The Linguistic Angle of Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People

After determining that Hebrew is the exclusive language of the state of Israel, the nation-state law (2018) also regulates that Arabic will not be recognized as an official language, and will instead receive a “special status”. One could ask why the legislator chose to include language in a law that mainly deals with state symbols and national definition; or why it is even mentioned in a document about the Jewish definition of the State. In my presentation, I suggest the following three points: first, the marginalization of the Arabic language is key to understanding the political aims of the law and the sort of national collective the legislators have envisioned. Second, marginalizing the Arabic language doesn’t only draw borders between Arabs and Jews, it also alienates Jews from their own legacy, since Arabic language and culture lie at the basis of the ancient Jewish past. And finally, language is a pre-condition for the ability to express individual and collective justice.