Board of Deputies criticises Israel's new 'regressive' Nation State law

Jewish groups around the world criticise new law that says Israeli national self-determination is unique to Jews


Israel’s new Nation State law contains regressive measures that risk decaying the country’s democracy and diversity, the Board of Deputies of British Jews has said.

Senior Vice President Sheila Gewolb said that being Jewish is a “wonderful thing” but should not lead to “doing down” Arab and other minority populations.

The Jewish Leadership Council told the JC it would not comment on the law.

62 MKs voted early on Thursday morning in favour of the legislation, which says “the expression of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people”, while 55 opposed it.

The law has been criticised for asserting “the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people” and for relegating the status of Arabic as an official language.

 “Whilst we celebrate Israel's Jewish-ness, there is concern that some of the measures in this law are regressive steps,” Ms Gewolb said in a statement on Thursday.

“Among Israel’s great strengths are its democracy and diversity. Being Jewish is a wonderful thing, but this should not lead to doing down others.

“All people should be valued and Israel’s Arab and other minority populations should be a treasured part of society.

“The lesson of Jewish history is that societies are stronger when minorities are affirmed, and they decay when minorities are degraded.

“We will be writing to Israel’s Ambassador to express concerns at these measures.”

The law was also criticised by other groups.

Adam Ognall, chief executive of the New Israel Fund's UK branch, said: "Beginning with Israel's Declaration of Independence, the Jewish value of human dignity and the principle of the equality of all people have formed the democratic foundation of the state.

"This law has betrayed those values. It is a slap in the face to Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel. Legislation that identifies first- and second-class citizens has no place in a democracy."

Yachad, the campaign group for a two-state solution, condemned it.

“As British Jews who enjoy the protection of our rights as a minority in the UK, we must speak up in opposition to this racist bill which turns minorities in Israel into second class citizens," a spokesman said.

“This bill is a gift to all those who seek to deny the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and endangers the future of the Jewish homeland.”

The American Jewish Committee said it was "deeply disappointed" by the passing of the bill, criticising two elements that "put at risk the commitment of Israel’s founders to build a country that is both Jewish and democratic".

Downgrading Arabic from its longstanding status as an official language " not only directly affects the 21 percent of Israel’s citizens who comprise the country’s largest minority, but it also would appear to work against the government’s ongoing efforts to encourage the use of Arabic, given Israel’s location in the Middle East," the AJC said.

The clause referring to the development of Jewish settlement could "be read as a euphemism for the originally proposed endorsement of support for Jewish-only communities in Israel."

It called on the Israeli government to clarify "these and other questionable elements of the bill, and to reaffirm the core principles and values that make up the very foundation of Israel’s vibrant and admired democracy".

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