Proposed state of Israel bill labelled racist
JERUSALEM: Israel’s president has said a bill promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to anchor in law the status of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is counter to its founding fathers’ vision of equality for Arab citizens.
The bill comes at a time of high tensions in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, where a dispute over access to a religious site sacred to Jews and Muslims has ignited Palestinian streets protests and lethal attacks on Jews.
“The formulators of the (Israeli) Declaration of Independence, with much wisdom, insisted the Arab communities in Israel, as well as other groups, should not feel as the Jews had felt in exile,” President Reuven Rivlin said.
The 1948 declaration, while proclaiming the creation of a Jewish state, emphasised its democratic nature and promised “complete equality” of social, religious and cultural rights for all, Rivlin said.
The bill won cabinet approval on Sunday, despite the opposition of centrist ministers, but several versions must still be merged, and parliamentary ratification is not imminent.
Netanyahu’s draft pledges to “uphold the individual rights of all of Israel’s citizens”. But it also says only the Jewish people have “national rights” – the right to selfdetermination in Israel, a flag, an anthem and free immigration.
Critics say the bill is anti-democratic. Legislators of the Arab community, which makes up 20 percent of Israel’s population of 8.2 million, say it is racist.