THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
HOW WE PERCEIVE ISRAEL

‘Jewish and democratic’ state? Can’t have it both ways

October 13, 2010

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RE “ISRAEL OKs loyalty bill, angering Arabs’’ (Page A3, Oct. 11): The decision by Israel’s Cabinet to approve a bill requiring all new citizens, including non-Jewish spouses of Israelis who wish to become citizens, to pledge a loyalty oath to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic’’ state is reminiscent of efforts made in this country in the 19th and early 20th centuries to declare the United States to be a Christian nation. We rejected that idea then, and Israel should do the same now.

The phrase itself is an oxymoron. How can a state openly favor one ethnic group over all others and declare itself to be democratic? As the Associated Press article points out, while Arab citizens of Israel do have some measures of equality — the right to vote and send representatives to the Knesset, to travel, and to collect social benefits — “they have long experienced discrimination and second-class status’’ in the acquisition and enjoyment of property rights, in social mobility, and in other less visible ways. Israel must decide whether it wishes to favor a single religious-ethnic minority or to be truly democratic. It cannot have it both ways.

George Dargo
Brookline

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