s feeble response […]

      Reply to Comment
    3. Barak has continuously betrayed the very idea that Labor is even close to a leftist party. His presence in this radical government only serves to give it a false sense of legitimacy. If he were to propose any change to the measure (and not oppose it outright), it should have been to: a) have it apply to all new citizens, including Jews b) change the language to: “I will be a loyal citizen to the state of Israel in the spirit of its basic laws and the rights [supposedly] guaranteed by them.”

      Reply to Comment
    4. Robert


      I have a serious legal question that relates to Israeli Law and racial discrimination. You wrote in this post Playing With Fire, “a “person who is eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return” – that’s how you put the word “Jew” into Israeli law without making the bill sound too racist”.

      My question: Is this really a legal circumlocution that is used consistently throughout Israeli Law? That is, does Israeli Law always say “person who is eligible to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return” instead of “Jew” as a way of writing discrimination into many laws, not just the loyalty oath law? Is there a separate legal code in some areas that makes use of this language?

      Reply to Comment