Guardian op-ed by Daniel Barenboim distorts nation-state law and Israel’s founding principles

In his Guardian op-ed, Daniel Barenboim, a musician who holds Israeli citizenship, follows in the Guardian tradition of expressing contempt for Israel by claiming that its policies betray the country’s founding principles, whilst distorting both the policies and founding principles.  His piece attacking the Jewish nation-state law (This racist new law makes me ashamed to be Israeli, July 23) in fact grossly mischaracterises both the bill and the founding Zionist ideals (articulated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence) it is said to betray.

He begins by selectively quoting from Israel’s declaration of independence:

“The state of Israel will devote itself to the development of this country for the benefit of all its people; it will be founded on the principles of freedom, justice and peace, guided by the visions of the prophets of Israel; it will grant full equal, social and political rights to all its citizens regardless of differences of religious faith, race or sex; it will ensure freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”

Barenboim then argues that the founding fathers of the state “considered the principle of equality to be the bedrock of the society they were building”, but that, seventy years on, “the Israeli government has just passed a law that replaces the principle of equality and universal values with nationalism and racism.”

This law, he adds, “states that only the Jewish people have a right to national self-determination in Israel.”

However, the founding declaration he refers to doesn’t merely speak of equality, but also of the Jewish right to self-determination in their land.  Passages assert “the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country”, the right of Jews to “rebuild” their “national home”, and cite the right granted by the UN to “the Jewish people to establish their state”.  It further declares that the “Jewish people” have the right “to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State”, and appeals “to the UN to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State”.

In short, the declaration enshrines equality under the law for all its inhabitants, whilst stressing, as does the new Jewish nation-state law, that national self-determination is reserved for Jews.  

Barenboim then argues that this part of the law represents “apartheid” as it “confirms the Arab population as second-class citizens”, a claim completely at odds with the truth, as the law doesn’t supersede the Basic Law on “Human Dignity and Liberty” which establishes “the fundamental rights granted to all Israeli citizens, Jewish or not.”

Interestingly, as Shany Mor pointed out in his letter in the Guardian, in response to Barenboim’s op-ed, the Palestinian constitution declares that Palestine is Arab, that Islam is its official religion, that Arabic is the official language and “recognises no other people as having a linguistic or cultural or political claim” to the state.

Would Barenboim, who also has Palestinian citizenship, characterise Palestine as a racist “apartheid” state?

Moreover, as International Law expert Eugene Kontorovich explained, the law’s declaration of Israel as a uniquely Jewish state, and declaring Hebrew the official language whilst protecting Arabic’s “special” status, is not inconsistent with liberal democratic constitutions of Europe.

The Latvian Constitution, Kontorovich explains, opens by declaring the “unwavering will of the Latvian nation to have its own State and its inalienable right of self-determination in order to guarantee the existence and development of the Latvian nation, its language and culture throughout the centuries.” Latvia’s population, Kontorovich adds, is about 25% ethnically and linguistically Russian.  And, the Slovak Constitution, he notes, opens with the words, “We the Slovak nation,” possess “the natural right of nations to self-determination.”

The Spanish constitution states clearly that “national sovereignty belongs to the Spanish people”, not Catalans, Galicians or Basques. 

Would Barenboim, or the Guardian, ever publish an op-ed suggesting that Spain, Slovakia or Latvia have “racist” constitutions?

Of course, employing such double standards against the Jewish state, by holding it to standards not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, can arguably be characterised as antisemitic based on the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism –  a pattern of inconsistency in the expression of moral opprobrium which represents the most egregious element of the Guardian’s institutionally biased coverage of Israel. 

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14 replies »

  1. Daniel Barenboim is a wonderful maestro whose work I have appreciated over several decades. His creation of the East West Divan Orchestra has been a major contribution towards inter communal understanding. That said he is just another celebrity who thinks he knows more about politics than politicians. Perhaps politicians should avoid conducting orchestras (Edward Heath excepted), and maestros should avoid politics. Barenboim’s expression of ‘shame to be an Israeli’ is a statement of disloyalty, but it is perhaps a disloyalty that equates with the way he treated his late wife Jacqueline Du Pre by fathering two children by another woman during his marriage. Maybe he should consider such things before making inflammatory statements that aid the enemies of his adopted homeland.

