If there were an annual award for hypocrisy, the Israeli leftists now protesting a proposed amendment to the Citizenship Law would surely have this year’s title sewed up. The rhetoric has been utterly over the top: the Association for Civil Rights in Israel called the amendment “anti-democratic”; author Sefi Rachlevsky termed it “fascist”; Prof. Gavriel Solomon even compared it to the Nazis’ Nuremberg Laws.
Here are the actual facts. The amendment would require naturalized citizens, who are currently required to take an oath of allegiance only to the State of Israel, to instead swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” That phrase first entered the law books in 1992, when two new Basic Laws on human rights defined the country as a “Jewish and democratic state.”
According to both Israel’s Supreme Court and to all the leftists now vigorously protesting the proposed amendment, the 1992 Basic Laws are part of Israel’s constitution: they supersede all ordinary legislation, and the Supreme Court has the right to overturn ordinary legislation that it deems in contravention of the Basic Laws. Indeed, the only people who challenge the Basic Laws’ constitutional status are conservatives, who argue that laws passed by less than a quarter of the Knesset do not meet the minimal procedural requirements for constitutional legislation.
But if you assume, as the entire left does, that these laws are part of Israel’s constitution, then the proposed amendment does nothing more than require naturalized citizens to swear allegiance to Israel’s constitution.
And that, needless to say, is no more than virtually every other Western democracy requires. The U.S., for instance, requires naturalized citizens to swear to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Indeed, the U.S. goes well beyond that: it also, for instance, requires naturalized citizens to commit to do both army service and civilian national service “when required by the law.” Israel requires no such pledge of its naturalized citizens.
So why do Israeli leftists object to something so seemingly innocuous? Because many of those who would be required to take the new oath are Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs and then seek Israeli citizenship. These Palestinians object to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, as do their Israeli Arab partners. Leftists thus argue that the law is discriminatory, forcing naturalized Palestinians to swear allegiance to something that violates their own beliefs.
But there’s a very simple answer to that. If you can’t bring yourself to swear allegiance to the constitution of the country you’re seeking to become a citizen of, you don’t deserve to be given citizenship. That’s the rule throughout the democratic world, and there’s no reason why Israel should be an exception. And in Israel’s case, swearing allegiance to the constitution means acknowledging the country as a “Jewish and democratic state.”
It takes real creativity to portray an oath of allegiance to the constitution as “fascist.” But then no one ever accused the Israeli left of lacking creativity.