On the loyalty oath
Sunday’s approval of a discriminatory loyalty oath requiring non-Jews seeking naturalization to swear a loyalty oath to ‘the Jewish state’ adds to growing fears that for this Israeli government, a ‘peace deal’ might involve a mass transfer of Israel’s Arab citizens.
By JNews Editorial, 11 October, 2010
Israeli citizens’ Declaration of Independence from Fascism
Ynet news report: Government approves loyalty oath bill, 10 October
Gideon Levy, The Jewish Republic of Israel, 10 October
In June 2009, shortly after he was elected, Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu surprised many by declaring in a public speech that his aim was to achieve ‘two states for two peoples.’
While international attention has been focused on Gaza and the West Bank, it is also within Israel proper that the dramatic process towards these “two peoples” is occurring. Since the election of the current government, Israel has drastically escalated its measures against the country’s 20% Palestinian minority, through public incitement, accusations of disloyalty, restrictions on civil rights and denial of land rights.
Now with the Israeli cabinet approval of the loyalty oath to “the Jewish State”, a first step has been taken in the legislative segregation of Jews from non-Jews in Israel.
A speech made last week by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to the UN General Assembly sheds light on the connection between these measures and the current peace negotiations.
According to Lieberman, a peace deal would include a land and population exchange, whereby Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be annexed to a Jewish state in exchange for the transfer of densely-populated Arab areas in Israel to the control of a Palestinian political entity.
This declaration, never retracted, dovetails with Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state as an integral part of any peace deal.
When he says ‘two states for two peoples,’ Netanyahu means an eventual partition of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea along ethno-nationalist lines.
He does not mean a democratic Israeli state including both its Jewish and its non-Jewish citizens, alongside a sovereign Palestinian state in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Rather, his government wants a sovereign, explicitly Jewish state – emptied or nearly-emptied of its Palestinian citizens – separated from but controlling a collection of enclosed, politically fragmented Palestinian entities devoid of power and sovereignty.
The capital of this Jewish state would be a ‘united’ Jerusalem, including not only the Old City but also those neighborhoods around it – such as Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah – which are today Palestinian, but are rapidly being settled by Jewish extremists with the backing of the Israeli authorities.
Recent developments confirm this scenario. Last Thursday Israeli security forces staged a mock exercise – the scenario was how to respond to Arab uprisings in Israel following a future mass population exchange near the Green Line. This involved the erection of a vast detention camp for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the emptying of Israel’s prison population in order to make space for Palestinian protestors.
Also on Sunday, Minister of Interior Eli Yishai declared his intention to strip Palestinian citizens of Israel of their citizenship if they were convicted of ‘disloyalty to the state’. Their status should be made equal to that of non-Jewish migrant workers, he said.
Most Israeli Jews seem apathetic in the face of these developments, while political opposition from the ‘peace camp’ seems non-existent – not surprising when its own slogan has been wrested from it by the nationalist right wing.
The US and the international community have yet to acknowledge this rapid degradation of civil liberties and the de-sensitization of Israel’s Jewish citizens to its implications. These developments are largely ignored in debates around the conflict. The Arab League, too, by giving the peace process another month, is implicitly supporting the limiting of the problem of negotiations to the issue of the settlement freeze, while ignoring these more ominous aspects.
In its negotiations with Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) no longer seeks the full return of the occupied territories, the dismantling of the separation wall or even withdrawal from the settlements.
Instead, it is fighting a losing battle for control over the future development areas of the settlements, ‘Area C’ under the Oslo Accords, which comprise 40% of the West Bank. Of these, the US has already offered to guarantee Israel control over the Jordan valley, the natural border between the West Bank and Jordan.
If Israel, the international community and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas decide the fate of all Palestinians while disenfranchising them, they should not be surprised if the process brings no peace.
There cannot be a credible discussion of the future of Israelis and Palestinians if the voices of all Palestinians – in the West Bank, in Gaza, in Israel and in refugee communities in the Middle East and worldwide – are not authentically represented at the negotiating table.
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Declaration of Independence from Fascism
Press Release October 10, 2010
“We will not be citizens of a fascist state purporting to be Israel” say hundreds of Israeli academics and public figures.
A protest rally against the government’s “Loyalty Oath Bill” was held outside the Tel Aviv house. There Ben-Gurion read the 1948 the Declaration of Independence. There, today, the “Declaration of Independence from Fascism” was signed.
