The furore surrounding the Nation-State Law recently passed by Israel’s Knesset has continued to reverberate throughout Israel and beyond, even reaching the pages of the French daily, ‘Le Figaro,’ the weekend edition of which I read when I was on holiday in France.
Since I cannot bear to be completely disconnected from Israel and events there even when I’m on holiday, I make sure to have an internet connection while I’m away. This may seem somewhat masochistic, but it’s an intrinsic part of my life wherever I am, so that being cut off from this form of communication causes me suffering to which I am not prepared to expose myself.
Thus it was that my news updates and Facebook feed while in France contained numerous messages condemning the law, claiming that it was discriminatory, contrary to the values enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence and even racist – all things that are anathema to any decent person anywhere in the world, and also to most Israelis. Massive demonstrations were held to oppose the law, and there seemed to be widespread condemnation of it, at least among my friends and many of my relations. No-one can accuse me of being a supporter of Binyamin Netanyahu and his party, but the significance of the article in ‘Le Figaro’ made me stop and think that perhaps the messages I’ve been receiving are one-sided, to say the least.
Headed ‘The State of Israel Will Not Be Binational!’ (my translation, his exclamation mark), the article, under the byline of Francois d’Orcival, asserts that the justification for introducing the law is that it serves to guarantee the future of the Jewish state. Claiming that the law does not contravert the rights of the various minorities living in Israel at present but merely affirms the Jewish character of Israel, the writer underlines the confrontation between national identity and multiculturism that is becoming increasingly prevalent all over the Western world, adding that political opposition is inseparable from demographic evolution.
The sticking point, according to M. d’Orcival, is the difference in the birth rates of Arabs and Jews in Israel. Currently, Jews account for 75 percent of the population and Arabs for 18 percent. But the Palestinian Arabs have said more than once that the weapon with which they will defeat the Jews is their birth-rate, and the difference in those of the two populations seems to bear this out (4.6 percent as opposed to 3.2).
Under the provisions of the law, the official language of Israel is Hebrew and the official religion is Judaism. In England, America, France and most other Western democracies there is an official language and an official religion (the British monarch is even the head of the Anglican church), and no-one accuses them of being undemocratic on that score. If the aim of the law is to ensure the Jewish character of Israel in the future, like M. d’Orcival, I personally see no harm in that.
In the final analysis, there is no getting away from the fact that there are at least thirty Arab or Muslim countries and only one Jewish one. And we all know what happens when Jews do not have a single country that will accept them in their hour of need. Many, though not all, of the Muslim countries will not allow Jews or even anyone who has ever visited Israel to set foot on their soil. Israel has no such policy regarding members of other religions.
Sometimes it takes an objective outsider to reveal the truth of a situation, so I remain grateful to Francois d’Orcival for enabling me to see matters in a different light.