The Lack of the Right to Equality in Israel is Unique in the Democratic World

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Israel Democracy Institute researchers welcome the move to anchor the right to equality in a Basic Law, and note the urgent need for this step, particularly in light of the Nation-State Law. At the same time, the researchers also recommend a series of amendments to the bill.

With the bill for the Basic Law: Equality soon to be presented to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) submitted a position paper welcoming the move to legislate the constitutional right to equality, to Minister of Justice, Gideon Saar. Of all the rights not currently included in Israel’s Basic Laws, this is perhaps the most important. Taking this step is urgently needed, particularly in light of the Nation-State Law, which emphasized the Jewish nature of the state. At the same time, the researchers also recommend a series of amendments to the bill.

IDI researchers, Prof. Yuval Shany and Dr. Amir Fuchs, note that among the justifications for adding the right to equality to Israel's Basic Laws, is the fact that “Israel is one of a very few countries in the world whose constitution or basic laws do not include any reference to the right to equality. This is unacceptable in the democratic world. Furthermore, against the backdrop of the Nation-State Law, which upset the delicate balance between the state’s Jewish character and the equality of all its citizens, there is an urgent need to explicitly introduce the concept of equality into Israel’s Basic Laws. In addition, the constitutional protection granted to the right to equality by court rulings through interpretation of the right to human dignity is not watertight.”

The researchers propose a series of amendments to the bill: First, the current wording refers overall only to "citizens" and not to individuals, unlike other provisions of the basic law the bill seeks to amend. The researchers argue that there should be no concern that laws granting special rights to citizens will be challenged by the right to equality for all individuals —including the Law of Return, which the courts have recognized as rooted in the definition of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

Prof. Shany and Dr. Fuchs propose expanding the list of groups which should not be discriminated against. They argue that discrimination on the basis of nationality is particularly lacking, and in any case, the list should include all other sources of unjustified discrimination. In this context, the current wording is too narrow and does not include explicit reference to discrimination (including one not linked to group affiliation), which is the most salient case of infringement on the right to equality.

In any case, they conclude, the bill is a worthy and just step which will contribute to the strengthening of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.

Link to the Hebrew opinion