Aug. 3, 2018
Critics of Nation-State Law Misunderstand Israel’s Constitutional System – Evelyn Gordon (JNS)
Much of the criticism of Israel’s new nation-state law stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of Israel’s constitutional system. The new law isn’t meant to be read in isolation, but in concert with other Basic Laws enshrining Israel’s democratic system.
Israel doesn’t have a constitution. What it has is a series of Basic Laws to which the Supreme Court accorded constitutional status. Each Basic Law is merely one article in Israel’s constitution or constitution-to-be. They cannot be read in isolation, but only as part of a greater whole.
Consequently, it’s ridiculous to claim that the nation-state law undermines democracy, equality or minority rights merely because those terms don’t appear in it, given that several other Basic Laws already address these issues. The new law doesn’t supersede the earlier ones; it’s meant to be read in concert with them.
Arguing that the nation-state law is undemocratic because it doesn’t mention equality or minority rights is like arguing that the U.S. Constitution is undemocratic because Articles I and II confer broad powers on the legislature and executive without mentioning the protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
The provision of the law stating that “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people” doesn’t deprive Arabs of individual rights within Israel, nor does it bar the possibility of Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza.
The only thing it prohibits is an Arab state within Israel’s borders, which is problematic only if you favor replacing Israel with another Arab state.
See also The Constitution of the State of Israel (1993) – Daniel J. Elazar
Prof. Daniel J. Elazar (1934-1999), a leading political scientist, founded the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)