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Op-ed: Nationality bill is possibly the bravest declaration about the State of Israel’s identity that the Knesset has ever voted on. But being brave does not always mean being smart
The opposition of the Zionist left and center to the Jewish nation-state bill is a display of high-minded hypocrisy. The detractors of this bill claim it alienates Israel’s Arab citizens and tears the Israeli body politic apart. But do Minister Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid really believe that Israel’s Arab minority attaches so much weight to another Zionist bill?
Intellectuals might wallow in their certainty that this law will ruin the lives of Israel’s Arab minority: They should rest assured that the Arab masses have more tangible priorities – namely employment, the quality of schools and roads which rank far higher on their list of concerns.
This bill poses a real problem not to Israeli Arabs, but to the post-Zionist intelligentsia which will now have to accept that their country openly defines itself as the national home of the Jewish people.
The days when leftists could market their country as democratic to the outside world and Jewish to their domestic electorate are over.
The former did not shield Israel from being labeled racist, apartheid-like and ethnocentric, but the leftist elites always frenzied to stress the democratic credentials of Israel’s self-understanding as a Jewish and democratic state.
Now their task is harder and invitations to fancy receptions in Paris and London will dry up… Israeli intellectuals will have to shoulder their share of the blame for being part of a people that proclaims its sovereignty over one of the 193 member-states of the United Nations.
Those who oppose this bill are de facto opposing the Balfour declaration and all the other laws and resolutions that recognize Israel’s reason of being as the homeland of the Jewish people.
If the left opposes this bill on grounds of genuine ethical universalism, it should also call for the abrogation of the law of return and other laws and regulations which more or less subtly favor Jews over Arabs in Israel. The fact that they are selective in their universalism shows how unsteady the ground they are holding really is.
The Jewish nation-state bill is possibly the bravest declaration about the State of Israel’s identity that the Knesset has ever voted on. It clarifies the oxymoronic definition of Israel as Jewish and democratic and champions a less ambiguous definition which does justice to the way the Israeli majority sees its country.
Having said this, being brave does not always mean being smart. This bill could catalyze the isolation of Israel in the international arena. In order to make this point clear, imagine how happy adversaries of the establishment of a Palestinian state would be, if Mahmoud Abbas – in deference to Hamas and Fatah – openly vowed to establish a Palestinian state devoted to the cause of Islamism and Arab nationalism. As Abbas knows well, sometimes it is better to keep quiet rather than to publicize realities on the ground.
At the end of the day, the Jewish nation-state bill is an act of intellectual honesty that very few people outside the Jewish fold and no country outside of Israel are likely to admire. But then again, the Jewish people have never been really appreciated by the world either.
Whether it is better to proclaim one’s identity with an upright head (and be a better target for stones and curses), or to pretend that one is like everyone else, is the issue at the heart of this bill.
So far Israel has disguised itself, now it accepts itself as what everyone thought it was. Although coming out is hard, to live in deceit and self-denial is even harder – and more destructive.
SOURCE: Ynet News
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