Knesset’s New Nation State Law Codifies Israel As An Apartheid State

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Above Photo: Jewish settlers march during a demonstration against a proposed decision to evacuate the Jewish-only West Bank colony of Beit El near Ramallah. Ariel Schalit | AP

The passing of the Nation State law codifies what have been racist policies and practices by Israel into law, and not just a regular law, but a Basic Law that defines the State.

JERUSALEM — After several days of rushing and intense debates, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had his wish come true. He urgently wanted to get the Nation State bill passed into law before the Knesset goes into summer recess on July 22, and for several days now the Knesset committee charged with ironing out the bill was delaying the process with long discussions.  Now the law passed 62 to 55 and 2 abstentions. In an almost symbolic act of racism, the Palestinian members of the Knesset were kicked out of the chamber following the vote because of their vocal protests.

An usher removes Israeli Arab Knesset member Jamal Zahalka for protesting the passage of the Nation State bill in the Knesset, July 19, 2018. Olivier Fitoussi | AP

Now, with the haggling and the opposition members’ delay tactics over, the final version of the bill has been approved by the Knesset. This law, which has been described as the legislative “Flagship” of the current government, is officially named “Basic Law – Israel as The Nation State of the Jewish People” has become one of Israel’s Basic Laws — laws that, in the absence of a Constitution, have constitutional standing.

This law has been discussed for several years now; it has evolved, however, and has become extreme to a degree that even right-wing politicians like Benny Begin, the son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and former Likud Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who originally supported the bill, now oppose it.

No more Jewish and democratic

In Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, on which my own grandfather is signed, the word “democracy” is not mentioned. However, it says that Israel “will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants.” Furthermore, it states that the newly established Jewish State will, “be based on freedom, justice and peace. It will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”

These promises were never fulfilled and Israel enacted laws and policies that favored the mostly immigrant Jewish population at the expense of the native Palestinians. The original version of the Nation State Bill read:

The purpose of this Basic Law is to secure the character of Israel as the National State of the Jewish People in order to codify in a basic law the values of Israel as a Jewish democratic state.”

In the new version that was accepted by the committee today, the word “democratic” has been eliminated — arguably so that so-called Zionist values could take precedence over democratic values where the two may collide, particularly over issues pertaining to the Palestinian people.

The Nation State law codifies what have been racist policies and practices by Israel into law, and not just a regular law but a Basic Law that defines the State. Dr. Yusef Jabarin, member of the Israeli Knesset for the Joint Arab List wrote to me that even though some elements of this law already exist within Israeli law, codifying it as a Basic Law gives the discrimination constitutional standing, which means it will be harder to challenge the racist policies in the courts.

For example, since the State of Israel was established in 1948, over a thousand Jewish towns have been established throughout the country. At the same time, not only were close to 500 Palestinian towns and villages destroyed but in the last seven decades, not a single town has been established for the Palestinian citizens of the state, even though this community grew from a population of around 150,000 to close to 2 million within that same time frame.

A Bedouin woman sits on the demolished remnants of her home in the village of Umm al-Hiran in Southern Israel, Jan. 18, 2017. Tsafrir Abayov | AP

Palestinians are not welcome in Jewish towns and in many cases would prefer to remain within their communities. Still, for seven decades the State of Israel expropriated enormous tracts of land from Palestinian towns that were not destroyed. These lands were taken in order to build towns and communities, but almost exclusively for the Jewish citizens of the state. Some Jewish towns have instituted “acceptance committees” in order to make sure that no Arabs are permitted to reside in them, and the legality of these committees has been brought to question in the courts. This bill puts the issue to rest by giving a quasi-constitutional stamp of approval to these committees. It is interesting to note that the original version of the bill said:

The State may allow a community, including followers of a single religion or members of a single nationality, to establish a separate communal settlement.”

In other words, followers of any religion on nationality were given this right. That language was scrapped and replaced with the following:

The state sees developing Jewish communities as a national value and will act to encourage, promote and establish them.”

Clearly, they went from allowing segregated communities to encouraging, promoting and establishing segregated communities for Jewish citizens only.

