Israel’s Supreme Court has rejected a petition by a group of Israelis who requested that their nationality clause in the national population records be changed from “Jewish” to “Israeli.”
The judges ruled that the petitioners had failed to prove that there is such a thing as an Israeli nationality but conceded that there may be grounds for changing the registration guidelines in the future.
The Supreme Court ruling comes after a decades-long campaign by 90-year-old Professor Uzi Ornan, one of the last adherents of the Canaanite movement, who fought as a member of the Irgun underground in the pre-state era and in 1948.
He had insisted that the new Interior Ministry register his nationality as “Hebrew” rather than “Jewish.” But the guidelines were formalised to enshrine the “Jewish” nationality and Professor Ornan failed in a number of petitions to overturn the ruling.
In recent years, Israeli citizens have been allowed to register themselves as being of no religion, but have failed to convince the authorities to allow them to register their nationality as “Israeli,” despite their claim that such a nationality came into being from the moment the state was founded.
The Supreme Court judges expressed the view that the court was not the best forum for deciding such issues — though it has the authority to do so. Judge Chanan Meltzer delivered his opinion that, “the existence of an ‘Israeli nationality’ hasn’t been judicially proved and it is inappropriate to encourage new ‘splinter’ nationalities.”
He added that, “at this stage, there is no place to ‘unite’ the separate nationalities and join them legally in a new inclusive ‘Israeli nationality,’ since this contradicts both the Jewish character of the state and its democratic character.”