Israeli Parliament Jeopardizes State's Own Democracy

Israeli lawmakers have passed a number of bills this year to “protect” the Jewish and democratic character of Israel. I think the unintended result, however, will be the gradual unraveling and ultimately total destruction of both. 

Last October, the Israeli cabinet amended the state citizenship law, requiring non-Jews seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” The ministers must have assumed that, in light of their divinely inspired decision, all the non-Jews vying for Israeli citizenship (e.g. foreign-born spouses of Palestinian Israelis, foreign workers, and others) would realize the undeniable wisdom of a state whose very raison d'être is to serve the interests of some group other than themselves.

This past May, the Israeli Parliament passed what has now infamously become known as the Nakba Law, which can deny funding to public institutions that refer to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, which created 600,000-900,000 Palestinian refugees, as a Nakba (catastrophe). Perhaps the parliamentarians who voted for the bill assumed that Palestinians would be enlightened by the acute wisdom of the world’s most acclaimed historians — Israeli lawmakers — and would now celebrate the flight and forced expulsion of their ancestors but three generations ago. 

Most recently, the parliament passed yet another inquisitive law, declaring it illegal for Israelis to call for a boycott against Israel, including “areas under Israeli control” (read: the occupied West Bank). Perhaps lawmakers assumed the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who refuse to buy products manufactured in the occupied West Bank would finally realize that support for settlement expansion is, ultimately, the only hope for peace in the Middle East.

Next on the table is a bill to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the funding sources of NGOs in Israel, in order to prevent another "Goldstone Report." You know it is bad when both Commentary Magazine and the Jerusalem Post, two right-wing publications, say the new law is borderline McCarthyism.

Israel’s Jewish and democratic character is not threatened by immigrants, Palestinians, Arabs, boycotts, or NGOs; it is threatened by its own leaders and lawmakers. Let’s hope Israelis realize that before it is too late.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Zachary Foster

I am a product manager at academia.edu while completing my ph.d in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. I write about Palestine, the Middle East and scholarly publishing, and speak Hebrew, Arabic Turkish and Italian.

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