Israeli court rejects Israeli nationality, saying it could undermine Jewish character. Israel’s population registry lists a slew of “nationalities” and ethnicities, among them Jew, Arab, Druze and more. But one word is conspicuously absent from the list: Israeli.
In its 26-page ruling, the court explained that doing so would have “weighty implications” on the state of Israel and could pose a danger to Israel’s founding principle: to be a Jewish state for the Jewish people.
The decision touches on a central debate in Israel, which considers itself both Jewish and democratic yet has struggled to balance both. The country has not officially recognized an Israeli nationality.
The ruling was a response to a demand by 21 Israelis, most of whom are officially registered as Jews, that the court decide whether they can be listed as Israeli in the registry. The group had argued that without a secular Israeli identity, Israeli policies will favor Jews and discriminate against minorities.
Judaism plays a central role in Israel. Religious holidays are also national holidays, and religious authorities oversee many ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals. Yet since Israel’s establishment in 1948, a distinct Israeli nationality has emerged, including foods, music and culture, and for most Jews, compulsory military service. While roughly half of Israel’s Jewish population define themselves first and foremost as Jewish, 41 percent of Israelis identify themselves as Israeli, according to the Israel Democracy Institute, a think-tank.
In the Supreme Court case, the 21 petitioners argued that Israel is not democratic because it is Jewish. They say that the country’s Arab minority faces discrimination because certain policies favor Jews and that a shared Israeli nationality could bring an end to such prejudice and unite all of Israel’s citizens.
“The Jewish identity is anti-democratic,” said Uzzi Ornan, the main petitioner who runs “I am Israeli,” a small organization devoted to having the Israeli nationality officially recognized.
“With an Israeli identity, we can be secure in our democracy, secure in equality between all citizens,” said Ornan, a 90-year-old professor of computational linguistics at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
Adapted from http://www.washingtonpost.com/
world/middle_east/israeli- court-rejects-israeli- nationality-saying-it-could- undermine-jewish-character/ 2013/10/04/2a409724-2cbe-11e3- b141-298f46539716_story.html