According to a piece by Dr. Yousef Jabareen (not the member of Knesset) in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the new Basic Law only codifies a reality of racial discrimination towards the Palestinian citizens of Israel that is already prevalent. Jabareen, a professor in Israel’s Technionin Haifa, describes the findings of his research on this issue as follows:

In 940 Israeli towns that were studied and which sit on 82 percent of Israel, there is not a single Palestinian family and not a single Palestinian owns a home in any of these towns.”

Furthermore, Jabareen writes, many of these towns have committees that are responsible for accepting or denying citizens seeking to live within them, thus preventing Palestinian citizens of Israel from moving in. The state of Israel is the sole owner of 93 percent of the land, and Israeli law prevents it from selling or leasing to non-Jews. Arabs citizens of the state, who are the native citizens of the land and make up over 20 percent of the citizens, or close to 2 million people, own 2.1 percent of the land.

The Arabic language

In 1922, when the League of Nations handed over Palestine to the British Government as a Mandate, it stated specifically in Article 22:

English, Arabic and Hebrew shall be the official languages of Palestine. Any statement or inscription in Arabic on stamps or money in Palestine shall be repeated in Hebrew and any statement or inscription in Hebrew shall be repeated in Arabic.”

An Israeli Arab teacher from the Arab town of Kabul gives an Arabic class to Israeli schoolchildren in a school in the Jewish village of Yokneam, Dec 20, 2011. Oded Balilty | AP

This has been the law of the land since that day. The status of Arabic began eroding once the State of Israel was established and state institutions almost completely disregarded Arabic so that Hebrew became the dominant language. Still, Arabic retained its legal status as an official language and is spoken within the Palestinian towns where, unlike the Jewish citizens of the state, the residents speak both Arabic and Hebrew. The Nation State bill demotes the status of the Arabic language and states:

Hebrew is the language of the country. The Arabic language has special status in the country. Its speakers have the right of [Arabic] language access to the services of the state.”

This will erode the Arabic language even more and because this is now within a Basic Law, there will be little or no legal recourse for the Arabic speaking community seeking to challenge it.

Expansion by decree

The parts of the law mentioned above are only the more controversial within the bill, but its entire essence is a dangerous attempt to give constitutional status to the erasure of all Arab and Palestinian characteristics from a country that until 70 years ago was known as Palestine and that, in the minds and hearts of millions around the world, remains Palestine.

The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

One has to wonder what Palestinians who have lived on this land for centuries, not to say millennia, must think when they read that they have no right to exercise self-determination on that land. What the bill does not show is that in the minds of its authors and supporters, the boundaries of the State of Israel are not the UN-sanctioned 1947 boundaries and not the pre-1967 boundaries. The Israeli government and all members of the coalition, and indeed many members of the opposition see the boundaries of the State as all of historic Palestine, from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. The bill gives no answer as to the status and rights of the Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel.


The Nation State bill claims that the entire unified Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

This is once again giving constitutional status to what is a violation of UN resolution 181 and international law, which call for the city to be an entity on its own and not part of any state. The status of the Palestinians in the city is tenuous and precarious. In 1948 every Palestinian was forced to leave West Jerusalem and since 1967 there is a campaign of forced exile that is gaining momentum by the day. This law will no doubt make things even more difficult as the state expropriates land, homes, and neighborhoods from the Palestinians to build for Jews.

Uniting the Diaspora

“Israel will be open to Jewish immigration and uniting the diaspora.”

Israeli soldiers and relatives of new Jewish immigrants from the U.S. and Canada, wave flags to welcome them as they arrive at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, July 23, 2013. Ariel Schalit | AP

This must be seen within the context of the Palestinian demand to execute their right to return to their land and their homes. It is made clear here that the state will be open to Jewish immigration only, which was the practice and now is codified in Basic Law.

One may argue that the State of Israel has once again made the case in support of the call to impose boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on the State of Israel. In a matter of a few short weeks, Israel has bombed Gaza, destroyed the small village of Khan Al-Ahmar, and has now passed a law that makes it an official apartheid state.

