The most radical thing you can say in Israel

The Knesset won’t even allow this law to be discussed, let alone voted on, because it proposes making Israel a ‘state of all its citizens.’ Why is that so threatening?

A Bedouin woman from the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib sits in front of an Israeli police van. Israel has demolished al-Araqib over 100 times. (Illustrative photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Bedouin woman from the unrecognized village of Al-Araqib sits in front of an Israeli police van. Israel has demolished al-Araqib over 100 times, all while it works to expand Jewish towns and villages in the area. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The presidium of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, decided on Monday that a proposed law seeking to define Israel as “a state of all its citizens” is so far outside the acceptable political discourse that it cannot even be submitted to the legislature for debate.

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The bill — a proposed Basic Law, the closest thing Israel has to constitutional amendments in a country without a constitution — sought to enshrine the principle of equality, recognize the existence of two national groups within Israel, create separation of religion and state, and most importantly: define Israel as a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens.

Why is such a proposition so radical? Simply put, because it seeks to end the current situation, in which Israel is not, in fact, a country that belongs to all of its citizens — specifically, not to the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish.

In a letter in support of the decision to disqualify the bill from being submitted, the Knesset’s legal advisor wrote: “The proposed ‘Basic Law: State of All its Citizens’ includes a series of clauses meant to change the character of the State of Israel from the state of the Jewish people to a state in which the Jewish and Arab peoples have equal standing.”

What a radical proposition.

The following my translation of the bill, put forth by the Balad party, which was stricken down by the Knesset presidium. Judge for yourself just how radical it is. Think about what kind of country it describes. And think about what it means that a country belongs to only some of its citizens.

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