The Israeli Knesset passed a landmark piece of legislation that enshrines the State of Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people.” The “Jewish Nation-State Law” officially declares that Israel is both a Jewish and democratic state, protecting the right of the Jewish people to exercise self-determination.
On the day of its passage, J Street tweeted that the bill “was born in sin.” The so-called “progressive” lobbying group would go on to claim that “its only purpose is to send a message to the Arab community, the LGBT community and other minorities in Israel, that they are not and never will be equal citizens.”
Contrary to J Street’s assertions, this law does not violate the civil rights of non-Jewish Israeli citizens. Prof. Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum explains that there is nothing undemocratic about this legislation and that it is quite commonplace among Western democracies.
“The law does not infringe on the individual rights of any Israeli citizen, including Arabs; nor does it create individual privileges,” writes Prof. Kontorovich. “The illiberalism here lies with the law’s critics, who would deny the Jewish state the freedom to legislate like a normal country.”
In the European Union alone, at least seven countries have similar constitutional provisions that define nationhood as it applies to their respective contexts. A major difference is that Israel’s Declaration of Independence ensures complete social and political rights “to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
Israel is undoubtedly the best place in the region for its Arab citizens to practice their religion and lead prosperous lives. The Jewish state is home to over 400 mosques, a fivefold increase since 1988. The Israeli government also provides the salaries of approximately 300 imams and muezzins, as well as funding for Islamic schools and colleges throughout the country.
In Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem, only Muslims are legally allowed to pray on the Temple Mount in order not to offend Islamic sensibilities. Despite the Temple Mount being Judaism’s holiest place, the site is managed by an Islamic religious committee (waqf) with a history of destroying priceless Jewish artifacts unearthed at the site.
The Jewish state displays more respect for the civil rights of its Muslim citizens than they receive in Saudi Arabia, the most Islamic country in the world. According to the U.K.-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, over 90 percent of Saudi Arabia’s historical and religious sites have been destroyed since 1985. A Hilton hotel now stands on the site of Islam’s first caliph, while the house of Muhammad’s first wife has been turned into a block of toilets.
Throughout the Middle East, Islamic persecution against Christians has resulted in the population plunging from 14 percent in 1910 to less than 4 percent today. Yet since Israel declared independence in 1948, its Christian population increased over five-fold. Compared to any other religious group in Israel, the Christian minority fares the best in terms of education and can be found in every facet of Israeli life.
Yet in the neighboring Palestinian-controlled territories, ethnic cleansing and persecution have reduced the Christian population from 15 percent of the population to less than 1.3 percent today. It is also absurd for J Street to accuse Israel of marginalizing its LGBT minority when Israel grants asylum and permanent residency to hundreds of gay Palestinians fleeing persecution.
On university campuses across the U.S., J Street supports groups that promote BDS, the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, some of which openly call for Israel’s destruction. J Street co-founder Daniel Levy put it this way: “There’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice in the creation of Israel.”
Unless a cure is found for J Street’s anti-Israel derangement syndrome, this organization cannot possibly be considered pro-Israel, pro-peace… or even pro-progressive.
Bradley Martin is a Senior Fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center and Deputy Editor for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.