The Israeli Knesset passed a new bill into law granting Christian Arabs separate representation from other Arabs on the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity. The bill, which was proposed by Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman MK Yariv Levin, was approved by a 30-5 margin in its second reading and a 31-6 vote in its third reading.
The new law provides additional representation for minorities, including the Christian, Druze and Circassian populations in Israel, at the expense of the Arab minority identity, which will now be divided along religious lines.
Speaking about the legislation, Levin had previously told the Israeli newspaper Maariv that he prefers to refer to Christian Arabs as Christians only and not as "Arabs, because they are not Arabs." He also suggested that Christian Arabs are the "natural allies" of Jewish Israelis as they differ from the Muslim Arabs, "who want to destroy the state from within."
In response, Arab MKs slammed the bill as sectarian legislation that aims to divide-and-rule the Arab population in Israel.
MK, Jamal Zahalka of the Balad Party pointed out that the new law aims to divide one nation into sects and treat them as subjects rather than as citizens who have the right to a national affiliation. He said that "Muslims, Christians and Druze face the same difficulty in finding a job and are equally discriminated against in the employment market," because they are all Arabs. And yet, "there are no associations concerned with employing Arabs as stated by the artificial sectarian division brought by Levin," he added.
MK Hanin Zoabi, also with the Balad Party, agreed that the new law aims to fragment the Arab national identity, but noted that it will inevitably fail because people define their own identity and no one is entitled to impose it upon them according to their whims and interests. She further explained that: "Colonialists try to separate groups of natives. The prime example of this is South Africa and the French regime in Algeria. We are the natives here and we have a clear identity. We are Palestinians, part of the Arab nation, and your law will fail. Part of the Zionist project is to suppress our identity, but I have the right to speak in the name of the Palestinians."
MK Basil Ghattas said that Levin's policy is not far from the foundations laid by Chaim Weizmann in 1918, when he visited Palestine and asked the Zionist movement to fabricate a distinction between Christians and Muslims and to treat the Palestinian people on a sectarian basis.
"Christians are an essential and integral part of the Arab nation and the Palestinian people, and neither Levin nor anyone else can change this well-established fact," he concluded.