Since the Nation State Law Passed its First Supreme Court Test…
Yesterday afternoon (8.7.2021), the left-wing Haaretz published a surprisingly balanced report of the Supreme Court denial of a petition to strike the Nation State Law (NSL) from the book of statutes. Now that the NSL is etched indelibly into the fabric of our legal system, we can look at it more dispassionately and understand why rescinding it was not considered by the court.
Ten of the eleven presiding judges agreed that there was no justification for considering the petition submitted by Adalah (see their horrified reaction to this here), the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (https://www.english.acri.org.il/), Meretz, the Joint List, the local municipalities committee, and a number of individual lawyers. The dissenting voice was that of Judge George Karra, also the only Arab judge serving on the Supreme Court. It is unclear whether or not Karra personally disagrees with the law, feels obligated to oppose it as a member of the Arab community in Israel, or finds actual legal problems with it.
In any case, the reason for rejecting the petitions against the NSL essentially came down to the fact that it was not seen as impacting negatively upon our democracy nor detracting from the civil rights of minorities in Israel — as these are covered in other basic laws, all of which together comprise the developing group of statutes which will one day form the constitution of the State of Israel.
Furthermore, the NSL is a positive law, describing things that are, not things that are not. For example, the NSL states that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People. It does NOT say that nobody else has the right to thrive here. The NSL does not take away any right of minorities to cultural expression beneath the level of determination of the character of the state as a whole. The NSL clarifies the symbols of the state as Jewish symbols — it does not say that minorities are prohibited from using their own symbols. In fact, anti-Zionists within Israel freely fly the PA flag at demonstrations and the NSL does not make that illegal. While Hebrew is the only official language in the country, the NSL states that Arabic will not lose its status even if it is not classified as an official language. Arabic will still appear on all public signs, government websites and documents, etc.
This important judgement by the Supreme Court means that in cases in which individual rights conflict with collective rights of the nation, the Supreme Court now has to consider collective rights as a legitimate issue. Before the passing of the NSL, only individual rights were considered and rulings sometimes were against the rights of the state as a whole. Now there will be balance.
It also means that petitions to the Supreme Court seeking to change the Israeli flag, to change our national anthem and other symbols have no chance of succeeding. This is a Jewish country in which minorities can thrive as communities and individuals but they cannot hope to turn this into a non-Jewish country. Perhaps with that out of the way, they will stop trying to undermine the state and turn to enhancing the well-being of their villages and towns, cooperating with Mansour Abbas who, in joining the coalition government, gained access to billions of shekels toward that very purpose. Perhaps with that out of the way, we may even see an Arab IDF Commander-in-Chief or even Prime Minister.
There is, however, one paragraph I would change, either deleting it entirely or significantly modifying it. That is the paragraph that states that advancing Jewish settlement is a national value. Again, that is a positive point and says nothing about not correcting problems encountered in Arab towns and villages regarding building permits and infrastructure improvements, certainly as evidenced by the currect coalition commitment of resources toward that. It should also be noted that Arab towns restrict residence to Arabs, and sometimes even to members of a given tribe (such as the case in Khawaled). However, malicious use of this paragraph was made by the Mayor of Carmiel when he refused a request by Arab residents in town to subsidize transportation of their children to Arab schools elsewhere as there are none in Carmiel. He had reason enough to deny this request without citing the Nation State Law — inappropriately, in fact. This should not happen again; therefore, the paragraph must be either eliminated or amended.
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Two other articles on this website on the topic of the Nation State Law:
Interviews with two Druze leaders, one in favour of the law and one against it.
One thing Adalah missed when looking for international support for their opposition to the NSL.
Really useful analysis. Thanks.