Hundreds of Israeli writers, artists, intellectuals sign letter decrying nation-state law

Hundreds of Israeli writers, artists, intellectuals sign letter decrying nation-state law
3 min read
30 July, 2018
'During the years of your rule, you have been steadily eroding the foundations of our state:' Israeli writers and intellectuals blast Netanyahu for passing the nation-state law
Israeli protestors demonstrate the Jewish nation state law [Getty]
A group of around 180 prominent Israeli figures in the arts and academia have penned a letter to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in protest of "recent laws" passed by the Knesset, including the controversial Jewish nation-state law.

Writers and intellectuals including Amoz Oz and David Grossman were among the signatories of the letter, which also called for the cancellation of a new law that banned same-sex couples from using surrogacy to have children.
"We - writers, screenwriters, playwrights, academic scholars and members of Israel's arts and letters community - would like to express to you our utmost shock and dismay, in light of the recent laws passed by the Israeli Knesset under your leadership," the group said in the letter released on Saturday.

The letter blasts the nation state law, passed by the Knesset earlier this month and designating Israel - which one appears to make Israel a Jewish state - as "explicitly allow[ing] racial and religious discrimination". It adds that the law is undemocratic and ignorant of any notion of equality.

The group directly attack Netanyahu's period in office, saying, "during the years of your rule, you have been steadily eroding the foundations of our state. You have harmed the relations between Israel and American Jewry and you have pushed entire populations into poverty", the letter added, which was originally written in Hebrew and translated to English.

It pinpoints Netanyahu's rule governance as furthering the marginalisation of the Arab, Bedouin, Druze and Circassian minorities, the elderly and disables, Holocaust survivors and Ethiopian Jews.

"You have dealt a severe blow to Israeli society, but the most serious blow is to the values of equality and mutual responsibility on which Israeli society is based and from which it draws its strength," the letter added.

Other of its signatories included prize-winning author Orly Castel-Bloom, Hebrew University Professor Ariel Hirschfeld, economist Daniel Baumgarten and poet Rafi Weichert.

Separate from the petition, best-selling Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari reportedly declined to participate in an event in Los Angeles organised by the Israeli consulate, in protest of the nation-state and surrogacy laws, according to Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth.

A representative for Professer Harari, a historian and author of "Sapiens: A Brief History of humankind", and "Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow" said that he is "proud of his Israeliness", but that the consulate - as an arm of Israeli government policy - restricts the freedom of the press, expression, creativity and thought.

Israel's parliament on 19 July adopted a law defining the country as the nation state of the Jewish people, to wide condemnation from those fearing it could lead to blatant discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Arab lawmakers and Palestinians called the law "racist" and said it legalised "apartheid" following a tumultuous debate in parliament.

Others said it neglects to specify equality and Israel's democratic character, implying that the country's Jewish nature comes first.

The legislation, adopted by 62 votes to 55, makes Hebrew the country's national language and defines the establishment of Jewish communities as being in the national interest.

Arabic, previously considered an official language, was granted only a "special status".

Netanyahu called the legislation's approval a "decisive moment" in Israeli history.

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab