On the morning of Thursday 19/7/2018, the Israeli Knesset passed “The Nationality Law”, which has raised many questions on the law and its ramifications and impacts. Despite that the majority of analysis and reviews of the law addressed its ramifications on Palestinians in the 1948 territories, this paper will review the law and its impact on Palestinians in general, as a cause, narrative and policy.
This paper also focuses on clarifying the importance of refuting the notion that the law mainly impacts the 1948 Palestinians, and the danger of limiting the impact of such a basic and vital law to Palestinians in the 1948 territories, particularly since it does not define the borders of “the State of Israel” where the right to self-determination is exclusive to Jews. In the first article, the law considers “the land of Israel” as “the birthplace of the Jewish people” and where they built “the State of Israel.”
The law does not define the borders of the state of Israel, but rather identifies its location in the land of Israel, which includes the West Bank, the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, Hebron and Galilee. Accordingly, the law is applicable to the whole of historic Palestine, and not only limited to the 1948 territories, the West Bank or other areas. It considers the land of Israel as a single unit on which their state was established with undefined borders, which is expanding through colonialism over Palestine based on experience and history.
The Law: Between Incomplete Citizenship and Denying Overall Existence
There aren’t any immediate ramifications that could be identified as a result of the law. At the same time, the law impacts all direct in-kind ramifications of any law or any other case.
Unlike other laws, this law does not impact a single aspect of life, nor does it address a single issue and cannot be limited to a single aspect of life; it impacts all laws, judicial decisions, and everything that regulates daily life and political issues. A more accurate description is that this law is above constitutional; it is involved in the interpretation and amendment of all preceding and subsequent laws. For example, in each case that poses the question of “democracy” or “Judaism”, the answer would always be the preference of Judaism over the principles of democracy, starting with budgets and discrimination in their allocation between Arabs and Jews, to the displacement of Arabs from their homes in order to house Jews. This is what makes the law very special, as it has the ability to overturn the “balance” that was based on a political level, and in some judicial interpretations and cases, between the Judaism and democracy of Israel.
In practice, such a balance had never existed. Almost all human rights organizations all over Palestine have sought and called for such a balance, particularly in cases of land, housing and rights and freedoms. Moreover, all political representatives in the 1948 territories have become active through such a balance.
In this context, when the discussion is on the principle of democracy and the Judaism of the state, the law favors Judaism over democracy in almost all aspects of life, including human rights and politics. The law divides the Palestinian status into two aspects: first, incomplete individual citizenship for Palestinians in the 1948 territories, where Judaism shall prevail should it contradict with democracy by annulling the second in favor of the first. Second, all collective rights of Palestinians in general in Palestinian lands shall be abolished, mainly their right to political self-determination, and settlement construction all over Palestine, in Negev and Hebron alike, shall be of high national value.
Furthermore, the law is not limited to one aspect of life, and is generalized on all aspects of Israeli political and judicial behavior towards Palestinians. Limiting the ramifications of the law to Palestinians in the 1948 territories is undermining the law and its ramifications. Palestinians in the occupied territories have the responsibility to challenge the law, at a time when it impacts the Palestinian version of the story, which includes Palestinians all around the world.
Although the law does not define, for example, the borders of “the Jewish State” and identifies the land of Israel as the land of historic Palestine and even Jordan on which to expand the Jewish state, including Jerusalem which constitutes 10% of the West Bank. The composition of the Israeli policy that supported, submitted and passed the law has its own clear agendas, ambitions and policies: Greater Israel. This is confirmed by the continued endeavors to annex the West Bank to Israeli sovereignty; settlement activity in the West Bank, Golan Heights and Negev; the recommendations of the ruling party “Likud” members to annex the West Bank; settlers’ control over the government leaders and policies; opposition that refuses withdrawal from the West Bank and supports the annexation of “settlement blocs” … etc. These are all indicators that Israel seeks to generalize its legal sovereignty over all Palestinian territories, which makes the law another tool towards realizing “Greater Israel”.
Limiting the law to the occupied territories is misled interpretation, undermining of its ramifications and avoidance of the responsibility to challenge it and develop policies to face its objectives.
Between Collective and Individual Rights: Abolishing Palestinians as a Political Cause
In the objections on the law, many have noted that what the law presents is already adopted in the Israeli “Declaration of Independence” and adds nothing new.
On the other hand, those who are in favor of the law noted that it complements the missing aspects of the Declaration of Independence, which stipulates that “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...”
At a first glance, it seems that there is contradiction between favoritism for Judaism and the text of the Declaration of Independence in terms of equal rights to all citizens. However, in reality, the law and declaration complement each other: individual rights are guaranteed, but the right to collective self-determination is exclusive to Jews. This means that Israel has no problem with Palestinian Arabs claiming their rights so long as their rights, aspirations, existence, claims and even dream do not contradict with Zionism.
In other words, there is no problem with equality as long as such equality is not collective, nationalistic, liberal or against the idea of a state for Jews. It is also deemed equality in the Zionist project and the Jewish State: equality for individuals in a state that provides privileges to Jews.
