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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/25/18

Israel Illegally Enshrines Apartheid in Its "Basic Law"

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Israeli Knesset Adopts Jewish Nation-State Law
Israeli Knesset Adopts Jewish Nation-State Law
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On July 19, 2018, the Israeli Knesset enacted a law that illegally enshrines a system of apartheid. The legislation, which has the force of a constitutional amendment, strips away any pretense that Israel is a democracy. Moreover, it violates customary and treaty-based international law.

The "Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People" says, "The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination." It continues, "The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people."

Absent is any guarantee of self-determination for the 1.8 million Arabs who comprise 20 percent of Israel's population. But, "we refuse to be second-class citizens," said Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, the Palestinian parties in the Knesset. Odeh added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's regime is "digging a deep pit of fear, racism and authoritarianism to divide us from each other. But they can never erase us from the homeland we share."

Members of the Knesset -- Israel's parliament -- had tried for seven years to enact such a law. Although Barack Obama, like US presidents before him, supported Israel's apartheid policies, Donald Trump took that support to a new level by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017.

In spite of the well-established status of East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, the Basic Law states, "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel."

Adding insult to injury, the new law proclaims Hebrew the official language of Israel, with Arabic granted "a special status."

Only Jews are welcome to emigrate to Israel under this law. And it purports to legalize the illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land, stating, "The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation."

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, declared that the new law "entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality."

In a statement analyzing the law, Adalah refuted Israel's claim of being a democracy: "No country in the world today is defined as a democratic state where the constitutional identity is determined by ethnic affiliation that overrides the principle of equal citizenship."

Although Israel has long practiced discrimination against Palestinians, the Basic Law will pose obstacles to litigation in support of human rights. "It will make it much harder for us to challenge any cases of discrimination against Palestinians, because this racist notion of Judaization will become a constitutional norm," Adalah attorney Suhad Bishara said. "Before this law, there have been opportunities to challenge these practices based on constitutional norms. This space to challenge will disappear, because Jewish superiority is now constitutional."

The Basic Law Violates Customary and Treaty-Based International Law

Israel's Basic Law violates several treaties as well as customary international law.

Moreover, the prohibition against apartheid is so serious that -- like slavery, torture, genocide and wars of aggression -- it is considered a jus cogens prohibition. Jus cogens is a peremptory norm, the highest form of customary international law. Countries cannot pass legislation that violates a jus cogens prohibition. The Basic Law enshrines a system of apartheid in Israel and is thus prohibited by jus cogens.

The new law violates the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid; the United Nations Charter; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the Fourth Geneva Convention; and the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.

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Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and a member of the National Advisory Board of Veterans for Peace. Her most recent book is Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. See  (more...)

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