Let’s get one thing out of the way first. This is not a Nation State law or a Jewish Nation State law. It is a Death to Democracy law. A Jewish Theocracy law. Israel is now no different from your average Muslim or Buddhist (Burma) or Sinhalese nation-state, which privileges one religion over another. It is little different from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Iran. It now explicitly, rather than implicitly, grants supremacy to Jews over non-Jews. It now explicitly states it will fund Jewish building projects and settlements and offer nothing (or next to nothing) to non-Jewish communities. Of course that was de facto practice before. Now it is inscribed not just in law, but in the Basic Law, which is Israel’s equivalent to–though not precisely the same as–our constitution.
Israel is no longer a state for all its citizens regardless of religion. It is a state by, of and for Jews. The anthem is for Jews, the flag for Jews, the language of Jews. State benefits–for Jews; jobs–for Jews; health care–for Jews; education–for Jews. If you substitute Aryan for Jew you’d have something comparable to the Nuremberg Law of the 1930s.
But oddly, what this new Law does more than ever is declare a clear dichotomy, an inalienable break between Diaspora Jewry and Israel. So ironically while Israel declares itself a supremacist Jewish state, the rest of the Jews of the world resoundingly reject this designation. In fact, more and more (though perhaps not yet the majority) reject the notion that Israel represents them at all as Jews.
So we’re seeing a profound alienation develop between Israel and abroad. But the question is–how will Diaspora leaders and organizations respond to this outrage? Of course they will bellow like wounded buffalo, that it is a terrible thing. That it violates the wonderful liberal Zionist Declaration of Independence which promises equal rights to all regardless of religion. As if they don’t recognize that Israel has never honored that document.
So again the question rears its ugly head: what will they do? Will you mouth platitudes or take real concrete action? We all know the answer. The Diaspora communal leadership has never considered going it alone. It could never fully sever ties to Israel. It could never refuse collaboration or punish Israel for offenses, no matter how grave. Diaspora has always accepted its secondary status in the Jewish pantheon. It might not admit it is secondary. But when pushes came to shove is always accepted Israeli supremacy. Not all of the Diaspora, but certainly the key leaders and groups, especially those affiliated with the Israel Lobby.
Personally, I doubt these individuals will ever develop a spine, that they will ever declare their Jewish independence. If we Jews ever wish to establish our own agency we will have to overthrow the old dinosaur leaderships, establish new institutions, or wait until the Old Guard withers and dies.
As I wrote, many of these provisions of the new law were observed de facto in practice by the Israeli government. We all knew it was racist; an apartheid state. But until now, Israel could reject such claims and declare itself a secular democracy in the western style. No longer. It is not a democracy. Some might argue it never was. Others that it stopped being a true democracy in 1967 or later. I personally believe it has ceased being so for decades. So if Israeli democracy was dead, it is even deader than dead (if that’s possible). Instead of a few solid nails in the coffin, there are now scores of them sealing the coffin shut.
There may still be a safety valve, a fail-safe mechanism to save the State from its worst instincts. The Israeli Supreme Court may review the law. It may find the entire Law or parts of it illegal. If so, some of the provisions may be eliminated. But the Court is a shadow of its former self. It now features settler justices and far-right legal figures who endorse the worst aspects of Israeli nationalism. Though the far-right parties still chafe under the Court’s annoyances, even they would have to admit it is largely toothless and eyeless. So don’t look to the Court for redemption. At best, it will throw out a few of the worst clauses. Its ultimate goal is to preserve Judeo-supremacy in Israel, while being able to say to the world it exercised judicial restraint upon those worst impulses. It’s akin to a Roman emperor after giving thumbs down throughout a bloody afternoon at the Forum, sentencing gladiators to death with aplomb, then deciding at the very end of the day, that he needed to show a modicum of mercy, giving the last victim a thumb’s up. Thus, he could have it both ways, enjoy the mayhem while being able to say to his subjects that he was a merciful ruler.
Contemporary Israel is a maw of human suffering masked by a thin veneer of pseudo-democracy.