Human Diversity

Judaism is a Nationality, Not “Solely a Religion” says Leading Jewish Academic

The Jewish Supremacist claim that Judaism is “just a religion” has been definitely dismissed as untrue by the Israeli Supreme Court, which has ruled the exact opposite, a new article by Yedidia Z. Stern, vice president of research at the Israel Democracy Institute and a professor of law at Bar-Ilan University, has revealed.


Writing in an opinion piece in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Stern said that the State of Israel maintains a national population registry in which every resident is classified by both “citizenship” and “nationality.”

According to Stern, the citizenship of all Israelis is listed as “Israeli.”  However, under “nationality,” Israelis are defined as belonging to different ethnic and religious groups, among them Jewish, Arab and Druze.

The opinion piece, titled “Why ‘Israeli’ is not a nationality,” then goes on to explain that this concept is completely contrary to American and European concepts of nationality.

“For Americans, the definition of national identity is straightforward: It goes hand in hand with citizenship. If you are an American citizen, you are also American by nationality. The same applies to the French, Germans and many others.

“In Israel, however, there is a different but equally valid conception of the relationship between citizenship and nationality. Indeed, this understanding is central to Israel’s identity as a Jewish state,” Stern says.

He goes on to point out that Israel’s Supreme Court, in a decision handed down in October 2013, refused to recognize “Israeli” as a nationality.

The court, he said, “gave several essential reasons” for supporting a specific Jewish nationality over a general Israeli nationality.

“First, since it is reasonable to assume that a person cannot have two nationalities, this change would compel Jewish citizens of Israel to choose between being Israeli and Jewish. Most Israeli Jews would be forced into an impossible predicament. We see ourselves as both Jewish and Israeli, and one does not exclude the other.

“Second, if the nationality of Jewish citizens of Israel were to be classified as Israeli, the implication would be that Judaism is not a nationality for them but is solely a religion.

“This idea is antithetical to the fundamental doctrine of Zionism and its main thinkers, from Herzl to Ben-Gurion, who saw Zionism as the national movement of the Jewish people.

“Third, if the nationality of Jewish Israelis is defined as Israeli rather than Jewish, then the national bond we believe binds together Jews in Israel and Jews in the Diaspora would be severed.”

Stern goes on to point out that this last point allows the Zionist state to “protect” Jews all over the world, even if they have never even been to Israel.

“For example, the Israeli penal code applies to crimes that are committed against Jews because they are Jews even if those crimes are committed outside of Israel, and it applies to property of Jewish institutions that is vandalized as well.

“The State of Israel has thus taken upon itself the duty of protecting world Jewry as a profound expression of global Jewish solidarity.

“Though we may be divided by geography and citizenship, Israeli and American Jews — and our brothers and sisters around the world — are members of one nation.

“Thus, it is imperative for the State of Israel to distinguish between citizenship and nationality.”