It’s not political… but it kind of really is

28 Feb

by Ilan Bloch

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Image courtesy of https://he.wikipedia.org

Recently I participated in a professional development day of learning for Israel educators. One of the speakers there explained that his organization had an agenda – it is a Zionist organization, and that it should not need to apologize for that. Moreover, he said that his organization believes in Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and that it should not need to apologize for that. He added that this is not at all a political statement; being Zionist, his organization supports the Declaration of Independence and this includes the idea that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.

But, in the context of Israeli politics of the last few years and the proposed legislation Basic Law: Israel – the nation-state of the Jewish people:

  • which enshrines the establishment of communities based on an ethnic or religious character as a quasi-constitutional right, and
  • which specifically doesn’t include mention of equality of all citizens (even though the Declaration of Independence does!) or the embrace of democracy as a supreme value, and
  • notwithstanding sophisticated amendments to its wording brought yesterday, cancels the status of Arabic as an official language, and
  • notwithstanding the removal of the clause requiring judges to consider Jewish law in their judgments when no statute, precedent or analogy exists (and instead enshrining in a Basic Law the provisions of the Foundations of Law Act (1980)),

to state that an organization believes in Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and doesn’t need to apologize for this is, by definition, a political statement. In the context of Israeli current affairs to present such as otherwise is ideologically and educationally disingenuous!

One could also quote the Declaration of Independence:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,”

using this clause as an apparent proof-text for numerous liberal-left policy principles and then suggest that your organization is not political; it simply believes in the Declaration of Independence and shouldn’t need to apologize for this. In the context of Israeli current affairs this too would be ideologically and educationally disingenuous!

I am not arguing for or against the proposed legislation; I am arguing against Israel educators who present right-wing positions as consensus Zionist positions or ideas which should accepted as a given. And then they wonder why so many American Jewish youth and students become disillusioned and feel they have been brainwashed.

Ilan Bloch is a licensed Israeli tour guide. 

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