Arab rights group petitions Israel's top court over controversial Jewish nation law

Critics of Israel's Nation-State Law Misunderstand the Country's Constitutional System

On Tuesday, Arab-Israeli leaders filed a petition with the country's Supreme Court against the nation-state law.

The petition was submitted on behalf of all Arab political leadership in Israel, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, the National Committee of Arab Mayors, the Joint List parliamentary faction and in the name of Adalah, against the Knesset, according to an Adalah press release.

Tuesday's statement from Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, says the law "has distinct apartheid characteristics" and denies "civil and national rights of Palestinians in their homeland".

Petitioners said the legislation reeked of colonialism because it was "based on the principle of ethnic superiority [and] imposed a constitutional identity on all groups".

Article 7 "marks Arab citizens - wherever they may be - as "the other" and the state must therefore discriminate in the allocation of land, housing, budgets and incentives, and land planning and zoning". Capt. Amir Jamal, one of the Druze officers who resigned, said in an open letter to Netanyahu on his Facebook page Sunday that has now been removed, the Jerusalem Post reported. The law was first proposed in the Knesset in August 2011.

"In a almost 60-page document, the petitioners call on the Israeli Supreme Court to annul the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law, which is racist legislation that contradicts all norms of global law", the statement reads.


Israel has come under worldwide criticism since passing the Basic Law, which has also come to be known as the "Jewish Nation-State" law.

But critics, both at home and overseas, say it undermines Israel's commitment to equality for all its citizens outlined in the constitution. "For Netanyahu, we are second-class citizens, not equal members in a democracy that works for the benefit of all its citizens".

At least 50,000 Israelis attended a Druze-led demonstration against the law in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday night. Many people, myself included, disagree with that decision, inter alia because constitutional legislation should reflect a broad consensus, whereas many Basic Laws were approved by only narrow majorities or even minorities of the Knesset. What it has is a series of Basic Laws to which the Supreme Court unilaterally accorded constitutional status.

Greenberg noted that prior to the passage of the nation state law as a Basic Law with quasi-constitutional status there were laws to protect individual freedoms and to define the various branches of government, but despite the fact that the "open, free and democratic nature of Israel was enshrined in law" there was none "defining the identity and goal of the state". The law has stirred calls for that to end.

The wave of criticism piles pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is already beset by corruption allegations.

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