Written by: Almog Turgeman, Editor: Noa Lazimi and Adi Arbel, Research Assistance: Omer Aricha
One of the common claims raised against the State of Israel, in various contexts, is that its national symbols – the flag, emblem and anthem – possess a discriminatory nature vis-à-vis the minorities living in Israel and specifically, the Arab minority. The particularly Jewish characteristics present in the national anthem, flag and official emblem arouse the objection of certain sectors of the Israeli and of organizations such as ‘Adalah’ (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) that present themselves as concerned and striving for minority rights in Israel. The ‘Adalah’ organization surpassed itself and even defined the “Flag and Emblem Law”, adopted by the Knesset in 1949 and expanded in 2004 to include the national anthem, as discriminatory.
In an attempt to resolve this issue, we decided to conduct a study comparing the situation in Israel to that in countries with similar regimes and characteristics – nation states that advocate the principles of democracy. To that end, the study referred to below examined the use of national emblems in 32 democratic developed countries, members of the OECD, similar to Israel. The comparison was made with regards to the national flags, anthems and emblems of these countries.
The findings reveal an unequivocal picture: The overwhelming majority of the countries examined make use of national emblems that express the religious, ethnic or national heritage of its founders.
Some of the main findings are summarized below:
- 30 of 32 countries are not homogeneous with regards to religion i.e. the dominant religious group does not comprise more than 90% of the population. Only 13% of the countries examined are ethnically homogeneous.
- In 28 of 32 countries, the national anthem includes words that bear a religious, national or ethnic nature.
- In 26 of 32 countries, the national emblem contains a religious or national affinity. In 11 cases, the emblem contains a cross or a crescent.
- In 25 of the 32 countries, the national flag includes religious elements affiliated with the founder’s nationality, religion or historical homeland. In 11 cases, the flag contains a cross or a crescent.
These findings clearly prove that the State of Israel is not exceptional in its selection of national symbols. In practice, Israel’s use of symbols drawn from Jewish history and heritage constitutes an expression of a long-standing universal tradition devoid of any basis for the claim of discrimination or exclusion of the minorities living in Israel.