The Loyalty Oath and its Detractors
By a ministerial vote of 22- 8 a controversial new Israeli law moved a step closer to fruition this week. This law would require every non-Jew wishing to become a citizen of Israel to pledge loyalty to “the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
The reaction to the bill was strong, as Knesset opposition leader Tzipi Livni referred to the loyalty oath amendment as ‘politics at its worst.’ Protesters compared the law to racist Nazi laws of 1935, and editorial responses in newspapers around the world condemned the new legislation in no uncertain terms, particularity Julian Kossoff of the London Daily Telegraph, who wondered more than anything, why Jews were excluded from the new law.
Although it doesn’t seem like much harm would have been done if Jews were to be bound by the law as well, I would like to point out the following.
Other countries, specifically in Europe, have only begun to experience a situation where a minority part of the population seeks to undermine the founding principles of their host country, sometimes violently; something that Israel has consistently had to deal with since 1948, recent examples include the following:
Four Israeli Arabs who resided in Kfar Makr and Akko were arrested by the Shin Bet for selling weapons to terrorist organizations.
Two Bedouin cousins in the southern city of Rahat were indicted on charges of membership of Al Qaeda.
A large proportion of terror attacks carried out in Israel’s cities over the last few years were orchestrated by Israeli Arabs, including the horrendous bulldozer attacks, and the bloody Mercaz Harav massacre that left eight young students dead.
Arab Knesset members have continuously undermined Israel’s existence as a Jewish State. Most notably former MK Azmi Bishara, who resigned from the Knesset following accusations of high treason for giving Hizbullah information on strategic locations in Israel that should be attacked with rockets during the 2006 Lebanon War. Bishara later fled the country.
Current MK Ahmed Tibi has said: “Whoever sells his house to Jews has sold his soul to Satan and has done a despicable act.”In an editorial in the Palestinian al-Quds newspaper in July 2007, he said that Palestine belongs to the Arabs only, not to the Jews, and he has called on Fatah to continue its struggle “until all of Palestine is liberated.”
The above examples are just a small taste of what Israel continuously contends with on a daily basis from its own citizens, and all this is before one even begins to discuss external threats.
Other countries in Europe have dealt with what they see as an undermining of their culture differently; the Swiss banned minarets and the French banned the burqa. Israel is simply asking for would be citizens to express understanding of the founding principles of the country and to acknowledge some of Israel’s underlying fundamentals.
Some may argue that the classification of Israel as a Jewish State is fundamentally at odds with Western Democracy; after all, if the Arabs or any other population segment of Israeli society peacefully out-populated the Jews, in the fashion of true Democracy, Israel would lose its status as a Jewish state. In an attempt to ensure that this doesn’t happen, there are certain limited laws in place that one could argue are at odds with pure Western Democratic principles. For example the ‘right of return’ that applies only to Jews, and a Knesset law that labels any party that undermines the Jewish character of the state as illegal.
If Israel is to maintain its founding principles that are constantly under threat, and ensure its purpose in preserving and protecting the Jewish people and the Jewish future, there are indeed certain limited guidelines within the democratic framework that the Government of Israel may need to implement.
As Jean – Jaques Rousseau famously concludes in the Social Contract:
‘Only the general will can direct the powers of the state in accordance with the purpose for which it was established, which is the common good.’
Israel was established primarily for the ‘common good’ of the Jewish people and those that so harshly challenge Israel’s decision to implement this law may in reality be challenging the Jewish right to self determination.