“We are citizens of the Israel which was depicted in the Declaration of Independence, a peace-seeking country based on the principles of equality and civil liberties. We do not intend to be the citizens of a state purporting to be Israel which stops being democratic and enbarks on becoming a fascist state,” proclaimed intellectuals, public figures, and Israel Prize laureates who gathered this afternoon for a protest rally against the “Loyalty Oath Bill” approved by the government. A protest rally was held on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard, in front of the museum building where David Ben Gurion had read the Declaration of Independence in 1948.
Beneath the statue of Meir Dizengoff, first mayor of Tel Aviv, actress Hanna Meron read out from that Declaration of Independence: “The State of Israel will be based on based on Liberty, Justice and Peace, as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or gender; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations”. She noted that, sixty-two years later, the reality of Israel is very different than what the country’s Declaration of Independence envisaged. At the end of the rally, a “Declaration of Independence from Fascism” was signed (see full text below).
Among participants in the initiative were Shulamit Aloni, Uri Avnery, Alex Ansky, Shery Ansky, Menachem Brinker, Ran Cohen, Ruth Cohen, Yaron Ezrachi, Galia Golan, Haim Guri, Sna’it Gisis, Yoram Kaniuk, Dani Karavan, Yehoshua Knaz, Elia Leibowitz, Alex Libak, Hanna Meron, Sammy Michael, Merav Michaeli, Sefi Rachlevsky, Gabi Solomon, David Tartakower, Micha Ullman.
Following is the full text of the Declaration of Independence from Fascism:
A state which forcibly invades the hallowed realm of the individual citizen’s conscience, and which imposes punishment on those whose opinions and beliefs do not fit the authorities’ opinions and the prescribed “character” of the state, stops being a democracy and embarks on becoming a fascist state.
Behind these stairs where we stand, the state of Israel was proclaimed. The state which increasingly takes Israel’s place – a state which fills the country with a variety of racist legislation, promoted by the Knesset and the cabinet – is excluding itself from the family of democratic nations. Therefore we, citizens of the Israel envisaged in the Declaration of Independence, hereby declare that will not be citizens of a country purporting to be Israel and which violates its basic commitment to the principles of equality, civil liberty and sincere aspiration for peace – principles upon which the State of Israel was founded.
Contact: Sefi Rachlevsky 052-7078075
New non-Jewish citizens will be obligated to pledge allegiance to ‘Jewish, democratic state’ from now on, after bill passes 22-8. Barak withdraws support at last minute for fear bill will become ‘racist tool.’ MK Ben-Ari: Decision proves Kahane was right
Attila Somfalvi, 10 October 2010
The government voted in favor of an amendment to the Citizenship Act Sunday, which will obligate new non-Jewish citizens of Israel to pledge allegiance to a “Jewish, democratic state”.
Twenty-two voted in favor of the bill and eight opposed it, including all Labor ministers. Likud ministers Benny Begin, Dan Meridor, and Michael Eitan also voted against the bill.
Right-wing parties expressed their satisfaction with the approval. “The government decision that people who become citizens must declare their loyalty to the State of Israel as Jewish and democratic is an important message,” said a spokesman for Yisrael Beiteinu.
National Union Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari said following the vote, “Twenty years have passed since the assassination of Rabbi Kahane, and today Likud admits he was right. It’s a refreshing change to see the Likud government, which persecuted the rabbi over his call to have Arabs sign a loyalty oath, admit today that what Kahane said 20 years ago was correct.”
Labor Chairman Ehud Barak withdrew his non-conditional support for the amendment just moments before the government meeting on the matter, saying that he would only back it if a slight adjustment was made.
Barak had previously proposed that the amendment, in addition to defining Israel as Jewish and democratic, also add the words “in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence”.
The Labor chairman explained that the addition “reflects Israel’s open and liberal spirit” and “coincides with the basic values adopted by other countries in the world”.
“This is not a minor change, but rather an essential one,” Barak said. “Critics of the bill fear it embodies ulterior motives destined to be aimed against new citizens who are not Jewish, like Arabs, and that it will be used as a tool for the promotion of racism.”
It was agreed that Barak’s alteration would be transferred to a ministerial committee for approval and brought back for a vote in 2-3 weeks. Barak said that those who do not accept the values of the declaration “do not deserve to sit at the government table”.
Earlier Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman, one of the ministers behind the bill, suggested that in order to avoid charges of racism the new oath would be taken by Jews as well as non-Jews. This suggestion is also to be debated by the committee.
The man who proposed the amendment, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, opened the Cabinet meeting Sunday by saying that “clearly this will not be the final word on loyalty and citizenship, but it’s an important step”.
