Critics of Israel’s Nation-State Law Misunderstand the Country’s Constitutional System

Passed on July 19 after years of controversy and debate, the law declaring Israel “the nation state of the Jewish people” has caused no small amount of outrage—most of which, writes Evelyn Gordon, is the product of sheer ignorance:

Some of the criticism [of the law] is justified; a law that manages to unite virtually the entire Druze community against it, despite this community’s longstanding support for Israel as a Jewish state in principle, clearly wasn’t drafted with sufficient care, as even the heads of two parties that backed the law—Jewish Home’s Naftali Bennett and Kulanu’s Moshe Kaḥlon—now admit. Nevertheless, much of the criticism stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of Israel’s constitutional system.

Israel doesn’t have a constitution. What it has is a series of Basic Laws to which the Supreme Court unilaterally accorded constitutional status. Many people, myself included, disagree with that decision, inter alia because constitutional legislation should reflect a broad consensus, whereas many Basic Laws were approved by only narrow majorities or even minorities of the Knesset. Nevertheless, both sides in this dispute agree on one thing: each Basic Law is merely one article in Israel’s constitution or constitution-to-be. They cannot be read in isolation, but only as part of a greater whole.

Consequently, it’s ridiculous to claim that the nation-state law undermines democracy, equality, or minority rights merely because those terms don’t appear in it, given that several other Basic Laws already address these issues. The new law doesn’t supersede the earlier ones; it’s meant to be read in concert with them.

Several Basic Laws, including those on the Knesset, the government, and the judiciary, detail the mechanisms of Israeli democracy and enshrine fundamental democratic principles like free elections and judicial independence. There are also two Basic Laws on human rights, both of which explicitly define Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” . . . Thus to argue that the nation-state law is undemocratic because it doesn’t mention equality or minority rights is like arguing that the U.S. Constitution is undemocratic because Articles I and II confer broad powers on the legislature and executive without mentioning the protections enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

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More about: Druze, Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli politics

Support for Terrorism, Not Ideas, Kept Omar Barghouti Out of the U.S.

April 18 2019

Omar Barghouti, the Palestinian activist who played the leading role in founding the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS), recently had to cancel a visit to America when he was refused permission to enter the country. Contrary to what one might read in outraged columns in the media, the immigration authorities’ decision was prompted not by what Barghouti might say but by what he has done. Noah Pollak writes:

In 2007, Barghouti founded, and runs to this day, a Ramallah-based umbrella group called the BDS National Committee that serves as the leading group organizing and promoting BDS outside the United States. The reason Barghouti was barred from entering the U.S. is not because he advocates BDS or Israel’s destruction. There is no speech issue here at all.

The reason he was barred is because the group Barghouti runs includes five U.S.-designated terrorist organizations in its membership, [among them], Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, [and] the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine]. Not only does Barghouti run a group whose membership includes U.S.-designated terrorists, he himself promotes terrorism. [He] has stated his support for terrorism dozens of times, plainly, openly, publicly, proudly, without euphemism. . . .

The only good part of the BDS movement is how it is exposing so many progressives as wishful, gullible, or dishonest in their need to paint the anti-Israel cause as respectable.

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More about: BDS, Palestinians, U.S. Politics