  • econdemocracy


    Links below include who else protested besides Jamal Zahalka: THOUSANDS of Israelis (the per capita equivalent of 100,000 Americans in the streets, in just one demo) But first:

    1) These steps are very depressing but are also the death rattle of the mini-empire called Israel, just as we see here in the U.S. the death rattle of the globe’s main Empire, as it takes more and more extreme steps each year, especially since 9/11, the “PATRIOT Act”, the indefinite detention without trial and POTUS allowing himself (yes you too, Obama, you expanded these) the “right” to extra-judicially execute anyone anywhere, first non-citizens and later citizens too.

    One side of the coin, very depressing and alarming, but at the same time, these have been acts of desperation by a slowly decaying DeepState here, and I th ink the same logic applies to the mini Empire (whom Chomsky called once a virtual military base for the U.S., referring to the country of Israel) — its own Israeli Deep State is ever more desperate, thus resorts to ever more extreme steps, because its refusal to actually have peace, means the “problems” it’s worried about (including demographics) become more entrenched each year.

    2) Researching for more info I found what looked like an example of a sell-out but the subtitle (rest of piece is behind paywall) suggests it’s a first-class TROLL of this terrible law, read after the word “if” in the subtitle:

    Title: “Opinion As an Arab, I Support Israel’s Jewish Nation-state Bill ”

    Subtitle: “I don’t see anything wrong with communities for Jews only if new Arab
    communities are built and can decide whether to accept new residents
    based on religion or nationality” ( )

    Which of course the law does NOT allow, Arab communities, this same right..If this wasn’t so grim a topic I’d write “Ha, excellent troll, exposed the 1-sided nature of the law!”

    3) More seriously, this article cites a public protest by Israeli citizens (not the only one) but this oen alone had an estimated 2,5000 protesters. Recall it’s a tiny country with 8.5 million versus the U.S.’s 325 million, so it’s proportionately like close to 100,000 Americans at a demonstration)

    4) Ayman Odeh an Israeli Arab (Israel citizen, and himself an Arab) and himself a member of the Knesset, called it a “large” demonstration (not clear if that one or another one) Here’s what Odeh said:

    “Addressing the crowd, MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, said
    that what is most frightening to the rightwing government is that Jews
    and Arabs can live together. ‘The nation-state bill won’t make us disappear, but it will
    massively harm democracy,’ he said. ‘The large protest was an important
    step in the fight against fascism.’ ”

    He added: “Racist legislation of a government that fears power, of a majority that
    tramples the minority, will not remove us. We will remain in our
    homeland, we will remain here – two nations. The thousands who came here
    are hope for a state of equality and peace”(same article: “Rabbi Gilad Kariv, CEO of the Movement for Progressive Judaism, slammed
    the bill as ‘despicable.’ He told elected officials not to be silent”)

    Co-organizers included Omdim Beyachad (Standing Together); The Association of Ethiopian Jews; The New Israel Fund; Peace Now; The Israel Religious Action Center;
    Sikkuy; The Coalition Against Racism in Israel; Mossawa Center; Young
    Labor; Hadash; Meretz; Ta’al; The Association for Civil Rights in
    Israel; Zazim – Community Action; the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil
    Equality; AJEEC NISPED; Kulan; Socialist Struggle; [former] Combatants for Peace;
    and Shatil.

    The organizers said the Israeli government was trying to [now: already has, since it passed] official discrimination “Because they [politicians] have no solutions for any of us – not to the housing crisis, not for the elderly and disabled, not for the high cost of
    living, not for the collapsing healthcare system, not to the crisis with the Jews of the Diaspora – they are legislating unnecessary, terrifying and discriminatory laws like the nation-state law. The law incites, confuses, and divides citizens of the State of Israel from one another.”

    The message of Saturday’s protest, according to the organizers, was that “we are all equal citizens – Arabs and Jews, women and men, Mizrahim, Ethiopians, those of us from the former USSR, and members of the LGBTQ community.”

