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June 05, 2014

Where's the Coverage? Many Nations Have State Religions… Not Israel

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Members of Israel’s coalition government are currently promoting a proposed new “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.” Ynet News reports:

The proposal is expected to be presented to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday but will not be brought to a vote. Instead, the special committee, composed of representatives of the coalition, will work to reach an agreed wording for the controversial bill, and push the proposal through the approval process by the end of the summer session in July.

This proposed law states in part:

The State of Israel is the National Home of the Jewish People; wherein the Jewish People fulfills its yearning for self-determination in accordance with its historical and cultural heritage.

While the proposed new law establishes national symbols and holidays, it does not establish a state religion. It seeks only to establish in Basic Law the status of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Nonetheless, it has attracted a great deal of controversy and even criticism within Israel as well as abroad, among enemies of Israel, and within the Jewish community in the Diaspora. The refusal of Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel as a Jewish state had been characterized as one of the major sticking points in the recently-ended negotiations.

The Jerusalem Post has reported on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reaction to the criticism:

Netanyahu said it is “astonishing” to him why there should be any opposition to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

“One cannot favor the establishment of a Palestinian nation-state in order to maintain the Jewish character of the State of Israel and – at the same time – oppose recognizing that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People,” he said. “Supporting the establishment of a Palestinian nation-state and opposing the recognition of the Jewish nation-state undermines – over the long-term – the State of Israel’s very right to exist.”

Strikingly, a majority of Israeli Arabs accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. Still, many critics believe that Israel simply cannot be a Jewish and democratic state, perhaps believing that democratic states don’t reference any religion. This is simply an uninformed view. Israel has no written constitution, but the Basic Laws have been given that status by the courts. Yet many other countries recognize and even sanction various religions in their very constitutions and attract no criticism whatsoever.

For example, the preamble to Ireland’s constitution begins:

In the name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

We, the people of Eire, humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial…

Article three of Greece’s constitution declares:

The prevailing religion in Greece is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ. The Orthodox Church of Greece, acknowledging our Lord Jesus Christ as its head, is inseparably united in doctrine with the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople and with every other Church of Christ of the same doctrine, observing unwaveringly, as they do, the holy apostolic and synodal canons and sacred traditions.

Section two of Norway’s constitution affirms:

The Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the State. The inhabitants professing it are bound to bring up their children in the same.

Malaysia’s constitution states:

Islam is the religion of the Federation.

Section two of Argentina’s constitution declares:

The Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion.

In Switzerland, Article 72 section 3 of the constitution even states:

The building of minarets is prohibited.

Even with this constitutional infringement on a particular religion, in this case Islam, does anyone argue that Switzerland is not a democracy? Or Ireland, Norway or Greece? And there are many more nations with a state-sanctioned or state supported religion, or a state church. In America’s great ally, the United Kingdom, according to the U.S. State Department:

There is one state church, the Church of England, and one national church, the Church of Scotland. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland do not have “official” religions. Legislation establishes the Church of Scotland as Scotland’s national church.

Of course there are many states that are nominally democracies but persecute religious, ethnic and other minorities such as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the constitution of which declares:

Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan.

And the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, where the constitution states:

The religion of the state of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam.

[…]

Followers of other religions are free to exercise their faith and perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law. (emphasis added)

[…]

In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.

And of course there are many states that are clearly undemocratic and make no pretense of not having a state religion such as Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But even these do not attract the scrutiny and criticism that Israel does on college campuses, in the United Nations and certainly in the media. Unlike Israel, many nations do have official state religions and yet… Where’s the coverage?

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Posted by SC at June 5, 2014 09:54 PM

Comments

Israel no doubt can have a state religion and be democratic at the same time. It's obvious that other countries have state religions and are democratic. Israel is a democracy and for all its shortcomings it is the best run democracy in the world.

Posted by: Gerald Klein at June 6, 2014 06:31 PM

Israel no doubt can have a state religion and be democratic at the same time. It's obvious that other countries have state religions and are democratic. Israel is a democracy and for all its shortcomings it is the best run democracy in the world.

Posted by: Gerald Klein at June 6, 2014 06:33 PM

Israel is the only Jewish State.
There are 56 Islamic Countries, 49 Roman Catholic, 20 Protestant, 12 Eastern Orthodox, 4 Hindu and 1 Jewish.

Every country and state should be in favor of the only Jewish State, Israel.

There can be no two state solution until the PLO and HAMAS recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State, renounce violence and stop teaching hatred to their children.

Posted by: Natalie at June 7, 2014 08:52 PM

Let me remind all that Judaism is not just a religion but people-hood altogether. Judaism means that the Jewish people have unique religion of its own that draws the "borders" of that people. So, when one say "Jewish" it might be that he refers to faith or to national-hood, depends on the context.

Posted by: Abe Bird at June 11, 2014 10:58 AM

Throughout history, all nations that have persecuted Israel and/or Jews have either come to a bad end, or seen themselves much diminished in power, or conquered by others. Both Barack Obama and Putin, as well as the Islamic nations of the Middle East, would do well to remember this. G-d does indeed watch over His Chosen People.

Posted by: Kay Trudell at June 15, 2014 04:50 PM

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