In a strange combination of fascist ideas and ideology, the Israeli Knesset has passed the so-called Nation Law, going beyond the racist policy that Israel has continued to adopt in its direct confrontation with Palestinians in the territories occupied in 1948 and the Arabs residing in territories occupied in 1967. This is considered a very dangerous development in terms of adopting the idea of the Jewish people’s supremacy as identity remains legally monopolised by the Jews. As for the others, they are considered mere residents with no rights other than those granted to them by the Jewish state.
Many Israelis, including those who regard themselves as very right-wing and racist including Moshe Arens, Israel’s ambassador to Washington in 1982, and Yitzhak Shamir’s foreign minister, consider this law to be unnecessary and excessive. This is because the previous laws regarding the Jewishness of the state and Jerusalem as the united capital of the Jewish state is more than sufficient to determine the identity of the Jewish state, according to Haaretz. I am not referring to the Israeli left-wing or the parties opposed to Netanyahu’s government that voted against the law, but to right-wing forces and elites that considered the law a mere addition that Israel did not need to debate for over for seven years and pass with a weak majority.
Why, then, is this redundant law being passed on the last day of Knesset sessions before the summer vacation, which ends in mid-October? The new Nation Law fundamentally contradicts the provisions of the Declaration of Independence on non-discrimination between the residents and citizens of Israel. This is the document that the Israeli judiciary referred to in order to revoke a number of racist laws passed through the Knesset. They do so in adherence to the declaration, which stipulates that discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, or religion should not occur. The debate in recent months between the radical right-wing and the Supreme Court over some discriminatory racist laws, reaching the point of calling for the reconsideration of this court’s authorities, makes the new law a constitutional reference to the Supreme Court. It also becomes a reference for all courts to base its rulings on since this law is considered a part of the Israeli Basic Laws, considered Israel’s constitution.
In this context, it is noted that the Knesset passed a similar or supportive law two days before the Nation Law was passed. This similar law, proposed by Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, revokes the Supreme Court’s power to look into the appeals and petitions filed by Palestinians living in the territories occupied in 1967. It authorises the Central Court in Jerusalem to discuss administrative decisions made by the occupation authorities in the occupied territories regarding planning, construction, and restricting the travel of its Palestinian citizens. This reflects one of the most important issues related to the annexation of the West Bank in terms of the judiciary, as this judiciary in the Jerusalem court will control these matters if the West Bank is considered a part of Israel.
The new law will provide a legal basis for the possibility of annexing the West Bank in practice away from the positions of the High Court of Justice which believes, like many elites in Israel, that the annexation process would pose “demographic risks” to the identity of the Jewish state. This is due to the increase in Palestinian residents and citizens.
In addition to the Nation Law’s violation of previous laws relating to the status of the Arabic language, which now is considered a special status law instead of an official language according to the British Mandate laws, we must also take a serious look at the law’s sixth article. This article violates the rights of foreign countries and is a blatant interference in its internal affairs. The article stipulates a close relationship with Jews in other countries, referring to them as the “Jewish people,” meaning that the laws of the Jewish state would apply to these people, despite being citizens of other countries, based on the fact that they are Jewish. The article also stipulated the need to “preserve the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people among Jews in the diaspora. It also implies that the responsibility of non-Israeli Jews in the diaspora falls on the Jewish state, thus constituting a flagrant interference in the responsibilities of the other countries towards their citizens, regardless of their religion.
The Nation Law should take us back to the past UN resolution that was cancelled. This resolution was issued in 1975 and considered Zionism a “racist movement”. I believe that the time has come to restore this international law to the forefront of the Palestinian Arab movement in order to confront the Nation Law, which is irrefutable proof of Israel’s racist nature.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 23 July 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.