Had the Nation-Law Basic Law just passed by Israel’s parliament created a new status-quo, it would truly have been the watershed moment that many in Palestine and international media are saying that it is. In reality, it is merely a codification of a reality that has existed since 1948 which underscores the entire meaning of the current conflict in Palestine. Frankly, the new law is actually an instructive tool as in very simple language, it outlines why Palestinians are justifiably angry about their current status as an occupied people whose very multi-faith cultural heritage is being challenged by a regime which operates on the basis of unilateralism.
The full text of the new law is as follows:
“Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People
1 — Basic principles
A. The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.
B. The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.
C. The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
2 — The symbols of the state
A. The name of the state is “Israel.”
B. The state flag is white with two blue stripes near the edges and a blue Star of David in the center.
C. The state emblem is a seven-branched menorah with olive leaves on both sides and the word “Israel” beneath it.
D. The state anthem is “Hatikvah.”
E. Details regarding state symbols will be determined by the law.
3 — The capital of the state
Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.
4 — Language
A. The state’s language is Hebrew.
B. The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law.
C. This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.
5 — Ingathering of the exiles
The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles
6 — Connection to the Jewish people
A. The state will strive to ensure the safety of the members of the Jewish people in trouble or in captivity due to the fact of their Jewishness or their citizenship.
B. The state shall act within the Diaspora to strengthen the affinity between the state and members of the Jewish people.
C. The state shall act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people among Jews in the Diaspora.
7 — Jewish settlement
A. The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.
8 — Official calendar
The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state and alongside it the Gregorian calendar will be used as an official calendar. Use of the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar will be determined by law.
9 — Independence Day and memorial days
A. Independence Day is the official national holiday of the state.
B. Memorial Day for the Fallen in Israel’s Wars and Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day are official memorial days of the State.
10 — Days of rest and sabbath
The Sabbath and the festivals of Israel are the established days of rest in the state; Non-Jews have a right to maintain days of rest on their Sabbaths and festivals; Details of this issue will be determined by law.
11 — Immutability
This Basic Law shall not be amended, unless by another Basic Law passed by a majority of Knesset members”.
In essence, the law is stating that Israel is a state that is unilaterally Jewish in terms of its legal, linguistic, and cultural character and that furthermore, immigration and citizenship laws will remain those which perpetuate these Jewish characteristics at the expense of all others.
This of course is the entire reason for the current conflict. The conflict itself has nothing to do with a blood-soaked contest to see which of the three indigenous religions on the region (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) is the “best”, but instead the nature of the conflict is that while prior to the creation of Israel, indigenous Muslims, Christians and Jews lived peacefully with one another under multiple political overlords, today, a unilaterally Jewish state whose citizens tend to have European rather than Middle Eastern heritage have systematically and openly conspired to end the multi-religious and multi-cultural characteristics of Palestine. Far from this reality happening in secret or by covert means, it has always happened in the open and now a law written in black and white clearly says so to the entire world.
While the official position of the wider so-called international community is for a two state solution, in reality, the question boils down to either a peaceful one-state solution or a unilateral/hostile one state solution.
At the moment, the reality that Palestinians are fighting against is the unilateral one state solution while some Palestinian parties, particularly the secular/leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine continue to argue for a one state solution based on full equality where no one ethnic or religious sect receives any preferential status in terms of law nor in terms of defining a single cultural characteristic of the state.
In practical terms, this is the real question regarding the future of Palestine. Put simply, will it continue to be a unilateral Israeli state or can it return to being a multilateral/multicultural state where legal safeguards ensuring full equality for all, including in terms of a right of return and migration policy can be established along the lines of a Singaporean model for ethno-religious coexistence?
In this sense, while it is perfectly clear when this new law is both offensive and frightening to Palestinians, it is not the case that it signals a change in the manifest status-quo on the ground. Instead, it provides an easy to read document defining why Palestinians are upset in the first place and best of all it comes straight from the source.
In the future, when a young person asks why there is a conflict in Palestine, one need only show him a document that prioritises the position of one group of people at the expensive of all others. In this sense, while an offensive codification of long standing realities, the new law is also a very useful educational tool.