On July 19, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted into law the Nation-State Bill. As Israel has never had a constitution, the bill became the latest iteration of the country’s Basic Laws, in the form of Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People. To many, this seemed like stating the obvious. Had not Israel been created in the first place for that very purpose? The only question was, “Why had it taken 70 years to turn the obvious into law?” Well, perhaps not the only question. The next one was “Why did 55 Knesset members vote against it, with two abstentions, with a narrow majority of 62 in favour?”
Once word got out to the outside world that the Israeli parliament had dared to enact such a definition of their state, it was, for many, as if the end of the world had taken place. As if they had never known that, since the time of the Bible, the land now called Israel was home to the Jews.
Just about everybody went out to condemn the bill as racist, discriminatory, anti-democratic, and opposed to Jewish principles of egalitarianism with non-Jewish citizens. NBC News ran a headline stating: “Israel ‘nation-state’ law prompts criticism around the world, including from U.S. Jewish groups”. On the very day the bill was passed, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, claimed that: