I$raHell proposed Jewish nationality law is a flop on Broadway




The new Israeli cabinet proposal to define Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people is doing one good thing: mainstreaming harsh criticism of Israel in the United States. Shimon Peres’s prediction that the bill would “destroy Israel’s democratic status at home and abroad” seems to be coming true. Americans for Peace Now openly characterizes the proposed law, which passed the rightwing cabinet, as a form of “fascism.” The New York Times called the proposed law “heartbreaking” last week, and the editors are still upset this week, Omar Barghouti reported further up Broadway, at Columbia University on Tuesday night:

I had a meeting with editors and journalists at the New York Times this morning. They’re really stuck with this one!

In his speech that night, Barghouti said that the law is important because it makes the contradiction between an ethnocracy and a democracy completely obvious to people. “The last mask of Israel’s so called democracy has been dropped,” he said. “The oxymoron of the Jewish and democratic identity of the state of Israel is unraveling.” He said the law is also a blow to the “Israelification” of Palestinians inside Israel — where there are 50 laws that discriminate against them and in favor of Jews.

Surprisingly, Foreign Policy echoes Barghouti’s points in a piece titled “A Country That Never Wanted Me,” by the expatriate writer Sayed Kashua. Kashua used to be an advertisement for the Israelification of Palestinians inside Israel. Now Foreign Policy is printing statements of Palestinian conditions that used to be at the margins of the American discourse, albeit tagged as “argument” by the editors:

Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, occupied since 1967, have no citizen’s rights at all, but even we, Palestinian Arab citizens of the State of Israel, are discriminated against in every sphere of life: There are enormous budgeting gaps in education, infrastructure, health, welfare, and employment, all of which are funded with taxes collected from all of us.
For instance, not a single Arab town has been established since the State of Israel was founded — in contrast with some 700 Jewish settlements. Arabs are generally consigned to live in the same villages where they were born: crowded, poor, neglected villages that cannot be compared with any Jewish settlement in Israel.

Many Palestinian citizens of Israel are actually welcoming the new law. This is not because they think it will benefit them or improve their condition in any way. They are simply happy that discrimination may be legislated explicitly, rather than remain hidden behind the smokescreen called “democracy.” Many Arabs think that this nationality act, which is de facto in force anyway, will expose the reality of the Israeli ethnocracy: that Israeli democracy is for the benefit of Jews only….

Bernard Avishai writes in the New Yorker that the law represents a triumph of Zionism over democracy in an age-old tension in the Israeli polity. And it will turn Israel into a “little Jewish Pakistan.”

One should think of Israel as having two competing legal structures: a gradually evolving democratic state and the remnants of the old Zionist settler colony…. this bill is about writing into the law old Zionist provisions that have morphed into racist and theocratic practices. It will make judicial correctives nearly impossible….

If it comes to an election, it will be best for democratic forces to unify, not only around what Israel does, but what Israel is. Israelis not in the thrall of settler fanaticism need to decide whether they want to be part of the democratic Western world or not.

The Pakistan analogy is also the heart of a Washington Post piece by Ishan Tharoor comparing Israel as a sectarian Jewish state to Pakistan, as “historical twins.” I was stunned to see his analogy in the neoconservative organ.

“Pakistan is like Israel, an ideological state,” said then Pakistani President Zia ul-Haq in 1981. “Take out the Judaism from Israel and it will fall like a house of cards. Take Islam out of Pakistan and make it a secular state; it would collapse.”…

Netanyahu himself is attempting to push through a controversial lawthat would cement Israel’s status as a “Jewish nation-state,” privileging the collective rights of Israeli Jews over the interests of Israeli minorities. It’s a proposal that plays well among Israel’s right-wing, including communities of settlers living in the West Bank.

By the way, Barghouti pointed out that Pakistan is just a bit more unpopular in the world than Israel, which is battling it out with North Korea to see which will be 3rd and 4th least popular.

Avital Burg makes the inevitable analogy in the Forward: “If America Had Laws Like Israel:”

A new proposed bill, supported by senators on both sides of the aisle, will finally define and determine the United States of America as the land of the Protestant People, the largest religious constituency in the U.S. and the group out of which America’s founding fathers and ruling leadership emerged.

Finally, for a dissenting view, you should hear Nadia Abu El-Haj, Barnard anthropologist and chair of Barghouti’s Columbia appearance at the Center for Palestine Studies Tuesday night. She said that she was less sanguine about the effects of the law on American consciousness than Barghouti is.

It’s not that the argument that Israel can’t be both a Jewish and democratic state is new. That’s an argument that people have been making for a long time. Yes, this law brings it into a kind of sharp relief. What’s interesting and something we have to think about, and I don’t have an easy answer, I’m just putting it out is: why it is that it’s not seen as equivalent as saying, This is a Christian state which is also democratic, or this is a white state which is also democratic. It is not seen as an equivalent statement. I think that conviction that there’s something different here — about claiming Israel is a Jewish state and yet democratic, its nonequivalence with either a racial state that is white or a religious state that is Christian– is very deep. I don’t see this law suddenly jolting people out of their cognitive dissonance. A lot of the coverage has been quite clear on this.. Reporters are struggling with this: Well, in some ways it’s not new, but it enshrines it in a certain way.

That’s when Barghouti reported on his meeting at the New York Times. To be continued!

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/12/proposed-nationality-broadway?utm_source=Mondoweiss+List&utm_campaign=16de6d1afd-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b86bace129-16de6d1afd-309259530#sthash.MIhf5woH.dpuf

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