One of the common claims raised against the State of Israel, in various contexts, is that its national symbols – the flag, emblem and anthem – are perse discriminatory vis-à-vis 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 public and of organizations such as ‘Adalah’ (The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) that present themselves as dedicated to minority rights in Israel.
In an attempt to resolve this issue, we decided to conduct a study comparing the situation in Israel to that in countries with similar characteristics – nation states that are full democracies, and so recognized by the international community. 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 a clear fact: The overwhelming majority of the countries examined make use of national emblems that express the religious, ethnic or national heritage of its founding communities. 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 with no basis for a claim of discrimination or untoward exclusion of the minorities living in Israel.