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The most radical thing you can say in Israel

The Knesset won’t even allow this law to be discussed, let alone voted on, because it proposes making Israel a ‘state of all its citizens.’ Why is that so threatening?

A Bedouin woman from the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib sits in front of an Israeli police van. Israel has demolished al-Araqib over 100 times. (Illustrative photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Bedouin woman from the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib sits in front of an Israeli police van. Israel has demolished al-Araqib over 100 times, all while it works to expand Jewish towns and villages in the area. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The presidium of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, decided on Monday that a proposed law seeking to define Israel as “a state of all its citizens” is so far outside the acceptable political discourse that it cannot even be submitted to the legislature for debate.

The bill — a proposed Basic Law, the closest thing Israel has to constitutional amendments in a country without a constitution — sought to enshrine the principle of equality, recognize the existence of two national groups within Israel, create separation of religion and state, and most importantly: define Israel as a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens.

Why is such a proposition so radical? Simply put, because it seeks to end the current situation, in which Israel is not, in fact, a country that belongs to all of its citizens — specifically, not to the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish.

In a letter in support of the decision to disqualify the bill from being submitted, the Knesset’s legal advisor wrote: “The proposed ‘Basic Law: State of All its Citizens’ includes a series of clauses meant to change the character of the State of Israel from the state of the Jewish people to a state in which the Jewish and Arab peoples have equal standing.”

What a radical proposition.

The following is my translation of the bill, put forth by the Balad party, which was stricken down by the Knesset presidium. Judge for yourself just how radical it is. Think about what kind of country it describes. And think about what it means that a country belongs to only some of its citizens.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      “…in which Israel is not, in fact, a country that belongs to all of its citizens — specifically, not to the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish.”

      But many sources say that 25% of Israel’s citizens are not Jewish – roughly 20% are Palestinians and 5% are neither Palestinians nor Jewish.


      Jewish 74.7% (of which Israel-born 76.3%, Europe/America/Oceania-born 16.2%, Africa-born 4.8%, Asia-born 2.7%), non-Jewish 25.2% (mostly Arab) (2016 est.)”

      Reply to Comment
      • Itshak Gordin Halevy

        Israel is not a Goulag. Those who do not agree can leave Israel without problem.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bruce Gould

          But can those who do not agree stay and try and change Israel, like in any normal democracy?

          Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      So, in other words, the proposal is to turn Israel into an Arab state that discriminates in favor of Arabs.

      1) By granting citizenship to anyone the UN automatic Arab majority rules should have it which just means granting citizenship the descendants of Arabs that ran away from here after they failed to destroy the country in 1948 (5d)

      2) By enshrining in law that discrimination in favor of Arabs is legal (3d) and by insisting to redistribute resources to Arabs (8b).

      Just another attempt by Arab nationalists that never accepted the existence of Israel to destroy Israel.

      I can’t imagine what would be threatening about this.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Beware when anyone who starts out with “in other words….”

        The entire occupation is massively, relentlessly redistributive, from Palestinians to Israeli Jews. In its core. In its raison d’etre. I can’t recall you having an objection about that.

        You know, Firentis, I am sure you all could negotiate these details. That’s what politics are for. The United States has lively debates about affirmative action all the time without, since, oh about since the Civil Rights Act in 1964, denying citizenship, nationality, or basic human rights based on ethnicity and race. And who said that historic discrimination divides only along Jewish-Arab lines and not Jewish-Jewish and Jewish-African lines?

        Yes it certainly is threatening to you. I don’t think the writer labors under the illusion that it is not threatening to you. The good question that follows though is why is the non-radical so threatening to you?

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          Let me put forward a proposal for your suicide and then we can negotiate about the details.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Marcelo

      The proposition is basically the same that proposed the Arab nations in 1947 at the UN, opposing the partition. The result would basically be another Arab country with a Jewish minority (that would have been the case then – and that would be the case today by the point 5.d in this proposition which alludes to the 194 UN resolution about the return of Arab refugees). In short, that would be the end of the State of the Jewish People, which is the raison d’etre of Israel. Of course the Knesset cannot even discuss that. It is like agreeing to cease to exist.

      Reply to Comment
    4. A German nation is German.
      An Armenian nation is Armenian.
      A Greek nation is Greek.

      And a Jewish nation is Jewish.
      Traitors in our midst, who meet with our enemies in Syria and Lebanon, seek to change the character of our state.
      A Jewish nation that guarantees basic rights and privileges to its citizens, citizens who also have a duty towards their state like in every single democratic country. That is Israel today.

      Jews are the world’s oldest indigenous people who are free in their own land.
      And we seek to keep it that way because Eretz Israel is home.

      Ha’am haze hu mishpacha
      Echad ve’od echad ze sod ha’atzlacha
      Am Israel lo yevater
      Tamid al hamapa anachnu nisha’er

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        @AVI: The comparisons you draw are false. Noam Sheizaf explains why, and why your comparison does not hold water because it is based on a half-truth. You bring up a “German nation,” so pay particular attention to what he says about German, Italian or British citizenship. Versus a “Jewish state.” You also talk about Eretz Israel as home. So also pay particular attention to what Sheizaf says about a “Jewish state” as opposed to a state whose culture is Jewish or is a national homeland for Jews.

        By Noam Sheizaf |Published September 11, 2013
        Why I oppose recognizing Israel as a Jewish state
        A country can, at least in theory, be ‘Israeli and democratic.’ It cannot and will never be ‘Jewish and democratic.’

        Reply to Comment
        • Avi

          It seems the disagreement is over semantics, nothing much.

          A Jewish state is defined as a nation whose culture is Jewish and is a national homeland of the Jewish people. We are not advocating for Jewish citizenship. An even better example would be Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and other nations who consider themselves Arab states. If Lebanon can be Arab and democratic, Israel can be Jewish and democratic.

          This is Israel today; a Jewish and democratic state.
          The proposed bill is therefore both unnecessary and malicious, due to its source.

          Israel, like all democratic states, has many problems.
          Many Israeli citizens feel that they are disenfranchised or discriminated against. Many have grievances against current or past governments.
          But they work to fix their problems within the context of the Jewish state. They do not seek to eliminate it.

          Arab citizens who are loyal to the State of Israel have no problem navigating Israel’s society in their pursuit of happiness. Here is an example:

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “…If Lebanon can be Arab and democratic…”

            No, this repeats the same mistake made with “a German nation.” The issues are much deeper than “semantics.” Sheizaf is making a very significant point. Reread Noam Sheizaf and I think you will come around to seeing what I mean. If not, get back to me and we can re-discuss it. Thanks.

            Reply to Comment