    5) These strong words won’t make the bigoted law disappear, but too often here in the U.S. we progressives fail to include the voices of such Israel demonstrations which are often equally co-organized by Arab and/or Muslims living in Israel, too..American progressives ignoring these demonstrations is us betraying not just moral voices of Israel Jews (some of whom languish in jail due to refusing to serve in the Israeli occupation) but also a betrayal of the Palestinians as well as of non-Jewish Israelis, because we could be and should be amplifying their voices, if not outright donating then at least publicizing the events and words and images from protests which are often some of the most powerful things that the repressive State fears most, is most embarrassed by, most doesn’t want the world to hear (words) and see (photos) and which can even make the state in question (whether the U.S. regime here at home or in this case the Israeli one) actually sometimes hesitate and abandon repressive plans.

    The above isn’t even quoting the most hard core anti-occupation voices in Israel, just the more middle of the road ones, who are already outraged at this law (or were in these demonstrations before it was passed, demanding it NOT be passed) are quoted above. Some Israeli Jews go much farther (e.g. Gush Shalom, Peace Block) in opposing it. As noted some even go to jail, and some in jail multiple times…Progressive Americans must see these Jews and their own Arab partners in the demonstrations and rallies and marches as our allies and we must publicize their events, words, and photographs from these events.

    We may even have many more pragmatic allies, not so moral or principled, but ones who realize Israel will destroy itself demographically (This one I just found, was written in 2013, published in the Israeli press: ) Arabs will reach a majority and without firing a shot will vote in Bill#1 to rename Israel “Palestine” and Bill#2 to have a Law of Return etc…That the leadership should be begging the Palestinians to create a state but is doing the exact opposite and as more Palestinians give up on that 2-state solution, they may just suffer but while waiting for their population to grow (Arab citizens of Israel) to become a majority. A month ago I found another behind a paywall but its title was similar about Israel may go out of existence, and the (I believe Jewish Israeli) writer’s rest of the subtitle was shocking: “And that’s a good thing” they added.

    Still, even if it’s true, it’s still a needless trajedy for the suffering to go on, especially by Palestinians, but also Arab citizens of Israel and if you study it, there’s others who don’t suffer as much, but still are being screwed over, just as poor and middle class Americans we do not get screwed over nearly as badly as Iraqi/Libyan citizens, but we still get screwed over…similarly Jews in Israel most of them while not screwed over nearly as much as Arab citizens of Israel let alone Palestinians in the Occupied territories…but research it yourself or use common sense: one of the higher inequality levels of OECD (almost as bad as U.S.) and what do YOU think happens to Ethiopian black Jews in Israel, to dirt poor etc..? Same as happening here in U.S. while our leaders blow up and mass-murder in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, etc….we can’t compare our suffering to whose our leaders blow up overseas, but are we being screwed over, most of us, not the super-rich? Same is true in every country, not just the U.S. but especially in empires, big and small. The “pro-Israel” crowd who in reality are hurting most Israelis, who are not the 1% elite) as well as terribly brutalizing the Palestinians..don’t seem to get this.

    But many if not most progressives don’t get this distinction, either, most of the time. Strange since we understand the difference here in the U.S. between the people and the regime, and we’d think someone in 2003 living overseas very misguided or worse, if they thought they were “pro-America” and helping the American people, by supporting George Bush’s policies…

  • Robert H. Stiver

    I made this comment yesterday at another site, another analyst’s assessment. I can’t find time to address the always-awesome Miko’s analysis specifically, but I stand by my words:

    “This apartheid-rife criminal Zionist entity shall not stand. Let it be erased from current time and, insha’allah, reviled in future historical accounts. Faster, please….”

    (Re the final paragraph: Has the Bedouin village of Khan Al-Ahmar indeed been “destroyed”? I’ve followed that issue for many weeks and thought that the actual destruction was on tenuous hold…I may have missed news of the final act of Zionist perfidy/arrogance/terrorism/collective punishment…?)

  • Helen4Yemen

    “always-awesome Miko’s analysis”

    1. The man never stops boasting that he was born in Jerusalem. He needs to be reminded that he was born on Arab land because his colonial invader ancestors seized Arab land by force.

