A few days ago, the Israeli Knesset passed the Jewish Nation State law by a majority of 62 votes. This law denies the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination on their own land, and stipulates that the right to determination in occupied Palestine, which the law refers to as Israel, is reserved only for Jews. It also stipulates that the state of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people where they can achieve their natural, cultural, religious and historical right to determine their fate.
In addition, the new law recognises Jerusalem as the unified capital of Israel, and considers the promotion of settlements to be a national virtue that must be encouraged and strengthened. The law has also downgraded the status of Arabic from an official language, which it has been since the British Mandate period, to a “special status” language.
The Jewish Nation State Law was proposed by Ze’ev Elkin MK, of the Likud Party, and Ayelet Shaked MK of the Jewish Home Party. After the adoption of the law, the term “the Jewishness of Israel” is no longer merely an idea.
In July 2003, the Knesset decided to intensify the idea of the “Jewishness” of the state and to spread its use as a term around the world. It also tried to obtain a Palestinian position supporting the bill, proposed by the Likud Knesset bloc at the time. The bill was passed and stated that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were not occupied areas, neither historically nor in terms of international law or under the agreements signed by Israel. It called for the continuation of reinforcing and developing settlements and to maintain sovereignty over Jerusalem, both the Western and Eastern parts, occupied in 1948 and 1967 respectively, and the preservation of the security zones. The latest law was passed in order to reinforce the idea of the Jewishness of the state. According to Amir Ohana MK, “The law came about to define Israel as the state of the Jewish people and say that it will not be a bi-national or even bilingual state, and won’t have two capitals.”
The MK added that, “Whoever calls this law racist is calling Zionism in its entirety a racist movement.” This was an attempt to confound the opposition and its leader, Isaac Herzog, whose father, Chaim Herzog, served as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1976, when the General Assembly adopted its famous resolution describing Zionism as racism. At the time, Herzog Senior tore up the resolution as he stood at the podium.
By means of its frequent passing of racist laws, of which the Jewish Nation State Law is just the latest, Israel seeks to impose “Jewishness” and turn a concept into reality, despite the fact that 20 per cent of Israeli citizens are non-Jews. This, though, is nothing new. The proposed “Jewish State” appeared in the literature of the first Zionist Congress held in 1897 in the Swiss city of Basel. The former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was one of the individuals who spread the old-new term. He went even further when, in many interviews and meetings, he referred to Israel extending from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the River Jordan in the east, and insisted that it would be a purely Jewish state.
Despite the relentless attempts to establish the idea of the “Jewishness” of the occupying state by passing racist laws, these attempts will not succeed, not least because of the demography of the state and the occupied territories. If current birth rates are maintained, the Palestinians will make up the majority of the population in their historic homeland by 2030.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Hayat newspaper on 25 July 2018.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.