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Home arrow Israeli Apartheid Structures arrow Explained: The Controversial Bill That Would Allow Jewish-only Communities in Israel
Explained: The Controversial Bill That Would Allow Jewish-only Communities in Israel PDF Print E-mail
Jul 10, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Right-wing politicians have spent half a decade trying to pass a ‘nation-state’ bill that would prioritize Israel’s Jewish nature over its democratic one. Even President Rivlin thinks the law could harm Jews worldwide.


Israel has always understood itself to be a Jewish state. But for the past five years, politicians – specifically those on the right – have been pushing for legislation that would make that fact irrefutable, strengthening their ability to incorporate the country’s Jewish national and religious character into government policy.

This proposed nation-state bill would be a Basic Law, which means it would have constitutional-like status. Israel’s lack of a constitution has led to the creation of a series of such “Basic Laws,” which the courts are meant to recognize as articulating the underlying principles of the state.

However, due to internal wrangling over the wording of the law, the nation-state bill has enjoyed a legislative roller-coaster ride since its original conception back in 2013.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated repeatedly that the passage of such a law is one of his top priorities, and is hoping to get the bill passed before the Knesset breaks for its summer recess next week. Yet he has failed to achieve a consensus among the parties in his last two coalition governments, and Habayit Hayehudi and United Torah Judaism have both raised objections to parts of the latest version.

“Israel is a Jewish and democratic state, and for the sake of creating a balance and resisting those who challenge, I am determined to advance my version of the nation-state law,” Netanyahu said in 2014, as various factions battled over different versions of the bill. “Over the years, a distinct imbalance has been created between the Jewish element and the democratic one. There is an imbalance between individual rights and national rights in Israel,” he added.

From the outset, human rights organizations and political figures on the left have decried the proposed law as antidemocratic, arguing that even in its mildest version, it legitimizes giving Jews and the Jewish religion preferential treatment and denying full and equal rights to the country’s non-Jewish citizens.

Its harshest critics, meanwhile, have said the law prepares the legal ground for a one-state solution and the annexation of the West Bank.

In its the most recent version, figures ranging from left-wing activists to the Israeli president have joined the battle against preventing its passage in its current form.

The clause that has upset them most would explicitly allow the establishment of communities that are segregated by religion or nationality, giving discrimination an official stamp of approval. The clause in the bill declares that “the state can allow a community composed of people of the same faith or nationality to maintain an exclusive community.”

Some fear that enshrining this principle in law could not only lead to discrimination against Arabs and other non-Jews, but could also be interpreted as permitting discrimination against groups within the Jewish population.

President Reuven Rivlin has slammed clause 7B, warning in a letter that it “could harm the Jewish people and Jews around the world and in Israel, and could even be used by our enemies as a weapon.”

The Knesset’s legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, and Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri have both also come out against the clause, with Nizri explaining that the law would enshrine “personal discrimination against a citizen based only on his nationality.” And Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit said “there is no place for such a clause in its present form.”

Eyal Zandberg from the Attorney General’s Office has said the clause “is blatant discrimination” and that “this means the residents selection committee can hang up a sign saying ‘No entry to non-Jews.’”

There are other controversial clauses in the proposed law that are also proving problematic: Hebrew will be the official language of the state, with the status of Arabic being reduced from an “official” to “special” language. Another clause would instruct judges to look for precedents from Jewish legal rulings in instances where Israeli law offers no guidance.

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In Rachel Corrie verdict, Israel deals new blow to international law
The verdict on the 2003 killing of Rachel Corrie absolved Israel of any wrongdoing, essentially blaming the victim for her death. The trial revealed Israel’s approach to the most fundamental principles of international law, and especially to the duty to protect non-combatants.

By Jeff Halper

For those who hoped for a just verdict on the death of Rachel Corrie, the American student and ISM activist killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 as she was defending a Palestinian home about to be demolished, this is a sad day. Not surprising, but still sad and bitter. The judge who decided the case, Oded Gershon, absolved the army of all blame, despite massive and internally contradictory testimony to the contrary. Moreover, he essentially blamed Rachel for her own death, commenting that a “normal person” would have run away from the bulldozer rather than confront it.

Palestinians and Israel human rights activists have learned that justice cannot be obtained through the Israeli judicial system. The Haifa District Court, in which the trial was held, could not have ruled other than how the state wanted. For the past 45 years of Israeli occupation, the Supreme Court has excluded from its rulings all reference to international humanitarian law and to the Fourth Geneva Convention in particular, which protects civilians living in conflict situations and under occupation. Only Israeli law applies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories – military law and orders – and the courts have restricted even that form of law by declaring that in instances of “security,” they defer to the military. As in Rachel’s case, the IDF thus has carte blanche to commit war crimes with impunity, with no fear of accountability or punishment.

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