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Israel has its constitution set out in its "Basic Laws". It would seem to me that Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People which states, "Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People" must exclude some people (presumably from obtaining a majority stake in the power structure). Something isn't for (or of) a specific people, unless it excludes others. Does the term "of the Jewish People" given the context of the law exclude others on the basis on religion, or race and ethnicity?

Under what circumstance could the State of Israel operate such that the law would fall into conflict with the practices of government and people could conclude that Israel was no longer "of the Jewish people"? Does this law exclude the possibility of a single-state solution where all Palestinians are given universal suffrage and equal rights, including the right of return, in the government? And if that's allowed: then I'm confused what meaning this phrase (often repeated) has, if any?

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    I'll point out that 'Jewishness' is ambiguous: it implies both ethnic and religious aspects, and in many ways Jews treat ethnicity as primary and religion as secondary (e.g., ethnic Jews are considered Jews whether or not they practice the religion, but converts to the religion are often treated as outsiders). Jun 4, 2021 at 5:41
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    @TedWrigley some previous rulings of the Israel version of a Supreme Court could make a good answer though, as could other precedents and stuff like that. So it’s not really a subjective question. Jun 4, 2021 at 11:19
  • This post includes multiple different questions in one, can you please split it up into multiple posts? Jun 4, 2021 at 13:18
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  • @FourLegsGoodTwoLegsBad not at all. That question is looking for countries like Israel. I'm asking how Israel has interpreted their Basic Laws. Apr 16 at 6:41

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To answer this question let's first talk a bit about states, nations, peoples, and citizens. At its core, a state is a legal framework and a set of executive functions. All states also have citizens. Citizens are called nationals and non-citizens aliens or foreigners. States treat citizens and non-citizens differently. For example, in the US, illegal immigrants are often deported, can't vote, and don't enjoy the same protections the state extends to citizens. This is a form of discrimination based on citizenship. We tolerate it because the current world order -- the world divided into states -- couldn't possibly work otherwise.

A nation are people "who naturally belong together"9,11 Clearly, this definition is deficient because who decides who belongs together? Without answering the question, we can anyhow conclude that Zionism thinks Jews are a nation and Israel the Jewish nation's state. From the Nation-State law:

A. The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established.

B. 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.

C. The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.

Consequently, as non-Jews do not belong to the Jewish nation the State of Israel is not their "national home". This distinction between nationality and citizenship, enshrined in a constitutional law, makes Israel unique (at least among Western states).1 Israel has an older law from 1953 called, confusingly, the "Nationality Law" that defines its citizens:

2. Nationality by return (a)Every "oleh" [a Jew wishing to "return"] under the Law of Return, 5710-1950, shall become an Israel national by return unless Israel nationality has been conferred on him by birth under section 4. ...

3. Nationality by residence in Israel (a)A person who, immediately before the establishment of the State, was a Palestinian citizen and who does not become an Israel national under section 2, shall become an Israel national with effect from the day of the establishment of the State if:

(1) he was registered on the 4th Adar, 5712 (1st March 1952) as an inhabitant under the Registration of Inhabitants Ordinance, 5709-1949; and

(2) he is an inhabitant of Israel on the day of the coming into force of this Law; and ...

4. Nationality by birth (a)The following shall, from the date of their birth, be Israel nationals by birth: ...

Israel: Nationality Law

and so forth.

Other states either do not differentiate between nationality or citizenship or only does so in extenuating circumstances. For example, in the US there is an almost 1:1 correspondance between citizenship and nationality. People "born or naturalized in the United States" are both citizens and nationals.8 The exceptions are for inhabitants of American Samoa and Swains Island who can be nationals without also being citizens.10

The distinction leads to some interesting consequences. Naturalization is a process under which an alien can become a national (citizen) of a state he or she previously weren't a national (citizen) of. But to gain access to the Israeli nation one has to become Jewish, that is, to undergo a religious conversion overseen by an authoritative religious body. Denaturalization is the opposite. Whether a Jew can cease being Jewish is a controversial topic. In the eyes of the Israeli state it is possible, but probably requires a religious conversion. This was elaborated on in 1962 when the Polish Jew Oswald Rufeisen, who had converted to Catholicism, sought to immigrate to Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court denied his application, arguing that "no one can regard an apostate as belonging to the Jewish people".2 Rufeisen himself insisted on that he was still a Jew.3

Another consequence of the Israeli view on nationality is, paradoxically, the denial of the existence of an Israeli nationality distinct from a Jewish nationality. Israeli identity cards used to carry a "nationality" or "ethnic affiliation". The choices for this field included Jewish, Arab, Druze, Circassian, Russian, Egyptian, etc, but, conspicuously, "Israeli", was absent. Human rights activists petitioned the courts to have themselves registered as Israeli in order to build or demonstrate an Israeli nationality encompassing everyone living in Israel - Jews and Arabs alike. One such petition in 1971 was denied with the Court asserting that "there is no Israeli nation separate from the Jewish people."4 A similar petition was brought forward in 2007 and also denied. The Supreme Court decided that "[t]he existence of an Israeli ethnic nationality has not been proven" and warned that such a nationality would jeopardize "the Jewish and the democratic nature of the state".5

Now to your questions:

Something isn't for (or of) a specific people, unless it excludes others. Does the term "of the Jewish People" given the context of the law exclude others on the basis on religion, or race and ethnicity?

