Thursday, October 3, 2013

Israel's Supreme Court denies the existence of an Israeli people

The Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a ruling that in my opinion is problematic and quite revealing about the present state of affairs in the 'Jewish state'. In a case brought before them by a group of Israelis who requested to be allowed to change the ethnic registration on their identity cards from “Jewish” to “Israeli”, the judges decided that ''there is no proof of the existence of a uniquely “Israeli” people''. They also said that the issue is not for the court to decide.
Their decision upheld an earlier ruling from 2008 by their colleague, Noam Sohlberg, who - then a Jerusalem District Court judge - had rejected the group’s petition. Sohlberg at the time stated that “the requested declaration has a public, ideological, social, historic and political character – but not a legal one. This isn’t a technical issue of registration in the Population Registry, but a request that the court determine that in the State of Israel a new peoplehood has been formed, common to all its residents and citizens, called ‘Israeli.’ This issue is a national-political-social question and it is not the court’s place to decide it.”

The main appellant in the case was Prof. Uzzi Ornan (90), a linguist who has long battled to separate religion and state. His original request was rejected, but in 2007 he submitted an appeal to the Jerusalem District Court, together with other Israeli's like Uri Avnery, Shulamit Aloni, Prof. Itamar Even-Zohar, Prof. Yosef Agassi, singer Alon Olearchik and playwright Joshua Sobol. In the appeal the group reasoned that an Israeli people was formed with the establishment of the State of Israel and that rejecting the existence of such a people is like rejecting the existence of the State of Israel as a democratic, sovereign state. They added that this was indeed a legal question that the courts could not avoid.
Ornan expressed his disappointment with the Supreme Court's ruling by saying that the court in effect ''ignores the obligations included in Israel's Declaration of Independence, which promises full equality among all the state’s citizens, regardless of religion, race or gender”.He pointed to the fact that the consensus that has developed in present governments in Israel simply ignores the existence of an Israeli people, so as to ''enable the Jewish majority to have full control over the country and to operate not for the benefit of Israeli citizens but for the benefit of the current political majority among the Jews''.
I believe prof. Ornan and his colleagues are completely right. Denying the existence of an Israeli people is tantamount to denying  that Israel is the state of all its inhabitants. So much for the ''Jewish and democratic character of the state''. The court's ruling proves once more that the hollowness of this slogan. The Supreme Court missed a golden opportunity to turn the tables and rectify the neglect of the Isareli Declaration of Independence regarding this matter.

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