On Sunday, May 7th, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved the “nation-state bill,” which will now be voted on in the Israeli Knesset. The bill states that Israel “is the national home of the Jewish people” and that “the right to the realization of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” The “nation-state bill” would also change the status of the Arabic language; if the bill is passed, Arabic will no longer be an “official language” in Israel, but will rather have a separate, inferior status. The bill would also have the effect of enshrining Jewish symbols and the Jewish Israeli national anthem, and stipulates that Israel “may allow a community, including members of the same religion or national origin, to have separate communal settlements.” In other words, if the bill passes, segregation in building and city planning based on religion and nationality would be sanctioned by law.
The “nation-state bill” also limits the power of the Supreme Court to adjudicate impartially. The implication of the “nation-state bill” is that when legal texts are unclear, the Court should give priority or defer to the Jewish character of the state. Given that the bill does not reference democratic values, it is clear that the intent of the bill is to ensure that the Jewish character of the state trumps democratic values and minority rights.
The HRA views the “nation-state bill” as a racist manifestation of a continuing campaign to promote racism and discrimination against the Palestinian minority in Israel. In recent years, attacks on the language, cultural, land, and housing rights of the Palestinian community in Israel have escalated, with home demolitions and discriminatory laws like the “admissions committee law” becoming the new norm. The “nation-state bill” represents a blatant attempt by the government to enshrine discrimination as a basic law. Furthermore, the bill’s targeting of the Arabic language is perceived as an attack on the collective identity and cultural rights of the Palestinian Arab minority. The HRA sees the “nation-state bill” as part of a process of delegitimizing and undermining the collective rights of the Palestinian minority and Israel, and believes that this bill will serve as a constitutional foundation and justification for continued discrimination and abuse against the Palestinian minority in Israel. As a result, the HRA views the “nation-state bill” not just as a cultural and identity-based attack on the Palestinian minority, but also as the creation of two legal statuses of citizenship: one for the Jewish majority and one for the Palestinian minority. Thus, the bill legitimizes legal discrimination on the basis of nationality, and moves the country towards an apartheid system.
The HRA calls on the international community, including international embassies, to make statements in opposition to the intent and the letter of this bill. Furthermore, we ask that international diplomats and embassy officials condemn this bill in bilateral relations with Israel, and highlight opposition to the bill and other discriminatory measures in discussions with Israeli officials.