On July 19th, the Israeli Knesset, led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party, passed a new “basic law”. It was given the uncontroversial title of “Israel—The Nation-State of the Jewish People Law,” commonly called the nation-state law. It was passed 62-55 in favour. In Israel, basic laws are meant to have quasi-constitutional status. This nation-state law sets out to codify what’s really Jewish about Israel.
Much of the new, largely symbolic law, defines what is already a reality on the ground – that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. The law defines that Hebrew is the official language and grants Arabic a ‘special status’. It also contains plenty of banal nods towards Jewish cultural issues and the openness of Israel to the Jewish diaspora.
So why you might ask, has there been such an almighty worldwide fuss about the bill?
Well, some of the details have worried the Jewish community’s more liberal demographic. A major worry is that the law sees the establishment of settlements in Palestine as being positive and worth encouraging. Also that Jerusalem, which is half split between Israel and Palestine, to be the “complete and united” capital of Israel. Not to mention the provision that states: “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”
In short, people are worried that there is a drive to establish Israel as essentially a right-wing wholly Jewish state, one that during which the peace process with Palestine could be thrown under the bus. Not only that but the entire centre-left opposed the law and the mostly wealthy liberal diaspora in the United States is displeased with the shift to the right in Israeli politics.
Israel’s minorities are naturally vocal critics of the bill as well, with the Islamic population in total opposition along with concern expressed by the Christian and Druze communities. Some Druze leaders went as far as to call the bill a betrayal. Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev even wrote that the bill is; “loathsome, damaging, divisive and mainly superfluous”.
I ask what the reaction would be if a similar law was passed here in Ireland (or any other European country), confirming Ireland to be the nation-state of the Irish people, expressing our support of the Irish diaspora and so on and so forth.
Twenty years ago, such a thing would have been utterly uncontroversial, of course Ireland is the nation-state of the ethnically and culturally Irish people? Unfortunately, today I fear the utterance of such a simple statement would cause a major backlash from the far-left and the yuppie college liberal types; those who have little love for their own country and people. If such a statement was to be legally codified, it would never see the light of day in the Dáil or the Bundestag, Westminster or any other parliament west of the Hajnal line.
Israel seems to have suffered this fate of falling foul of the left/liberal community who will forever deny the majority ethnic group the right to their own country in the name of multiculturalism. This is arguably the first time Israel has experienced a backlash on such a topic, with most criticism usually being directed towards its treatment of Palestinians.
I would love for the situation to be this simple: for Israel to have fallen afoul of the petulant and constantly complaining liberal elites from both within and without, just like the rest of the West. In such a scenario, I would express my whole-hearted support for them on their journey towards a self-determined celebration of their ethnic identity and cultural revival, while seeking something similar for my own country – the eight hundred year quest of the Irishman.
Sadly though, it is not that simple.
Unlike Ireland and most of Europe, Israel has indigenous minorities numbering in the millions and depending on who you ask, is situated on soil belonging to another people. It is engaged in one of the longest running ethno-religious conflicts in the world.
Declaring yourself the Jewish state of and for Jews when Jews are only 74% of the population and the other inhabitants have lived there for thousands of years is, well, contentious at best. It is easy to understand their desire to do so, but their situation is not suited to such explicit ethnocentrism.
Such a law in Poland for example would be uncontentious, at least domestically, as it is 98% Polish. With the exception of a small German community leftover from the communist population expulsions, almost everyone else is a recent migrant and not a permanent addition to the country. Neither are they involved in ethnic conflicts nor territory disputes.
For Israel, such a move could have deeply negative ramifications, and not just in the sense that they might lose political support from liberal American Jews. It could cause a flare-up in the Palestinian conflict and ruin any semblance of a peace process that is left.
Israel is a much-criticised country, sometimes wrongly and other times rightly. I would argue that the recent convulsions by the liberal media globally in response to the nation-state law is one of those times that the criticism is wrong.
If anything we should be drawing attention to the benefit such a law might have in European nations, where the ethnic and cultural identity of indigenous Europeans is under constant attack from an international political and banking cartel, who for some reason think that the EU should be doing its best to “undermine national homogeneity”. Israel and the Middle East should instead be left to deal with their own problems, without any further interference from such a deeply troubled West.
There are many things I will certainly criticise Israel for; its role in destabilising the Middle East for political gain first and foremost, as well as its treatment of Palestinians and its oft insincere engagement in that peace process.
The nation-state law however, simply isn’t one of them.