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The New Israeli Constitution and its Historical Origins

*  Sinan TAVUKCU

The "Jewish Nation State" bill passed into law through the Israeli Parliament Knesset with 62 votes in favor and  55 against on the 19th of July. With this law, the state of Israel is defined as the ethnic-religious representative of all the world's Jews.

The regulations in the Constitution, adopted in the Assembly of Israel, which caused the reaction are as follows:

  • Israel is a national Jewish state.
  • Only the Jews have the right to self-determination in the country.
  • Israel is the historical homeland of all Jews in the world.
  • All Jews in the world have the right to return to their homeland.
  • If there is a gap in the law, the Jewish Sharia law will be referred to.
  • Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
  • Jewish religious holidays and special days will be counted as official holidays.
  • Independence Day is an official holiday of the state.
  • The official language of the country is Hebrew.
  • The Hebrew calendar is the official calendar of the state.
  • Only Jews may have religious and national symbols such as flags, national anthems.
  • All Israeli citizens have equal rights.
  • This "basic law" can only be replaced by another "basic law" accepted by the majority of the Knesset.

The Constitution foresees the recognition of Israel as the historical homeland of all the Jews in the world, the recognition of the right of all Jews in the world to return to their homeland, the recognition of the right to self-determination in the country only to Jews, the loss of citizenship rights for the Palestinian population in the territory comprising 20% of the population as well as seizing the right of the Palestinians to return to their homeland.

The adoption of the Law of the Jewish Nation State comprises the third phase of the project which started with the declaration of Jerusalem as the capital and with the opening of the US embassy there. As a continuation of this project, it is planned that the Palestinians who are expelled from their lands will be placed in a geographical region to be formed by the unification of Gaza with the Sinai Desert, and a Palestinian state to be established here will be marketed to the world as a two-state resolution.

Since many countries in the world including Muslim states circumvented the enactment of the Jewish nation-state law the targets and concepts in the constitution which have been known close to 150 years with a mere condemnation it is understood how the policies implemented by Zionist Jews have achieved their goals of faith, stability and determination.

The emergence of the Jewish identity: Haskalah

The new Jewish identity that shaped the politics of today's State of Israel emerged towards the end of the 19th century. The Jews, who had been living a stateless and insecure life for centuries, created a new Jewish belt with a nation-state due to the influence of the nationalist movements that grew stronger in the 19th century. The Jews had been subjected to discrimination and violence because of their religion and race in the countries where they had lived in exile for hundreds of years. In the Middle Ages the source of this hostility was religion, after the reform periods, the element that triggered hostility was racial. Another reason why Jews were hated in the society they lived in was that they were seen as "bloodsuckers" by the people they gave credit to because of their banking activities. The Jews were forced to live in ghettos in Europe without interacting with the essential elements of the country.

The enlightenment movement that started in the West unintentionally also influenced the Jews and initiated the inception of the Jewish enlightenment movement in called "Haskalah" in Europe. In this period, Jewish intellectuals living in Europe aimed to gain a share of the European enlightenment, to be free of the ghetto borders, to assume a higher role as part of the communities they lived in, and to modernize the Jewish traditions and modes of behavior while protecting the Jewish identity on one hand and participating in the secular education process on the other. However, the Jewish communities did not appear to be very willing to respond to these changes.

In time the Haskala movement caused nationalist influences in the minds of young Jews. Many societies emerged aiming at the adoption of Palestine and the development of a national consciousness. Hebrew, which had no other function than the language of worship, began to be processed as a literary language and various Hebrew newspapers and magazines were established.

Zionism emerges

During this period, rivalry between liberal Jewish organizations (such as the Alliance Universelle Israelite) defending the Jews' current identities and advocating equal and honorable membership in the country they lived in and nationalist Jewish organizations rejecting assimilation and advocating Jews having a nation state emerged. While the idea of having a nation state was a controversial issue among the Jewish community, the demands on this side were also on the agenda of world politics. For the first time, Britain's Jewish Prime Minister Disraeli began to advocate the establishment of an Israeli state in Palestine.

