Jewish Nation, or Israeli Nation

A cadre of 21 radical Left Wing activists have appealed to the Supreme Court to recognize them as belonging to the “Israeli Nation”. That is, they want to be recognized as “Israeli” on their national ID cards. As of now, Jewish citizens of Israel are registered as “Jewish,” Christians and Muslims as “Arab,” and non-Jews who have Israeli citizenship are listed by the nationality of their country of origin.

Of the 130 possible nationalities available for Israeli citizens on their ID cards, “Israeli” is actually not one of them.

This appeal may seem logical and just, and observed from afar it definitely is. Why can’t people who live in Israel be defined as “Israeli?” What, indeed, is the problem with that? Nothing on the face of it.

The plaintiffs are a mix of extreme left wing activists including Uzi Ornan, former leader of the Canaanite movement which sought to deny all Jewish identity, and former Meretz party leader Shulamit Aloni. But why should this be an exclusively Left Wing mission? What does the Left have to do with it?

The answer is simple. There is an internal war of values going on in Israel since its founding. The old Zionism states that upon creation of the State of Israel, Judaism was no longer relevant. All Israelis became “Zionists,” the old “Jewish Question” was answered with the new Zionists, and the ancient people could finally shed their millenia-old identity that separated them from the rest of the world as they wandered through it, stateless and marked as the “chosen people”. Now that they had a state, the rest of the world would leave them alone, and anti-Semitism would not only end, it would have no target in the first place.

This of course didn’t end up working so well. Jews continued their customs, wore their star of David necklaces, wore their kippot, said the Shma prayer and put up their wooden mezuzahs and such, and continued to identify as Jews. The meaning of this appeal is another effort to shed Jewish identity and to set up “Israeli” as the new definition of the new Jew that anti-Semitism will no longer affect. If Arabs, Jews, Druse, and Christians are all primarily “Israeli”, then there is no identifiable Jew anymore, and that’s what they want. You can’t blame them. It’s an interesting tactic to being accepted by the community of nations, finally.

Judge Noam Solberg, who rejected a similar appeal in 2000, said it succinctly. “It is not at all the same to recognize Israeli nationality for a Jew as it is for members of other nations.” In other words, “Israeli” is something only applicable to Jews, and is unnatural when forced on other peoples. It is a fake, plastic term that is attempting to hide what cannot be hidden or denied – and that is Jewishness.

The appelants say it perfectly. The purpose of the Jewish community in Israel is to “establish the state and become like all other nations standing in its own right in its sovereign state.” Like all other nations. That’s why they want a national name. Israeli. Jewish is too…Jewish. As Judge Solberg put it, “one is led to believe that what they (the appelants) are really interested in is not population registry, which is hidden from the public eye, but a public declaration by the court and the recognition of the general public that an “Israeli nationality” has been created.”