Will Jewish-state bill politi­cize process for defin­ing who is a Jew?

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

Hav­ing al­ready fought about bal­anc­ing pri­or­i­tiz­ing Ju­daism ver­sus democ­racy in the new na­tion-state bill, the Knes­set Con­sti­tu­tion, Law and Jus­tice Com­mit­tee this week wres­tled with the is­sue of defin­ing who is a Jew.

The bill is part of a gov­ern­ment ef­fort to in­ter­ject greater con­cern for the coun­try’s Jewish­ness into the con­stel­la­tion of con­sti­tu­tional law con­cerns that dif­fer­ent branches of the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing the courts, con­sider when choos­ing be­tween sec­u­lar demo­cratic and Jewish prin­ci­ples.

For ex­am­ple, Jus­tice Min­is­ter Ayelet Shaked has per­sis­tently said the High Court of Jus­tice would not have re­peat­edly struck down gov­ern­ment poli­cies aimed at en­cour­ag­ing African mi­grants to leave Is­rael if it needed to con­sider main­tain­ing the coun­try’s Jewish char­ac­ter as a car­di­nal prin­ci­ple.

The ini­tial ver­sion of the bill ex­presses the coun­try’s com­mit­ment to Jews through­out the world; to strength­en­ing their Jewish iden­tity and con­nec­tion with Is­rael; and to de­fend­ing them from an­ti­semitic op­pres­sion.

Cur­rently, the com­mit­ment is to “the de­scen­dants of the Jewish na­tion.” But op­po­si­tion MKs want to add a phrase reaf­firm­ing the state’s com­mit­ment “to all of its cit­i­zens” – mean­ing in­clud­ing its Arab, Druse and other non-Jewish cit­i­zens.

Yesh Atid MK Karin El­harar drew at­ten­tion to an­other is­sue.

“There is no de­bate that Is­rael is the na­tion-state of the Jewish na­tion. But when there is a dis­pute, and there is a ci­ti­zen who is not considered Jewish ac­cord­ing to some streams [of Ju­daism]… it will be sent on to the High Court and then many will com­plain that it [the High Court] is in­ter­ven­ing.”

She said that, if the coali­tion in­sists on in­clud­ing the is­sue in the law, it must state that who is a Jew is in­clu­sive of def­i­ni­tions from all streams of Ju­daism.

More specif­i­cally, those who op­pose cer­tain as­pects of the law are con­cerned it will limit the Law of Re­turn, which grants any Jew the right to move to Is­rael, to ap­ply­ing only to Jews de­fined as such by Haredi rab­bis, as op­posed to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in which it is ap­plied on a far broader ba­sis.

Coali­tion MKS said the new bill would strengthen, and not de­tract from, the state’s com­mit­ment to en­cour­ag­ing Jews to move to Is­rael.

Some op­po­si­tion mem­bers, in­clud­ing Is­raeli-Arab MKs also ob­jected to the law’s em­pha­sis on Jews at the ex­pense of Is­rael’s non-Jewish cit­i­zens, though many make the same ob­jec­tions against the ex­ist­ing Law of Re­turn.

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