Why the “Jewish State” Law Matters https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/uncategorized/2014/11/why-the-jewish-state-law-matters/

November 24, 2014 | Yoram Hazony
About the author: Yoram Hazony is president of the Herzl Institute and the author of God and Politics in Esther, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, and The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel’s Soul. His essays on history, politics, and religion appear in a wide variety of publications. His next book, Empire and Nation, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

The Netanyahu government has proposed to the Knesset a bill affirming Israel’s constitutional status as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The proposal has sparked indignation on the left and confused some sympathizers. Yoram Hazony explains why the measure is not only important but crucial to maintaining Israel’s character:

[D]isdain for the principle of national self-determination has proved devastating for Israel. Both in America and Europe, the movement to brand Zionism a form of racism continues to gather steam. In Israel, too, “post-Zionism” became the buzzword of fashionable opinion in the 1990s. In this context, Israel’s Chief Justice declared the country’s Jewish character to be “in tension” with democracy, and the Court embarked on a series of decisions aimed at gradually eroding Israel’s legal status as a Jewish state. This process reached a climax in the 2000 Ka’adan decision, which declared policies by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency to be illegal if not in conformity with the principle of equality.

Of course, equality has always been a crucial value in Israel. But the disappearance of Jewish national self-determination from the Court’s list of the legitimate aims of Israeli policy called into question many of the most basic aims for which the state had been founded. Would it soon be illegal to send Israel’s security services to protect Jewish communities in other countries? To maintain a Law of Return offering automatic citizenship to Jews from other lands? To teach Judaism in the public schools? These and similar concerns are what stand behind Netanyahu’s present “Jewish State Law”—whose purpose is to re-establish the previous status quo on issues of Jewish national self-determination.

Read more on Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/israels-jewish-state-law-and-the-future-of-the-middle-east/