The Social-Democratic bloc in the European Parliament has come out against the Jewish nation-state bill currently being formulated by a Knesset committee, saying it discriminates against Arabs in Israel. The bloc expressed its opposition to the pending Israeli legislation in a letter written to senior EU officials two weeks after a delegation of Joint List MKs visited Brussels to make the same claim.
A statement by the 189-member Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament reads: “We express our deep concern over the nation-state bill currently under debate in the Knesset, which can be interpreted as an attempt to deepen and legalize systemic discrimination against the Palestinian Arab minority in the country.”
The S&D letter “is a result of our visit” to Brussels earlier this month, Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) told The Jerusalem Post. “The topic of the nation-state bill was one of the main topics we brought up in our meetings at the EU.” Jabareen recounted that an EU official who saw an English translation of the bill called it “a flavor of apartheid.”
The coalition’s Jewish nation-state bill is a proposed Basic Law that says that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and reestablishes in law the anthem and flag, among other national symbols and norms. Opposition critics say the bill gives Jewish citizens primacy, and point specifically to an article saying Hebrew is an official language, while Arabic has “special status.”
Last week, the Knesset committee working on a different bill debated an article that would allow separate towns for different communities – but added nationality or religion to the legal meaning of community. Hadash lawmakers on the left opposed the clause, calling it discriminatory.
The S&D letter was sent to the EU Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, as well as to European Parliament President Antonio Tajani last Friday.
The progressive MEPs urged Tajani and Mogherini “to raise their voice and to make it explicit that the adoption of this bill in its current shape – against the strong protests of the Palestinian Arab community constituting one-fifth of the population – is incompatible with the basic values of EU-Israel relations and with the image of Israel as a solid democracy in the Middle East.”
When the lawmakers from the Joint List met with MEPs and EU officials in Brussels last month, they protested against the Jewish nation-state bill and told their guests that Israel is violating the 1995 EU-Israel Association Agreement, specifically the article calling for the protection of human rights and democratic values.