The Australian Jewish Association (AJA) applauds the passage last week by the Israeli Knesset of the Jewish Nation-State Law.
Although largely symbolic, it is nevertheless a significant piece of legislation because it is a reasonable, logical and indeed positive initiative because it is a clear statement of the principles upon which the modern State of Israel was founded as well as reflecting the State’s deep historical roots.
The two most unnecessarily controversial articles of the Nation-State Law are the first and fifth which are addressed in turn (all ten features of the law are set out clearly as an annexure at the foot of this media release).
The first article is that Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people in which the State of Israel was established and in which it actualizes its natural, religious, and historical right for self-determination.
This article is nothing more than a formal statement of existing fact and common sense. It is entirely consistent with the United Nations General Assembly resolution of 29 November 1947 when the international community, in a rare moment of moral clarity soon after the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, unequivocally recognised and supported “the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz Yisrael”.
It is also completely consistent with Israel’s long-standing Declaration of Independence and with the fact that Jews have held the title deeds to the Holy Land for over 3,500 years.
The second article is that the Jewish State will be open to Jewish immigration and to the gathering of the exiled.
This article, too, is entirely consistent with Israel’s existing Law of Return which was enacted in 1950. While it is true that that law grants only Jews a right to a home in Israel, there is no more justified or moral objective than providing Jews sanctuary from persecution when, in living memory, 6 million Jews were murdered because no such right was available.
In a world where antisemitism is again raising its ugly head even in civilised societies such as England and France, “Never Again” has become a hopelessly inadequate platitude. The article also reflects the Biblical prophecies of the in-gathering of the exiles which we see coming true in our lifetime.
As with many political matters concerning the Jewish State, confected outrage and reflexive criticism of this legislation is expected, especially by those who have expressed no concern with other state based religions such as exist in the Vatican, in Greece and in Scotland, not to mention the 23 countries where Islam is mandated as the State religion without guaranteeing (as Israel does) religious freedom to all.
The AJA recognises and respects the non-Jewish citizens of Israel and emphasises that it regards this law as not being prejudicial to them in any material way.
The wording of this new law encapsulates some of the core policies and principles of the AJA. Some of the law’s key points are:
- The State of Israel.
Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people in which the state of Israel was established, and in which it actualizes its natural, religious, and historical right for self-determination.
- National symbols of the State of Israel.
The flag of the state is white, two blue stripes near the edges, and a blue Star of David in the centre. The symbol of the state is the Menorah with seven branches, olive leaves on each side, and the word Israel at the bottom. The national anthem of the state is “Hatikvah”
- The unified and complete [city of] Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
- The language of the State of Israel
Hebrew is the language of the state. The Arabic language has a special status in the state; the regulation of the Arab language in state institutions or when facing them will be regulated by law.
This clause does not change the status given to the Arabic language before the basic law was created.
- The state will be open to Jewish immigration and to the gathering of the exiled.
- The Diaspora.
The state will labour to ensure the safety of sons of the Jewish people and its citizens who are in trouble and captivity due to their Jewishness or their citizenship. The state will act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious legacy of the Jewish people among the Jewish diaspora.
- The state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labour to encourage and promote its establishment and development.
- The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside it the secular calendar will serve as an official calendar.
- National Holidays.
Independence Day is the official holiday of the state. The Memorial Day for those who fell in the wars of Israel and the Memorial Day for the Holocaust and heroism are official memorial days of the state.
- Saturday and the Jewish Holidays are the official days of rest in the state. Those who are not Jewish have the right to honour their days of rest and their holidays.