The Dangers of Nationalism based on Religion

Responding to: The ‘Jewish state bill’ doesn’t matter to us, Palestinians

Original Article By: Waad Ghantous – November 27th, 2014  

The recent passing of the “Jewish nation-state” bill within Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet has sparked intense debate regarding the treatment of Palestinian citizens living in the state of Israel. The bill still needs to be endorsed by the Israeli parliament, but as the author of the article suggests, the contents of the bill simply ratify the lived experience of Palestinian citizens. The reasoning behind this suggestion is based on the opinion that the new bill is “largely devoid of practical content”. The new bill declares the state of Israel as existing solely for the Jewish people, much to the concern of the Arabs living within Israel’s border (comprising 20% of the population).

According to the article, concern for displaced persons was absent in debates within Netanyahu’s cabinet. Instead, the cabinet’s discussion centered on the state’s Declaration of Independence, as well as the “founding ideology of Zionism”. These actions can be taken as evidence of a larger trend of discrimination against Arab citizens, which has been prevalent since the inception of the Jewish state in 1948. With the passing of the “Jewish nation-state bill”, the concept of equal participation from Palestinian individuals within the borders of Israel is exposed as a longstanding façade. The author’s biography at the outset of the article identifies her as a “Palestinian activist”, explaining the general negative tone taken towards Israel throughout the article

The “Jewish nation-state” bill is particularly relevant to the discussion of religion and nationalism as discussed in lectures for RELS 349. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s policies appear to be inherently religious in defining the state of Israel as being an exclusively Jewish state. The intent of these policies is not entirely clear, but one can surmise that Netanyahu hopes to strengthen the morale of Jews living in Israel by redefining the state. This goal is clearly based on the Jewish religion as well a particular vision of nationalism, and it stands to undermine Israel’s image as the only liberal democracy in the Middle East. This new bill only legitimizes the palpable discrimination that Arab citizens face on a daily basis.

It is regretfully beyond the scope of this blog to analyze the validity of ancestral land claims made by either the Palestinian / Arab or Jewish populations. For our purposes, we can see how Netanyahu’s nationalistic oriented policies are religiously motivated. The impacts of these policies are debatable given Israel’s historical treatment of Arab citizens. The ideologically motivated policy that is the “Jewish nation-state” bill is undoubtedly going to call further scrutiny upon the treatment of Palestinian citizens residing in Israel, and will likely spark further conflict between the opposing groups. As alluded to in lectures, these types of religiously motivated nationalistic policies are almost inherently violent, and the Israel example will likely not be significantly different.

#349 #uwreligions


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