“Israel’s Nation State Law: Is it Good for the Jews?”

The Humanistic Jewish Havurah of Southwest Florida invites you to a discussion with Israeli journalist Amir Tibon on Sunday afternoon, March 17. Mr. Tibon covers Washington, D.C., for Haaretz. His topic will be “Israel’s Nation State Law: Is it Good for the Jews?”

The meeting begins at 1:30 p.m. with coffee and chat in the David G. Willens Community Room of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, 2500 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Suite 2201, Naples. Mr. Tibon will begin his conversation with us, via skype, promptly at 2:00 p.m. Reservations are required, so please contact Dena Sklaroff at denas27@aol.com or 239.591.0101.

Before moving to Washington in 2017, Amir lived for two years in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, the closest place in Israel to the Gaza Strip. He is the co-author of The Last Palestinian, a biography of Mahmoud Abbas, published in July 2017. Amir’s writing on Israel and the Middle East has appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Atlantic, Politico Magazine, The New Yorker, The New Republic and The Jerusalem Post. He has been interviewed on CNN, Al-Jazeera, CBS and MSNBC.

On July 25, 2018, following months of controversy and nearly seven years of heated debate, the Knesset adopted a new Basic Law titled “Israel - The Nation State of the Jewish People” by a vote of 62-55. Since Israel has no written constitution, the Basic Law provides legal statements outlining the rights of the individual and fundamental principles of the state that are expected to be incorporated into a formal constitution if one is approved.

The law is now one of more than a dozen Basic Laws that can only be amended by a majority in the Knesset. Two others, on human dignity and on liberty and freedom of occupation, both enacted in the 1990s, address the values of the state as both Jewish and democratic.

Since Israel was established, it has grappled with the inherent tensions between its dual aspirations of being both a Jewish and democratic state. The new law, portrayed by proponents as restoring that balance in the aftermath of judicial rulings that favored democratic values, nonetheless struck critics as an effort to tip the scales sharply toward Jewishness.

Its passage demonstrated the ascendancy of ultranationalists in Israel’s government who have been emboldened by the gains of similarly nationalist and populist movements in Europe and elsewhere, as Mr. Netanyahu has increasingly embraced illiberal democracies like that of Hungary, whose far-right prime minister, Viktor Orban, arrived in Jerusalem for a friendly visit only hours before the vote.

Moments after the vote, Arab lawmakers ripped up copies of the bill while crying out, “Apartheid!”

A flood of criticism also followed from groups outside Israel and from Jews in the diaspora. The European Union said the law could harm prospects of a two-state solution. The Anti-Defamation League said there were problematic elements in the law that might lead some to question Israel’s commitment to pluralism.

The Jewish Federations of North America decried the clause stipulating only Jews have a right to self-determination in Israel. “Jewish Federations stand shoulder to shoulder with the Druze community and urge Israeli legislators to work with the community as soon as possible to address their very real concerns.”

The Reform Movements in North America and Israel feel the bill causes “real damage to marginalized communities within Israel and to the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.”

 In the face of these objections, the Havurah is providing an opportunity to learn more about this topic from a noted Israeli. Come learn about this law from another perspective.