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Arabs are now officially second-class citizens

Israel’s Nation-State Law has legalised racism and given up its pretensions to being a democracy

Image Credit: AFP
An Israeli soldier aims at Palestinian protesters waving national flag and throwing stones during clashes with Israeli forces, following a weekly demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian land by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on July 20, 2018.
Gulf News

It would be shamefully embarrassing for Western officials, particularly the Americans, to lecture Arabs from now on that Israel is ‘the region’s democratic oasis’ or ‘the only democracy in the Middle East.’ The Israeli state has not only uncovered its deep-rooted racist nature by adopting the latest ‘Nation-State Law’, but it has also officially ‘legalised’ its racism by parliamentary legislation. The ‘law’ gives Jews, wherever they are on the planet, exclusive rights to self-determination in Israel.

Israel has constitutionally put its Jewishness ahead of its so-called democracy. Last week, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) voted 62 in favour and 55 against with 2 abstentions, to pass the most racist legislation ever known that directly aims to discriminate against its Palestinian inhabitants. Frankly, the vote won’t change much of the life of Palestinians who are 22 per cent of Israel’s population and have always experienced Israel’s brutality since its creation in 1948. The only difference now after the vote is that discrimination against Arabs in Israel has become officially legal.

“Nation-State Law is clearly a definite statement to those citizens of Israel who are not Jews, informing them: You are legally now second-class citizens”
-Mustapha Karkouti
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The legislation clearly reveals the ugly face of racism in Israel by declaring that the country is “the historic homeland of the Jewish people” (…) and that “the rights to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” Also, the new law specifically establishes Hebrew as the “official language” downgrading Arabic to what the law calls “special status”. More dangerously the law also claims the internationally illegal “Jewish settlements [colonies]”, including those built in the occupied territories after 1967 war in Palestine and Syria’s Golan Hight, are “of a national value”.

Chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee Avi Dichter, who sponsored the law, viciously insulted the protesting 17 Arab members of the Knesset on the day of passing the bill and said: “We (the Jews) were here before you, and we will be here after you.” Dichter, who represents Likud party, continued: “We are shrining this important bill into law to prevent the slightest thought, let alone attempt, to transfer (presumably he meant to turn) Israel to a country for all its citizen (sic).” What Dichter is really saying that Israel’s purpose of existence is to cater to Jews not only inside Israel but wherever they live and regardless whether if there were citizens of Israel or not.

Dichter’s is reminiscent of many racial statements issued by Zionist leaders throughout Israel’s history, including that of the Likud’s co-founder and former prime minister, the infamous Menachem Begin. “The (British) partition of Palestine is illegal” he once stated in the Knesset, “and it will never be recognised.” Begin, who co-signed Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in March 1979 with former president Anwar Sadat, added: “Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital … Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it … and forever.”

No more pretence

However, Israel has eventually opted for the religiousness of its identity rather than its own controversial brand of democracy. The bill was, before it became a law, first introduced a little less than seven years ago, but never went through to become legislation because of its decisiveness nature. The pretence of being a democracy has reached its final limits because of the Israeli government’s failure to maintain the delicate balance between appearing as a democracy and its true racist identity. Since its founding in 1948, Israel miserably failed under a left or right rule to maintain the Jewishness concept and a well-respected democracy. In fact, Israel was never a democracy even though it managed to pretend to be one for a long time. Now, the mask has fallen and the pretence to be both Jewish and democratic is no longer sustainable.

The fact that bill was rejected few times since it was first introduced in 2011, clearly reflects the predicament of the Apartheid nature of the regime in general. The world has clearly seen that criminal practice in South Africa in the not distant past. But in the case of Israel, this discriminative practice against its sizeable Arab minority, successive Israeli governments have continued, unhindered, under the protection of the United States.

However, as far the as the Arabs in Israel [Palestinians in 1948 areas] are concerned, they have been subjected to Israel’s brutality since the creation of the state. Therefore, any changes that the recent law brings along are only symbolic. In fact, the notorious British colonial document, known as ‘Balfour Declaration’ of 1917, recognisably confirmed the establishment of a “homeland for the Jews” in Palestine without even uttering a word about the future fate of its Arab citizens. Arabs in Palestine remained the majority till their great expulsion from their homeland in 1948 in what was known as ‘Nakba’ (Catastrophe).

Therefore, the Nation-State Law is clearly a definite statement to those citizens of Israel who are not Jews, informing them: you are legally now second-class citizens. In other words, the Israeli establishment is challengingly telling the world: we are Jewish first … and this is supreme. That’s it.

Mustapha Karkouti is a columnist and former president of the Foreign Press Association, London. Twitter: @mustaphatache

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