J Street Can’t Believe That Israel Is a Jewish and Democratic State
The Israeli Knesset recently passed a landmark piece of legislation that enshrines the State of Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people.” The “Jewish Nation-State Law” officially declares that Israel is both a Jewish and democratic state, protecting the right of the Jewish people to exercise self-determination.
On the day of its passage, J Street tweeted that the bill “was born in sin.” The so-called “progressive” lobbying group would go on to claim that “its only purpose is to send a message to the Arab community, the LGBT community and other minorities in Israel, that they are not and never will be equal citizens.”
Contrary to J Street’s assertions, this law does not violate the civil rights of non-Jewish Israeli citizens. Professor Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum explained that there is nothing undemocratic about this legislation, and that it is quite commonplace among Western democracies.
“The law does not infringe on the individual rights of any Israeli citizen, including Arabs; nor does it create individual privileges,” wrote Kontorovich. “The illiberalism here lies with the law’s critics, who would deny the Jewish state the freedom to legislate like a normal country.”
In the European Union alone, at least seven countries have similar constitutional provisions that define nationhood as it applies to their respective contexts. A major difference is that Israel’s Declaration of Independence ensures complete social and political rights “to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
Israel is one of the best places in the region for its Arab citizens to practice their religion and lead prosperous lives. The Jewish state is home to over 400 mosques, a five fold increase since 1988. The Israeli government also provides the salaries of approximately 300 imams and muezzins, as well as funding for Islamic schools and colleges throughout the country.
In Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem, only Muslims are legally allowed to pray on the Temple Mount — Jews are prevented from doing so. Despite the Temple Mount being Judaism’s holiest place, the site is managed by an Islamic religious committee (waqf).
The Jewish state displays more respect for the civil rights of its Muslim citizens than they receive in Saudi Arabia, the most Islamic country in the world. Israel also protects Muslim holy sites more than some Arab countries.
According to the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, over 90 percent of Saudi Arabia’s historical and religious sites have been destroyed since 1985. A Hilton hotel has been built over the home of Islam’s first caliph, while the house of Muhammad’s first wife has been turned into a block of toilets.
Throughout the Middle East, Islamic persecution against Christians has resulted in the population plunging from 14% in 1910 to less than 4% today. Yet since Israel declared independence in 1948, its Christian population increased over five fold. Compared to any other religious group in Israel, the Christian minority fares the best in terms of education and can be found in every facet of Israeli life.
Yet in the neighboring Palestinian-controlled territories, ethnic cleansing and persecution have reduced the Christian population from 15% of the population to less than 1.3% today. It is also absurd for J Street to accuse Israel of marginalizing its LGBT minority when Israel grants asylum and permanent residency to hundreds of gay Palestinians fleeing persecution.
Unless a cure is found for J Street’s anti-Israel derangement obsession, this organization cannot possibly be considered pro-Israel, pro-peace, or even pro-progressive.
Bradley Martin is a Fellow for the Haym Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and Deputy Editor at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. A version of this article was originally published by The Hill.