(AsiaNews) - A new law that provides for distinct representation for Christian
and Muslim Israeli Arabs has been labelled racist by both Jews and
On Monday, the
Knesset approved a minor bill expanding the equal opportunities commission from
five to ten members, giving separate seats to Christians, Muslims, Druze and
Some MKs (Members
of the Knesset) have immediately slammed the law as "useless" because
Israeli society has a duty to provide jobs to all Arabs, not specifically to
Christians or Muslims.
the bill's sponsor, Likud MK Yariv Levin, has led to a heated debate. Interviewed
by the newspaper Maariv a few weeks ago,
he explained that the purpose of the law is "To grant separate representation
and separate treatment to the Christian community, which will be distinguished
from the Muslim Arabs."
"This," he explained,
"is a historic and important move that could help balance the State of Israel,
and connect us and the Christians, and I'm being careful about not calling them
Arabs because they aren't Arabs."
"We and the
Christians have a lot in common," he added. "They're our natural allies, a
counterweight to the Muslims who want to destroy the country from within."
community has its roots in the 160,000 Palestinians who remained inside Israel
following its creation in 1948. Today they and their descendants number around
1.3 million (20 per cent) out of a total Israeli population of 7.9 million.
enjoy full citizenship and are allowed to vote but have long complained of
Adopted two days
ago, the law is seen by many as an attempt to divide Israeli Palestinians on
the basis of religion, pitting Christians against Muslims, in order to make the
first the "allies" of the State of Israel.
For Meretz MK
Issawi Freij, "an effort is being made to try to define the state according to
religions. Here they are trying to say that there's a difference between Muslim
Arabs and Christian Arabs."
Balad party chief
Jamal Zahalka also criticised the bill's sponsor. "Arab rights don't interest
Yariv Levin," he said. "We will not be his lackeys."
aims to create a new reality among our people based on religion and not
national identity," Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee
member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement.
Today, an editorial
in Haaretz also describes the law as
racist because it separates "good Arabs" (Christians)" from "bad
distinction is designed to spark conflicts between minorities in a
divide-and-conquer style that breaches international agreements that Israel has
signed," the paper writes.
sources in Jerusalem told AsiaNews
that the law itself does not make any substantial change to the situation since
Christians are Arab by ethnicity and tradition.
Still, there is widespread
fear that, as a result of the Knesset bill, Palestinian Muslims will look upon Christians
as enemies and as allies of the Israeli state.
Backed by Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a campaign is underway to enrol more Christians in
the Israeli Defence Forces whilst excluding Muslim Arabs, thus contributing to
In this regard, MK
Basel Ghattas (an Orthodox Christian) wrote a letter to Pope Francis, which he gave
to the Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Giuseppe
Lazzarotto. The Holy Father is expected in the Holy Land in May.
In his letter,
he slams the attempt to Israelise the Arab minority, a step that could erode
Christians' identity in the country.
Ghattas calls on
the pope to intervene with the Israeli government to end its "divide-and-conquer
policy applied," which will "harm the Palestinian minority inside Israel."