You surely saw the news that the Israeli cabinet approved a bill to define Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people.” The State Department issued mild criticism of the measure: “we would expect [Israel] to continue Israel’s commitment to democratic principles.” Israel’s centrist cabinet ministers objected strongly to the bill. And even the Anti-Defamation League has come out against the legislation, saying it’s “unnecessary.”
But look who’s heartbroken: The New York Times has a big editorial titled “Israel Narrows Its Democracy,” expressing such upset over the move that you’d think that Israel was a borough of New York.
Since its founding in 1948, Israel’s very existence and promise — fully embraced by the United States and the world of nations — has been based on the ideal of democracy for all of its people.
Its Declaration of Independence, which provides the guiding principles for the state, makes clear that the country was established as a homeland for the Jews and guarantees “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
That is why it is heartbreaking to see the Israeli cabinet approve a contentious bill that would officially define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, reserving “national rights” only for Jews.
The Times is unable to separate the American story from the Israeli one. It seems to regard both societies as modern democracies that are struggling toward equal rights for all.
This is not for us just a theoretical concern. The systematic denial of full rights to minorities — principally African-Americans and disproportionately in the American South — well into the 1960s caused great harm to our own country, is not fully resolved yet and is a remaining stain on American democracy….
Having experienced the grievous legacies created when a government diminishes the rights of its people, we know this is not the path that Israel should take.
The Times is being entirely too deferential. Israel has been taking that path for a long time. In her recent book Citizen Strangers, Shira Robinson documented Israel’s discrimination and worse against its Palestinian citizens, including its refusal to allow hundreds of thousands to come back to their homes even as it welcomed Jews into the country. “[T]he structural contradictions that are at the foundation of the state will continue to haunt the state and all of its citizens until they’re resolved,” she says. The New York Times has failed to tell its readers about that book or about Goliath, Max Blumenthal’s expose of Israel’s racist political culture. And we’re not even talking about the stain of the near-50-year-old occupation and the massacres of children in Gaza.
As for that mild criticism from the State Department? “[W]e would expect [Israel] to continue Israel’s commitment to democratic principles.” The Israeli right wing is biting back, hard, saying Bug out! Of course, Israel interferes in our politics all the time, with the complicity of the New York Times. But raise a voice in displeasure, and they let you have it. Haaretz:
Economics Minister… Naftali Bennett slammed the U.S. State Department response to the Jewish nation-state bill, saying the U.S. shouldn’t intervene in Israel’s internal issues, as politicians from Israel’s right also came out in criticism.“I say to the Americans that the affairs of the State of Israel – we will manage [ourselves],” Bennett told Army Radio, according to Israel National News.“At the end it is our problem,” he said. “This is an internal issue and I think that no one has the right to intervene with it.”…Though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the U.S. statement by assuring that Israel is a “model democracy,” and that’s how it will remain, other politicians on the Israeli right responded vehemently.“We can keep the foundations of democracy even without the help of the partner over the ocean,” Coalition whip and Likud MK Zeev Elkin said following the U.S. response, according to Yisrael Hayom.