An official Guardian editorial (The Guardian view on the Israeli elections: Netanyahu debases his office – again, March 11) included the following accusation:
Israel is not a state of all its citizens, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu declared on Sunday. His words should be shocking, but in truth they made explicit the message of last year’s nation state law, rendering Palestinians in Israel second-class citizens.
This is completely untrue.
The Jewish Nation-State Law merely codifies, within the country’s Basic Law (a de facto constitution), Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people – a principle which is the core of Zionism. It also lists a number of manifestations of Israel’s status as a Jewish state, including the country’s flag, national anthem, calendar, language, and immigration policies.
As even the head of the left-wing Israeli Democracy Institute conceded, the impact of the law is “largely symbolic”.
Though some have criticised the law because it didn’t also affirm the equal rights of non-Jewish citizens, the protection of individual rights is already covered in the Basic Law on “Human Dignity and Freedom“, which, as constitutional law expert Eugene Kontorovich observed, the Israeli Supreme Court interprets as guaranteeing equality.
Kontorovich also explained that the law’s declaration of Israel as a uniquely Jewish state is not inconsistent with liberal democratic constitutions of Europe.
The Latvian Constitution declares the “unwavering will of the Latvian nation to have its own State and its inalienable right of self-determination in order to guarantee the existence and development of the Latvian nation, its language and culture throughout the centuries.” Latvia’s population is about 25% ethnically and linguistically Russian. And, the Slovak Constitution opens with the words, “We the Slovak nation,” possess “the natural right of nations to self-determination.”
The Guardian doesn’t even attempt to demonstrate in which manner the Israeli law undermines equal rights because editors couldn’t, if pressed, point to even one civil or political right enjoyed by non-Jewish citizens before the law that they no longer enjoyed after the law was passed.
Whilst some Guardian anti-Israel positions are merely misleading or deceptive, their assertion that the nation-state law renders Arab-Israelis “second-class citizens” is a flat-out lie.