Israel’s Arab-Palestinian national minority launched its legal struggle against the racist Nation-State Law on Tuesday, August 7, with the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, the National Committee of Arab Mayors and the Joint List demanding that it be annulled and Adalah ― The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights ― petitioning the Supreme Court to do so, calling it a bid to advance “ethnic superiority by promoting racist policies.” On July 19, the Israeli Knesset voted 62 to 55 to approve the racist Nation-State Bill as a Basic Law that constitutionally enshrines Jewish supremacy and the identity of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
This law – which has distinct apartheid characteristics – guarantees the ethnic-religious character of Israel as exclusively Jewish and entrenches the privileges enjoyed by Jewish citizens, while simultaneously anchoring discrimination against Palestinian citizens and legitimizing exclusion, racism, and systemic inequality. The petitioners stress, “A law that denies the civil and national rights of Palestinians in their homeland is racist, colonialist, and illegitimate.”
Speaking at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the head of High Follow-Up Committee and former Hadash MK, Muhammad Barakeh, said “Perhaps in the immediate future we won’t witness any changes to the racist conduct of the Israeli government against the Arab public; but parties’ platforms are going to be based on a race theory that discriminates against citizens. We demand the unconditional annulment of the law.”During the press conference, Barakeh referred to the mass Druze protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, August 4, saying that “Every voice coming out against this law is welcome; but I don’t think citizenship should derive from loyalty to the regime or from military service.”
During the press conference, Barakeh referred to the mass Druze protest in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, August 4, saying that “Every voice coming out against this law is welcome; but I don’t think citizenship should derive from loyalty to the regime or from military service.”
In a prepared statement Barakeh said “We’re not saying these things on behalf of a specfic party or movement within the Arab population, but on behalf of the Arab public in general.” Barakeh stressed, “We demand the unconditional annulment of the law.” He also invited Arabs and Jews to attend the demonstration being organized by the High Follow-Up Committee and which will be held this coming Saturday evening, August 11, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
In a nearly 60-page petition, the petitioners maintain that the Israeli Supreme Court must annul the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law, as it is racist legislation that contradicts all norms of international law. By explicitly declaring that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people alone, it totally excludes Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise 20 percent of the population of the state, and who are a homeland minority group. Four other petitions opposing the law were filed by Druze Knesset members, by the opposition Meretz party, by members of the Arab Bedouin community in the Negev and by a group of Jewish lawyers.
Adalah attorneys Hassan Jabareen, Suhad Bishara, Myssana Morany, Fady Khoury, and Sawsan Zaher, who surveyed the constitutional history of numerous states around the world, stress in the petition that: “There is no other constitution in the world today containing a clause that determines that the state belongs to one ethnic group or that a given state is exclusive to a certain ethnic group.”
Adalah also argues in its petition that “countries that defined themselves as belonging to only one group – such as the United States until after the American Civil War and South Africa until the fall of apartheid – were perceived as colonialist because they were based on the principle of ethnic superiority, imposed a constitutional identity on other national groups, and excluded the indigenous population… There is also no single constitution in the world that does not include the right to equality for all its citizens and residents.”
It is also argued that, in violation of the United Nations charter, the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law negates the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. In addition, the law’s application to East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights also stands in violation of international law, which considers these areas to be occupied.
Regarding the collective rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the status of the Arabic language, Adalah’s attorneys argue in their petition that “the Nation-State Law – in violation of international law – does not recognize any collective right of the Arabs as a homeland minority, as opposed to enshrining broad exclusive collective rights for the Jewish population, as if Jews were a minority requiring special protection. The law also demotes Arabic from its previous status as an official language and declares that Arabic will not be an official language in this land for the first time in modern history.”
Regarding Article 7 of the Nation-State Law, the petition contends that the State of Israel declares, “That it is solely for the benefit of the Jews” and therefore must exclude Arabs “in order to promote and encourage Jewish settlement.” Article 7 “marks Arab citizens – wherever they may be – as ‘the other’ and the state must therefore discriminate in the allocation of land, housing, budgets and incentives, and land planning and zoning.”
The petition explains, “There is no single constitution in the world today that declares in its laws that it will act to advance the interests of the dominant group, particularly when it concerns public resources such as land.”
Last Saturday, August 4, tens of thousands of protesters who oppose the law attended a demonstration in Tel Aviv organized by the Druze community calling for its annulment to ensure equality for all Israel’s citizens.