The Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People (2018) was a politicized decision enacted by Jewish hardliners to suppress the right of the Arab-Israeli citizens.
The Jewish people, an old tribe no less, are currently up against the winds of post-nationalism, globalism, and multiculturalism. They are founded in a rebellious national self-consciousness.
These post-modern ideas possess the conceptual power to weaken and demolish the Israeli mentality. Israel tried to avoid the disgrace of widespread condemnation and isolation after being demonized and humiliated as a racist apartheid state accused of enforcing an expulsion and occupation system.
In the 1980s, it made the decision to flaunt its democratic, liberal, and egalitarian qualifications, even at the expense of diluting or abandoning its original Zionist worldview.
The pain of democracy
A new general election is about to take place in Israel on November 1. Reforming the entire judicial system from top to bottom and the absence of governance in the midst of widespread Arab violence, as in the mixed-race cities of Lod and Ramle, Jaffa, and Acre during the Israeli-Hamas War in May 2021, are the two politically contentious issues that dominate public discourse.
While the underlying topic of Israel’s identity—Jewish or democratic—will be the center of our discussion, the current circumstance will be clarified.
Israel’s parliament changed The Knesset: Basic Law (article 7a) in 1985 to prohibit candidates from running in general elections if they “negate Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” It was a practical legal approach to soothe any concerns about the egalitarian spirit guiding citizenship for all in Israel rather than a strategic change in beliefs that served as the political impetus for this amendment.
In a 2002 amendment to the legislation, candidates for office would also be ineligible if they incited racism or supported armed conflict. The matter went to the Supreme Court when Azmi Bishara, an Arab citizen who disapproved of Israel’s Jewish identity, attempted to run for leader of the Balad Party.
The justices concluded in his favor despite not adhering to the literal wording of the law. Bishara disputed Israel’s essential and unique Jewish character by using the seemingly uncontroversial term “Israel as a state of its residents.” When Bishara was accused of engaging in espionage on behalf of Hezbollah and promoting armed conflict, he departed the country in 2007.
“The principles of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state” are key components of the national code, according to the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, which was adopted in 1992.
The path was open to taint, if not ostracise, Israel’s Jewish identity with the promotion of democracy to an equal rung with Jewish identity. Later, former President Reuven Rivlin would rashly reaffirm that Israel is “Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish” on a number of times. A conflict between two values that are placed on an equal footing would force a decision.
Human rights and “human dignity” terminology was an expansion of constitutional rights. In fact, the liberal and self-described “progressive” Supreme Court in Israel gave access to grievance-redress to everyone, whether they were citizens or not, even Palestinian who were contesting their cases against civilian and military state agencies. Israel’s democracy was exceptional in that it liberally granted rights to adversaries.