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Israeli parliament approves discriminatory laws targeting Arab citizens

February 20, 2014 at 3:32 pm

At dawn on 23 March, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) approved two new laws which critics say are discriminatory against the state’s Palestinian citizens. The “Nakba Law” was proposed by right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu MK Alex Miller and provides for the Zionist state to withdraw government funding from bodies, organisations and local authorities which “deny Israel its fundamental value of Jewishness and democracy”. The second was the “Town Acceptance Committee Law” and provides for so-called acceptance committees to be set up in towns with populations of 400 or less. These committees will have the power to prevent specific families and individuals from moving into the area if they are deemed to be “unsuited to the social fabric” of the district.

According to Palestinian sources, including a rights centre based in Israel, these new laws are aimed specifically at Arab minorities and their community organisations. The Nakba Law, it is claimed, is an obvious attempt to prevent Palestinians from keeping alive the memory of their historic tragedy, known in Arabic as the “Nakba” (Catastrophe), when Israel was created in an act which, in turn, created the Palestinian refugee crisis. The law is intended to undermine the rights of one section of Israeli society while limiting their freedom of expression through threats of budget cuts. It is said that this will have a significant impact on educational and cultural institutes and the services they provide. Moreover, it will increase anti-Arab discrimination and damage the principle of equality within Israel’s democracy and the rights of Arab citizens to preserve their history. The Town Acceptance Committee Law has been introduced following public statements by senior rabbis that Jews in Israel shouldn’t rent their properties to Arab families; the law reduces the possibility of Arabs being able to live in certain areas and affects those who are most vulnerable in society.

An Arab member of the Knesset, MK Hanin Zoabi, commented: “It appears that this Knesset does not comprehend the concept of a state, of citizenship or of democracy. We are talking about a savage state which pokes its nose at the ideas and feelings of the people and considers my historic narrative incitement to racism.”

The head of the Tajamu parliamentary bloc, MK Jamal Zahalka added: “Whatever looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck is a duck. A government with a racist façade, which carries out racist acts and passes racist laws, is most certainly racist.” He said that the Israeli government is hostile to Arabs and treats them with a shameful level of racism. He emphasised that this kind of racism is not an internal Israeli matter and that he and his colleagues would seek to expose Netanyahu and his government’s lies to the world regarding Israeli democracy. He also said that they will be seeking international protection to confront the tyranny of the racist majority.

Source: Palestinian Information Centre