July 24, 2018
There’s Nothing Wrong with a Jewish State – Jonathan S. Tobin (National Review)
Considering the enormous fuss it created, you’d have thought the law passed last week by Israel’s Knesset fundamentally changed the nature of the state. But the law changes virtually nothing. The new law is an enunciation of the basic principles on which Israel was founded. When David Ben-Gurion, the country’s first prime minister, read the Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948, he said that those assembled “hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”
70 years after its founding, Israel continues to pass “Basic Laws” as part of the ongoing construction of its constitution. The Jewish state law is therefore merely a statement of national purpose rather than legislation that purports to alter the existing legal structure of Israel’s government.
Unlike every other nation in the region, Israel remains a democracy, in which all of its citizens have equal rights under the law, including voting rights and representation in the Knesset. Many Arabs and minorities serve in government, particularly in judicial and diplomatic posts.
While the country’s founding document and other basic laws guarantee equal rights for all, the purpose for which Israel was created was to give expression to the right of the Jews to self-determination in their ancient homeland.
The constitutions of many other countries make clear that they exist as vehicles for a national idea. The only thing that is really unique about Israel’s insistence that it is a Jewish state is that it is the only one on a planet with dozens of states that are avowedly Muslim, Christian, or associated with another faith.
The reason why so many Israelis believed that such a law was necessary has more to do with the refusal of the Palestinians and their foreign enablers to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders were drawn. The desire of so many to deny Israel the right to express its Jewish identity is exactly why a majority of the Knesset felt it necessary to remind the world that their country is the nation-state of the Jewish people.