The passing of the Nation State legislation in the Knesset last week has elicited predictably strong responses both in favour and critical of the text and intent of the bill within Israel and in the Diaspora.
President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, Dr. Danny Lamm AM said, “Through its Declaration of Independence Israel staked out a place for itself in the community of nations that subscribe to the fundamental belief of equal rights for all of its citizens under the rule of law. The ZFA is proud of the principles enunciated in the Declaration that enshrine “the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants ….it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”.
Despite concerns with early drafts, the Nation State law as passed by the Knesset is a reflection of the Zionist philosophy that saw the establishment of the only Jewish state in the world. Many states including the UK and Spain have constitutions that establish official state religions and many if not most countries have foundational documents that set out a vision for a national character including the establishment of an official language.
The fact that the Nation State law does not include the provision of democracy and equal rights for all inhabitants has been the subject of concern both in Israel and in the Diaspora however this omission should not be seen as a departure from the principles on which the State was founded.
The ZFA is strongly of the view that any attempt to undermine those principles whether by legislation or police action that would see the curtailment of religious freedom or the denial of equality and respect before the law would rightly raise grave concerns and would have the potential to damage the place of honour that Israel holds as the only true democracy in the Middle East.
We join with incoming Chairman of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog in calling for a better understanding inside Israel of the facts of life in the Diaspora and of the need to recognise that for Israel to be more relevant to all sections of Diaspora Jewry she must be more welcoming to all streams of Judaism. We welcome Herzog’s intention to leverage additional resources and support for Diaspora communities and encourage Israel-Diaspora dialogue.
The ZFA is proud of the way Israel has conducted itself over the last 70 years and believes that the strength of its democracy and public institutions will ensure that it remains a source of pride into the future.