Enraged Arab-Israeli politician Zoheir Bahloul quit the Israeli parliament on July 28 in a symbolic protest against a new “basic law” that gives special rights to Jews. He condemned the law as “racist” and “destructive” against the Arab minority in Israel; who account for nearly 20 percent of the population. Ten days after his resignation, parliament voted the bill into law, and Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies declared Israel an exclusively Jewish nation state. Without a written Constitution, Israel’s legal system essentially functions by amending their 1948 Declaration of Independence. Ironically, the original document promised equality for all citizens, something the new law conveniently whitewashes. It also puts another nail in the coffin of a sustainable peace settlement with the Palestinians and discards any pretence of democracy in Israel by clearly demarcating “us” and “them”. Buoyed by the unconditional support of US President Donald Trump for his government, including the controversial relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem, Netanyahu has given legal cover to Israel’s long-standing policy of social stratification based on race; all that’s missing are separate drinking fountains for Arabs and Jews. The controversial ‘Jewish nation-state law’ has three key elements. One, that Israeli Jews have a “unique right to self-determination”. If we were to take this phrase at face value, they can now infringe upon minority rights with the blessings of the state. Secondly, Hebrew will be the only official language of Israel, with Arabic demoted to a special status that sounds like political language for etcetera. With this, the state will slash funding for a bi-lingual bureaucracy, education system, literary output, traffic signs and generally any public-funded messages. Thirdly, the state will champion Jewish settlements that often swallow up historically Arab land as a “national value.” Regrettably, not only have Arab-Israelis been treated as second-rate citizens during Netanyahu’s premiership in so far as access to public goods and services are concerned, they have also been labelled a “fifth-column” that could immediately turn treacherous in the event of another war with Israel’s Arab neighbours. It is worth noting that the Jewish nation-state bill had been bouncing around the Israeli parliament since 2011, and in its legislated form irks religious conservatives for excluding the word “God” from the text. This is unsurprising as the founders of Zionism were atheists who did not perceive Jews and Judaism as mutually inclusive terms. Yet, the Jewish people’s divine right to the “promised land” has been central to the historical and biblical case for Israel, and the beating heart of its foreign policy. Which makes this omission both curious and ominous. If Netanyahu’s government ignores the biblical definition of Israel as a land where the Halacha or holy law is supreme, it may very well interpret to its advantage who is and isn’t a Jew. This brings us to the slippery slope of any law that prioritises the protection of a particular community at the expense of others. Which is to say, that it can potentially endanger the very Jews it is trying to protect, especially when the government controls the membership criteria. Israeli Jews, for example, are not a monolithic bloc, even if they support the nation-state law. There are sectarian, gendered and sexual rights at play. More significantly, far-right politicians that led the charge toward codifying the nation-state bill are not only anti-minority; they are also anti-homosexuality and anti-abortion. Are homosexual Jews really Jews? Are single women seeking abortions against the commandments in the Halacha really Jewish? Are Arab and African Jews like the Mizrahi and Sephardim really Jews? Who exactly is the ‘average Jew’? Moreover, they are steadily gaining influence in the parliament, especially after Netanyahu was recently charged with multiple counts of bribery and needs their support to stay in office. Since the national rabbinate is by all accounts also a state puppet, the right of “self-determination” may be narrowed to what preserves the status quo. Are homosexual Jews really Jews? Are single women seeking abortions against the commandments in the Halacha really Jewish? Are Arab and African Jews like the Mizrahi and Sephardim really Jews? Should African Jews have the same rights as European Jews? Who exactly is the ‘average Jew’? These are all pressure points the increasingly vocal hard-right wing of Netanyahu’s government will gladly lean into if it continues to accumulate power. Next, discriminatory state policies invariably turn into self-fulfilling prophecies that jeopardize national security. There are two layers to this equation. One, regarding state patronage of illegal settlements as a “national value” may encroachment Arab lands within Israel, as an expression of “self-determination.” And secondly if armed clashes break out as a result of these developments, how will the courts throw out any Jewish claims of a “historical right” to tracts of Arab land if he or she is able to prove it? After all, they may cite forced eviction by any number of historical claims and assert ownership. At that point, justice in Israel will be well and truly blind. In light of the above mentioned aspects of the nation-state law, it could possibly set Israel on the course to civil war. Future policies that project such a narrative will inevitably reinforce the sense of victimisation among Israeli Arabs, who will in turn begin acting as those “others” and openly resent the oppressive state. Down the road, such adversarial attitudes could easily take the shape of Hamas-style guerrilla warfare, especially given the sizable number of Arabs that serve in the Israeli police and military. The real shame here is another missed opportunity to convince the international community that terrorism is the sole target of his heavy-handed “defensive” operations in Gaza and not Arabs at large. Finally, confident that Washington will veto any retaliatory UN sanctions, it seems Netanyahu remains oblivious to the fact that marginalising both Jews and Arab-Israelis will sow nothing but strife for future generations. Is this what any wise leader should want for his people? The writer is an Ipoh-based independent journalist Published in Daily Times, August 1st 2018.