That would depend on the precise definition of "the Jewish people", wouldn't it? Whether it's a tribe, nation, people, race, ethnicity, religion, haplotype, all of the above, or none of the above lies in the eyes of the beholder. Presumably, the discrimination is at least partially religious. Otherwise Rufeisen's immigration application wouldn't have been denied; his conversion to Christianity changed his religion but clearly not his race. Interestingly, Jews who support the BDS movement may be barred from entering Israel, but would likely not be prevented from immigrating to Israel.6 Which might seem odd given that the Israeli government has declared the BDS movement its number one enemy. It would seem that religious apostasy (Catholicism) is worse than "political apostasy" (anti-Zionism).

Under what circumstance could the State of Israel operate such that the law would fall into conflict with the practices of government and people could conclude that Israel was no longer "of the Jewish people"?

Laws define how states operate. I think people would conclude that Israel was no longer "of the Jewish people" if the numerous Israeli laws defining the state as of and for the Jewish people were rescinded or amended. That is unlikely to happen in the near future, since many such legislative initiatives have been shut down in the past.7

Does this law exclude the possibility of a single-state solution where all Palestinians are given universal suffrage and equal rights, including the right of return, in the government?

It would seem so. As said, states are free to discriminate (within bounds set by international law) against aliens and give preferential treatment to nationals. Since the law declares that non-Jews are outside the nation, why should they be given equal rights? Israel is not unique in not affording the same rights to aliens as to nationals. What is unique about Israel is how it defines its nationals.

  1. I hope this does not get too confusing. In international law nationality is often used as a synonym for citizenship. Here I'm trying to explain why they are different concepts in Israeli law.
  2. The Definition of a Jew under Israel's Law of Return
  3. Religion: Definition of a Jew
  4. Race and the Issue of National Indentity in Israel
  5. Court nixes push for ‘Israeli nationality’
  6. Despite BDS Blacklist, Jewish Agency Won't Block Boycott Supporters From Immigrating to Israel
  7. Knesset rejects bill to ensure full equality between all Israeli citizens
  8. Amdt14.S1.1.1 Historical Background on Citizenship Clause
  9. What is a ‘nation’?
  10. Certificates of Non Citizen Nationality
  11. Nationalism: Experiential Commonalities and Divergencies in the Middle East and Black Africa
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    @user157251 "I would not accept inclusion of Apartheid South Africa, or Nazi Germany into a category of states that divides between nationals and aliens." There is a term for states like that: ethno-state. Israel's one of them, ironically enough given their origins as a result of Nazi oppression.
    – nick012000
    Jun 4, 2021 at 16:54
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    Perhaps a quibble, but Israel is not unique in distinguishing citizens and nationals. The U.S. State Department issues Certificates of Non Citizen Nationality Apr 14 at 23:23
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    There's actually no concept of "nationality" that differs from "citizenship" in Israel. There is, on the other hand, in the US. A US citizen is a US national, but not every US national is a US citizen. So the reality is actually exactly the opposite of what you wrote.
    – littleadv
    Apr 16 at 6:10
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    How does it follow that "all non-Jews are its aliens"? If that were true then there wouldn't be non-Jewish Israeli citizens who clearly exist. You further say that Israel distinguishes between nationality and citizenship but nowhere in your answer do you discuss citizenship. I'd also remove the part about US citizens vs nationality as that's clearly wrong (and not pertinent to the Q).
    – JJJ
    Apr 16 at 12:47
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    @StandwithGaza no, it doesn't. There's just no such concept in the Israeli law, you made it up. There is such a concept in the US law, despite your claiming otherwise.
    – littleadv
    Apr 16 at 17:22
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The other answers are plain wrong.

Naturalization in Israel does not require religious conversion to Judaism. Ironically, thousands of Palestinian Arabs are actually naturalized in Israel on yearly basis.

While it is indeed a controversial Basic Law, which is claimed by OP. However, the only controversy in it, is the loud absence of one word 'Equality'. Otherwise, it is a one-to-one re-statement of the Declaration of Independence.

As a consequence, the state of Israel is split approximately 50-50 exactly on this issue. Should the wording be fixed, and the constitution enacted based on the original meaning of the Declaration, or should one group define that Jewishness is based on religion, and the state continue to drift to some form of theocratic apartheid state.

