Thousands of Jews and Arabs gather on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, to protest against the passage of a bill that requires gentiles to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish State.
Demonstrators marched to the Defense Ministry, the seat of power of Labor party chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who voted against the measure. The protesters waved signs that read, ‘No to Hatred’ and 'Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies.’
Organized by leftist entities, the rally comes six days after the overwhelming approval of the measure by the cabinet that was widely condemned by leftists and Arab legislators. Justice Minister Ya'akov Ne'eman has suggested that the law be amended so that Jews will also be required to pledge allegiance.
A Promise Kept, Halfway There
The cabinet vote was seen as a victory for Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party chairman and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who made passage of the legislation a central plank in his election campaign two years ago.
However, the bill, which passed the 30-member cabinet with a comfortable 22-8 majority, must still make it through a ministerial committee on legislation and the full Knesset before it can become law.
In its current form, the legislation would require new immigrants who seek to become citizens and who are not Jewish to pledge allegiance to the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic country.
Jews who are eligible to become citizens under the Law of Return will continue to receive citizenship as before.
Even as thousands protested the measure on the Sabbath, tens of thousands began to roar their disapproval of those who opposed the measure, including far leftist journalist Gideon Levy, who last week penned, “The Jewish Republic of Israel,” a column in which he slammed the legislation and the state as a whole.
Likud coalition chairman, MK Ze’ev Elkin, said prior to the vote that the decision to fix the Citizenship Law was “a basic requirement and natural for anyone requesting to receive Israeli citizenship who does not originally belong to the Jewish people. Those who do not want to recognize these things can forgo the pleasure of requesting citizenship in this country,” he said pointedly.
“It is strange that some Arab Knesset members who signed their own commitment to loyalty to the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state before elections hide this fact from the public, and stand at the forefront of the opposition to the new amendment.”
‘I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag…’
A similar, simple pledge of allegiance – originally written by a Christian minister, in fact – is likewise chanted daily by American children in every public school classroom in the United States, and has been since 1892. Its most recent revision in 1954 caused a great deal of controversy with the addition of the words, ‘under G-d” – but nevertheless, the revision passed.
The American pledge of allegiance is always recited standing at attention, facing the flag, with the right hand held over the heart. Public government meetings as well as local organizations and sporting events are often opened with its recitation as well:
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, One Nation under G-d, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.”
With all the controversy over that 1954 revision, every school child still chants that pledge in each classroom from coast to coast every day in the U.S. – and no rioting, no demonstrations and no murders are seen. No international comment and no other country attempts or dares to dissuade the United States from insisting that each of its citizens repeat that pledge until he knows it by heart.
And yet, when Israel’s sovereign government votes to create a pledge of allegiance of its own, the entire world erupts – beginning with its own citizenry.