Law, Citizenship and Social Solidarity: Israel's 'Loyalty-Citizenship' Laws As a Test Case

Revised Version to be published in Groups, Politics and Identities, Forthcoming

34 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2017

Date Written: February 20, 2016


The concept of loyalty or allegiance to the state, once perceived as a remnant of past times, irrelevant in a growingly globalized world, is resurging in public and political debates across the world. This can be attributed in part to internal discussions within states on questions of national identity, but also to the rise of external forces such as ISIS that threaten many states and are perceived as finding support among the threatened states' own citizens. This reality, it is argued, may require employing legal measures to ensure that citizens are loyal to their state.

Israel is one example of a country in which the concept of loyalty is occupying an increasingly central place in political discourse. The underlying premise of this discourse is that citizens owe a duty of loyalty to their citizenship state. Israel's Arab-Palestinian citizens, it is argued, fail to fulfill such duty.

This political discourse has given rise to a series of bills referred to by the media as the "Loyalty-Citizenship Laws". This article examines two types of proposals that are included in these bills. The first includes proposals to amend the language of pledges of allegiance required under law today by adding a reference to Israel "as a Jewish and Democratic State", or proposals that introduce new requirements to pledge allegiance to the state as a condition for receiving certain rights or benefits (the "Pledge Bills"). The second includes proposals to condition the enjoyment of certain rights and benefits in the fulfillment of military service or comparable national service, or, in the extreme version, to revoke the citizenship of those who did not perform such service (the "Service Bills").

The article argues the loyalty discourse in Israel, which gave rise to the Loyalty-Citizenship Laws, is based on flawed assumptions. The claim that citizenship bears special duties assumes that there are some legal duties associated exclusively with citizenship, which derive from the special relationship between citizens and their state. The article argues, however, that from an empirical perspective, there are actually very few duties associated exclusively with citizenship, and that the "duty of loyalty" to the state reflects, for the most part, the public perception that citizens should have a special sense of attachment towards their country of citizenship. The article argues that the concept of loyalty thus belongs more to the realm of feelings than to the realm of actions.

The article further argues that from a normative perspective, democratic states have no legitimate interest in creating a sense of attachment to the state itself. It argues, however, that states do have a legitimate interest in the existence of social solidarity. Solidarity and loyalty are closely linked: where solidarity exists, loyalty naturally arises. The legitimacy of laws that refer to the sentiment of loyalty thus depends on whether their goal is to promote social solidarity and whether they are tailored to achieve this goal.

The article argues that with respect to Israel's Loyalty-Citizenship Laws, the answer to both questions is negative. The Loyalty-Citizenship Laws, it is argued, exclude Israel's Arab-Palestinian citizens from the main solidarity group in Israel. By declaring the Jewishness of the state of Israel state to be the main pillar around which solidarity and loyalty should be built, the Loyalty-Citizenship laws deepen the exclusion and alienation of Israel's Arab-Palestinian citizens and thus undermine the prospect of creating all-encompassing social solidarity, which could, in turn strengthen loyalty to the state.

Keywords: Citizenship, Loyalty, Solidarity, Israel, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, National Identity, Discrimination

Suggested Citation

Hostovsky Brandes, Tamar, Law, Citizenship and Social Solidarity: Israel's 'Loyalty-Citizenship' Laws As a Test Case (February 20, 2016). Revised Version to be published in Groups, Politics and Identities, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Tamar Hostovsky Brandes (Contact Author)

Ono Academic College Faculty of Law ( email )

104 Zahal St.
Kiryat Ono, 55000

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