The pogroms (massacres) that started in Russia in 1882 and the anti-Semitic movements towards the Jews in other states of Europe led to putting the ideal of a Jewish homeland into practice and manifested the ideology of "Zionism". Zionism was a nationalist movement aimed at establishing a Jewish state in "Eretz Israel" (the historical homeland of the Jews). According to Theodor Herzl, known as the architect of Zionism, it was time for the utopia that existed in the prayers of the believers to be transformed into reality. The colonization activity in Palestine, which started in 1855, has become a collective and systematic relocation with Zionist ideology. With this migration movement called "Aliyah", the Jews spread throughout the world with the ideal of establishing a state in "Eretz Israel"began to gather in Palestine through legal or illegal means.

The young generation that will establish Israel is being raised

Various open and clandestine organizations were established to organize Aliyah. These organizations resembled many nationalist organizations serving the establishment of nation states in the 19th century. Zionist organizations were primarily encouraging young people to emigrate to Palestine. They were aware that older generations, whose characters had been under duress, would be unable to represent the spirit of the new homeland. With the young Jewish immigration called "Aliyah HaNoar", it would be possible to build a new Jewish identity for this generation, to create a new Zionist state and a new generation ready to give their lives for its survival if necessary. As a matter of fact, those who came with the second wave of immigration became the founding fathers of Israel and constituted a model generation sweating for the reconstruction of the Palestinian lands.

Members of the Zionist Jewish organization were disturbed by the Jewish identity perceived all over the world, and they hated being perceived in this way. Jews were depicted in cartoons as deceitful, cowardly, fainthearted, self-seeking stereotypes. In stories Jews were ridiculed as people who would shop their co-religionists, were obsessed with their lives and wealth for who nothing was holier than money. To destroy this image Zionist youth organizations (Ne’emanei Tsion, Betar, HaHalutz, İrgun Tsinoi Ba Kusta, etc. also operating in Turkey) physically strengthened Jewish youth who were recruited in their organizations at youth and sports camps to transform the young generations of  Jews known for avoiding any kind of risk taking into heroes who were ready to fight and die for the lands that were promised to them.

Migration to Eretz Israel

If the nationalist movements that established the nation states that began to emerge from the beginning of the twentieth century were of a secular character they sought for their superiority and their differences in their noble blood and nurtured their belief in their superiority with mythology. If they acted with dominant religious motives they based their superiority on arguments they found in their holy books. The young generation, who hated the Jewish identity generated by historical circumstances, found the supreme identity they sought in the Torah. According to the Torah, they were a superior group chosen from among the people. God had promised this chosen community an "unprocessed and uninhabited" homeland on Palestinian territory. According to them, migration to Eretz Israel was the last phase in the course of Jewish history and the only way for the Jews to survive as nation.

Hebrew becomes the national language

Having the same ideals to build a nation-state and being ready to give life for it was not enough to live together. The Jews who migrated to Palestine from all over the world with similar ideals were different from each other in cultural identity and the languages they spoke and therefore they could not understand one another. Hebrew, the language of the Torah was used only as a language of worship among the Jews. While Jews living in Palestine had always spoken "Arabic", Sepherad Jews from Spain and Western Europe used a hybrid Spanish called "Ladino" and Ashkenazi Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe spoke "Jiddisch", a mixture of German and Hebrew . Other immigrant Jews who could not speak these languages spoke the language of the countries they came from.

Hebrew started spreading rapidly among Jewish immigrants after 1881 when Eliezer Ben-Yehuda who was working to make Hebrew a national language arrived in Palestine. Palestinian walls had posters bearing "Jew, speak Hebrew ". In 1889, a school with a full curriculum in Hebrew was established in Rishon Letsiyon for the first time. As Ben-Yehuda said, the Hebrew language became a living language that was transposed from the synagogue to the course, from the course to school and from school to home. Finally, in 1922 the British Mandate Administration considered Hebrew as one of the official languages of Palestine. As a result of these efforts, the new Jewish generation coming from different geographical areas achieved a national language which they could use to talk and write in every area of their lives.

