The Nation-State Bill has been dominating Israeli news for the past few days. You may be wondering why a piece of legislation is a top story considering everything that happens in the region. The Nation-State Bill is not just any document, it is a Basic Law proposal that would carry the weight of a constitutional amendment, impacting the entire Israeli legal system if passed.
The Nation-State Bill would prioritize Israel’s Jewish identity over its democratic one, upsetting the balance between these two foundational values and seriously undermining the rights of minority groups. This Bill would downgrade the status of the Arabic language, undermine efforts to advance religious pluralism, and give legal sanction to discrimination against marginalized groups. This threatens the Israel we know and the brighter future we want to see for our Homeland. As IMPJ President Rabbi Gilad Kariv said at a rally against the Nation-State Bill, "We want to bring our children up in a nation where Hebrew and Arabic are both official languages. We want to bring our children up in a country where people choose where to live without anyone inspecting their religion or national identity...[W]e bear an obligation to prevent the aggressive attempt to place an obstacle along the path we seek to travel together. (For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about the Bill, click here).
The Knesset will vote on this Bill on Wednesday, July 18. If you believe in pluralism, equal rights, and the centrality of democracy in the Jewish State, NOW is the time to speak out against the Nation-State Bill. As Jews who strongly support Israel, we must oppose this Bill.
We are asking YOU to contact the offices of Prime Minister Netanyahu, Ambassador Ron Dermer and your local Consul General (see here for a listing of Embassies and Consulates: http://www.israelemb.org/washington/AboutTheEmbassy/Pages/US-Missions.aspx).
Feel free to use the text below or your own wording, under your own signature, as a message to these leaders. Please encourage as many other people as possible to take action!
Possible text of your e-mail:
We write to you בין המיצרים bein hameitzarim, at a difficult time with troubled hearts. On behalf of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, I join with the tens of thousands of Israeli Reform Jews, President Reuven Rivlin and Natan Sharansky, with the twenty percent of Israel's non-Jewish citizens and with millions of progressive supporters of Israel around the world to urge you that the Nation-State Bill not become law.
As lovers and supporters of the state of Israel, we must speak out against the narrow vision represented by the Nation-State Bill. As Tisha B'Av approaches, we are aware of the destructions our people have faced. The damage and loss of Jewish life and independence when the Second Temple was destroyed was a disaster we brought on ourselves through שנאת חינם Sinat Chinam. The temptation to hate and divide is at the basis of the legislation that your government threatens to add to the Basic Laws of the State of Israel. Do not trade short-term political gain for long-term harm to the fabric of Israeli democracy!
If this legislation becomes a Basic Law, identity and religion and culture will be constant sources of conflict within Israel, and between the Israeli Jewish community and the Jewish communities of the Diaspora. Israel will also be known internationally as a country that downgraded the status and rights of certain citizens based on their religion and background.
The immediate damage done by passing the Nation-State Bill could pale compared to the unforeseen damage that can be caused by a law that allows for legalized prejudice and racism.