“Our view is that Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State is absolute and non negotiable” – Stephen Harper speaking to Israeli Knesset.
In recent weeks, the Israeli Knesset has been debating a proposed law (called the “Jewish State law”) which would codify Israel’s Jewishness, making it clearer than ever that being Jewish is more important than being democratic. (This has long been the practice in Israel, but the law makes explicit that which was implicit before. Among other things, it removes Arabic as an official language.)
It has provoked debate in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora. Canadian Jews seem to be concerned as well.
The proposed law appears to have wide support inside Israel, but it does have strong critics. Well known liberal Israeli Zionist Daniel Gordis recently expressed his concerns in an article published in Ipolitics, worried that this further step in Israel’s continual slide to the nationalist/right will lead to a loss of international support. In fact, according to the New York Times, resistance to the law from some members of his coalition appears to have been one of the factors that led Netanyahu to call an early election. This is also the view of British journalist resident in Israel Jonathan Cook, who argues that Netanyahu will try to use the threat of Palestinians inside Israel as a election rallying cry.
The proposed law is causing a great deal of concern in the Jewish Diaspora, particularly in the United States, as a recent article in Ha’aretz makes clear.
In Canada, the reaction from the Jewish community appears more muted, but there does seem to be some discomfort. One sign of this is that the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is organizing an open “webinar” on December 10th featuring two Jews debating “Does Israel need a Jewish State law?”. Defending the law is Dr. Yoram Hazaly of the Hertzl Institute in Israel, opposing it is Professor Mira Sucharov, a Canadian liberal zionist. The CIJA webinar is open to the public.You can listen in (and even participate if you want to).