    2. He says he is native of Palestine because he was born there. But did the British born in Kenya claim to be native to Kenya or the French born in Algeria ever claim to be natives of Algeria? Palestine is not his grandmother’s land, Ukraine is.

    3. His fight to “free Palestine” is not to free Palestine from colonial invaders like himself, he never means to peacefully move out of colonized Palestine, he – the good Jew – wants to share the Arabs’ own land with the Arabs.

    4. He never stops boasting being the general’s son and whose grandfather signed the “declaration of independence”, he compared his grandfather to George Washington. Amazing arrogance for a colonial settler to boast about his “independence”. Independence from who? Does the colonial settler not realize that his “independence” on Arab land denied the natives their independence.

    5. I am an Arab and I have no claim on the land of Palestine. Mike Peled – a Ukrainian Jew – needs to explain to me on what is his claim to Arab land based?

    5. My message to Miko Peled is the same message as that of Hassan Nasrallah: GO HOME!

  • Helen4Yemen

    “Diaspora” – meaning the Ukranian Jew is claiming his origin is none other Palestine, right?

    But does the Ukranian Jew have any evidence his origin is from MY region, the Middle East? We the people of the Middle East are not genetically related to the white European Jews known as the Ashkenazi. But the claim of “Diaspora” is a claim on the land of Palestine by total European strangers. The sooner these Europeans give up the fraud of “diaspora” the better for all.

  • kevinzeese

    Attacking Peled is a major error. He is a strong ally.

    He left Palestine (inaccurately called Israel) and lived in Los Angles for a time, now lives in Washington, DC. He prefers to call the area occupied Palestine, not Israel.

  • Once again and ever so clear, this is one of the reasons why religion should never be allowed to influence government since it does not tolerate anyone with a different set of values.

  • The verification of the Israeli apartheid state should serve as a wake up call to the rest of the world that the time for global action is urgently required now, more than ever before.

    Each day that passes is another day in hell for Palestinians.

  • Helen4Yemen

    He knows Zionism from its inception was based on the expulsion of the Palestinians. Let’s assume that all that he wrote above about peace, democracy and equality were true. Did he not think that he first needed to seek the permission of the indigenous if it were their wish to live side by side with total strangers? Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Libya, Syria, Lebanon … removed their colonial invaders and became independent nations. Why does Mr. Peled think the Palestinian do not deserve a state of their own minus the colonial invaders like him? He knows that the only reason the man can go in and out of Palestine is because he has armed thugs to protect him 24/7. If he is in love with Palestine, then when Palestine becomes free that he needs to go to the nearest Palestinian embassy an get a visa to enter Arab Palestine. He did write the word “diaspora” in this article which tells me he believes he is a descendant of the ancient Hebrews and therefore “coming back”. What sort of evidence can the European-Ukrainian present – not that it even matters if he was of Israelite descent? As someone who is indigenous to the region, I resent any foreigners who have a claim on Palestine – period! I would like to remind him for the 100th time that Palestine is not his grandmother’s land.

    Note: When Peled says “Free Palestine”, he wants a “Free Palestine” for him and the indigenous. In other words, he wants a piece of Arab land free of charge to him. And the reason he feels entitled to a piece of free Arab land is because he is a Jew? C’mon!

  • Helen4Yemen

    My message and Hassan Nasrallah’s message to Miko Peled:



  • Helen4Yemen


    “Miko Peled” needs to know that despite his fabricated “Hebrew name” of “Miko Peled” or that he was born on Arab land means nothing to us Arabs. He lies when he says that the Palestinians would love to live side by side with Ukranian invaders of Palestine like “Peled” if only the Zionist entity would treat them with kindness. Excuse me: but why then did the British vacate from Yemen, Kenya, Uganda, India, Egypt and many other lands? No colonized people would relinquish their right to all of their land and would never allow foriegn people to squat on their land unless they are invited guests. I am looking forward to anyone who who debate me on the never ending lies of the so-called “Miko Peled” This is my newest video of Mr. “Peled”. Please come forward and defend the Ukranian pretender. Palestine is Arab and the Ukranian-American Jew needs to get it registered in his head.


