The European Union of Jewish Students is saddened and disappointed by the Nation-State Bill passed in the Knesset – 18th to 19th of July. The Bill that will become part of Israel's Basic Laws is only the latest and most alarming of a series of steps that will de facto erode Israel's liberal democratic nature.
At a time when populism and xenophobia are on the rise in Europe, many Jews look to Israel as a place of refuge. To see populism and xenophobia fueling political decision-making in Israel is thus only the more deplorable as we see the bill contradicts the very values, rights and protections that diaspora communities fight for daily in their respective countries.
As diaspora Jewish youth, Israel holds a unique place in our hearts and common consciousness. Israel - the one Jewish State - is the embodiment of our self-determination, the home of many of our families, our safe haven. It is also a place that we often idealize: the unlikely story of the only democracy in the Middle-East has inspired many of us throughout our Jewish journeys. The Jewish essence of Eretz Israel is self-evident to us; it has been self-evident to the Jewish people during 2000 years of exile; it has been self-evident to those who have returned to the historical homeland, who have worked the land, and made "the deserts bloom"; it has been self-evident to those who, 70 years ago declared Israel's Independence; and it has been self-evident to all Israeli citizens ever since.
It is because of our care for Israel that we cannot stand by when Israel makes explicit efforts of othering its non-Jewish citizens. These citizens not only contribute to Israel's economy, defence and everyday life, but comprise the core fabric of what the country is: a melting pot of diversity.
The Nation-State Bill, downgrades Arabic from "official language" to "special status language" and encourages the segregationist "development of Jewish settlement as a national value". It also undermines efforts towards a Two-State solution - the most widely accepted and endorsed vision for eventual peace - through its Articles 1.C. and 3. referring to Jerusalem and the right to self-determination as being exclusively Jewish prerogatives.
The Nation State Bill has a strong focus on the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora. It mandates that "The state shall act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people among Jews in the Diaspora." Like any relationship, the tie between Israel and the Diaspora community must be a partnership, based on shared values and with mutual expectations. The European Union of Jewish Students, reflecting Europe's Jewish youth community, values diversity and inclusiveness. We take pride in promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue and work everyday to bring European minorities closer together. As we cherish Israel's commitment to the Diaspora, we expect it to uphold these basic and necessary values.