Today marks two years since Israel’s discriminatory Nation-State Law was enacted. Israel does not have a constitution, which would grant inalienable rights and protections to all its citizens. Instead, it has Basic Laws which are passed individually and, in certain cases, can be amended. When the Nation-State Lawwas passed, it was passed as a Basic Law, essentially engraving it into the Israeli legal and governmental system forever. Moreover, an article in the Nation-State Law states that this Basic Law “shall not be amended, unless by another Basic Law passed by a majority of Knesset members.” This makes it extraordinarily difficult to amend, let alone repeal.
The Nation-State Law states that the “right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
Ever since the establishment of the State, the Israeli government has worked relentlessly to diminish the standing of its Palestinian Arab citizens. It has consistently worked to limit their political, economic, and social rights by passing countless laws that have restricted the lives of its Palestinian Arab citizens. Such laws include the “Citizenship Law” (Nationality and Entry into Law), which prevents Palestinians and residents of “enemy states” from gaining citizenship, or permanent residency, through marriage to an Israeli citizen. The purported justification for the law is that of national security. Decades of conflict in the Middle East conflict have divided many families, and it is common for marriages to occur between Palestinians from the other side of the Green Line (the 1949 Armistice Demarcation Line). The Citizenship Law therefore constitutes an undue restriction on family life for the affected Palestinian Arab population and has drawn considerable opposition from the Palestinian Arab community and human rights groups.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel is "[t]he nation-state of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people alone."
Another law which disproportionately affects Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel is the “Kaminitz Law” (the April 2017 Amendment to the Planning and Building Law – 1965), which criminalizes building violations and intensifies enforcement of the law through increased home demolitions, larger fines, and heavier sentences for offenders. The Israeli government’s deliberate unwillingness to approve master plans for Palestinian Arab localities and distribute building permits has left many Palestinian Arab citizens with no option other than to build and inhabit structures that are not officially recognized (i.e. without a permit).
In addition to the passage of discriminatory legislation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has relentlessly incited against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, declaring in early 2019 that Israel is "[t]he nation-state of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people alone." Such inflammatory rhetoric coupled with the passage of endless discriminatory legislation have already cemented the status of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel as second-class citizens - eligible only for a set of rights and protections which the Israeli government deems acceptable. The Nation-State Law was simply the final nail in the coffin, officially declaring what was already known and occurring on the ground.
The Nation-State Law is a reflection, a warning, of what will happen to any Palestinians who may be annexed and fall under Israeli control.
Among the most troubling aspects of the Nation-State Law is the fact that it effectively defines Israel as a state solely for the Jewish people, practically declaring all other minorities within the state - particularly its Palestinian Arab citizens - to be second class citizens. The Nation-State Law states that the “right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” Moreover, it states that Israel’s official language is only Hebrew, demoting the status of the Arabic language as an official language in the country. These two parts of the law are clearly intended to reduce the standing of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and are an attempt to officially designate them as second class citizens who are ineligible for the same rights as their fellow Jewish citizens.
It is crucial to raise the issue of the Nation-State Law on its second anniversary today given Netanyahu’s looming annexation plan of the West Bank. The Nation-State Law is a reflection, a warning, of what will happen to any Palestinians who may be annexed and fall under Israeli control. The Mossawa Center calls upon the international community to pressure Israel to fully repeal the Nation-State Law and to restore all the civil rights and protections that Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel are entitled to.