The Avenging Jewish identity

Jews scattered throughout the world's many countries had suffered persecution, massacres, and treated as second-class citizens in the countries they emigrated from, due to their religious and racial differences which caused serious trauma in terms of Jewish consciousness. Psychoanalysts working on political psychology call this trauma "selected traumas". According to them, selected traumas are psychological subconscious processes that develop because of the inability to mourn various events in the past which have generated a deep sense of pain and mourning in the consciousness of society. These subconscious processes generate a feeling of hostility and hatred towards the person or group that caused the painful events. Like individuals, societies develop a defense mechanism that emphasizes reflection and grievance in order to protect themselves psychologically. The traumas that are experienced are transmitted psycho-genetically from generation to generation leaving psychological and emotional scars that can affect the future of the societies. In fact they even influence communities in gaining a nation's or ethnic identity. This psychology of those who have been persecuted is called "victimization psychology".

Jews are taking revenge from those who did not persecute them

Hundreds of years of stateless and insecure exile have filled the Jews who have perforce been victimized with a kind of vengeance. The holy scripture portray an inspired superior race and a sense of the chosen nation that generated a serious synergy for the revenge psychology. The Jews who reached Eretz Israel rejected the property rights of the non-Jewish peoples established here because they regarded the promised Palestinian lands according to the Torah as "unprocessed and unsettled".  Claiming that they could not be queried about Palestinian territory and be forced to relinquish it they resorted to terror to expel the Arabs who lived there for centuries.

The sense of revenge fired by the victimization psychology inflicted on them turned on the Arab peasants in Palestine, where they immigrated instead of those who had persecuted them throughout history. In the close to fifty years before the establishment of the Israeli state, the Jews ensured that the people living in Palestine abandoned their lands and took refuge in neighboring Arab countries through terror and oppression. While the proportion of Jews living in Palestine in 1910 was 10%, in 1947 it increased to 31% before the UN's partition plan for Palestine, and rose to 86% in 1949 after the establishment of Israel.

The Holocaust opens the way to the Jewish State

During the Second World War, Jews living in Europe were exposed to massacres called the "Holocaust", opening the way to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. The Jewish mentality of cleansing the Palestinian lands from the Arabs by terrorist groups formed the official ideology of the State of Israel established in 1948. The function of clearing the Palestinian lands from the Arabs was now carried out by the legitimate accepted powers of the official state and by law. After the state was established, the Labor Party on the left, which constitutes the backbone of the Israeli governments, and the Likud Party, which represents the center right, never recovered from this victimization psychology. The origins of both parties were based on Zionist armed struggle organizations that emerged during the British mandate. While the Likud tradition was based on Irgun, a Jewish underground organization acting against the Arabs and the British, the origins of the Labor Party were based on socialist organizations such as Hapoel Hatzair (Young Laborers) and Achdut Ha'Avodah (Laborers’ Union). Ben-Gurion described these organizations viewed as socialist workers' movements as follows. "Actually, socialism is not a goal in itself, but merely a tool for advancing national goals." ‘For them, the highest goal of our generation is reconstruction and Aliyah [immigration to Palestine]. The Israeli Army, which has been constantly involved in politics mostly felt closer to the Labor Party and generals such as Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon who became prominent with Arab massacres were included in this party and famous generals such as Izak Rabin and Ehud Barak became Prime Ministers from the Labor Party.

According to the West, anything done by Israel is excusable

In the wake and during the Second World War, the Holocaust added to the sense of guilt already vested in the Western intellectual world. After the establishment of a state in Palestine, any kind of negative treatment by the Jews against the non-Jewish people living on this land was excused by the western countries where Jews had previously been externalized. This is called "Excusability Psychology", a natural result of victimization psychology.

