Yesh Atid MK Yael German was attacked by coalition lawmakers Thursday for saying that allowing the so-called Jewish State bill to pass was like standing by in the face of atrocities in the Nazi era.
“Following a visit to the Majdanek concentration camp I understood that one cannot remain silent in the face of injustices against minorities,” German said at a committee meeting to discuss the controversial nation state bill.
The proposed legislation contains a clause that would legally sanction segregated communities in Israel, enabling discrimination against various groups, including non-Jews.
Likud MK Avi Dichter, who sponsored the bill, slammed German for making Holocaust comparisons.
“To try and draw any sort of comparison between the silence of the Poles at the extermination… in Majdanek is unfair and highly unjustified,” Dichter said. “These are despicable things that are offensive to Israel and inappropriate for a Knesset member to say.”
Jewish Home party MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli said the comment was “false and a serious distortion of history.”
German subsequently said her words had been taken out of context.
“We are commanded not to remain silent in the face of injustices. It makes no difference which kind of injustice: injustice against Ethiopians, the injustice of discrimination against women, the injustice of discrimination against the gay community, the injustice against the Arab community. That’s what I was talking about,” she said. “All the rest was solely in his imagination.”
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan said German’s comment was a reflection on the entire left.
“There is no limit to the deterioration of the discourse of the left,” he said. “The Holocaust was a one-time event in the history of the world and there is nothing comparable to it, certainly not a law that is intended to strengthen the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Clause 7B of the Likud-sponsored legislation, which the government hopes to have approved by the end of the month, would allow the state to “authorize a community composed of people having the same faith and nationality to maintain the exclusive character of that community.”
A separate new clause says a “state institution, either independently or in partnership with the government, will work toward developing Jewish settlement in all of Israel.”
Politicians, legal advisers and others have warned that the current version of the the so-called Jewish State bill is discriminatory and could cast a dark shadow over Israel in the international arena.
On Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin raised an alarm over the bill, saying the legislation in its current form “could harm the Jewish people worldwide and in Israel, and could even be used as a weapon by our enemies.”
“Do we want to support the discrimination and exclusion of men and women based on their ethnic origin?” he wrote in his letter to lawmakers, which he also sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a vigorous backer of the bill.
He said the bill could allow the establishment of towns that would, for example, exclude Jews of Middle Eastern origin, ultra-Orthodox Jews, or homosexuals.
Rivlin was followed by outgoing Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who said the bill would widen the gulf between US Jews — the majority of whom are non-Orthodox — and Israel as it also allows for the establishment of Israeli communities where residency is limited to those who follow a certain religious or cultural lifestyle.
“The State of Israel is a national home for the entire Jewish people and it is clear to me that there is no dispute between any party or Zionist movement,” he wrote. “While the nation-state law was originally intended to reinforce this principle, the most recent amendments to it are of great concern because they drive a wedge between Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora.”
Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon also published a legal opinion Tuesday saying he believed that the clause could cause the law to be overturned by the Supreme Court and therefore “urges MKs not to pass the law with it included.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has also said he is opposed to the law in its current form, and his deputy, Raz Nizri, echoed concerns during a committee debate on Tuesday morning.
If passed, the law would become one of the so-called Basic Laws, which like a constitution underpin Israel’s legal system and are more difficult to repeal than regular laws.