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Supreme Court Rejects Citizens' Request to Change Nationality From 'Jewish' to 'Israeli'

Supreme Court Rejects Citizens' Request to Change Nationality From 'Jewish' to 'Israeli'

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Published by: Thavam on Oct 05, 2013
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Article by Revital Hovel-
Court rules against change in identity card registration, citing thatthere is no proof of the existence of a uniquely 'Israeli' people.
(TEL AVIV Ha'aretz) - Israel'sSupreme Court on Wednesdayrejected a request by a group of Israelis to declare that they weremembers of the Israeli people andto allow them to change the ethnicregistration on their identity cardsfrom “Jewish” to “Israeli.” The court ruled that the issue wasnot one for the court to decide andthat there was no proof of theexistence of a uniquely “Israeli” people. The court’s ruling echoedthat in a similar case 40 years ago.The decision by court President Asher Grunis and Justices Uzi Vogelmanand Hanan Melcer upheld the 2008 ruling by their colleague, NoamSohlberg, who, as a Jerusalem District Court judge, had rejected thegroup’s petition.Israel does not recognize “Israeli” as an ethnic group [in Hebrew le’om.]The term can be translated into English as “nationhood,” but in the sense of ethnic affiliation, rather than citizenship. The le’om attrribution - the mainones are “Jewish” and “Arab” - is assigned by the Interior Ministry,regardless of the card-bearers preference.The main appellant was Prof. Uzzi Ornan, a linguist who has long battled toseparate religion and state. Ornan, 90, was born and raised in Jerusalem.He was expelled to Eritrea in 1944, when his underground activities wererevealed to the British authorities. When he returned to Israel in 1948, hewas registered in the state’s first census and insisted that he not be listedas “Jewish.” Instead, he wrote that he was of no religion and gave hisethnic designation as “Hebrew.” The newly-formed Interior Ministryaccepted this without question.
Courtesy: dualcitizenship.com
In 2000, Ornan petitioned the Interior Ministry to be registered as an ethnic “Israeli,” but his request was rejected and none of his subsequent legalactions were successful. In 2007, he submitted another appeal to theJerusalem District Court, together with Uri Avnery, Shulamit Aloni, Prof.Itamar Even-Zohar, Prof. Yosef Agassi, singer Alon Olearchik, playwrightJoshua Sobol and others.In his ruling rejecting the appeal, Sohlberg stated, “the requesteddeclaration has a public, ideological, social, historic and political character –but not a legal one. This isn’t a technical issue of registration in thePopulation Registry, but a request that the court determine that in theState of Israel a new peoplehood has been formed, common to all itsresidents and citizens, called ‘Israeli.’ This issue is a national-political-socialquestion and it is not the court’s place to decide it.” The group argued in its appeal that an Israeli people was formed with theestablishment of the State of Israel and that rejecting the existence of sucha people is like rejecting the existence of the State of Israel as ademocratic, sovereign state. They added that this was indeed a legalquestion that the courts could not avoid. In their response, the InteriorMinistry and the attorney-general supported the district court decision,saying the issue was not justiciable.The primary precedent on which the justices based themselves in theirruling Wednesday was the case of Dr. Georges Tamarin, who immigrated toIsrael in 1949 from Yugoslavia. He was registered as being of Jewishethnicity, but in the religion section was listed as having no religion.In 1970, after a change in the law that forbade listing someone as being “Jewish” in either the ethnicity or religion section if he didn’t meet thedescription of a Jew in the Law of Return, Tamarin went to court to changehis ethnic designation to “Israeli.” Both the Tel Aviv District Court and theSupreme Court rejected his request, stating that for a person to declarethat he belongs to a given ethnic group, there had to be proof that thegroup exists. Court President Shimon Agranat stated that “there is nosignificance to the person’s subjective feeling of belonging to a given ethnicgroup, without being able to establish via any criteria that such a groupexists.” Ornan expressed his disappointment with the ruling. “In its ruling the court,in effect, agrees to totally ignore the obligations included in the Declarationof Independence, which promises full equality among all the state’scitizens, regardless of religion, race or gender,” he said.
The government consensus that has developed ignores the existence of anIsraeli people that was created with the Declaration of Independence,” Ornan continued. “This consensus enables the Jewish majority to have full

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