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    This has nothing to do with the question nor the other answers. They were given citizenship because they were not-"absentees" (an Israeli distinction) and Israel has claimed to annex East Jerusalem. That has nothing to do with the question Is "Nation-State of the Jewish People" exclusionary on race or religion? Apr 16 at 6:09
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    @EvanCarroll no, they're given citizenship based on naturalization requirements. Usually, family reunification. Some (especially LGBTQ) are refugees.
    – littleadv
    Apr 16 at 6:11
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    They're given nationality under "Nationality by birth and residence in Israel" which has nothing to do with this question about the Basic Laws: From the Nationality Law, (A)A person who was born after the establishment of the State in a place which was Israel territory on the day of his birth, and who has never had any nationality, shall become an Israel national if he applies for it in the period between his eighteenth birthday and his twenty-first birthday and if he has been an Israel resident for five consecutive years immediately preceding the day of the filling of his application. Apr 16 at 6:17
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    @EvanCarroll well of course. So why are you asking about it then? I'm confused. The basic law has nothing to do with immigration or naturalization (another law, the law of return, does - but that law has been on the books since 1950s).
    – littleadv
    Apr 16 at 6:20
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    I answered all your multiple questions in my answer. Neither your questions nor the law about which you're asking have anything to do with nationality or citizenship. As to converts - obviously, converts inside Israel are not entitled to return because they're already inside Israel. What does it have to do with Palestinians or the law you referred to? There's a different process for adjustment of status for people already in Israel, similarly to many other countries. I'm really confused as to the point you're trying to make here.
    – littleadv
    Apr 16 at 6:37
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Does the term "of the Jewish People" given the context of the law exclude others on the basis on religion, or race and ethnicity?

Yes to all. The law excludes all other cultures and religions besides that of the Jewish people. However, the law doesn't "ban" other cultures, neither does the law impair the ability of any citizen to celebrate any culture or religion of their choise. The law merely enshrines the Jewish culture as the official culture of the state.

Under what circumstance could the State of Israel operate such that the law would fall into conflict with the practices of government and people could conclude that Israel was no longer "of the Jewish people"?

If the government would for example: A. Shut public transportation on Christmas and operate it on Yom Kippur. B. Close its doors for Jews abroad suffering from antisemitism and wishing to "return" to their ancient homeland. C. Adopt a non-Jewish name for the country.

Does this law exclude the possibility of a single-state solution where all Palestinians are given universal suffrage and equal rights, including the right of return, in the government?

The law doesn't limit the amount of non Jewish citizens, nor the "personal" rights they can enjoy. The law explicitly intends to preserve the Jewish culture and religion, as the official culture of the country - so that the state cannot be sued for allowing banks to be open on Ramadan while closing them on Passover.

I'm sorry for my to-the-point answer, I have a feeling that the author of the question intended to provide a platform for all the salads of irrelevant disinformation of the other answers, rather than this one.

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    The law doesn't exclude any other culture or religion, in fact it explicitly refers to other cultures and religions and ensures their freedom - see paragraph 10 of the law. Your other examples are better phrased.
    – littleadv
    Apr 17 at 4:54
  • @littleadv, see the edit.
    – Jacob3
    Apr 17 at 9:06
  • It doesn't exclude anything. It does enshrine Jewish symbolic and official holidays, but doesn't preclude others.
    – littleadv
    Apr 17 at 16:42
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It's tied principally to ethnicity.

When I asked this question, I didn't know what I know now. In the above answer it says,

Naturalization is a process under which an alien can become a national of a state he or she previously weren't a national of. Becoming an Israeli national is to become Jewish, that is, to undergo a religious conversion overseen by an authoritative religious body.

This is partly-incorrect, because it would only make sense for naturalization defined as such to not include ethnicity and race. However, it does include that, from Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, director of the Israeli government’s Conversion Authority,

“The threshold requirements” to be considered by the special cases panel, he said, “are that applicants be sincere and that they are not foreign workers; infiltrators; Palestinian or illegally in the country.” In 2014, he added, the special cases committee received 400 applications. “Half of the applicants were accepted, the rest were rejected as foreign workers, infiltrators, illegal stayers and Palestinians,” he said.

At the moment that a Palestinian that converts to Judaism has his conversion special-cased and ignored because of his ethnicity, religion is only a thin veneer for the ethnostate.

Putting it another way,

  • If a Palestinian converts to Judaism in Israel, they're NOT entitled to citizenship and return
  • While if a non-Palestinian converts to Judaism they're entitled to citizenship and return

The religious component

The question still remains who gets to decide what is Judaism to satisfy a religious conversion. From "Israel's conversion ruling: What it does and doesn’t do" in the Jerusalem Post,

High Court of Justice handed down an 8-1 decision on Monday ruling that conversions performed in Israel by the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements will be recognized for purposes of citizenship. In other words, people undergoing Reform or Conservative conversions in Israel will be recognized as Jews under the Law of Return, meaning that they and their immediate families, including grandchildren, can make aliyah.

