Globe Briefs November 27
Controversial Jewish nation-state bill passes Israeli Cabinet
Israel’s Cabinet passed a bill that would identify Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The measure, which has engendered controversy, advanced in a 14-6 vote on Sunday. It must pass a preliminary reading and two other readings in the Israeli parliament, which was to consider the so-called nation-state law on Nov. 26.
The ministers of the Likud (with the exception of Culture Minister Limor Livnat), Yisrael Beiteinu and Jewish Home parties voted for the bill, which was proposed by Zeev Elkin of Likud. Five members of the Yesh Atid party and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of Hatnua opposed the nation-state bill. Livnat abstained from the vote.
Under the bill, which “defines the State of Israel’s identity as the nation-state of the Jewish people,” Hebrew would become the official language, with Arabic having “special status.” Also, the measure calls Jewish law a basis for new legislation, among other matters.
A softening of the legislation proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly will be substituted for the current version when it returns to committee after the preliminary reading.
The Cabinet’s closed-door discussion on the bill reportedly degenerated into a shouting match.
“The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the Cabinet meeting. “It has equal individual rights for every citizen, and we insist on this. But only the Jewish People have national rights: a flag, anthem, the right of every Jew to immigrate to the country and other national symbols. These are granted only to our people, in its one and only state.”
Yemen minister dedicates award to country’s Jews
Yemen’s minister of culture is donating an international human rights prize to the country’s tiny and persecuted Jewish minority.
Arwa Othman, awarded the Alison Des Forges Award by Human Rights Watch in September, called for “tolerance” in her speech and announced she was giving her award to “brothers and friends from the Jewish community,” according to the Associated Press.
Othman made the announcement at a Nov. 20 celebration in the capital city of Sanaa, where roughly half the country’s Jewish population — numbering fewer than 90 in total — live in a guarded compound.
Arwa, a writer and former head of Yemen’s House of Folklore who was appointed this month to her Cabinet post, was praised by Human Rights Watch for her advocacy for civil rights in the country’s constitutional negotiations and her efforts to end child marriage. According to the AP, her advocacy for civil rights and the Jewish population has spurred a backlash by Yemen’s hardline Salafi Muslims.
Wellesley College drops Hillel director, Jewish chaplain posts
Wellesley College eliminated the posts of Hillel director and Jewish chaplain.
The two part-time positions at the all-female school in suburban Boston were removed last week, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported.
The college, which pays the salaries of the Wellesley Hillel staffers, said it decided to restructure and will hire a full-time rabbi to serve as Jewish chaplain, according to Ha’aretz. An interim Hillel director was hired to work nights four to eight hours a week.
The university reportedly made the decision without input from students, alumni or other stakeholders.
“It makes me and other students feel like we just lost our support system and are on our own,” Tali Marcus, a senior psychology major who is co-president of Wellesley Friends of Israel, told the newspaper.
The campus has been beset by tensions between the pro-Palestinian and Jewish communities since early in the fall semester.
Shortly after Israel’s military operation in Gaza had ended, posters featuring the images of Palestinian children who were killed or wounded appeared on dining hall walls, Ha’aretz reported.
Jewish students reportedly asked the university officials to intercede on the anti-Israel incidents on campus. Ha’aretz reported that the Wellesley administration did not respond to questions about the request or anti-Israel activities.
Also, a monthly dialogue between pro-Palestinian and Jewish students fell apart at the first meeting of the term.
About 10 percent of the Wellesley student body of 2,700 is Jewish.