Israel’s Parliament passed a law on Thursday that defines the country as the “nation state of the Jewish people”. This is unfortunate. It’s hard to imagine in today’s world that a nation where people of different faiths and different ethnic and language backgrounds reside, who are supposed to live as equal citizens at the level of constitutional rights, should officially name itself after one of them.
This is a path India rejected after Independence even after the country was vivisected on a communal and regional basis. We genuinely felt as a people that our approach was crucial to maintain this country’s unity and integrity. The action by Israel, on the other hand, is a reminder that it privileges majoritarian attitudes. After the enactment of this clause, a large part of Israel’s population, comprising Arabs, who are mainly Muslim, are apt to feel they are second class citizens.
The Arab legislators in Israel’s Parliament, and the Palestinian people, the bulk of whose territories were taken away from them to create the State of Israel in 1948, have called the new Israeli law “racist” and the legalisation of “apartheid”. These are strong words. But the European Union too has voiced concern over the new Israeli move and has urged that the rights of minorities be respected.
The Trump administration in the United States had recently recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and had directed that the American embassy be moved there from Tel Aviv. This attitude has evidently emboldened Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt a hawkish stance, to the detriment of the non-Jewish population of his country.