Enshrining apartheid: Israel's fig leaf democracy officially dies

Enshrining apartheid: Israel's fig leaf democracy officially dies
Comment: Israel's Jewish nation-state law discriminates against more than 20 percent of its 9 million citizens, writes CJ Werleman.
5 min read
19 Jul, 2018
Israel already has over 60 laws in place that marginalise Palestinian citizens [Getty]
In 2014, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned Israel risks becoming an "apartheid state".

Three years later, the 
United Nations claimed Israel had attained that nefarious status when it called out the self-proclaimed Jewish state for implementing a system that systematically grants domination of one racial group over another.

Both Israel and the Trump administration slammed the 2017 UN report as a "blatant lie," despite all evidence to the contrary.

This week, however, Israel removed its final fig leaf, leaving itself naked on the world stage, while waving a figurative banner that reads, "Israel is a nation-state for Jews only, and we're proud of it!"

On Thursday, Israeli lawmakers passed the "Jewish nation state" law, which enshrines Israel as a Jewish state, while at the same time disregarding and betraying the democratic principles it had set forth in its 1948 Declaration of Independence.

"This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the annals of the state of Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said soon after the bill was passed by what is the most far-right government in Israel's history. "We have determined in law the founding principle of our existence. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens."

The fact is, this bill does not at all "respect the rights of all its citizens," for it completely disregards the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up more than 20 percent of its citizenry. Further complicating this ridiculous law is the fact that roughly half of Israel's population is not even Israeli.

Moreover, what of Israeli Christians, Druze, Bedouin, and others?

Israel is enshrining itself as a Jewish state on grounds akin to IS declaring the swath of territory it controls to be an Islamic State, which denied rights and existence to any group but loyalist Sunni Muslims.

Were the United States to suddenly declare itself a Christian nation, defying the US constitution - and elevate the rights of one religious groups over all others - one can only imagine the rightful outrage that would emerge from its roughly 100 million non-Christian population.

"The end of the pseudo-democracy," declared Ahmad Tibi, a veteran Palestinian Member of the Knesset. "The official beginning of fascism and apartheid. A black day (another black day)."

While this latest effort by Israel to grant special status to Jewish citizens is mostly symbolic in nature, it comes in the context of more than 65 Israeli laws that have been deemed discriminatory in nature by Israeli human rights group Adalah.

These are laws that grant preferential status for Jewish Israelis over non-Jewish citizens when it comes to marriage, property ownership, freedom of movement, immigration, religion, due process, education and citizenship.

[Click to enlarge]

So, why the need for this new law now?

When former Shin Bet head Avi Dichter first proposed the bill in 2011, Lahav Harkov, the current news editor of the right-leaning Jerusalem Post wrote:

"But today, the absence of a legal architecture ensuring Jewish statehood is also a potential threat to the Zionist project itself. With campaigns to delegitimise Israel on the rise both inside and outside the country, and with a surging trend of anti-Zionist and post-Zionist thought among the Israeli Left, the idea of fashioning and passing a Jewish state law has become a matter of urgency to many.

The bill was designed to resist pressure for a one-state solution, one in which equal rights are granted to all citizens of Israel

"For Israel to thrive uniquely as a Jewish democracy, its institutions and laws must ensure that its democratic nature is never brought into irresolvable conflict with its Jewish identity. And without a Jewish-state law, Israel's unfortunately overactive judiciary could issue decisions that would chip away at the country's Jewish character. The prospect of such a crisis is all too real."

In other words, the bill was designed to resist internal and external pressure for a one-state solution, one in which equal rights are granted to all citizens of Israel.

Palestinians are forced to queue at the Qalandia checkpoint
in the occupied West Bank to be allowed to enter al-Aqsa during
Ramadan [AFP]

"The gravest existential threat Israel faces as a Jewish state is not a security threat in the traditional sense but the silently creeping, inexorably irreversible changes in Israel's demographic profiles," observes Pardraig O'Malley, author 'The Two-State Delusion: Israel and Palestine - a Tale of Two Narratives'.

As demographers have noted, when you combine the population of Israel with that of the Palestinian territories, the non-Jewish population equals and will soon outnumber the Jewish population, and thus, according to O'Malley, Israel is faced with three choices:

  1. A two-state solution that gives Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza their own state, leaving an Israeli state in which Jews account for, at best, 75 percent of the population; or

  2. An apartheid state if it refuses to extend the voting franchise to the non-Jewish residents of the West Bank and Gaza; or

  3. Become some form of a bination/consociational state that is, by definition, not a Jewish state.

Clearly, Israel has no intention of giving up its illegal settlement enterprise project, especially given the settler population now approaches 1 million strong and has seized political power, thus ruling out option 1. Also, it has shown a determined intent to avoid option 3, and thus leaving Israel with pursuit and acceptance of option 2: apartheid.

So, we must see this new law for what it is: Israel's determination to resist calls to comply with international law, and an official acceptance its chosen path as an apartheid state.

CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.