American Jews Slam Israel’s ‘Racist’ Nation-State Bill As Thousands Protest Against It In Tel Aviv

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Above Photo: Protesters rally against the ‘Jewish Nation-State Bill’ in Tel Aviv on July 14, 2018 © Jack Guez / AFP

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Israeli capital in protest against the so-called nation-state bill, which, they say, would enable ethnic segregation. The controversial bill also drew criticism from US Jews.

Demonstrators marched through the streets of Tel Aviv chanting: “Full equality and no less,” “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies” and “The nation bill is a disaster,” according to witnesses.

“The Nation-State Law would turn racism, discrimination, and segregation into an inescapable part of our lives. More than that – racism and discrimination are becoming desired and central in the State of Israel. The Nation-State Law will bring exclusion and damage to minorities to terrifying levels we have never seen before. Our stance is clear: all citizens –all– are equal,” the organizers of the rally stated, as cited by the Jerusalem Post.

Between 2,500 and 7,000 people took part in the rally, according to various Israeli media reports. The demonstration was organized by a wide range of NGOs, rights groups and at least four Israeli political parties. The march was reportedly led by some members of the Knesset – the Israeli parliament.

The bill in question, which is currently being debated in the Knesset and is expected to come to a final vote on Monday, declares Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people. Opponents of the controversial legislation say it would prioritize Jewish values over democratic ones and effectively endanger the rights of Israeli Arab citizens as well as even secular Israelis.

One of the most controversial clauses of the new bill envisages the establishment of settlements or communities that are segregated by religion or nationality. “The state may allow a community, including members of one religion or of one nationality, to maintain a separate communal settlement,” the provision says, according to the Jerusalem Post. This particular clause even drew criticism from Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, however, actively supports the legislation.

“The law of division and discrimination that this government is promoting – which they call the Nation-State Bill – will leave a great many of us out; out of towns with “admission committees; out of fair treatment in the courts; out of citizenship; out of democracy. To this, we will not agree,” the groups participating in the rally said in a statement.

The controversial bill also drew criticism from abroad, particularly from US Jews: 14 American Jewish organizations expressed their concerns over the legislation to the incoming Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, who is also the opposition leader in the Knesset.

 

Some of these groups, such as the New Israel Fund, also took part in Saturday’s rally. “This is tribalism at its worst,” the New Israel Fund CEO Daniel Sokatch told Haaretz. “Beginning with Israel’s Declaration of Independence, the Jewish value of human dignity and the principle of the equality of all people have formed the democratic foundation of the state. This law is completely incompatible with those values,” he added.

Meanwhile, if adopted, the nation-state law would acquire the status of a “basic” law, which gives it a power equal to the constitution (even though Israel does not have a written one). “If racism, sexism, and religious fundamentalism are to be protected in Israel’s basic laws, it should be no surprise when the country embodies those values. This bill and the government that supported it are a danger to Israel’s future,” Sokatch, who even wrote a piece on the issue for the San Diego Jewish World media outlet, warned.

Others were seemingly also concerned over Israel’s international reputation. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, particularly warned that adoption of the bill would “make Israel an open target on the world stage for all those who seek to deny the Jewish people our right to a homeland.”

The news comes just days after the Irish Senate, the upper house of parliament, supported a bill that makes it illegal to import goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements built on the Occupied Territories in the West Bank. The move prompted the Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to call for Israel’s embassy in Ireland to be closed “immediately.”

  • lcotler

    So straighten me out. RT.COM is the author of this article? Since when can this staff—who comprises it!?—imply that it knows that “Jewish values” are? I’m Jewish, raised in a Jewish home, father was a cantor—and I don’t know what “Jewish values” actually are.

    I know what the values are by which I was raised by my father and mother. I know what I thought or hoped Jewish values were, but who can speak for all Jews and declare they know absolutely what those values are…or should be?

    From the article: “The bill in question, which is currently being debated in the Knesset and is expected to come to a final vote on Monday, declares Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people. Opponents of the controversial legislation say it would prioritize Jewish values over democratic ones and effectively endanger the rights of Israeli Arab citizens as well as even secular Israelis.”

    I don’t think that any country should be the “homeland” of any ethnic group or religion. That’s a prescription for second-class citizens.

    Israel isn’t my homeland. I went there in 1968, after serving a year in Vietnam, and became very clear very quickly that Israel was not for me. I found it to be—because right-wing Zionism IS—racist and intolerant and tragically holier-than-thou.

    I want all peoples to feel free in their homes wherever that may be. Israel should be non-denominational and welcome all who want to live there in peace—without any litmus tests referencing ethos or religion.

    !

  • kevinzeese

    Sounds like you agree with the points made in the article. Not sure why you are critical of RT’s reporting unless it is because we are trained in the current political environment to criticize RT.

    My sense of Jewish values is the history of the alliance between US Jews and the civil rights and labor rights movements. Many Jews have also been involved in anti-war movements. I see all of those movements for equal justice, workers rights and peace being violated by Israel. Israel seems to put values that are opposite of what I think of as Jewish values, and you seem to think the same thing.

  • lcotler

    Thanks, Kevin, for taking the time to respond.

    Are there Jewish values?? I was brought up to think so. But obviously, that was a bias I bought into. Looking at Israel today, with a third of the world’s Jews, I’m not so sure there is anything we can refer to objectively as Jewish values. I’m aghast at what “my fellow Jews” are doing there…(horrendously in my name). They’re expressing values, but they are not my values, or the values that you referred to in your response. You reference the values of the liberal babyboomer and just-pre-babyboomer (c’est moi) Jews. For a while, those were thought to be the definitive Jewish values. But my research, since becoming an anti-Zionist Jew, has suggested that we Jews (and I’m going to be crucified for saying this!) must take some responsibilities for the animus through the ages against us. (And that deserves a book or two to plumb.)

    I agree with you, sorta, when you say: “Many Jews have also been involved in anti-war movements. I see all of those movements for equal justice, workers rights and peace being violated by Israel.” Your sense of Jewish values is, or rather was, in sync with my own. But that might have been only the tenor of the times for Jewish values AT THAT PARTICULAR TIME. Israel has given me pause to rethink this and look at it in a much broader and wider way.

    And, no, I am not usually critical of RT; in fact, I subscribe, learn a lot, and enjoy many of its programs: Hedges and erstwhile Abby Martin, etc.

  • kevinzeese

    Your comment makes the key point — what we thought of as Jewish values, historically, are being undermined by the actions of Israel.

    As a result, we no longer recognize what we thought were traditionally Jewish social justice values.

  • Robert H. Stiver

    Traditional Jewish social-justice values — such as they are, and it doesn’t really matter vis-à-vis Palestine — have been for decades and continue to be undermined by militant/political Zionism. Zionism is a vile perversity of the faith, any faith or creed, and that it was birthed from Judaism (and its reverent centuries-old adherence to spiritual Zionism) has made the entire “chosenness” of the Jewish people/tribe anathema to me. Unless an observant Jew resolutely condemns the militant/political Zionist project immiserating the people and land of Palestine and admits that the establishment of Israel was a historic, tragic mistake that must somehow be undone based on simple justice, international law, and morality, I have no admiration of him or her. Sadly, a lot of — many too many — non-Jews have been caught up in the snare of militant/political Zionism…I spurn them just as or more stoutly.

  • Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld

    Has anyone here actually read this bill? You’ll find it at:

    http://www.justice.gov.il/StateIdentity/InformationInEnglish/Documents/BasicLawBill.pdf

    There are already hundreds of Arab villages in Israel. These are segregated villages.