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Knesset debates bill to abolish the status of Arabic as an official language in Israel

February 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is looking at a draft bill which proposes the abolition of Arabic as an official language in the Zionist state. This would require the repeal of British Mandatory legislation in Palestine dating from 1922 which adopted Arabic, Hebrew and English as official languages. When the state of Israel was created through the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, the Zionists ditched English as an official medium of communication.

The proposed law is one of a number of initiatives designed to undermine the status of Arabic, which is the mother-tongue of more than 1.25 million Palestinian citizens of the state, one-fifth of the population. A draft constitution, for example, supported by a number of Israeli institutions, also proposes the removal of Arabic’s official status.

Human rights specialist Dr. Yousef Jabareen, the head of the Arab Centre of Rights Studies in Nazareth, said that this bill is racist in nature and intent. It is, he claims, part of a series of racist and extremist laws which have indicated Israel’s parliamentary and government obsession in recent years. He cited the law of allegiance to the Jewish and Zionist state and the law to prevent the commemoration of the Nakba as just two which strike at the heart of the status and identity of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.

Dr. Jabareen said that the country’s official language is derived from the authenticity of the Palestinians’ claim that they are the original owners of the land, the implications of which gives them collective national rights under international laws and conventions. At the core of these is their right to preserve their language and their national identity and develop it freely.

“In fact, not only has the ruling establishment not respected the official Arabic language, but it has also sought to cover it up and distort it, like other elements of the national and collective identity of Palestinians,” said Dr. Jabareen. “Our national memory and narrative of events has also been attacked.” Nevertheless, he added, the establishment has not yet dared to abolish it formally, in order to avoid international criticism. Dr. Jabareen stressed, “The Palestinian public preservation of their language, in Israel, Arabic, is due to a long and stubborn process of struggle, despite the policies of the state.”

Jabareen, who teaches law at the University of Haifa, pointed out that voting on this bill in the Knesset will be done after the International Mother Language Day. “Organisations such as UNESCO and the European Union should take a clear position against this racist bill and other Israeli measures affecting the collective and historical rights of Palestinian citizens with regards to their identity, language and culture, monuments and holy sites,” he insisted.

Source: Al Quds Al Arabi