Thursday, July 19, 2018

For immediate release:

Late last night in Jerusalem, the Israeli Knesset passed the Jewish Nation-State Bill into law. Lawmakers voted 62 to 55 to legally cement Israel as the sole national homeland of the Jewish people and national self-determination as a right exclusive to Jews.

The New Israel Fund of Canada (NIFC) joins a chorus of progressive and moderate voices – in Israel and the Diaspora – emphatically condemning the Nation-State Law. We believe it’s a frightening affront to Israel’s democracy, and to any prospect of peaceful co-existence between Arabs and Jews.

NIFC Executive Director Ben Murane articulated:

The Jewish Nation-State Bill is a slap in the face to democracy and to Arab citizens of Israel. It bolsters Israel’s critics and those who advocate for its boycott, giving credence to their claims that Israel is a racist state.”

This law was devised by extreme elements in Israel’s governing coalition. As such, it seeks to reverse founding principles of Israel’s Declaration of Independence that guarantee equality to all citizens, regardless of religious or ethnic background. It could have been a lot worse – some of the bill’s most hateful clauses were removed, thanks to fierce opposition from civil society groups in Israel funded in part by the New Israel Fund, and to politicians like Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin. But the final version is still odious. It seeks to sanction discrimination against Arabs and drive a profound wedge between Jews of different backgrounds.   


The law’s most troubling clauses include:

> Arabic has been downgraded from an official language to a “special status” language

> A “whole and united” Jerusalem is the capital of Israel – this will stand in the way of potential future negotiations

> The state places “national value” on Jewish settlement and “will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation” – this will have uncertain implications for Arab citizens’ equality in matters of housing and public services

> The state will work “in the Diaspora to preserve the affinity between Israel and Jewish people” – this wording, demanded by ultra-Orthodox factions, implies that the state shouldn’t encourage Reform or Conservative Jewish communities in Israel


But, there’s still hope. The law has met fierce opposition from Israelis who recognize its danger: women, Mizrahim, Ethiopians, modern orthodox Jews, liberal streams of Judaism, and moderates from all sectors. Those of us who care for Israel’s long-term future must stand in solidarity with them, and continue to oppose this law and its application. We need to act fast; Israel’s future as a democracy depends on it.