“To its non-Jewish citizens, Israel appears a lot more Jewish than democratic”: Jonathan Cook tells OFIP webinar

After living in Nazareth, Israel for more than a dozen years, British journalist Jonathan Cook decided to apply for Israeli citizenship. Because he is not Jewish, it took several years and several letters from his lawyers, but he finally suceeded. In this illuminating OFIP webinar, Cook explained how despite its claims to be “Jewish and democratic”, in practice Israel discriminates against its non Jewish citizens (most of whom are Palestinians) in a myriad of practical, frustrating and sometimes hidden, ways. Watch the webinar….

The exchange of rockets between Gaza and Israel in May 2021 in which over 200 people, almost all of them Palestinians were killed, overshadowed the large demonstrations by Palestinian citizens of Israel all over Israel. Haifa, Lod, Nazareth, Jaffa among others. All put down violently by Israeli police.

Why are the Palestinian citizens of Israel also unhappy? We are repeatedly told they have “equal rights” to those of Jewish Israeli citizens. So what are they complaining about?

The answer lies in the very nature of Israel as a “Jewish State” – something that was made explicit two years ago by the adoption of the “Nation State” law.   Few Canadians understand what Israel means by a “Jewish State”.

Jonathan Cook does understand. Very well, He is a British journalist who has been living in Israel for over twenty years. He is married to a Palestinian citizen of Israel (i.e. not Jewish), and publishes a regular blog called “the View from Nazareth.”

As non-Jews, he and his family face many obstacles, so he decided to apply to become an Israeli citizen.  After a legal battle, he now holds Israeli citizenship. But he is still not equal to Jewish Israelis.

In this OFIP webinar, Peter Larson and Grafton Ross, OFIP Vice-Chair and head of research, interview Jonathan using his own struggle to get Israeli citizenship to better understand what Israel means when it defines itself as a “Jewish State”. It means a lot more than just a state where there are a lot of Jews. 

Israel’s two citizenship laws

I have had several occasions to bring many Canadians to meet Jonathan Cook in Nazareth. His presentations are always clear and to the point. Here is a link to a 19 minute long presentation he gave to a group of us on one of the many peculiar characteristics of the Jewish State – it has TWO DIFFERENT citizenship laws – one for Jews and another for non Jews, designed to allow Jews in and keep others out.

For Canadians who assume that a state that claims to be democratic would automatically mean equality for all its citizens, Israel’s discriminatory practices are unfathomable. They would be comparable to Canada saying that our “Charter of Rights and Freedoms” only apply to “white” Canadians, or perhaps only to “English speaking Canadians”. But those Israeli discriminatory practices have gone unnoticed by most Canadians. It is time that that changed.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org


  1. Evident that,Israel cannot be a Jewish democratic and hrights respecting state without strict equality for all its citizens and an end to the occupation and annexation of Palestine either through a,1,stsae solution where all inhabitants ore equal or 2 equal states of Israel Palestine where Jewish non Jeeish minority rights are guaranteed.

    1. George,

      I think that it would be very difficult to agree on “2 equal states of Israel Palestine”. The definition of equal would not be the same for both sides. There is a classical (almost biblical) solution to this problem. We take the two groups and choose one to draw the borders and then allow the other can decide which part they want. They can toss a coin to decide which group plays which role.

      If you think that that classical approach can be made to work, I envy you your optimism and wish you luck as you continue to talk about “2 equal states of Israel Palestine”. If not, I think the only solution is the one non-sectarian-state solution. That won’t be easy but I think it is easier than finding a fair division of mandate Palestine.

      1. David, the divide-and-chose solution to the fair cake-cutting problem meets Nash equilibrium only because it assumes that the two sides will adhere to a pre determined contract between them

        If we can get the two sides to adhere to a contract between them there are much better contracts that can be envisioned for both sides

      2. Ahik,

        What you say is clearly true. In the world that we individuals live in, we rely on courts and an enforcement mechanism to make the parties agreed to a contract adhere to it. In the world that entities like Palestine and Israel seem to live in, the court system is weak and divided. When a court clearly states something, there is no enforcement. That needs to be changed but, in the meantime, it is still worth discussing the contracts that the parties might make. You wrote, “there are much better contracts that can be envisioned for both sides”. I, and I suspect others who follow this blog, would be interested in reading about those much better contracts. Please tell us more.

  2. Thank you Peter. I met Jonathan Cook when he spoke to us during your Come and See Tour in Nov 2012. He was an impressive communicator dealing with facts and stories of real lives. It is great to hear more of his story and his reflective wisdom now.

    I remember the discriminatory practices in Toronto society when I grew up in the 1950’s. My neighbourhood was about 10% Jewish families, and we all played together as children, blind to cultural distinction. Soon I became aware there was no admission for Jews to some posh clubs (Granite Club, Royal Canadian Yacht Club), caps on the percentage of Jewish medical students allowed into certain post grad programs, etc. Since then, such discriminatory practice has greatly receded, while human rights legislation has expanded in Canada. Children growing up in my old haunts have a different experience. Education and other measures against subliminal bigotry of course will always have to continue – for all groups and ethnicities.

    Seeing the modern state of Israel move the other way, ever more blatantly formalizing and institutionalizing racism against Arabs, and all non-Jews, is a sad story. I hope it can change to become the progressive enlightened nation it purports to be.

    I would like to thank Jonathan Cook for following his clear-headed convictions of fairness.

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