TEL AVIV – Israel’s newly passed hot-button Nation-State Law is not in violation of the rights of minorities since it does not supersede Israel’s Basic Laws that enshrine equality for all, the country’s Attorney General said Monday.
Avichai Mandelblit said that the law “does not harm their rights, because it is on an equal (legal) footing to their basic constitutional rights.”
His remarks came in response to a number of petitions filed with the High Court of Justice by rights groups, leftwing Knesset parties and Druze, Arab and Bedouin leaders.
According to those petitions, the new law is in violation of Israeli law as well as the country’s Declaration of Independence. Druze leaders said the law “creates race-based discrimination, excluding 20 percent of the nation’s citizenry and creating castes among Israeli citizens.”
However, Mandelblit said that “the new Basic Law is on the same normative level as previous Basic Laws,” which refers to the country’s constitutional provisions.
The government has defended the law, saying that it was drafted in order to enshrine the existing Jewish character of the country and codify Israel’s status as “the national home of the Jewish people.” The text also says “the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”
The law also defines Arabic as a language with a “special” status, which some have claimed is a downgrade from its status as an official language. However, the text goes on to say that “this clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.” Read the full text of the law here. Unlike Israel’s move to provide Arabic with a “special” status, many countries do not enshrine a second language with such official status.
Still, Arab-Israeli lawmakers from the Joint List party met on Tuesday with European Union officials in Brussels in a bid to push the Netanyahu government to reverse the legislation.
“Our struggle against this law must be fought in all areas and takes place first and foremost in Israel, in cooperation between the Arab society and democratic Jewish forces,” Joint List head Ayman Odeh said in a statement released after meeting with the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.
“However, our partners in the international arena have a very important contribution [to make] in their support for our struggle against the nation-state law that was legislated by the extreme-right and racist government,” Odeh stated.
He went on to describe it as “apartheid” legislation.
“I presented to [Mogherini] the nation-state law, which in my eyes is an apartheid law, as it supports segregation as well as ethnic supremacy. We will never agree to being second-class citizens in our homeland.”
Odeh also told Mogherini there is “social and economic discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel” and “incitement in the prime minister’s circles” against Arab-Israelis.
MK Jamal Zahalka said he and his fellow lawmakers came to “Europe to create massive pressure to cancel the nation-state law.”