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The nation-state bill: contexts and goals

December 12, 2014 at 12:28 pm

The Israeli government recently approved the nation-state bill by a two-thirds majority vote (15 ministers voted in favour, with 7 voting against). Two versions of the bill were presented to the MKs of the right-wing coalition government, one drafted by Ze’ev Elkin of the Likud Party, the other by Ayelet Shaked from the Jewish Home Party, the right-wing extremists led by Avigdor Lieberman. The two versions will be merged into one to be submitted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Knesset for discussion and a final vote.

The aim of the bill is to define the state of Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” and to formulate its values as “a Jewish and democratic state based on the Israeli Declaration of Independence” read out by David Ben-Gurion on May 15, 1948. This is the day commemorated by Palestinians annually as Nakba (Catastrophe) Day.

The introduction of this bill, at this time, must have a context and specific goals. A few observations can be made about them

For a start, the draft bill is one of the most serious manifestations of the big lie upon which the Zionist movement and Israel was established. Judaism was never and will never be a nationality; it is a religion, no more, no less. The concept of nationalism was never linked to the faith and, as such, this law is illogical, as is the claim that “the Jewish nation” exists. In fact, in pushing this bill through, the Zionists reveal their racism by seeking approval from the legislature to fight against the culture of the Palestinians, who are the indigenous people in their own land.

Another aspect of this was the proposal to remove Arabic as an official language of the state of Israel. This was put forward by General Avi Dichter with the cooperation of the Institute for Zionist Strategies. He was joined by a third of the members of the Knesset (MKs) along with a group of extremists attempting to establish the “Hebrew Jewish identity of Israel”, based on Torah mythology.

Part of this process is a new “transfer” project to expel non-Jews and annul the national and religious rights of the indigenous people; in doing so they seek to foster racist hatred against the Palestinians. This reveals the ugly face of the “Zionist Jewish state”. Israel is demolishing Palestinian homes in the Negev; seizing Palestinian land; and destroying the homes of those who resist the occupation of their land. Such collective punishment is illegal and applied selectively; those Jews who kill Palestinians do not have their family homes demolished.

All of this points to the fact that Israel is not a democracy in the real sense; it is a Jewish “ethnocracy” working to expel Palestinian Arabs, transform their holy sites and places of worship into museums and bars, and harm Muslims and Christians systematically.

The nation-state draft bill that will be submitted to the Knesset aims to cancel the civil and religious rights of the Palestinians who are the true owners of the land. This is a blatant violation of international law, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Charter, which prohibits the occupying power from making any changes that affects the rights of the indigenous people and their demographic formation.

Nevertheless, the bill seeks to legitimise the racial discrimination that has taken place within and by Israel against the indigenous people ever since 1948. If passed into law by the Knesset it will pave the way for a new phase of systematic violations of Palestinian rights.

Right-wing and neo-fascist nationalists within Israel view this bill as a “historically important step towards restoring Israel to its Zionist roots.” They believe that the Israeli judiciary has damaged the fundamental Zionist principles upon which the state was founded.

We have to consider whether such hostility towards the Palestinians living within Israel could take place if the Arab world and international community had not abandoned the Palestinian struggle for justice. Indeed, the political split within the Palestinians themselves has contributed to the current crisis. Their strength has been reduced considerably, despite the heroism of individuals, especially in Jerusalem, in confronting the occupation and armed settlers.

There is, however, opposition to the bill within Israel itself. “The fathers of Zionism such as David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin would not have passed a law like this,” one opponent has claimed. Sections of the Israeli opposition believe that the bill is a cover for a deal as part of the political game played by Netanyahu as he faces an early general election. In pushing this bill into law, the prime minister hopes to gain support and votes from the extreme right-wing among Israelis and the illegal settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem.

At the moment, Israeli politicians are vying with each other to see who can be the most nationalistic, with the strongest Zionist-Jewish credentials in the eyes of the settlers. The leader of Israel has to prove that he or she is “hard” in the face of the perceived “existential threat” to the state. If this necessitates racist laws, so be it.

As far as Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are concerned, we must be ready to see this bill turn into the law of the land. Our response must then be launched across the diplomatic arena internationally. Such Israeli racism must be condemned and fought against; the state must be urged to abandon the legalisation of racism and discrimination against the indigenous people.

Experience suggests that the Palestinian citizens of Israel will be successful in their drive to have this bill rejected by the Knesset. They have confronted all attempts to Judaise Jerusalem and other efforts which have an impact on their presence in their homeland ever since the Nakba.

Ethnic cleansing has to be a thing of the past, regardless of how ruthless the occupation authorities become. Delusions of a “Jewish nation-state” are against all reason and logic; they too have to be confined to history.

Translated from Al Jazeera net, 10 December, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.