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Israeli Arab committee slams ‘racist, fascist’ bills

Jack Khoury | Ha’aretz

28 May 2009

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee has scheduled an emergency meeting on Saturday in light of recent law proposals submitted by right wing Knesset members, in particular a bill proposing to outlaw the marking of the Nakba, or catastrophe, on Israel’s Independence Day.

The Nakba is observed by Israeli Arabs and Palestinians who mourn the dispersal of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who were forced to leave their homes during the 1948 War of Independence.

Palestinian refugees around the world and Israel’s Arab citizens mark the Nakba on May 15, the day after the British mandate over Palestine ended in 1948. Nakba Day is often observed by the Arab population in Israel with marches through destroyed villages.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ultranationalist party Yisrael Beiteinu has proposed legislation for a ban on the practice and a jail term of up to three years for violators.

Just this last Wednesday, the Knesset plenum gave initial approval to a bill that would make it a crime to publicly deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, punishable by a sentence of up to a year in prison.

The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee voiced its harshest criticism over the recent spate of bills it described as “racist and fascist proposals aimed against the Arab public in Israel, and there is no doubt that these proposals must be dealt with.”

A third bill that will likely be brought before the ministerial legislative committee on Sunday for a vote is a proposal to require anyone seeking Israeli citizenship to take an oath of loyalty to Israel, renouncing loyalty to all other nations. This bill, proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu’s MK David Rotem, requires that “those seeking citizenship will be required to declare commitment to be loyal to the state of Israel as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and its values and to serve the state as required in military service or an alternative service.”

MK Rotem wrote in the explanation accompanying the bill that “during recent years, it has emerged that citizens of the state of Israel are not loyal to the state, its symbols or values, and they avoid serving in the military. This bill aims to link loyalty to the state, its symbols and values, and mandatory military service, to being a citizen of Israel.”

More bills in the same spirit are in the works, including a proposed amendment to a basic law that would add to the current oath taken by Knesset members the words “as a Jewish, Zionist and democratic state, and to its symbols and values.” A similar amendment seeks to add these words to the oath taken by ministers as well.