Making the Jewish State a ‘Jewish State’

From Commentary: The fight over a law to enshrine Israel’s nationalist nature.

For all the controversy about Israel’s status as a “Jewish state,” the country’s own legal framework establishing it as such is surprisingly tenuous. Israel, unlike the United States, has no constitution that defines its national goals and values. Its collection of 11 Basic Laws, which were intended as a blueprint for an eventual constitution, contains no definition of Israel as a Jewish state. The Independence Scroll of May 1948, deliberately designed by David Ben-Gurion to serve as Israel’s version of the Declaration of Independence, does; it makes the case for Jewish statehood by focusing on history and the return of Jews to the land. But even though the Independence Scroll has been cited in Israeli Supreme Court rulings, it was never ratified as law. And while Israel was built on the principles of the “law of return,” which allows all Jews and all people with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent to become Israeli citizens, it is not one of the 11 Basic Laws. At the moment, in fact, there are no laws truly cementing Israel’s status as a Jewish state. Continue reading

Commentary October 2013

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