‘Gov’t Yisrael Beiteinu’s stooge’
Hadash Chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh inveighed against the bill. “This is not Lieberman, but rather the true Netanyahu. He has fired the opening shot of a mega-racist legislation,” he said.
Barakeh also criticized Barak. “He is fully responsible for Israel’s placement at the top of the list of the most racist regimes in the modern world. Siamese twins Barak and Netanyahu have fired another missile today at the negotiations,” he added.
MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al) accused the government of becoming a “stooge of Yisrael Beiteinu and its fascist policies”.
“There is no other country in the world that forces its citizens to swear an oath to a sectarian ideology. Israel has proven it is not egalitarian but is rather democratic only towards Jews – and Jewish towards Arabs,” he said.
Swearing an oath to a Jewish state will decide its fate. It is liable to turn the country into a theocracy like Saudi Arabia.
Gideon Levy, 10 October 2010
Remember this day. It’s the day Israel changes its character. As a result, it can also change its name to the Jewish Republic of Israel, like the Islamic Republic of Iran. Granted, the loyalty oath bill that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to have passed purportedly only deals with new citizens who are not Jewish, but it affects the fate of all of us.
From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t affect him is mistaken. There is a silent majority that is accepting this with worrying apathy, as if to say: “I don’t care what country I live in.” Also anyone who thinks the world will continue to relate to Israel as a democracy after this law doesn’t understand what it is about. It’s another step that seriously harms Israel’s image.
Prime Minister Netanyahu will prove today that he is actually Yisrael Beinteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman will prove he is really a loyal member of Yisrael Beiteinu. The Labor party will prove it is nothing more than a doormat. And Israel today will prove that it doesn’t care about anything. Today the loyalty oath bill, soon the loyalty oath law. The dam will overflow today, threatening to drown the remnants of democracy until we are left perhaps with a Jewish state of a character that no one really understands, but it certainly won’t be a democracy. Those demanding this loyalty oath are the ones misappropriating loyalty to the state.
At its next session, the Knesset is to debate close to 20 other anti-democratic bills. Over the weekend, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel issued a blacklist of legislation: a loyalty law for Knesset members; a loyalty law for film production; a loyalty law for non-profits; putting the Palestinian catastrophe, the Nakba, beyond the scope of the law; a ban on calls for a boycott; and a bill for the revocation of citizenship. It’s a dangerous McCarthyist dance on the part of ignorant legislators who haven’t begun to understand what democracy is all about. It’s dangerous even if only a portion of the bills become law, because our fate and our essence will change.
It’s not hard to understand the Netanyahu-Lieberman duo. As sworn nationalists, they are not expected to understand that democracy doesn’t only mean the rule of the majority, but rather first and foremost that minorities have rights. It’s much harder to comprehend the complacency of the masses. Town squares should have been filled today with citizens who do not wish to live in a country where the minority is oppressed by draconian laws such as the one that forces them to swear a false oath to a Jewish state, but amazingly almost no one seems to feel affected.
For decades, we have futilely dealt with the question of who is a Jew. Now the question of what is Jewish will not go away. What is the “state of the Jewish nation”? Does it belong more to Jews in the Diaspora than to its Arab citizens? Will they decide its fate and will this be called a democracy? Will the ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta sect, which opposes the state’s existence, along with hundreds of thousands of Jews who have avoided coming do whatever they want with it? What is Jewish? Jewish holidays? Kosher dietary laws? The increased grip of the religious establishment, as if there is not enough of it now to distort democracy? Swearing an oath to a Jewish state will decide its fate. It is liable to turn the country into a theocracy like Saudi Arabia.
True, for the time being, it’s a matter of an empty, ridiculous slogan. There aren’t three Jews who could agree what a Jewish state looks like, but history has taught us that empty slogans, too, can pave the path to hell. In the meantime, the new proposed legislation will only increase Israeli Arabs’ alienation and ultimately result in the alienation of much wider segments of the public.
That’s what happens when the fire is still smoldering under the rug, the fire of the basic lack of faith in the justice of our path. Only such a lack of confidence can produce such distorted proposed legislation as that which will be approved today, and clearly approval will be forthcoming. Canada doesn’t need its citizens to swear an oath to the Canadian state, nor do other countries require similar acts. Only Israel. And it is being done either to provoke the Arab minority more and push them into a greater lack of loyalty so one day the time will come to finally get rid of them, or it is designed to scuttle the prospect of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. One way or another, in Basel at the First Zionist Congress in 1897, the Jewish state was founded, as Theodor Herzl said, and today the unenlightened Jewish Republic of Israel will be founded.