The law again addresses 1948 Palestinians and the limitations of the citizenship they carry as individual citizenship. However, it impacts the Palestinian national movement in general by identifying the right as an individual right of Palestinians in the 1948 territories and abolishes it for Palestinians as a whole, particularly in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the diaspora. The law, once again, stipulates that Jews have an exclusive right to return to the state of Israel, but when it deals with non-Jewish citizens, it only gives them individual rights. The law characterizes non-Jewish people who do not have citizenship as completely invisible: they have no right to self-determination despite their physical presence; they have no civil rights despite their presence in territories under the sovereignty of the Jewish state; and they have no rights in politics, which is already abolished as a result of abolishing the right to self-determination.
The law establishes incomplete citizenship of 1948 Palestinians, while also establishing the complete abolishment of Palestinians in territories other than the 1948. If the Palestinian national movement, led by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, does not understand to this moment that the law legitimizes the abolishment of their political existence and the rights of the people it represents, then it must understand that the law at its core aims to abolish the Palestinian political version of the story; the right to the land of Palestine and self-determination on this land.
In fact, the law establishes Israeli politics over territories under Israeli sovereignty, which extend throughout historic Palestine on land, air and sea, and thus establishes Jews’ exclusive right to return.
The Law: A Message with Multiple Subjects
For Israel to pass such a law is a clear message that amounts to the ethnic racism in it against all without any exception is on the one hand a response to all those who call and struggle for complete citizenship, and on the other hand, it is a response to those who call for a political entity and self-determination for the Palestinian people. It is also a response to those who have hopes to change Israel from within, and those who believe that Israel could relinquish its racist and colonial ideology or withdraw from key parts of “the land of Israel”.
From such messages, one can understand that the law does not exclude any Palestinians, regardless of their location in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, the diaspora or the 1948 territories. It rather includes all Palestinians living under the Zionist occupation and its different systems, each in the political conditions they live in.
In this context, limiting this issue to the 1948 territories undermines responding, challenging and preparing for what is to come; for it would be incomplete and futile. We cannot, under any circumstances, challenge the law while wrongly interpreting it. Our understanding of the law infers our understanding of the mechanisms to challenge it, and vice versa. In fact, such a law constitutes an important additional step towards abolishing the Palestinian existence in several aspects: historical narrative, status, rights, politics, land and sovereignty.
It is worth noting that such a law serves several Israeli needs: the need to codify and legislate the requisition of land it has been practicing in the West Bank since 1967, and transform settlement outposts deemed illegal in the Israeli law into a high national value lawfully, thus encourage the establishment of additional outposts on “the land of Israel”; legislate and codify discrimination; and the ability to displace and expel any person who does not agree with the definition and practice of Jews’ exclusive right to self-determination and well as to determine the destiny of non-Jews in historic Palestine.
Exploring Privacy Once More as Grounds to Challenge the Law
Ahead of such a message, political inactivity constitutes another pathway towards suicide. Throughout the experience of the Palestinian people, Israel follows this approach: it occupies and then negotiates; constructs and then seeks legitimacy; allows the distribution of weapons in the 1948 territories and then builds police centers; works on infrastructure and highways from the Jordan Valley to the coastline and then discusses “the annexation law”; displaces over 500 Palestinian villages and then displays itself as a state of law and democracy; practices all kinds of ethnic cleansing, displacement, racism and marginalization and then legitimizes such practices through “the Nationality Law”. Therefore, such a law for Israel is the final step through which it legalizes all its practices and procedures implemented by force on the grounds throughout time.
Accordingly, the key question would be: What comes next after the right to self-determination on the land of historic Palestine has been made exclusive to Jews through the passing of this law?
This is unequivocal, the right to determine the destiny of non-Jews on the land of Palestine is exclusive to the Jewish State, which has been proven by Israel throughout over 70 years of occupation on the land of Palestine.
Limiting the repercussions of the law to the 1948 territories, or overlooking its repercussions on the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the diaspora is abandonment of the responsibility on everyone, as well as the more important dimension: dealing with such an above constitutional law in terms of the special conditions and political situation of 1948 Palestinians would only lead to deepening the crisis that should be addressed in the first place. The first message of the law is to eliminate any grounds for citizenship that Palestinians have long sought in the 1948 territories. The solution seems to be calling for leaving the Knesset, civil disobedience in the 1948 territories, or many other solutions that are limited to the 1948 territories instead of Palestinian politicians addressing such an issue from the perspective of Palestinian unity.
The key message of the law is: unity of Jews and exclusive Jewish politics over the land of Palestine. The response to such a message comes with even further fragmentation and individual political behavior divided based on territories and communities is another step back to seek Israeli democracy once more instead of a united political destiny, while stressing on the political destiny of Palestinians: one destiny, one decision, one strategy, and one agreed upon objective, as well as a single Palestinian political institution with a unified decision that determines the destiny of Palestinians in the Negev, Galilee, Beirut, Jordan and Gaza. This would be possible should the political will exist to review the biggest mistake in history: excluding Palestinians of the 1948 territories from the cause and the Palestinian political system as a whole, and leaving them to the Israeli context where the incomplete citizenship is established through “the Jewish Nationality” law and “Arab Nationality” is denied on the land of Palestine.