Allan C Brownfeld of the American Council for Judaism writes from Alexandria, Virginia
In the discussion of Israel’s new “nation-state” law, an important point to be made is that, despite its claim to be the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel is not, in fact, the nation-state of American Jews.
Claiming Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people rather than a state of all its citizens can—more than 20 percent of whom are not Jewish—has a number of problems. And the Israeli government repeatedly calls itself the “homeland”of all Jews, the majority of whom are citizens of other countries.
The homeland of American Jews is the United States, and whatever the Knesset passes into law is completely irrelevant to Jews in other countries . While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government may believe that Jews are a nation and that those Jews living outside of Israel are in exile, this view is not shared by the overwhelming majority of American Jews.
The reality is that the Eastern Euroopeans who founded and settled Israel had no understanding of the American experience,where religious freedom for all is written into,law in the First Amendment. Israel, for its part, has no such idea of religiousfreedom or separation of religion and state. Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist rabbis are forbidden by Israeli
law to perform weddings, preside over funerals and conduct conversions. A Jew and non-Jew who wish to marry mustleave the country to do so. Indeed, this leads to the question of whether Jews support religious freedom only when theyare in a minority and it serves their interests to do so.
American Jews are American by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are Protestant, Catholic orMuslim.
Israel would do well to confine itself to speaking in the name of its own citizens, as other countries manage to do. Itsdream may be to be the nation-state of all Jews, but this has no relationship to reality.