Aug 27, 2014

Proposed Law: only Hebrew

Some MKs on the right side of the political spectrum, from the parties including Yisrael Beyteynu, Likud and Habayit Hayehudi, are working to propose a new law.

The new law would really just be the cancellation of a clause that was adopted from the British Mandate.

The law proposal would be to take away the status of Arabic as an official language of the State of Israel. If the law would pass, Israel would no longer publish its official forms and announcements in Arabic, as it does now in addition to Hebrew. As well, the Arabic language would cease to be used in government offices and in the courts. The proposal does make an exception for road signs, saying road signs would continue to be published with Arabic included, as everybody has the right to use the language they prefer.

The law is being proposed by MK Shimon Ohayoun (Yisrael Beyteynu), in coordination with MKs Dovid Rotem and Chemed Amar, along with moshe Feiglin (Likud) and Orit Strouk (Habayit Hayehudi).

There have been attempts to pass similar laws in the past, always unsuccessfully.

The reason for the proposal is that most countries have their national language, the language spoken by most of its population. The Hebrew language as the national language needs to be anchored in law. Passing the proposal would effect more societal cohesion and would build a collective identity...
source: Haaretz

I don't have a strong opinion on this. I am in favor of it generally, despite the acknowledgement that we still have a sizable Muslim population. It does help that many of the Muslims are splitting off of Israel - whether in the West Bank or Gaza, but there will still be plenty that will remain in Israel as Israeli citizens. I dont know if that justifies its status as a national language, but it leaves me in the position of being in favor, but not strongly. It is actually probably more justified to add Amharic or Russian as official languages than to leave Arabic as an official language.

Even though the timing is so close to the conflict/war with Gaza, at least that is not the official reason being given.

I do think it is good to have one language and promote only Hebrew. we have minority languages of all types in use. If they are not protected, Arabic need not be either. It can, obviously, still be used, it just wont have official status.



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12 comments:

  1. amazing how its always the right winger who want to take away more from the arab citizens. I wonder how America has survived not having an official language.

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  2. As an American who often visits Israel, that street and highway signs show Arabic translations always annoys me, if only because it is a Jewish nation and any compromise along these lines also breaks and perverts the integrity of this premise.

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    1. As an Israeli who lives in Israel, that street and highway signs show English translations always annoys me, if only because it is a Jewish nation and any compromise along these lines also breaks and perverts the integrity of this premise.

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    2. it used to bother me as well, but then I considered that a country that relies so heavily on tourism for its financial and economic viability, it cannot expect tourists to drive around the country and read the Hebrew road signs.. the English bothers me less now. I consider it a boost to tourism

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    3. Rafi
      Do you realize that i was being a bit sarcastic. This "American who often visits Israel" is annoyed by Arabic in signs because it "breaks and perverts the integrity of this premise" (whatever that means).

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  3. Um, not sure if you are aware, but the reason why Arabic was an official language under the British Mandate is because the native citizens of the country were Arabic speakers. The idea that it would be more justified to add Amharic or Russian is absurd. The speakers of those languages knowingly moved to Israel in order to join the society there, where the main language is Hebrew. Leaving their former country and culture to join a new one is not a reason for the new one to adapt new official languages. Keeping Arabic as an official language is a sign of respect to the approximately 15% of the population who were turned into a minority in their own land by immigrating foreigners, regardless of who one believes "should" control Eretz Yisrael. I am sure that if their were 45 million Native Americans in the U.S., they would have kept their common language (assuming they all had one) as a second official language.

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    1. it was more of a tongue in cheek comment then an actual idea. but regarding your comment, hasnt spanish become an official language in some states in the USA, due to the local population, even though they came knowing the USA language is English?

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    2. what I wrote is not accurate. the USA has no official language. many states have recognized spanish language rights.

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    3. Well put, Yehoshua. Funny thing is, some of these same Knesset members seem to be in favor of annexing most of the West Bank, which would mean adding another few million Arab citizens. Unless they intend to impose non-citizen status on non-Jews, but of course they couldn't do that because it would start seeming like a certain system that used to exist in another country that we are definitely not similar to, and anyone that says we are is a dirty, rotten anti-semite.

      The question I have is, don't these people have better things to do than to promote laws that serve no useful purpose except to boost the right wing bona fides of these Knesset members and give Israel's enemies more ammunition?

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    4. Yeah, this could be a distraction, but it's certainly not the only distraction, nor the only time this strategy has been employed.

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  4. Sabbabba. But, then what about Russian and English? They're not official languages, but are used just the same, and may be responsible for enabling Russian and English speakers not to have to work on their Hebrew skills.

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  5. I heard about this yesterday and in fact, there is NO official language in the country, and that is what the law will finally establish. The law will not change any status quo that already exists, and is formally a declaratory law. I would certainly take it one step forward and require all signs in public to include Hebrew. It is frankly preposterous that many signs in Arabic, and also other languages in the foreign workers areas and d e f i n i t e l y the plethora of English only signs. Something like, a requirement of a 10-30% font in Hebrew.

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