The Ethics of Citizenship in Israel

in Israel Studies Review
Author: Ben Herzog 1
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  • 1 Ben-Gurion University herzogb@bgu.ac.il
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abstract

The evaluation of citizenship has always been tied to ethical issues, as citizenship laws reflect existing rules and also define the desired ‘good’ citizen. In order to assess whether ethical considerations have affected the legal construction of citizenship in Israel, I compared the two main laws in Israel that regulate newcomers and their citizenship—the Law of Return (1950) and the Citizenship Law (1952). I examined the legal texts and used content analysis to address the subjective intentions of the legislators who proposed them, as presented in an explanatory memorandum. Many scholars have argued that these laws were introduced as the foundational laws of the Jewish state. Nevertheless, until the 1980s, the Citizenship Law was explained as a technical measure governing the citizenship of non-Jews. Although both laws are presented as ethical, politicians characterize them as mainly republican, concealing their liberal ethical component.

Contributor Notes

ben herzog is the Michael Feige Career Development Chair in Israeli Society and a Lecturer at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism in Sede Boqer, at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His publications include the book Revoking Citizenship: Expatriation in America from the Colonial Era to the War on Terror (2015), and his articles on refugees and citizenship have been published in a variety of academic journals. E-mail: herzogb@bgu.ac.il

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