Monday, March 08, 2021

Israel advances controversial nation-state bill removing Arabic as an official language

By Nadia Sa‘ad - May 25, 2017
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Israeli law]

Despite recent news from the Knesset stating that new legislation favouring Palestinians will be implemented as a goodwill show ahead of President Donald Trump visit to Israel and Palestine, the Israeli Knesset has advanced a bill that states that the right to self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people.

A Ministerial Committee for Legislation held a vote Sunday, May 7th, showing support for Israel’s revised nation state bill, which removes Arabic as an official language in Israel, while instead giving Arabic “a special status in the state”, and instating Hebrew as the only official language of Israel. The nation state bill proposes “those who speak Arabic shall have access in their own language to State services, all as prescribed by law.”
This proposed bill is set to turn into basic law if it passes through further readings on the Knesset floor. The purpose of the nation state bill is to “secure the character of Israel as the National State of the Jewish People in order to codify in a basic law the values of Israel as a Jewish democratic state”.
Arabic is spoken by a large community of Palestinians living in Israel, approximately twenty percent of the population, as well as, Arabic speaking Jews. This bill excludes these communities dismissing their rights as an ethnic and cultural minority, and further distancing them from Israel at large.
In regards to these minorities, the bill further stipulates that “each resident of Israel, without regard to his religion or nationality, shall be entitled to strive for the preservation of his culture, heritage, language and identity. The State may permit a community, including the members of a single religion or the members of a single nationality, to establish separate community settlements.”
This idea further distances Arabic speakers, legally, from society outside their communities and their right to self-determination. This bill, if turned into basic law, is more harmful for the Palestinian community in their right to self-determination and freedom of expression.
“Arabic has been an official language since the British Mandate and was adopted by Israel," Sawsan Zaher, senior lawyer at Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, told Palestine Monitor. "It is an official language but has not been treated as such… The danger here, is that this law will preserve the Jewish components of the state, and the rights of the Palestinians will not be included, the right to self-determination is given to Jewish citizens,” she added.
The nation state bill further states: “The State of Israel is the National Home of the Jewish People; where in the Jewish People fulfills its yearning for self-determination in accordance with its historical and cultural heritage. The right of national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People.”
The nation state bill, if enacted into basic law, is not directly targeted toward the Arabic language, as Arabic speakers in Israel have already forcefully adopted Hebrew as the main language outside their communities. More so, it is the concept and ideology that self-determination is exclusive to one group of people, whilst and in contrast excludes the rights to another. 

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