Yet another petition, this one by Ashkenazi Jewish Israelis (i.e., those of European background) was filed last month with Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem, in a bid to strike down the racist Nation-State Law enacted by the 20th Knesset in July of last year.
This new petition argues that the law discriminates against the non-Jewish – mainly Arab-Palestinian – citizens of Israel, as elaborated in a similar petition submitted by Adalah against the same law in August 2018. The new petition also supports the contention of some 60 Mizrahi Israelis (i.e., those of Eastern background) who argued in a second petition to the Supreme Court filed in January 2019 that the law discriminates against Jews of Arab extraction as it degrades Arabic from that of an official language of the state to one that has a “special status.”
In addition to these main arguments, the Ashkenazi filers of the latest petition, from the NGO De-Colonizer, argue that the Nation-State Law defines them as superior to non-Jews as well as Mizrahi Jewish Israelis. “We refuse to inhabit the privileged position allocated to us. We demand a full equality for all the residents of this country. We see ourselves as the bearers of a tradition pioneered by Ashkenazi Jews who lived in this country and mastered the Arabic language out of respect for the language of the region, rather than the ‘enemy language’ which is the way it is often perceived in Israel nowadays.”
“There were also Jews in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries who saw the studying of the Arabic language and culture as an important tool to emancipate themselves as Jews. This is the Israeli Ashkenazi identity we wish to champion, against a racist colonial one.”
The Arab-Palestinian national minority in Israel launched the legal struggle against the racist Nation-State Law on last August, with the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, the National Committee of Arab Mayors and the Joint List demanding that it be annulled and Adalah ― The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights ― petitioning the Supreme Court to do so, calling the legislation a bid to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies.”
On July 19, 2018, the Israeli Knesset voted 62 to 55 to approve the racist Nation-State Bill as a quasi-constitutional Basic Law that enshrines Jewish supremacy and the identity of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
This law – which has distinct apartheid characteristics – guarantees the ethnic-religious character of Israel as exclusively Jewish and entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality. The petitioners stressed, “A law that denies the civil and national rights of Palestinians in their homeland is racist, colonialist, and illegitimate.”
In January 2019 Over 50 prominent Israeli Jews of Mizrahi origin filed a petition with the Supreme Court demanding it strike down the Nation-State Law, claiming that it discriminates against both Jewish Mizrahi and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel. Among the dozens of signatories to this petition are the renowned author and president of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel Sami Michael, Professor Yehuda Shenhav, Professor Henriette Dahan-Kalev, journalist Orly Noy and social justice activist Reuven Abergil. According to the petitioners, Mizrahim were largely excluded from the law’s formulation, despite the fact that it would impair their community’s right to preserve its heritage, and that its blatant anti-Arab bias would adversely affect Jews from Arab countries.