  • kevinzeese

    Is your goal just to express anger at the Zionists and their invasion and takeover of Palestine or to actually when justice for Palestine? You criticize this statement of Peled:

    “Though I am introduced as an American, and I do reside in the U.S., I am actually not from the U.S. I am an Israeli, son of an Israeli army general, and I too served in the Israeli army. I am here today because I reject Zionism and the State of Israel that was established on stolen Palestinian land, at the expense of Palestinian lives.”

    He is someone who has left Israel voluntarily. He no longer llives there. He calls for a Palestinian State to replace Israel, supports right of return, opposes Zionism. As he says “I reject Zionism and the State of Israel that was established on stolen Palestinian land…” Don’t you support all those views?

    The fact that he mentions his family history just adds to his credibility when he rejects Israel and criticizes Zionism. It is politically useful to have someone with that background, join forces for Palestinian justice and call for the end of Israel.

    Or, can only Palestinians advocate for justice? Do you want allies who have rejected Israel, as Peled has done?

  • Helen4Yemen

    I am an Arab and the Zionist entity is a dagger on my heart. None of what you said about Mr. “Peled” is true.

    1) “He is someone who has left Israel voluntarily.”

    Please investigate first. The man just said he is an Israeli during his visit to Iran in May of 2018. The man said that he makes frequent visits to Palestine to “work”. The man invited Palestinians to come visit him in “his” Jerusalem home when Palestine becomes free -meaning a free Palestine will not be free of the foreign Jews. The man said foreign Jews born in Palestine become automatically native with entitlement to call Arab land their home.

    2) “He calls for a Palestinian State to replace Israel”.

    He has no plans for the Jews to go home but to remain clinging to Arab land.

    3) “supports right of return”

    He the foreign Jew of Ukranian origin supports the return of the Palestinians back to their own land? But if the Ukranian and his kind were to vacate from Arab land, would the Palestinians need his permission to return?

    4) “opposes Zionism”

    Who knows what that means. The bottom line is that the foreign Jew of Ukrainian origin has no intention of voluntarily giving up his claim to Palestine. Yes or no?

    5. “I reject Zionism and the State of Israel that was established on stolen Palestinian land…” Don’t you support all those views?”

    I have no idea what he means by “rejecting Zionism”. The bottom line is that the European colonial settler has no intention for his people leaving colonized Palestine as the British, the French and the Italians did. I am an Arab and I only feel disgust at the notion of these foreign Europeans claiming entitlement to Palestine because they are Jews.

    6.It is politically useful to have someone with that background, join forces for Palestinian justice and call for the end of Israel.

    I want to tell this colonial invader of Palestine that if Christian Europeans did him and his family wrong, go ask Europeans for a piece of his own land. Christian Europe used Arab land to remove the hated Jews out of Europe and the Arab region is now in ruins as a direct result of the arrival of these foreign Europeans. These people simply arrived and invaded our land and there will never be peace unless and until these people are forced back to where they came from. End of story!

    7. “Do you want allies who have rejected Israel, as Peled has done?”

    The man is a very proud “Israel+i”. By rejection “Israel”, is he rejecting the millions of Jews on the land of Palestine who have no other business on that land except as predatory colonial predators.

  • Helen4Yemen

    Here is a list of 450 ambassadors the Khazars in power in Palestine sent out to the world.
    How many of them are Khazarians? 99%? 95%? Are there any Arab Jews among them? I do not see one, do you? The dishonest ones like “Peled” never mention the fact that the Arab and African Jews are 2nd and 3rd class citizens, do they? There is a lot of money to be made by giving speeches on “Israel”-Palestine but those speeches are riddled with a thousand lies. I aught to know when one is lying and when one is telling the truth because I am indigenous to the region unlike the Ukranian invaders of our land.

    Note: A Moroccan-born Khazar is not an Arab Jew, is he?


  • Helen4Yemen

    My video on Mr. “Peled” was immediately censored!