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Ex-Speaker of the Israel Knesset gives up 'Jewish nationality' in protest over racist law

January 4, 2021 at 2:30 pm

Israeli deputy and former speaker of the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, Avraham Burg [THIERRY MONASSE/AFP via Getty Images]

Former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Avraham Burg, has made the request to have his designation as a Jew discarded in an extraordinary affidavit where he has suggested that belonging to the Jewish community in the Zionist state was equivalent to “belonging to the group of the masters”.

Burg, who also served as the country’s interim president and was head of the Jewish Agency, made the incredible step in response to Israel’s 2018 Nation State Bill. Critics insist that the law passed by the occupation state has formalised apartheid.

The affidavit will be submitted to the Jerusalem District Court. According to details of the application reported by the Haaretz, Burg writes that he no longer considers himself as belonging to the Jewish nationality. He adds that his conscience does not allow him to be classified as a member of that nation, because it implies “belonging to the group of the masters.” In simple, clear words, he asserts, “I can no longer feel identification with this collective.”

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Expressing his opposition to the Nation State Bill, Burg said: “The meaning of that law is that a citizen of Israel who is not Jewish will suffer from having an inferior status, similar to what the Jews suffered for untold generations,” adding “what is abhorrent to us, we are now doing to our non-Jewish citizens.”

In his declaration to the court, he writes that he does not “accept the distorted and discriminatory definition of the state as belonging to the Jewish nation” and that he is no longer willing for his “nationality” to be listed as “Jewish” in the Interior Ministry’s records, as reasons behind his symbolic act.

Burg explained that his decision to discard his Jewish nationality was necessary and logical. “I ask myself what the citizen who wasn’t happy about the law is supposed to do,” he said to Haaretz. “It’s not some sort of law about traffic offenses – for me, this law constitutes a change in my existential definition. Because my assumption is that the High Court of Justice will not touch this law, I am moving to the next stage,” added Burg referring to last month’s decision by the court to not to strike down the bill following a series of petitions.

“I am not asking for radical things,” Burg said, explaining his reasons for giving up his Jewish nationality. “I am not asking to be registered as an Arab, or as I don’t know what. My request states: You [i.e., the state] redefined the sense of the collective. I am not a part of the collective under that definition. Erase me.”

Burg has responded to criticism over his journey through the decades from the heart of Israeli politics to a fringe critic of the occupation state, saying that his views have remained constant over the years and it’s the country that has changed.

“When I entered politics, in the 1980s, I saw myself as a clear-cut disciple of Yeshayahu Leibowitz,” he says, referring to the late, left-wing Orthodox intellectual and scientist. “I espoused two principles: separation of religion and state, and ending the occupation. Decades have gone by since then, and I still want separation of religion and state and the end of the occupation. I haven’t changed – you are the ones who have changed. You have become more right-wing, nationalist, fundamentalist. You are less democratic. I’m in the same place.”

Israel government dissolved, elections set for 23 March