Monday, November 24, 2014

"National Rights" in Israel

Israel is poised to take a huge step down the path of right-wing nationalism:
A controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character...
The bill, which is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and delist Arabic as a second official language...
The bill, which still requires the Knesset’s approval to become a law, comes as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians rise sharply, and friction within Israel’s Arab minority grows...
According to many critics, the new wording would weaken the wording of Israel’s declaration of independence, which states that the new state would “be based on the principles of liberty, justice and freedom expressed by the prophets of Israel [and] affirm complete social and political equality for all its citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender”.
Some of this is symbolic.  No one is going to pass Knesset bills implementing halakha outside of those areas of family law already governed by the rabbinate.  The "national rights" spelled out are also mostly items, such as the national anthem, that are already in place.  What concerns me is the value statement of this bill, which seems to state clearly that equality for all citizens is no longer something worth giving even lip service to.  That is a dangerous road.

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