    Other than that I agree with virtually all the views expressed in Adam’s piece.

  2. I sometimes run into Barenboim in central Berlin. I find him vain and arrogant. The German government paid for his new music hall which is called Barenboim Said, as in Edward Said . Barenboim is the typical lefty culrured EU Jew who virtue signals as Hamas burns down southern Israel. Barenboim was tight with Said and his wife. I rest my case.

  3. It’s obvious israel is the Jewish homeland and has been for 70 years Israel is stronger militarily, economically, and even diplomatically than ever before. Then, why enact this stupid, dangerous, and divisive law now other than for petty, coalition politics?

    • If it is, in fact, so obvious, then what is Barenboim ashamed of and why have so many distorted this law to attack Israel? There is, in fact, nothing particularly new or noteworthy in this amendment to the Basic Law and, more importantly, no existing rights are diminished or even changed. So, the question for you is what specific provisions do you find “stupid, dangerous and divisive” if everyone already understands that Israel is the nationstate of the Jewish people?

      • There is, in fact, nothing particularly new or noteworthy in this amendment to the Basic Law and, more importantly, no existing rights are diminished or even changed

        Then why bother when so many good Zionist Jews feel that they have been poked in the eye? Changes may soon come about as the Israel Druze community mobilize to oppose this unnecessary and divisive piece of …. shit/legislation.

        Why Israel’s Model Minority Is Leading the Protest Against the Nation-state Law

        Not that I am defending either The Guardian or Barenboim.

        • Good Zionist Jews know that Israel is the Jewish State and are pleased about it. Countries don’t generally grant their minorities national rights.

          • Israeli Druze have bled many a Druze teenager soldier to defend Israel against her enemies. Do you feel that Jews are the only really relevant people who can truly feel, and therefor define, antisemitism when they encounter it? I do. Just as African Americans can define anti Afro American racism when they encounter it.

            And so, Druze are the ones to define if they feel that a particular law is anti Druze. They are ALL very offended by the new law. They feel that it has made them ‘less Israeli’ than Haredi Jews who, for the most part, refuse to join the IDF and to defend Israel against its murderous enemies. And. (Gasp! Horror!). Most Druze in the near past, vote BIBI.

            • Where does the law mention anything about Druze?
              Feelings are nice, but thinking is good too. The law changes nothing about their status as citizens of the state. A law which changes nothing about one’s status, changes nothing about one’s status. Education is key.
              Writing “ALL” in caps is not persuasive, and probably not true. Don’t Druze also live in Syria, an Arab State? Do they feel less “Syrian”?
              Israel is the Jewish State. All its citizens have equal rights before the law. This is not a unique concept.
              The military service of all Israelis, Jews and non-Jews, is appreciated.

    • Perhaps because of the assault on its legitimacy. Did you ever think of that or are you just too busy writing campaign ads?

    • I don’t need to defend all Islamist supremacy values. And Islam’s hostility to Western Liberal Democracy. BUT. I want Israel to be a true Western Liberal Democracy. Giving Jews a special ‘position’ in Israel is wrong although I do accept and support that Israel must always accept Jewish refugees. Assuming that the refugees are not criminal too.

      Otherwise, Israel is a state of all its citizens. With no distinction of race, skin color, religion or sexual preference.

      The new law is a poke in the eye to people like myself. The Declaration of Independence is the document that inspires my Zionism. Nothing more is needed.

  4. “Would Barenboim, or the Guardian, ever publish an op-ed suggesting that Spain, Slovakia or Latvia have “racist” constitutions?”
    Only if they decided to move their embassies to Jerusalem. :0)

    • Baremboim also holds Spanish citizenship.

      In addition he holds Argentine citizenship.

      Section 2.- The Federal Government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic religion. [not just Christianity but a particular branch of Christianity]
      Section 25.- The Federal Government shall foster European immigration; and may not restrict, limit or burden with any tax whatsoever, the entry into the Argentine territory of foreigners who arrive for the purpose of tilling the soil, improving industries, and introducing and teaching arts and sciences. [Specific preference for Europeans]