In Israel there was a huge rally this weekend. In Tel Aviv on Saturday night thousands gathered against proposed legislation there to create a loyalty oath to the state of Israel. This is aimed at making life uncomfortable for all those who are not Jewish. Read the Haaretz account. The oath would have all non-Jews (primarily read: ARAB) affirm loyalty to the Jewish state. This was part of a promise that Benjamin Netanyahu made to Avigdor Lieberman of the Israel Beiteynu party to form his coalition government. Lieberman has been at the heart of several controversial issues regarding Arabs in Israel and well as liberal Jews. Lieberman has long advocated an idea of “transfer”. Literally to transfer Arab citizens of Israel to Palestinian territories. And now his advocacy of this loyalty oath is a continuation of this policy.
The gist of the legislation is that if you cannot uphold the Jewish ideal of the state of Israel you would be denied citizenship. This puts the bind on Israeli Arab citizens from the start. Israel does allow non-Jews to live in Israel and to be citizens. This loyalty oath would create even further divisions and inflame an already difficult and sensitive situation. But this is Lieberman’s modus operandi. He likes stirring the pot. And sadly, he is in a political position to bring continued harm by stirring the pot.
The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the largest and oldest association of Rabbis in North America stated recently on the topic of the loyalty oath; “It would turn Israel into the very kind of country which historically Jews themselves have rightly cursed for their unequal treatment of non-Christians and non-Muslims.”
The Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, and the government officials can’t really believe that this kind of legislation will help move the peace process along. I believe in a Jewish democratic Israel. But loyalty oaths do not make for good democracy of any kind.
If I had been in Tel Aviv Saturday night I would have been at this protest.