Liberal Zionism, Comparative Constitutionalism, and the Project of Normalizing Israel
Nimer Sultany, "Liberal Zionism, Comparative Constitutionalism, and the Project of Normalizing Israel," in On Recognition of the Jewish State, edited by Honaida Ghanim, Madar Center, 2014, pp. 91-109
19 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 1, 2014
The second half of the 1990s witnessed the forceful introduction of the phrase “a state for all its citizens,” into the Israeli public debate, mainly by leaders and intellectuals of the Palestinian minority. Palestinian citizens of Israel challenged the Jewishness of the state and demanded democratization and equality. In reaction to these challenges, many Zionists formulated defenses of the “Jewish and democratic” state. Others attempted to enact laws and draft constitutions or consensus-formation documents that would entrench the Jewish character of the state.
This essay is a critical scrutiny of one recent prominent example of a defense aimed at normalizing Israel -- Alexander Yakobson and Amnon Rubinstein’s book Israel and the Family of Nations: the Jewish Nation-State and Human Rights (english edition, Routledge, 2009). The focus will be on the use of the comparative method in the service of this project. As I argue and demonstrate below, this project is, first, an attempt to escape from the demanding aspects of liberal theory; second, a legitimation project; third, it uses functionalism as the comparative method to achieve the required result; fourth, it is selective in employing the comparative method in order to ensure the lowest common denominator; fifth, it often ignores the gap between form and practice; and sixth, it focuses on law-as-text to present legal and constitutional arrangements as free from ideological manipulation.
Keywords: Israel, Jewish and Democratic, liberalism, liberal zionism, religion, comparative constitutionalism
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