Conclusion

We can see here that the High Court of Justice gets to decide which movements of Judaism deserve coverage by "Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People". And superior to that the Conversion Authority gets to decide what ethnic groups are excluded from conversion (and has very loudly excluded Palestinians).

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    This answer is also wrong. Israel had a temporary ruling to postpone the naturalization of Palestinian Arabs from after the Second Intifada [circa 2002]. The ruling was prolonged every six months, until 2022. Then the opposition of far right parties failed to support an additional prolongation [which is ironic]. Naturalization in Israel does not require religious conversion, no matter what this site claims.
    – dEmigOd
    Apr 16 at 5:45
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    Corner cases ruin binary classifications of people. Something even the Nuremberg race laws' implementers learned. Who the Israeli immigration authorities view as "Jewish enough" is based on their guidelines, likely shaped by praxis and jurisprudence. I think trying to classify their classification as racial, ethnic, religious or in between is impossible. They have their set of rules for Jewish or not, others have other sets of rules and that's it. Apr 16 at 18:15
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Is "Nation-State of the Jewish People" exclusionary on race or religion?

Yes, Israel systemically discriminates against the majority of people born and who live in the lands they control. It's not a racial discrimination but based on religious ethnicity. If you are Jewish or come from Jewish heritage and live anywhere in the world you can immigrate to Israel. If you are Arab, and born and raised in the lands controlled by Israel for 10 generations you have no rights. Now their are exceptions and supporters of Israel love to argue the exception, but for the majority they have no rights to their land, homes, movement or the vote. It is basically an apartheid state, not based on the color of skin, but based on religious ethnicity.

Zionism is defined as the movement to create a Jewish Homeland in the land of Palestine. You can't have a "Jewish homeland" in a majority Arab state without excluding millions of Arabs. And that's what Israel does.

In 1947 the last year of the British Mandate which controlled Palestine / lands of Modern Israel; the Jewish population was only 30% of the total population. A year later in 1948 the first year of the state of Israel the Jewish population was 82%. The difference 52% population swing in 1 year, is primarily due to Israel pushing people off their land and then blocking them from returning. The theft of land in 1948 and continues to go on today, as Israeli settlements in the West Bank continue to grow every month every year. Israel maintains it's Jewish majority by controlling immigration, and selectively denying citizenship to 5 million Arabs born in the territory Israel has controls for 80/50 years. The difference between the two sides is religious ethnicity, a type of systemic discrimination which is foreign to most western nations who have more recent histories of racial discrimination. That makes it harder for westerners to understand and comes to terms with; but it's still discrimination.

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You are asking several questions and are making several assertions and assumptions, I'll try to clarify. Although it's an old question, the most upvoted answer is so ridiculously wrong (e.g.: the writer claims that there are distinct concepts of "nationality" and "citizenship" in Israel but not in the US, when the reality is the exact opposite) that it probably warrants a revival.

First, your assertion about constitution:

Israel has its constitution set out in its "Basic Laws".

it is incorrect. There's no constitution in Israel, never has been. "Basic" laws are just laws with the word "basic" in their title, they don't otherwise have any special meaning. The Supreme Court did assign some meaning to some of them (based on supremacy provisions they included), but the current Knesset is trying to reverse that. In any case, it's irrelevant to this particular law because its mostly declaratory, the actionable provisions are trivial, and there's no supremacy provision.

You can see the full text of the law in the Wikipedia article you linked to.

It would seem to me that Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People which states, "Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People" must exclude some people (presumably from obtaining a majority stake in the power structure).

No. That's not how laws work. Laws define terms, actions, and rules. This specific law essentially "codified" the text of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, that did define Israel as a nation-state of the Jewish people. But that's ... a declaration. Actionable provisions of the law define the formal languages (Hebrew as the official language, Arabic as a special status language), holidays, and several others.

Notably, all these provisions codify the current state as of the law's legislation.

Also, notably, it has nothing to do neither with citizenship, nor nationality (except reiterating the Law of Return in one of the provisions).

Under what circumstance could the State of Israel operate such that the law would fall into conflict with the practices of government and people could conclude that Israel was no longer "of the Jewish people"?

I can't think of any.

Does this law exclude the possibility of a single-state solution where all Palestinians are given universal suffrage and equal rights, including the right of return, in the government?

No. This law can be changed with a simple majority of the Parliament. It doesn't mean that such a solution will ever happen, obviously, and this law is not intended to prevent it, nor lack of it made such a solution a viable possibility.

And if that's allowed: then I'm confused what meaning this phrase (often repeated) has, if any?

What phrase?

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