Communities that have persecuted a people in the past tend to excuse persecution done by that people as a result of the " Excusability Psychology". This psychology leads to extreme and positive discrimination and even a tendency to favor the victims of the former oppressors. One of the most important psycho-political elements shaping international relations has been that victimization psychology and victimized societies have been seen as being oppressed by other societies and a protective shield has been constituted to suppress victimization or victimization has been used in relation to their interests.  Israel has used this sentiment of guilt by the Western states and has subjected Arabs to constant violence and unfortunately has always encountered tolerance. Even criticism about Israel's persecution is considered a valid reason for accusations of anti-Semitism in the western world. The sense of revenge targeting Arabs who have had no role in the trauma rather than those who were the reason has politically relieved the western states.

Psycho-genetic transfer of violence policies generated in Israelites

Those who deal with political psychology are convinced that the collective dominant identity formed by psycho-genetic transfers will determine the political reactions, that states can not be considered apart from the political reactions of their history. According to these evaluations, the perception of peace, war, reconciliation, common interest or common friend-enemy perception can be influenced by psychological motivations rooted in the consciousness of societies and transformed into political behavior.

States often fail to produce a foreign policy that is independent of the public, under the pressure of selected traumas. In fact, trauma has a shaping aspect in state policies. Such psycho-political orientations sometimes rise to the extent that they can affect the realpolitik behavior of states, causing states to take political decisions that are contrary to their interests and international agreements. Israel’s policies which disregard or even challenge UN resolutions is derived from the "victimization psychology" that we have endeavored to explain above. The "Excusability Psychology " borne by other countries prevents Israel from facing any serious sanctions in the international setup. The Western world, which has taken tough measures against Iran's nuclear activities, is not even willing to discuss Israel's nuclear policies for the same psychological reasons.

The role of Jewish identity in suppressing social problems

Israel, whose psycho-political behavior that we have tried to explain above steers its international relations, is also unable to solve its internal problems. The new Jewish identity, created by "victimization psychology" is also used internally in suppressing and postponing social problems. The community structure of Israel has never been homogeneous, providing a common language for the Jewish communities that gathered in plenary from many parts of the world did not suffice to enable problem-free cohabiting. After achieving the ideal of having a state, socio-cultural differences, sectarian differences that had previously been repressed voluntarily began to manifest themselves. The communities from different geographical areas such as Ashkenazi, Sefarad and Falasha did not agree with each other and this perforce created a society structure with classes; since the establishment of Israel, Ashkenazi culture has been an oppressive and dominant character in the country. These differences have also been reflected in political preferences. Since the establishment of the state of Israel, the fact that a Sepharad could not be elected prime minister clearly shows how much these differences affect politics. On the other hand, secular-religious, Zionist-anti-Zionist, Olim (New Immigrants) -Vatikim (Settled Citizens) conflict has also been another factor separating society.

Governments seeking to overcome these conflicting social differences continue to inflate the Jewish nationalist supra-identity and seek to keep the wounded conscience of the Jewish people alive by taking refuge behind the propaganda that it is a small, lonely country surrounded by enemies seeking to destroy it. Israeli governments that can not tolerate rising insider criticism prefer to claim and cover all wrong doing by presenting the public with the association of criticizing the politics they apply to the demolition of Israel.

The integration of Orthodox Jews into the state, references to Jewish Sharia laws for gaps in legislation, the acceptance of Jewish religious holidays, special days as official holidays, adoption of the Hebrew calendar as the official calendar of the state, allowing only Jewish people to have religious and national symbols such as a flag, a national anthem are viewed more or less as purposeful arrangements to integrate the Orthodox Jews into the state.

What does the new Jewish Constitution bring

The avenger, reckless new Jewish identity built by the trauma of exile, humiliation and massacres to replace the rejected historical Jewish identity at the beginning of the last century is still a major obstacle to rational behavior by Israeli governments.

The silence of the world today must not be viewed as a success for the Zionist Jews. History is ongoing and surprises come to pass. Indeed, the ideal of a Jewish nation that embraces all Palestine was a dream for most Jews 150 years ago. Perhaps the conditions will change over a period of time before long and those who project with blood and hatred for an Israeli State without Arabs today may resort to seeking shelter.