Israel’s nation-state law has been widely condemned. Farley Weiss wonders why all the fuss (“Orthodox Leaders Backing Israel’s Nation-State Law,” Aug. 3). He cites such examples as Israel’s anthem, flag, holidays and Law of Return as already establishing Israel’s Jewish character.
All true. But his argument for the law cuts against it. He sums up his argument this way: “On the ground, I’m not sure it has changed virtually anything.” And he’s right. The law aims to settle that Israel is the “national home of the Jewish people.” But that principle was never in doubt. Seventy years ago, Israel’s Declaration of Independence proclaimed, “the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel.”
If the law changes nothing, what’s the point? That’s a question Mr. Weiss, as an Orthodox leader, might have considered under a well-known Talmudic principle. Mai nafka mina? — What is the practical difference? — is the test applied to contending positions in Talmudic discourse. That’s because the Talmud, Rabbi Julian Sinclair tells us, looks beyond abstract thought toward practical effects in the real world.
Mr. Weiss maintains that the nation-state law changes nothing. Its passage, then, cannot be justified. Certainly not when weighed against all its harm: turning a back on Israel’s loyal Druze minority; demeaning Arab culture by the Orwellian shift in Arabic’s standing from “official” to “special status”; arming Israel’s enemies in their propaganda war; and weakening Israel’s commitment to develop itself to benefit all its inhabitants with equality of rights under the principles of the U.N. Charter, Israel’s democratic promise as much a part of the Declaration of Independence as its proclamation of a Jewish state.