Zvi Bar’el, Meet Israel’s Founding Document

The subheadline of a Nov. 19 Haaretz Op-Ed by Zvi Bar’el doesn’t leave much room for the imagination: “The racist bill, if it passes, will only dress the loathsome practices of the last generation in a clean white suit.” The bill in question is the proposed Basic Law: Israel – the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

If the heading wasn’t clear enough, the Op-Ed opens by quoting the character of Adolf Hitler from the play “Good” by C.P. Taylor. The stage is thus set. After voicing legitimate criticism of the proposed bill, Bar’el explains why this is not only an anti-Arab bill:

This law, by the way, does not spare those Jews who innocently believe that it is aimed only at Arabs. It also proposes that Israel become a halakhic state, one based on Jewish law. “Israel will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel,” it states. Jewish law will be a source of inspiration for legislators and judges, and in the absence of case law or “pronounced inference,” the courts will make decisions based on “the principles of liberty, justice, integrity, and peace of the Jewish heritage.” (Emphasis added)

To further underscore just how repugnant the bill is (because sometimes invoking Hitler isn’t enough), he explains:

“The Egyptian constitution, which states that “Sharia [Islamic law] will be the primary source for legislation,” and the Saudi Arabian constitution, which makes it clear that the Koran is its constitution, will now be joined by the Israeli nationality law. Perhaps this is the covenant of brotherhood with the “moderate” Arab states that our prime minister has been talking about.

But what exactly is the vision of the prophets and who will be the sages to interpret the words of the prophets? Most important, what principles of justice and peace are the Jews of Israel meant to rely on, when the bill itself eliminates them?

CAMERA would like to introduce Bar’el to two texts he appears to have missed. The first is the Declaration of Establishment of State of Israel, as famously read by no less a religious fanatic than David Ben-Gurion:

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; (Emphasis)

(In the original Hebrew version of Bar’el’s Op-Ed, the wording of the bill exactly matches the Declaration of Establishment.) While the legal status of the Declaration of Establishment in internal Israeli law is unclear, it is doubtful that the proposed bill would have any practical impact since both Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation state in their first paragraph that “these rights shall be upheld in the spirit of the principles set forth in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.”

CAMERA would also like to introduce Bar’el to the Foundations of Law legislation from 1980:

Where the court, faced with a legal question requiring decision, finds no answer to it in statute law or case-law or by analogy, it shall decide it in the light of the principles of freedom, justice, equity and peace of Israel’s heritage.

In short, the so-called “racist” law Bar’el believes will bring Israel to a “halakhic” state has been on the books since 1980. Needless to say, the preexisting legislation with the nearly identical language of the new bill has not turned Israel into a state based on Jewish law.
The only difference between the proposed bill and its predecessors is that the former states that Jewish law can be an inspiration for legislators in addition to the courts. Furthermore, it is also interesting to note who formulated the original Foundations of Law act whose wording so upsets Bar’el. The law was formulated by the renowned liberal Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and Israel’s Minister of Justice Shmuel Tamir. Since 1980 onwards the exact interpretation of the law has been an issue of debate, and there is no reason to think that would change if it becomes enshrined in the proposed Basic Law.
Thus, Bar’el’s argument that the proposed bill would transform Israel into a “halakhic” state is based on his own ignorance of Israel’s Declaration of Establishment and a 34-year-old law.
For the Hebrew version of this article, please see Presspectiva.

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