David Sheen, Muftah, January 12, 2015
Just two years after its last national election cycle, Israel is once again headed to the polls in March. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated reason for firing Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in early December–thereby triggering the dissolution of the 19th Knesset–was growing differences of opinion between himself and the two key coalition members.
Netanyahu’s chief disagreement with Lapid and Livni was over his proposed “Jewish Nation-State Law.” Under this quasi-constitutional law, the group rights of the majority population are officially enshrined as superior to the individual rights of the minority. While Lapid and Livni have not expressed opposition to the spirit of the bill, they oppose some of its wording.
The two lawmakers are reluctant to support the bill because it makes privileges for Jews and discrimination against non-Jews explicit in the country’s legal code. To be clear, they do not oppose doling out privileges to Jews and withholding them from others. Rather, they want this to occur with less fanfare and more subtlety. In its current form, the bill would make it much more difficult for Livni and Lapid to defend Israel from accusations of apartheid in international fora.
As quoted by Haaretz, days before his dismissal, Lapid said “Yesh Atid [Lapid’s party] and I are for a nation-state bill, just not this nation-state bill.” In fact, it was Livni’s then-parliamentary camp, Kadima, that conceived the law in its first incarnation, back in 2011. The bill was originally introduced by a legislator working under Livni.
It is unclear whether the composition of the next Knesset will allow for easier passage of Netanyahu’s Jewish Nation-State Law. Regardless, however, Israel’s current de facto status as a “Jewish State” will continue to negatively impact the daily lives of all Arabs, Africans, Asians and other non-Jews living in Israel. Meanwhile, Israel’s defenders in the Knesset and U.S. Congress will continue to insist that its designation as a “Jewish State” is the most natural thing in the world.
But is it? Is there anything normal or natural about granting rights or giving special concessions to a subset of citizens, based on their ethnic origin or religious affiliation? If this question was asked about any democratic country in the world, other than Israel, the answer would be a resounding no. And yet, the mainstream media fails to expose this basic logical fallacy, while American lawmakers who invoke Israel’s status as a “Jewish State” are never pushed to explain this inconsistency.
Among the few who will acknowledge and emphasize this contradiction are those who wish to see Israel’s explicitly race-based social, legal, and political system instituted in the United States. In an interview I conducted in March 2014 at his home near Washington, D.C., Jared Taylor, a prominent proponent of a White United States of America, stressed this point:
American president after president . . . talks about the importance of maintaining a Jewish state of Israel. And yet, they don’t seem to have the slightest notion that . . . the population policies of Israel, are in complete contradiction with the ones that they proclaim for the United States. As I recall, [former Israeli Prime Minister] Yitzhak Rabin, not too long before he was assassinated, he said that he had done many things that he thought were good for Israel, but what he cared about most was that Israel remained at least 80% Jewish . . . People take this absolutely at face value, they see absolutely nothing wrong with this. But if an American politician were to say, ‘What I care about most in my policies is to maintain a United States that is at least 80% white,’ that would be considered hate mongering. That would be considered Nazism. And yet, frankly, I don’t see the difference.
On a personal level, I am adamantly opposed to racism of all kinds. I have spent the last several years reporting on the plight of African asylum-seekers in Israel and the government’s efforts to drive them out of the country because they are non-white and non-Jewish. I did not share any of Taylor’s beliefs before we sat down to speak [a fact he acknowledged before we began the interview], nor was I convinced by any of the arguments he made over the course of our conversation.
Nevertheless, when Taylor compares White Nationalism to Jewish Nationalism, he lays bare the duplicity of so-called liberal leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Taylor would prefer this hypocrisy be resolved by embracing White Nationalism, while I would prefer Jewish Nationalism’s rejection.
Either way, the question stands: if America and Israel have “shared values,” as their elected leaders often claim, then how can so many Americans reject ethnocracy in their own country, but support what is happening inside Israel?