Thursday, May 28, 2009

McCarthy Laws

As Israeli Arab groups slam a set of laws working their way through the Knesset which would criminalize commemorating the Naqba and denying Israel's status as a Jewish state, it is good to see American Jewish organizations line up on the right side. J Street called on American Jews to unite against the bill's passage. Jeffrey Goldberg labels it "fascistic". And Abe Foxman of the ADL stridently condemned the bills as reminscent of McCarthyism:
“I have a lot of problems with the proposed language because by including a pledge to Zionism it smacks of discrimination,” said Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director. “It’s odious. Zionism is something you should aspire to, but it shouldn’t be something that you get punished for if you don’t.”
Foxman noted that the oath would also create problems for fervently Orthodox Jews who don’t recognize Israel’s Zionist character.

“Americans are not comfortable with loyalty oaths — this goes back to our experience with McCarthy,” he said. Foxman said a loyalty oath is acceptable if it’s inclusive.

Of course, under prevailing conventional wisdom, Foxman should turn around and label himself anti-Semitic by nightfall. Because Jews can't tolerate criticism of Israel without labeling it anti-Semitic, remember?

Finally, Gershom Gorenberg aptly notes that the first persons who could be prosecuted under a law denying Israel's Jewish, democratic character would be the architects of a bill which so fundamentally cuts out Israel's Jewish, democratic character.

I doubt these bills will survive judicial review (UPDATE: And now they don't have to! Good work, Israeli ministers, for stepping up doing your job), but, like with the prior attempt a barring several Israeli Arab parties for running in the past election, a truly democratic nation shouldn't have to keep depending on its judiciary to bail it out. These laws are insults to Judaism, democracy, and Zionism, and I hope that the Knesset comes to its senses and sends them to the rubbish bin where they belong.

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