‘When the constitution becomes racist, it’s difficult to define what racism is’

Lawyer Hassan Jabareen attends a meeting at the Knesset on December 19, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Lawyer Hassan Jabareen attends a meeting at the Knesset on December 19, 2012.          (photo: Miriam Alster / Flash90)
One year ago, Israel passed a constitutional amendment declaring that Israel belongs only to its Jewish citizens. The head of Israel’s premier Palestinian rights group discusses what has changed in Israeli courts, but also overseas.

By Henriette Chacar | +972 Magazine  | Jul 26, 2019

‘Soon, the debate in the world won’t be whether Jewish and democratic goes together or not; the debate soon will be whether Israel is apartheid.’
— Hassan Jabareen, founder and director of Adalah

In the year since the Israeli parliament passed the Jewish Nation-State Law, the equivalent of a constitutional amendment that declares Israel to be the exclusive nation-state of the Jewish people and demotes the status of Arabic, not a whole lot has changed.

That can mostly be explained by how new the law still is, and the political instability that has paralyzed policy making in Israel over the past year. But the more obvious explanation is that the law only codified an existing reality of supremacy, discrimination, exclusivity, and two-tiered citizenship that has prevailed here since the day Israel was born.

What the law has changed, is the essence of how people understand that reality — from Palestinian citizens of Israel to diplomats, and, of course, judges.

Palestinian and Israeli politicians, activists, and thinkers have long engaged in a debate about Israel’s Jewish identity, and whether the country can define itself as Jewish and still be democratic. This law cuts straight through that debate, says Hassan Jabareen, founder and director of Adalah, a legal organization that focuses on Palestinian minority rights in Israel.

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