An Israeli court used the country's nation-state law to reject a lawsuit by two Arab schoolchildren yesterday, further dividing the country along lines of ethnic and religious identity.
The lawsuit, representing siblings aged 6 and 10, was filed by their uncle, Nezar Bakri, who demanded that the municipality of Karmiel pay them 25,000 shekels ($7,500) as reimbursement for travel expenses incurred by having to travel to an Arabic-language school outside the city.
The lawsuit was dismissed yesterday on the grounds that to take such action would have an impact on the city's "Jewish character" by initiating a demographic change. The plaintiffs were ordered to pay costs.
"Karmiel, a Jewish city, was meant to establish Jewish settlement in the Galilee," said the chief registrar of the Krayot Magistrate's Court, Yaniv Luzon. The establishment of an Arabic-language school and the funding of school rides for Arab students, he claimed, "could change the demographic balance and damage the city's character."
Luzon added that an administrative petition should have been filed instead, addressed to the Education Ministry rather than the municipality. There is, apparently, no legal obligation to provide transportation funding.
The main reason cited for the dismissal, though, was the nation-state law introduced in 2018, which says that only Jewish citizens have the right to self-determination and that judges are permitted to prioritise Jewish ethnicity and national character in their rulings. That law was controversial among Israel's non-Jewish citizens and condemned internationally.
According to Haaretz, the siblings' father, Qassem Bakri, was shocked at "such racism under the auspices of the law" and expressed his concerns that it would be one of the first such incidents that would have an impact on Israeli Arabs. "What's terrible is the explanation that 'It's a Jewish city,' as though there aren't other residents in Karmiel. There are first-class residents and second-class residents. It's the rotten fruit of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the nation-state law."
The Bakris said that they will be appealing against the decision to dismiss the lawsuit.