‘Current Knesset is the most racist in Israeli history’
By Jack Khoury and Dana Weiler-Polak, Haaretz Correspondents
The Israeli government passed at least 21 bills aimed at discriminating against the country’s Arab citizens making the current Knesset as being the most racist Israeli parliament since the country’s founding, according to a report released Sunday by civil rights groups.
The Coalition Against Racism and the Mossawa Center, which works to promote equality, claimed that the proposed legislationseeks to de-legitimize Israel’s Arab citizens by decreasing their civil rights. The report’s data show that in 2008 there were 11 bills defined as racist presented to the Knesset while in 2009 there were 12 such bills.
In 2010, the report’s authors claim, there were no less than 21 bills proposed that included discriminatory elements against the country’s Arab citizens.
According to the report released to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the number of laws that discriminate against Arab citizens proposed in the current Knesset bypassed all previous years, increasing by 75 percent.
“There has never been a Knesset as active in proposing discriminating and racist legislation against the country’s Arab citizens,” said the report’s authors Lizi Sagi and Nidal Othman.
Publication of the findings coincides with a decision by the cabinet on Sunday to approve the largest economic development plan for the Arab sector in Israeli history, which will see the government address for the first time serious housing shortages in Arab communities.
Ministers allocated NIS 800 million for the scheme, which will also aim to tackle unemployment in the Arab sector and include funding for public daycare facilities – almost nonexistent in Arab towns, where only 18% of women are employed – as well as for improved public transportation.
Moreover, the report says, MKs who hold right-wing views implement them unhindered via proposed legislation. In many cases, MKs attempt to propose laws that would bypass Israeli law as written by the Supreme Court in order to reach coalition agreements. Bills that are illegal often undergo cosmetic changes and then get passed, the report said.
It added that some coalition members openly attempt to harm Arab citizens’ rights, try to separate Israeli Jews and Arabs and even call for the expulsion of the country’s Arab population.
In addition, the report claims, Israel discriminates against its Arab population by offering benefits to citizens who serve in the army or do national service.
Among the proposed legislation mentioned in the report is a bill that would jail for a year anyone who publishes or says something that would “bring contempt upon or discomfort to the country.” That proposed bill was passed in a first reading in the Knesset.
Another bill mentioned, authored by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, would change all street names in Israel to “Hebrew names.” Other bills the report includes are those that relate to who can purchase land and the so-called Nakba bill, which would ban state funding for events marking Israel’s independence as a day of mourning, and that was also passed in a first reading last week and is undergoing minor changes.
Meanwhile, another report published Sunday said that only 16 out of thousands of government employees in the Negev are from the Bedouin, Arab or Circassian communities, despite a government decision that by 2012 at least 10 percent of national employees be from minority populations.
The report published by the Negev Coexistence Forum studies the condition of the Bedouin population in the Negev, which is estimated at 200,000