Christians legally granted separate representation from other Arabs for first time

New law gives the 160,000 Christians in Israel their own c'tee representative.

February 24, 2014 19:23
1 minute read.
Arab Christians

Arab Christian worshippers enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Christians will receive separate representation on the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity in employment after the Knesset passed the first law differentiating Christians from other Arabs Monday.

The new law, which passed with 31 in favor and 6 opposed, expands the advisory committee by giving the 160,000 Christians in Israel their own representative and adding another Druse member.

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The panel also has haredim, new immigrants, reservists, older people, and women.

"This is a historic law. It's the first time there is separate representation for Christians," coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), who proposed the law, said ahead of the vote. "Soon we'll expand on this and give [Christians] all the separate representation they deserve."

Arab MKs accused the bill of being a racist attempt to "divide and conquer" minorities.

"Attempts to separate us and shatter the Arab public through legislation won't work," MK Jamal Zahalke (Balad) stated in the plenum. "This is a colonialist policy, not normal relations between a government and citizens with equal rights. In the matter of employment, there is no difference between Christians, Muslims and Druse."

"You are a racist," Zahalke said to Levin.

"Colonialists try to separate groups of natives. The prime example of this is South Africa," MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) said. "We are the natives here and we have a clear identity new are palestinians, part of the Arab nation, and your law will fail. Part of the Zionist project is to oppress our identity, but I have the right to speak in the name of Palestinians."

After the law passed, Levin said it brings justice to different minority groups, while maintaining the representation Israeli Arabs already have. 

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