Guardian columnist Giles Fraser should know better than to hold Jews to higher standards

Giles Fraser

“Of all people”, opined Giles Fraser in his Nov. 28th Guardian column about the proposed Jewish nation-state law, “Jews know what it is to live in somebody else’s country, without rights, subject to their laws, subject to their prejudices”, before citing the following verse from the Hebrew Bible (Numbers 15:15):

“The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the Lord. The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the foreigner residing among you.”

The point of citing scripture for Fraser is quite simple: 

“the Bible insists that both Jews and non-Jews are to be subject to the same laws, the latter having the same legal protections as the former.”

Fraser argues that this “passage clearly demonstrates that the latest move [the proposed Jewish state law] by the Israeli prime minister…is a direct contradiction of the Hebrew Bible, both in word and in spirit,” before adding:

For the new nationality bill that he and others are currently fighting to get through the Knesset is designed to deny national rights to non-Jewish Israeli citizens.

Of course the key word in that sentence is “national rights”.
As we’ve noted previously, the proposed legislation is “designed to re-emphasise Israel’s fundamental Jewish and Zionist identity,” based on Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which defines Israel as “the Jewish state”.  However, what Fraser fails to explain is that “equal individual rights for all citizens” would continue be protected under the new law.  
The proposed legislation, initiated to fight back against efforts to undermine the Jewish people’s inalienable right to national self-determination in its historic homeland, would include the following principles:

  • The State of Israel is a democratic country, founded on the principles of liberty, justice and peace, and a country which upholds the individual rights of all its citizens in accordance with the law.
  • The State will act to allow all its inhabitants, without regard to religion, race or nationality, to act to preserve their culture, heritage, language and identity.

As even Haaretz columnist Anshel Pfeffer (a critic of the proposed law) acknowledged recently, “this law will not strip [non-Jewish citizens] of whatever privileges they already enjoy”.
However, the broader point which critics of the proposal to enshrine Israel as the Jewish state miss – and one which we examined in a previous post – is that Israel is not at all unique in these respects.  Within the democratic West, there are many nations which maintain codified systems of preference for those claiming a particular religious, ethnic, or linguistic connection with the state.
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t note that, though he was raised by a Jewish father and a Christian mother, Fraser later separated completely from his paternal religious tradition by becoming an Anglican priest.  Of course, the Anglican Church is the official Church of England. 
The King or Queen, as  “the head of the Established Church”, MUST be Anglican and can never convert to another religion. Additionally, in the Coronation Oath, he or she pledges to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion as established by law and to be the “Defender” of the Protestant-Christian Faith.  Despite the fact that Christianity is so privileged over all other religions, all citizens are, nonetheless, guaranteed equal civil and political rights under the law.
“Of all people”, Anglicans like Fraser should understand that the Jewish state’s firm desire to maintain a state with a uniquely Jewish character does not in any way undermine the fundamental rights of non-Jews, nor is it at odds with the bible’s insistence that Jews and non-Jews must be equal under the law.

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