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I Pledge Allegiance to What?
Joharah Baker
October 11, 2010

Sometimes, Israeli leaders go so far to the extreme that the Palestinians don’t need to do anything additional to embarrass them. This is one of those times. While Palestinians have tirelessly put their best efforts forth to prove to the world that Israel promotes racist ideals and forcefully puts them into practice, the Israeli cabinet recently passed an amendment to their citizenship act that leaves no doubt of this truth. The bill demands all non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship to declare loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.”

There is no need to even read between the lines. The law is unabashedly clear and the target group is one sector: the Palestinians, in particular those who live beyond the Green Line in what is now Israel. That means Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza or even east Jerusalem in addition to Arabs who want to marry an Israeli citizen must pledge their allegiance to a Jewish state even though they have no affiliation to Judaism whatsoever.

The racist nature of the law is nothing new for Israel. The only difference today is that they are blatantly clear about it, much to the thanks of Israel’s caricature-like foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, the man behind the initiative. Since Israel was established in 1948, Palestinians living on both sides of the Green Line have endured racist and discriminatory measures against them because of their ethnicity. Until today, Palestinians in Jerusalem must continually prove their center of life is in the city in order to maintain their residency status in the city.

Contrastingly, Jews anywhere on this earth can come to Israel and obtain citizenship automatically because of their religion. Israel, a country that was established on the ruins of another people’s homeland, was responsible for the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of the country’s indigenous population and continues to oppress those Palestinians who remained in their homes and land, is now forcing anyone (i.e. Palestinians) who wants to make their home in what was once Palestine, show loyalty to this so-called Jewish state.

Perhaps this decision, along with others, will finally serve as an eye-opener for those who still think Israel is the democratic peacemaker in the region. If democracy is truly the philosophy Israel embraces, wouldn’t that mean it would not impinge on other people’s ideologies, or force allegiance to the religious orientation of a state? No other democracy makes such demands. But like with everything else, Israel’s decision is political and it is about excluding the Palestinians and denying their national identity.

There is an even more recent example of how Israel is unwilling to accept the Palestinians, even at a more intellectual level. Apparently, just yesterday, the Palestinian Ministry of Education approved the use of a textbook – the brainchild of a joint Swedish, Israeli and Palestinian endeavor – entitled, “Learning the Historical Narrative of the Other”. The textbook, which is highly controversial for Palestinians because it offers the Zionist perspective alongside the Palestinian narrative of historical events, was rejected by the Israeli education ministry. Not only was it rejected, but banned from use in Israeli schools. According to a Haaretz article, a high school teacher in an Israeli school is to be summoned to the ministry for

“clarification” about allowing the book as a reference in one of his classes.

For Palestinians, the use of a book that offers the Zionist narrative is highly charged and chances are there will be considerable resistance to it. However, the fact remains that the Palestinians were the ones who took that “extra step” while the Israelis made no attempt at hiding their refusal to accept even a suggestion of the Palestinian narrative.

This speaks volumes about how Israel is wired. Israel’s government does not accept Palestinians as a national group. Imposing Kafkaesque requirements for residency rights and citizenship that are only applied to non-Jews is the first indicator. Demanding that non-Jews pledge allegiance to a Jewish state is just one more way of excluding Palestinians and denying them their national identity. As for the so-called peace efforts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he is making, well the fact that he backed the bill at the last minute shows how sincere he is about that. Additionally, it follows that if the idea of coexistence is one of the major pillars of any peace process then the adoption of a textbook that tells both sides of the story seems to be the logical move.

But that’s the thing. Israel has no interest in listening much less teaching its children the Palestinian narrative. If those gates are opened to mainstream Israelis – namely schoolchildren – Israel would have to confront some mighty evil truths. Most Israelis have never heard of the massacre of Deir Yassin or Kufr Qassem or of the squalid conditions of refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria; of how Jewish and then Israeli troops plundered and ransacked whole villages and either killed or drove out its people. Most Israeli schoolchildren do not know that their airport, which is so proudly named after Israel’s founder David Ben Gurion, is partially built on the ruins of Beit Nabala, a village in which real people lived, tilled their land and raised their children before being kicked out and never allowed to return.

No, Israel cannot afford that. If it has to answer these questions, the myth behind its own existence would have to be deconstructed. It is easier to reject the proposal altogether, to force the idea of a Jewish state down everyone’s throat and continue to espouse the fallacy that Israel wants peace. As long as it succeeds in promoting a falsified history, it can buy more time – time to delay the inevitable creation of a Palestinian state and time to further cement the idea that Israel is a land for the Jews.

My hope beyond hope is that this scheme will finally be exposed and for once, the onus will fall on Israel to take responsibility for its actions. Its behavior these days should make this easy.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

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