What does the Nation State Law Actually Say?
All hell broke loose on 19 July 2018 when the Knesset passed the bill at its third reading and we saw the birth of the Nation State Law. There were demonstrations across the country protesting what was claimed to officially cement Israel’s minority populations as having second-class status. The Arabs were out in protest. About half the Druze were out in protest. In general, there were different reasons for Arab versus Druze opposition to the law.
For some time, the NGOs Adalah and ACRI and a number of Arab members of Knesset have been trying to whittle away at our Jewish state and turn it into a state of all its peoples. It began well before the Nation State Bill was voted into Law on 19 July 2018 but efforts were ramped up just before and just after that.
Druze were insulted that after their history of loyalty to the Jewish state, they were not mentioned at all in the law. As Safwan Mreech said in our interview on this topic:
This law is the Identity Card of the nation and we are not there. They stole part of our identity, the essence of our existence. And they did this without understanding the depth of our attachment to Israel.
Seeing the outpouring of pain on the part of some Druze, we have the opportunity to delve deep and explore our relationship with the Druze in order to understand their society and their attachment to the Jewish state and not take it for granted. Conflict opens up potential for honest communication in a way that smooth sailing never does.
In the sixth lecture in Tikvah Fund course on the Declaration of Independence Dr Martin Kramer declares: “One day there might be a move that turns all Basic Laws together into a constitution and so it must be written into Basic Law that Israel is the Jewish state.”
But what does the law actually say?
So that those who do not read Hebrew can fully understand what the issue is about, I have translated into English the full text of the Nation State Law as well as the text of the amendments sought by Lapid and some members of the opposition that were rejected by the Knesset in a vote of 53 to 21 just last Wednesday (29 July 2020).
|Basic Law: Israel – Nation State of the Jewish People
(you can see the Hebrew here.)
|1.||(a)||The Land of Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish People, on which the [modern] State of Israel was established.|
|(b)||The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People, on which she realizes the natural, cultural, religious and historic rights for self-determination.|
|(c)||Realization of the right for national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People.|
|2.||(a)||The name of the state is “Israel”.|
|(b)||The flag is white, two blue lines near the margins of the flag and a blue Star of David in its center.|
|(c)||The emblem of the state is a 7-branched menorah with olive branches on either side of it, and the word “Israel” beneath.|
|(d)||The national anthem is “Hatikvah”.|
|(e)||Details of national symbols will be fixed by law.|
|Capitol of the State|
|3.||Greater and united Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel.|
|4.||(a)||Hebrew is the state language.|
|(b)||Arabic has special standing in the state; regulation of the use of Arabic in and with public institutions will be by law.|
|(c)||Nothing in this paragraph will detract from the status of the Arabic language before passage of this basic law.|
|Ingathering of the Exiles|
|5.||The state is open to Jewish immigration and ingathering of the exiles.|
|Relations with the Jewish People|
|6.||(a)||The state takes responsibility for the wellbeing of Jews and its citizens finding themselves in trouble or in captivity because of being Jewish or being citizens of Israel.|
|(b)||The state will operate in the Diaspora in order to preserve the relationship between the state and the Jewish People.|
|(c)||The state will act in order to protect the cultural, historic, and religious heritage of the Jewish people in the Jewish Diaspora.|
|7.||The state regards the development of Jewish settlement as a national value, and will act to encourage and promote their establishment and foundation.|
|8.||The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside of it the Gregorian calendar will also serve as an official calendar; use of these calendars will be determined by law.|
|Independence Day and Memorial Days|
|9.||(a)||Independence Day is the official state holiday.|
|(b)||Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel and Victims of Actions of Terrorism and Holocaust Memorial Day are official state memorial days.|
|Days of Rest and the Sabbath|
|10.||The Sabbath and state festivals are official state days of rest by law; non-Jews are free to set their own days of rest and Sabbath; details regarding this will be determined by law.|
|11.||No change can be made to this law except by another basic law accepted by a majority of Members of Knesset.|
And here are the changes the some of the opposition sought to make:
|Basic Law Proposal: Israel – Nation State of the Jewish People (Correction – Equality, Language and Settlement)
(You can read the Hebrew version here.)
|1. Paragraph 1|
|In Basic Law: Israel – Nation State of the Jewish People (from here – Basic Law), at the end of Paragraph 1, it will be added:|
|1.||(d)||The State of Israel constitutes a home [for all her citizens?] and maintains equal rights to each one of her citizens.|
|2. Paragraph 4|
|In Paragraph 4 of the Basic Law, items (a) – (c) will be replaced by:|
|4.||(a)||Hebrew is the official state language.|
|(b)||Arabic is the second official state language.|
|3. Paragraph 7|
|At the end of the current paragraph 7 [regarding settlement], the following will be added: “and in accordance with the essence of the principles of this basic law and for the benefit of all her citizens.”|
Let us see if you can see what is wrong with the Nation State Law as it stands and/or what is wrong with the amendments proposed by Lapid and his colleagues. Tell us in the comments section below.
Feature Image Credit: Original design by Max and Gabriel Shamir; Tonyjeff, based on national symbol. / Public domain
Let me start this off myself – I see nothing wrong with the Nation State Law.
Regarding the amendments, I have no problem with adding that Arabic is the second official language. I do not think it will change anything.
If they add the bit about equality to Paragraph 1, then they are essentially negating any use that can be made of this law as protecting the collective rights of the Jewish People in the Jewish State. By bringing in individual rights, the Supreme Court can maintain its leftist activist stance without having to really consider collective rights of the Jewish People in their own state. And then, Paragraph 7 (about settlement), states that settlement will be in accordance with the principles of this very law (meaning in accordance with their addition to Paragraph 1) and they again refer to rights of individuals, which is not the purpose of the Nation State Law.
I would observe that making Arabic a second official language might end up imposing a requirement on all businesses to operate bilingually. Whether that is a good or bad thing is a different question.
I think that making Arabic a second official language makes sense to me. Israel is in a sea of countries that speak Arabic and it is the first language of about 20% of the population. I agree that the law should say for “all Israelis” because, even as she is the Jewish State and is known as such internationally, she is a democracy. I would find it very off putting to say the least, if the US suddenly had a law that once again referred to citizens as Whites and the rest of us mentioned as “oh yeah and the rest too”. I understand why the Druze and other non-Jewish Israelis might find this offensive.